Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Charlie Jordan, Wellfleet’s Singing Butcher

Everyone familiar with Wellfleet knows Charlie, the butcher, immortalized by Tracy Harmon Hay in this watercolor which hangs behind the meat counter at Wellfleet Marketplace. Fresh out of school, Charlie headed for the unemployment office back home in Scotland. The officer reached the end of the b’s on a list of jobs and Charlie declared, “You can stop right there. I’ll try that.” He has been carving up meat ever since.

Charlie has almost become a Wellfleet institution, although a resident of P-town, “for the nightlife,” he confides with a wink. His Scottish bur has charmed shoppers since 1973. And we all love the way he breaks into song. His repertoire includes many old standards. Sinatra, however, remains the favorite. This preference dates from 1962 when brother Robert sent an LP called “Songs for Swinging Lovers.” In one week Charlie knew all the words by heart.

Many a customer has paused to chat while grocery shopping. “Hello, darlin’,” Charlie will say with a smile. Even the vegetarians go to the meat counter to talk to him. During the winter months, our butcher remains a bright light shining through the gloom, a beacon for the hungry, as well as the heartsick. Charlie is always ready with a bit of advice: “I tell ‘em you’re not alone. Happens to everybody.”

In summer, he gets a real kick out of the kids who work by his side – “There’s a new set every year” – and you can be sure he keeps an eye on them. Former apprentices always stop back in to say hello. They know Charlie is special.

Wellfleet’s singing butcher loves his customers: “They’re such great people!” After Charlie was in an automobile accident in 1985, everyone sent cards and phone messages. He was touched to receive greetings not only from Wellfleet, but also from New York, Connecticut, and even California.

I’m glad to report Charlie has no plans to retire. He loves his job and can’t think of anything he would rather do. He will continue taking his weekend walk with wife Kathy, up to the East End, and back to the wharf, and come to work at Wellfleet Marketplace on Monday.

Wellfleet’s singing butcher has been butchering for 50 years this August, so next week is an anniversary of sorts. Stop in and say hello. You'll be glad you did ...