Allegany County, devotees of the C&O Canal trail and residents of Little Orleans are mourning the loss of Bill Schoenadel (obituary, Jan. 6 Times-News), the legendary proprietor of Bill’s Place.
Bill passed away early Jan. 5, just shy of his 89th birthday after a long battle with lung cancer.
The wiry and colorful entrepreneur and unofficial mayor of Little Orleans, became a larger than life fixture along the C&O Canal trail for years, serving up cold refreshments and meals to countless weary hikers and bikers.
His dry, sarcastic since of humor became synonymous with the Green Ridge region of Allegany County and he was celebrated in countless newspaper articles and featured in books documenting Maryland’s many colorful characters.
Once you got know him he was the genuine article. Beneath the gruff, stalwart veneer was a man of compassion and kindness. He was known to lend money when someone was down and out, offer up a free meal, a ride or a place to crash on the porch for the night.
A printer by profession and an employee of the Cumberland Times-News, Bill eventually purchased the old Callahan Store in 1968 in Little Orleans and made it his own.
Bill’s Place was exactly what it professed itself to be and nothing more. Beer, bait, groceries, and good times.
There was a famous sign that was saved from the election day 2000 fire that destroyed the original store that was moved some hundred feet up High Germany Road from the C&O Canal when the Western Maryland railroad came through in 1904, that basically read, “This is not burger monarch, so shut up and have it our way or no way at all.”
A truly unique tradition of which its origins are totally unknown to this writer was for patrons to sign or leave a message with felt tip marker on mostly dollar bills, then staple them to the ceiling of Bill’s Place.
Bill jokingly referred to this as his supplemental Social Security income when he retired. Unfortunately,; a healthy portion of that went up when the original Bill’s burned. A new building was built on the original site and would continue this tradition along with patches from military, police, fire and EMS units from across the country as well as fishing and hunting paraphernalia.
Each August would see Bill’s Place become the epicenter of the Apple’s East Coast Motorcycle Rally and numerous bluegrass entertainment featuring local musical artists. Multitudes of appreciative fans jammed Bill’s for an evening of down home entertainment, refreshments and fellowship.
Bill has gone to his final resting place and the future may be in question. Hopefully Bill’s Place will continue to draw weary travelers from the C&O Canal trail and with a little luck the extension of the Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) will introduce countless others to the allure and charm of this unique establishment.
Thank you Bill for everything; it was a great ride while it lasted and you did good! Rest in peace my friend.