Those of you who’ve been there know that Saxis is a remote, real-deal watermen community on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I visited there while working on my book, Eastern Shore Road Trips #1: 27 One-Day Adventures on Delmarva. It’s a quiet place nowadays, with one fun restaurant, one tiki bar, and a local history museum being the main attractions for visitors outside of the waterfront, the marshland scenery, and the local people.
But things weren’t always so quiet in Saxis, as you can tell from this brief excerpt from Road Trips #1:
“For his book Saxis, Almost an Island, the writer and historian Kirk Mariner dug up this quote from a visitor to the town—it appeared in the Eastern Shore News in 1928:
“‘Saxis on a Saturday night! A novel experience for one who likes a place that’s all broke out with local color and atmosphere. An ice cream parlor filled to the gills. Extra clerks and all that. … Boys with shoeshine boxes running helter-skelter and lamenting the precarious condition of your boots. Just a nickel, that’s all.
“‘Then the pool room. The table back in the corner uncovered especially for the Saturday night rush. A boy with a derby and a red tie. Girls from Sanford and ‘down below.’ A game of dominoes. A boy drafted to handle ‘the other chair’ at the barbershop. Movies at seven-thirty! Candy and peanuts and a few to nod because they’ve had a hard week’s work….
‘”This is a world all in its self, a happy, peaceful world of sturdy sea-folk. A Kipling or a Conrad would glory in Saxis. It is entirely a delightful, refreshing place.'”
The photo up top here comes from a later time. It shows Lilliston Linton’s store, which Mariner describes as “a favorite gathering spot for village menfolk.” The other photo here–the blurry one–shows what the main drag in Saxis looked like in the late 1940s. Here, again from Mariner’s book, is a description of how that downtown changed in the years after World War II:
“By the 1950s the island that had once been a Saturday night destination for others was doing its shopping and movie-going in Pocomoke City [Md.] and Parksley [Va.]. At first, in the late 1940s, the weekly shopping trip was a group event aboard a school bus driven by Hugh Glenn or Carl Lewis, and it is remembered that maneuvering the Saxis bus on the then-crowded streets of Pocomoke City on a Saturday night left scrapes on many a parked car.
“As the decade progressed more people drove their own cars, more and more grocery shopping was done on the mainland, and the island’s ‘General Stores’ declined accordingly, to only five by 1960.”
–posted by Jim Duffy on Aug. 2, 2020 and updated on March 12, 2022 for Secrets of the Eastern Shore/Whimbrel Creations LLC. All rights reserved.
NOTE: As of this writing, you may be able to find copies of Almost an Island: The History of Saxis, Virginia at the museum in Saxis and the best local bookstores. Here is online info about the book. And here is info about my two books of Eastern Shore Road Trips.