This Massey Hill Lions Club annual oyster roast may be bigger than ever Saturday when the service organization celebrates its golden anniversary of shucking the saltwater bivalve mollusks from Maryland.
Club members including Michael McCaskill, Jerry Scott, Charles Dixon, Davey Barrett and Scott Stephenson are going all out in the name of the organization’s founding 64 years ago, and in the name of 200 bushels of oysters awaiting those who will take part in the tradition.
“The spirit of the Massey Hill community has been evident since the early founding and charter of the club,” McCaskill says. “The lineage of club members has been extensive as generations of members have been a part of the club.”
At the club in the heart of the old mill village, Saturday will be more than a day of oysters, fellowship and old acquaintances renewed. It’s a happening, and club members from the past and present will tell you so.
“This event requires a lot of work and effort by this service organization, but it is a labor of love that the men of the club provide for the community,” McCaskill was saying in November as the club was planning for this 50th oyster roast. “The 50th anniversary oyster roast is a huge accomplishment for us considering the continuous increase in oyster prices, the scarcity of quality oysters and an aging group of Lions members that put out a huge effort to make this happen and in keeping with the spirit of the Lions’ motto of ‘We Serve.’”
Voila, the oyster roast is all but here, with all the fixin’s from hushpuppies, Tabasco and horseradish sauces and plenty of iced tea and water to wash down the oysters galore. And you can have all the oysters you want until they are gone.
You might say that McCaskill’s uncle, the late Amos McCaskill, is something of “the father” of the oyster roast. Amos McCaskill, a devoted Massey Hill Lion if ever there was one, died at age 73 in 1993.
“While some history of the event’s origins has faded over time with the passing and turnover of members, it is believed that the club during the early ’70s was looking for a club fundraiser,” Michael McCaskill says. “One of its members, Amos McCaskill, was known to make frequent trips to McClellanville, South Carolina, to purchase oysters and bring back to sell to others and for use at his own family and shop oyster roasts. The success and enjoyment that friends, neighbors and co-workers had at these events ultimately led to the Lions Club using the oyster roasts as a primary fundraiser and a gathering of local friends. Early on, oyster clusters were used for these events until the club changed to selects. This practice continues today to ensure attendees are getting quality oysters.”
Those early club members who followed Amos McCaskill’s lead were Carlton Person, Carson Canady, Bill Tyson, Hog Miller and Bill Scott, among others. Just like Michael McCaskill has followed in the footsteps of his father, Monk McCaskill, as a club member, and not to forget his Uncle Amos. And just like Josh Scott has followed his father, Jerry Scott; Kyle and Charlie Dixon followed their father; and Teddy Warner followed his father, Alex Warner, and his grandfather, the late Pete Warner.
‘Shuckin’ for Sight’
Here’s the truth of it.
The good ole’ Lions are up to their necks in oysters, and Saturday will be quite the day for the club, circa Oct. 2, 1958, when it was founded as the Fayetteville Massey Hill Lions Club. And this golden anniversary of “Shuckin’ for Sight” is a fundraiser to benefit the community.
“The process and purpose for the event has stayed consistent,” Michael McCaskill says. “It’s still about support to the community and support of the Lions’ focus on vision support by providing eye exams for those in need, feeding the homeless of Fayetteville, Boys and Girls Club funding and myriad other projects for the schools, local families and other initiatives.”
The oysters are here.
The big tent is going up Friday.
The more than 26 tables will be set, and if you don’t have your own shucking knives, there’s no need for worry. The club, according to McCaskill, will provide shucking knives, towels, gloves, and, of course, the oysters.
“The event will be attended by longtime oyster roast aficionados that have been coming for many years, as well as many first-time oyster-eaters,” McCaskill says. “Lions Club members will continue to deliver the oysters for as long as individuals remain at the table or until closing.”
Club members can’t wait to see old friends and new friends.
Among those expected to attend, according to McCaskill, are state Rep. Diane Wheatley, Cumberland County Superior Court Judges Jim Ammons and Robbie Hicks, Cumberland County District Court Judge David Hasty, and Robert and Corey Breece, who are longtime supporters.
“It’s a lot of work,” says Jerry Scott, who has been a club member for 24 years. “But we’re excited. We have people come each year from as far away as Virginia. I don’t get to see a whole lot of people. I’m back cooking the oysters. We’ve got probably around 200 bushels. It looks like it’s going to be a big day, and the weather is going to be good for us.”
The oyster roast is a sellout, and tickets are no longer available.
That’s the bad news for those just hoping to stop by and purchase a ticket at the door.
“The numbers of attendees to the events are cyclical,” McCaskill says. “This made ordering oysters to support the event an estimate. For years, members estimated the number of oysters ordered based on previous years’ attendance.
“Unfortunately, the increasing price of oysters took a toll on realized profit, especially when attendance was down. Last year, for the first time, the club chose to do advance ticket sales only. Having a precise number of attendees to plan for made a substantial difference, and profits increased.
“This year, again because of the increasing price of oysters, transportation costs and other associated costs, the club decided to go the route of asking businesses to become a corporate sponsor,” McCaskill says. “This first-time initiative has been met with great success and we believe corporate sponsors will grow in future years.”
Lead sponsors are Certified Heating and Air Conditioning, Draughon Brothers and The Chavonne Group.
“Those three sponsors ensured the oysters were going to be paid for before we even began selling ticket,” McCaskill says of the 15 total sponsors. “Every sponsor helps us out in the money going back into the community and assured this event would get off to a great start.”
But then, there’s the good news.
“This ought to be the best one ever,” says Charles Dixon, a club member for more than 25 years.
You can bet charter members from Harvey Adcox, Gene Ammons, Earl Britt Jr., Dewey Britt, J.D. Barbour, W.G. Clark, J.C. Hall, J.L. Harrell, Frank Hutchinson, Paul Hockett, Stanley Johnson. T.C. Koontz, V.C. Mason, Walter Powers, Eugene Turner, Leon Tomlinson, and Gary Warner will be there Saturday in spirit, and past members Earl “Moose” Butler, Hog Miller, Buck Melton, and Amos McCaskill, too.
The Massey Hill Lions Club oyster roast almost is here, and it will be golden.
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.