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Kitchen is still home for Dodson

January 13, 2008|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN

Dodson's Restaurant was a downtown Hagerstown fixture for 22 years, until Mitch Dodson's retirement in 1995. After many years in restaurant kitchens, Dodson found a way to call his kitchen home ? he converted the kitchen of Dodson's Restaurant on Summit Avenue to an efficiency apartment.

His career in the restaurant business began at the age of 10, when he worked in his sister's restaurant, Ottie Lee's.

"That was my first venture into the restaurant business," Dodson said.

Dodson, 86, was born on a farm at Taylors Landing, then raised in the North End. He was one of seven sons and seven daughters of James and Mary Dodson.

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Mitch Dodson didn't go to high school. Instead, he worked as a bicycle delivery boy for Harry Myers' grocery store, then at Isaac Baer's slaughterhouse in Paramount.

After a stint working for Dan Weiland, who owned the Terrace Restaurant and later owned the Tortuga Restaurant, Dodson spent four years in the U.S. Army. He returned to the Terrace and worked there five more years before marrying Bette Griffith in 1952.

Dodson and his wife took over management of the Terrace Restaurant right after their honeymoon. They operated the restaurant, which was on the corner of Prospect Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, for about seven years.

The couple then purchased what is now Old South Mountain Inn and ran it for more than 13 years as Dodson's South Mountain House. The next step was the purchase and conversion of the Court Waffle House to Dodson's Restaurant, which Mitch Dodson ran for 22 years, until his retirement in 1995. Bette worked by his side until her death in 1993.

"We both liked it very much," Dodson said of their time in the restaurant business.

Their daughter, Mitcha Lisa, was named for the song "Mona Lisa," which was popular when she was born. She worked in the restaurant as a waitress and cashier for 12 years before taking a job at Citicorp. Their son, Erin, worked in the restaurant as a teenager, then became an auto mechanic.

After a move to Greencastle, Pa., Dodson returned to Hagerstown, where he and his toy poodle, Jetta, live in the rear of what was Dodson's Restaurant. When Dodson sold the property in 1996, he negotiated a 10-year lease, with an option for another 10 years.

"I like it here. I don't want to move out. Living downtown is very convenient," said Dodson, who doesn't drive anymore.

Dodson said his mother was a wonderful cook. He still enjoys being in the kitchen and likes to make homemade soups, which he shares with friends. In addition to soups and salads, hot cakes and eggs are his favorites.

"I never get tired of cooking," he said.

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