Remember Lucille's Home Cooking?
By Kathy Warnes
Lucille Still owned, managed, cooked, and washed dishes at her Lucille’s Home Cooking Restaurant in Union City for more than a decade. She was an honest, hard working, strong woman, and I am proud to say that she was my friend.
She founded her restaurant at 10 South Main Street in Union City on September 25, 1965. In a 1972 interview printed in the Union City Times anniversary edition, she explained why she founded her restaurant. She said that she had been working at Elgin Electronics in Waterford but was having trouble earning enough money “to feed my two hungry football players.”
With the help of her daughter Colleen Mary, who was just 14 at the time, Lucille opened her restaurant and word quickly spread about her feather light homemade bread and pies.
“Without Colleen I never could have done it. She would come to work here during her lunch hour at school, just to help out,” Lucille said.
Colleen learned her mother’s lessons well because she managed a restaurant in Buffalo, New York, after she graduated from Bryant Stratton College there. In fact, most of the girls who worked at Lucille’s Restaurant continued to be successful and Lucille was proud of them all. She especially mentioned one of her employees, Debbie Alexander, advanced to runner up in the 1971 Junior Miss Pageant in Erie.
Lucille always had a smile and a cheerful hello for all of her customers. No matter how early the morning hour, she stood behind the counter with a smile, a cup of coffee and a listening ear. Her daily luncheon specials, including her chicken and dumplings, her beef stew, and her hamburger steak were appreciated in Union City and beyond. She honored regular customers and friends like Alyn Brown from the Union City Times across the street and businessmen up and down Main Street with a homemade birthday cakes. Both the counter and the tables along the wall were usually filled with people and one or two customers usually waited in front of the cash register for their takeout orders.
People working in stores around Lucille’s Restaurant or just walking by would sometimes stop, sniff the air, and say, “Lucille’s baking bread!” Then they would pull open the door and go in and order a sandwich or just two slices of bread. Lucille made her homemade bread every day. She also made homemade apple, peach, and berry pies.
To accomplish all of this cooking and baking, Lucille often revealed that she usually got up at 4:30 every morning and was behind the stove at her restaurant by 6:00 every morning. She didn’t usually leave until 6:00 o’clock or later in the evening after a long hard day of cooking, listening, and serving people. She kept her listening ear active long after hours. We spent many an evening sitting at her kitchen table talking.
The window box in front of her restaurant was almost as famous as Lucille’s apple pie. She planted geraniums in it every spring, and eventually it became a community project. Many Union City citizens shared in its building, repairing, upkeep, and planning, and most pedestrians who passed the window box admired the flowers blooming in it.
Lucille also contributed caring and effort to the community well being as well as food and smiling service. She marched in the Homecoming Parade every year, and won three trophies in five years for her yearly portrayal of the witch. She also had a special place in her heart for Union City firemen and many of them would have their morning coffee sitting at the counter in her restaurant and often would informally discuss important issues sitting around the tables.
Lucille’s Home Cooking was a good place to take Cub Scots for a snack before and after fishing or Den Meetings. It was also a good place to stop for a snack before and after meetings or for no other reason than just to stop in say hello to Lucille.
I remember well the spring day that Lucille became my friend. I wrote a column for the then Union City Times and made up an imaginary husband called Sherman, to go with my children with the fake names of George and Oliver. Somehow people got the idea that Sherman was real and the word spread that I was running around with someone named Sherman. I thought and thought of a way to stop the rumors without hurting anyone or myself. Lucille listened to my problem and then she said with a smile. “You’ll think of something. I know you can do it,” she said.
I hurried home and printed a sign that said, “Hi, I’m Sherman.” I hung the sign around my battered old teddy bear that I had cherished since I was eleven years old. Then I hurried back to Lucille’s Home Cooking and she sat my teddy bear firmly in the window where everyone could see him. She kept my teddy bear in her window for a good month and I didn’t hear anymore rumors about my wild fling with Sherman! I was really lucky to have a friend like Lucille.
When things weren’t going too well in my life, she invited me to stay with her. I remember digging worms in her front yard so I could go fishing to forget my troubles for awhile. She even had me work behind the counter in her restaurant. (I wasn’t any good) All in all, she was kind to me when I needed a friend. You don’t forget somebody like that, no matter how many years pile up behind you.
When people asked Lucille how she kept going with such a busy and hectic schedule, she smiled and said, “Kids! I love to keep young people around me – that’s what has kept ME young all these years.”
I’m not young anymore, but I still remember Lucille and her caring all these years later. That is part of what has kept ME going.