Extensively renovated over the winter, the Grand Midway’s coffee baris again open on a weekly basis: 7-11 PM, every Thursday in my hometown (Windber, Pennsylvania). Was down there last evening and this is my first detailed report of the doings this season.
Now, you must understand: Windber is a smallish place, a former coal mining boomtown that’s down to one operating mine and not a whole lot else. Still, it has a colorful history to its credit–including this wonderful and literally haunted former hotel, well over 100 years old, with each of its 30-plus rooms decorated differently, but all the spirit that every day (and night!) should be Halloween. The owner Blair Murphy is a self-published author, low-budget filmmaker and all-around creative dynamo. In addition to the coffeehouse and the building’s multiple ghosts (each with his/her own spooky history), the place is the site of the Guiness Book of Records recognized site of the World’s Largest Ouja Board (painted on the building’s flat outside roof) and the World’s Largest Tarot Card (a series of painted panels assembled on the ceiling of the building’s dining room. They’ll be making another record try soon (more on that on a later date).
Blair lives there, along with a couple fulltime renters and he’s recently brought the place somewhat back to it’s original purpose by opening selected rooms for the AirBNB crowd.
Last evening was a typical one, in many ways. Regulars filtering in and out, paying $3 apiece for all the coffee (or hot cocoa, or tea) they like (I had three mugs of Starbucks standard blend), watching movies on DVD (beginning with Young Frankenstein, followed by a documentary about a Korean-American art and D&D enthusiast starting his own business making beautiful miniature fantasy figurines, and concluding with Watchmen),
and generally hanging out. There was talk of the efforts to safeguard the financial health of the town’s public library (another of Windber’s underappreciated jewels). And at one point (a lengthy, noisy point), a 200-car coal train rumbled past a few yards beyond the front porch. A couple curious newcomers to the area stumbled in, got a quick tour of the first floor our costumed barmaid (hi, Holly!) and then heard more about our favorite hangout from other attendees (myself included, of course). The new folks vowed to return, and bring a friend who’s coming up for a visit from Atlanta.
How great is it to have this funky, fun place here and in ever-increasing operation!