Archived Story

Loss of Cecil’s is slowly sinking in

Published 2:35pm Monday, March 26, 2012

A couple of days ago, just before lunch, I read about how important it is for your health to eat fish.

My mind immediately went to grilled salmon salad at Cecil’s, a dish that I ate on such a regular basis that Glenda, the waitress who seemed to get my table more often than most, would ask, “Salmon salad, no onions, no cheese?” as I was sitting down.

She knew what I wanted before I could even say it.

When I rounded the corner near First United Methodist and saw the flames and smoke against the black sky early Saturday morning, I knew that Alexander City had lost a landmark. The building was fully involved, fire was leaping out on all sides of my regular downtown hangout.

After the fire was well documented in my camera, after the adrenaline had slowed and I was standing out there in the dark, listening to the streams of water hitting the sides of the building, the popping flames and little else – it was amazingly quiet and almost nobody else other than firemen were at the scene – I started remembering some of my favorite moments at Cecil’s.

For several years when my children were very young, the Chamber of Commerce sponsored a Christmas horse and buggy ride at night. The five of us went to Cecil’s where we waited our turn to climb aboard the buggy. Of course we had to greet the horses, and I had to pick up each child in turn so they could pet the horse on the nose. We’d climb into the buggy, snuggle under blankets against the December cold and then clip-clop through the downtown area looking at the Christmas lights. It was an annual event we all looked forward to, followed by hot chocolate and dinner at Cecil’s.

My kids loved Cecil’s.

When they were young – and sometimes after they weren’t – they always got a sheet of paper and crayons when we were sitting down to dinner. There was always art on the table before the plates arrived.

I remember countless nights visiting with friends in the front dining room, or sharing dinner and drinks in the back of the building.

Cecil’s regularly hosted meetings that I attended, informal gatherings, business lunches, family dinners. Most of the people I’ve hired at The Outlook enjoyed their first lunch in town at Cecil’s, just to give them a good dose of local color along with a good meal.

All those thoughts flowed through my mind as the fire warmed one side of me in the dark, and the steaming-hot water flowed out of the building and around my shoes in the back parking lot.

It was mid-week, around 11 a.m., when my stomach growled and I had just read about the health benefits of eating fish, when I thought of grilled salmon salad for lunch and took a half step towards the door before realizing that Cecil’s is no more.

That’s when I felt the loss.

And I realized a moment later that hundreds of other people all around the Lake region are feeling the same loss.

Cecil’s lived up to its name “Public House.” It was a big part of our shared community, a place where people met almost without thinking to cement friendships and relationships. I’d be afraid to guess at the number of engagement rings that were first seen in Cecil’s dining room … or the number of first dates.

But it’s not the big events I’ll miss most.

It’s the routine, little things, like reaching for a peppermint on the way out the door.

Boone is publisher of The Outlook.