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Today is July 6, 2022

Scranton’s Dishes Out Delights in Historic Setting

By Nancy Jo Maples

Scranton’s Dishes Out Delights in Historic Setting

From left, Jane Pickett, Richard Chenoweth, and Jackson Pickett. Jane and her husband Jack own the restaurant along with Richard and his wife Kathy. Jackson works there as an assistant manager.

623 Delmas Ave.,
Pascagoula, Miss. 

 

Phone: 228-762-1900

Open Tuesday through Friday 
10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.;
Monday and Saturday 

10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

 

 

Sitting at a lunch table inside the old Scranton Fire Company Number 1, I can’t help but reflect on a few memorable moments that have swept through here.

“Here” refers to Pascagoula, a coastal town made famous with hurricanes, musicians, shipbuilding, and a church-going squirrel. More precisely,  I’m at a table inside Scranton’s Restaurant, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this  year and is listed on the National Register  of Historic Places.

Inside the white stucco mission-style frontage, artifacts decorate passageways between rooms once housing the fire engine, firefighters’ lounge, mayor’s office, courtroom, and jail. A refurbished record-keeping vault stores supplies. Dining tables have replaced office desks and the judge’s bench. A recent makeover lightened the interior, yet retained the building’s historical character. The restaurant still offers its beloved entrees and has added prepackaged casseroles and soups for busy clientele to take home and bake.

The “city” of Scranton lies within Pascagoula but at one time was its own municipality. The two towns merged in 1912. Few people outside Jackson County or the Gulf Coast know the name Scranton. Yet anyone hungry in Pascagoula quickly learns this old fire station is a great place to eat. Scranton’s is one of those local bistros where almost  everybody there knows almost everybody there. It has been a  “happening kind of place” since the building was dedicated in 1925, long before it became a restaurant.

If necessity is the mother of invention, a fire served the matter of necessity birthing Scranton Fire Company No. 1. That blaze erupted October 22, 1883. Ironically, fire destroyed the fire company’s original structure. Two fires leveled much of the downtown area in 1921, one occurring after midnight on Feb. 25, and the other on the afternoon of July 19. Work began in 1924 on a new fire hall that would also house city hall. The fire station had long served as a gathering site; therefore, the new station, built to house fire equipment and city administrative offices, included an upper hall for community dances and assemblies.

That upper hall became the restaurant’s private party room when Scranton’s Restaurant opened in 1982. A few years ago, the owners moved the party venue to the corner of Magnolia Street and Live Oak Avenue, a short walk from the restaurant. That property, the “Grand Magnolia,” includes a quaint inn and festive ballroom. The former party room converted to four apartments as Pascagoula is rejuvenating its downtown to attract dwellers hoping they will eat and shop where they reside.

As the second paragraph alludes, a famous fire station that caught fire, injurious hurricanes, the King of Parrotheads, and shipbuilding all tie to this town. Downtown Pascagoula centers on its courthouse, churches, merchants, and its Plaza, where Scranton’s stands. Shipbuilding provides livelihoods for multi-thousands not only via shipyards, but also from spin-off enterprises. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina’s water gushed all the way to Scranton’s from Buffett Beach, two miles south. Prior to Katrina, Hurricane Camille had lambasted the city. Speaking of Buffett Beach, the city’s most famous musician, Jimmy Buffett, was born in Pascagoula Christmas Day 1946. Hurricanes aren’t the only acts Mother Nature dealt; she also pierced the building with lightning twice. 

You may be asking, “What about the church-going squirrel?”  Country music artist Ray Stevens turned the town upside down in 1984 when he sang “the day the squirrel went berserk in the First Self-Righteous Church in that sleepy little town of Pascagoula.” The church Stevens references is assumed to be First Baptist Church located a few blocks east of my table at Scranton Fire Company Number 1.

 

Award-winning journalist Nancy Jo Maples has been writing about Mississippi people and places for more than 30 years. She lives and writes in Lucedale and is a member of Singing River Electric Cooperative. Contact her at nancyjomaples@aol.com.

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