by Henry Lee Hull
One of the Northern Neck’s iconic cottage industries back in the 1960s and 1970s was the Irvington crab operation of Cap’n. Clifford Winstead. He lived in a home, now gone, across from the entrance to The Tides Inn, a site where his grandson, Jimmie Robertson presently lives with his family.
Previously Cap’n. Winstead had operated a café, called the Log Cabin, on what is now North Main Street in what then should have been considered the outskirts of Kilmarnock.
When he retired from the eatery, he cooked and sold crabs from a building behind his house in Irvington. He was a Northern Neck original, constantly offering pithy bits of wisdom to all of his customers. In his unforgettable Northern Neck accent he would greet them with the phrase, “This is the place you go for crabs.” Well into his 90s he was the crab source for both locals and come-heres, all of whom recorded the sad day when his operation passed into the lore of history, as many had learned of our heritage and traditions from him.
The Winsteads had a daughter, Marian, who although more reserved than her illustrious father, became equally memorable. After the death of her first husband, Marian married Frank Blantz and together they made their own mark on the Northern Neck. In the days before Jackie Evans established Kilmarnock’s first travel agency, when travel services were not available locally, Frank and Marian organized excursions for local senior citizens.
They chartered tour busses and took their clients all across the country. One of their favorite destinations was the entertainment scene at Branson, Missouri, where they would pull up with 47 on board to enjoy the music performances for which the city is famous. They would plan New England forays for the peak of the fall colors and southern jaunts during the cold winter months.
Once on the bus their clients had no further responsibilities until they returned home. Signing up with Marian and Frank was the “in” thing to do, especially if one was alone after having lost a spouse and unwilling to travel unescorted. The trips were happy occasions for many seniors who otherwise never might have left home. Marian and Frank treated them as dear friends which, if they did not know them when they departed, they had become by the time of return.
The trips came to an end with Frank’s death and Marian continued to live in Kilmarnock with her granddaughter, Heather Robertson. Both of them have been stalwarts in their support of the American Legion. For many years Heather has chaired the annual Legion poppy sale at the entrances to local businesses each Memorial Day weekend. Their activities always evoke the traditional earlier term for the event, namely, “Decoration Day.”
With their work on behalf of the Legion, Marian and Heather have continued to manifest the patriotic responses to the needs of the veterans of America’s wars, characteristic of our Nation’s appreciation for those who serve in the armed forces. As long as she was able, Marian did her part to show her gratitude for the military.
Last week Marian died, slightly over a month shy of her 94th birthday. She was a quintessential example of the good citizen. She spent much of her long life working for causes that she knew were for the good of all and individually, especially through her trips with Frank, bringing happiness to some who might have been overlooked in other circumstances.
The path of Marian’s life was quite different from that of her father, but each of them has left the Northern Neck a wonderful legacy for which I, among many, remain grateful.
Marian Winstead Robertson Blantz, April 19, 1923 – March 9, 2017. R.I.P.