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Glass House patrons help sick friend

The Glass House is a country diner from years gone by. It is a nondescript, low-slung building crammed with vinyl-padded chairs and pressed wood tables.

The walls are colored with graffiti from the thousands of customers who have walked through the doors, and a breakfast plate does not cost much more than a gallon of gas.

Customers fervently attend this roadside cathedral to worship the holy trinity of eggs, grits and biscuits and sip coffee as black as coal, daring the day to begin.

While Skeeter Hobbie might not be the originator of this sacred ritual, he has observed it for as long as anyone can remember.

“Skeeter has been a customer of The Glass House since The Glass House started serving coffee,” manager Cheryl Lawrence said. “I was 5 years old, and in The Glass House, and there was Skeeter. Now, that’s a fact.”

Folks have not seen Hobbie around The Glass House as much lately. He recently developed a lung problem and spent the last month in and out of doctors’ offices searching for a diagnosis. Hobbie, a self-employed machinist without health insurance, soon became too sick to work. But the medical bills continued to pile up. When his fellow patrons heard the news, they banded together over steaming plates.

“We were just all talking one morning and just decided he needed a little help,” longtime friend Jimmy Reed said.

With the help of The Glass House management, they organized a benefit for Hobbie. They set industrial-sized, plastic condiment jars around the restaurant Saturday so people could drop in loose change and bills, and The Glass House donated 20 percent of its total sales for the day to Hobbie. Louis Flourny, Charlie Worrell, Gil Allen and Jesse Sanchez brought their guitars, and played and sang some of Hobbie’s favorite tunes to keep spirits high and the cash register ringing.

Hobbie made a brief appearance in the morning, but left for home because whatever has taken hold of his lungs had also sapped his energy.

“He’s got a lot of friends that have come out to support him,” Worrell said. “The fellows around town have stuck together through the years.”

At one point during breakfast, 40 people packed into the tiny dining area.

“We ran out of hash browns and grits,” Lawrence said.

Shortly after lunch, Lawrence counted more than $800 in donations, not counting the 20 percent The Glass House contributed. Lawrence hopes the money will help ease Hobbie’s mind a bit.

“When they first diagnosed him, they wouldn’t even give him a test without him paying,” she said.

Folks at The Glass House take care of their own. Linda Spivey moved to Selma from Pensacola in 1965. Being new in town, she did not know Hobbie from Adam. But he walked right up to her table and introduced himself. Hobbie has been a part of her life, and many others who like their grits buttered and biscuits brown, ever since. That is why they ate like it was going out of style Saturday.

“He probably ain’t missed two weeks out of a year coming to The Glass House since ‘65,” Spivey said. “He’ll do anything for anybody.”