A Guy Walks Into a Bar....

Thousands of the world’s funniest jokes have started
with that line. The guy may walk in alone or he may be
accompanied by a horse, a midget, an alligator or a
duck, but whether solo or with friend he always makes
for a good story. However, you don’t need a joke to
relate barroom shenanigans because the real
characters and events that are everyday occurrences
in the local taproom provide far more laughs than the
manufactured jokes.

Having spent more than an hour or two soaking up
the ambiance and suds in local taverns , I’ve seen
some things and met some characters that back up
this argument and would like to share a few with  
readers of “Beer My Way”.

The nicknames of pub patrons rival the colorful names
given to Mafiosi in originality and appropriateness.
Over the years I’ve shared brews with such UNfamous
people as Tommy Tow Truck, Chris the Cabdriver,
Sudsy, The U-Boat Commander, the Rebel, Bulldozer
Freddie and the Perfessor (Not to be confused with
Professor John Sweeney of Seton Hall and piping fame.
This prof was so named because he knew everything
there was to know about anything and always made
sure his drinking companions were aware of this). All
had real names but were never referred to by them.

The nicknames  are catchy and descriptive but not only
nicknames make for a good character. Often a
barroom regular will have a little idiosyncrasy that sets
him apart from the rest of the drinking field. I have
seen people bark, fall off their barstools, weep and
wail, talk to the TV as well as to patrons and
bartenders who are unwilling to listen, and finally, in an
unsuccessful attempt to attract an audience, to
themselves. One guy, who used to frequent Farcher’s
Grove, a famous watering hole in Union , NJ , would
have whole arguments with himself, taking first one
side, then the other, and never quite settling the
dispute. Oblivious to the jukebox, bands, ballgames or
normal two party conversations, the debate would go
on night after night, fueled by shots of Jagermeister
for the “pro” side and steins of Dortmunder for the
“con”. Although Farcher’s has been gone these last
nine years, I’m sure the  argument still rages in a
replacement pub!


The Clam Broth House in Hoboken, NJ, featured a bar
which offered free clam broth, clamshells all over the
floor, and huge steins of Ruppert Knickerbocker beer ,
allowed no barstools and, until the mid 1970s, NO
WOMEN! The crowd was eclectic to say the least. One
could belly up to the bar between a corporation lawyer
on one side, a longshoreman on the other and a wino
around the bend. While enjoying a Knick one late
afternoon, an Ivy League, preppy looking young lad
came in, stood around looking confused before he
caught the bartender’s eye and asked for a glass of
water, to the astonishment of “mein host”, who
responded to the request by saying “What the hell do
you think this is? The public park? Have a beer!”


Another by-gone Union pub, The Spaeter Club, was a
home away from home for German expatriates and
featured the inimitable Heinz Muller behind the bar who’
d march around the huge circular bar to a recording of
“Alte Kammaraden” rendered by the Third Panzer
Division Band roaring out of the juke. One regular
wore white turtleneck sweaters under his double
breasted Navy blazer, and with his neatly trimmed
goatee and close cropped pate, looked exactly like his
nickname, The U-Boat Commander. The Commander
was rather fond of the good old days in the Fatherland
and let everyone within earshot know it. According to
him anything German, including any mass produced
German lager, was infinitely superior to anything
American, including the best craft brewed American
microbrews.  He’d have no problem getting Mother
Teresa and the Pope to be at each other’s throats in
no time!


Keeping with the Teutonic theme I am reminded of one
of my own experiences walking into a bar. After an
overnight red eye flight with my Mummers band to
Luxembourg and a visit to General Patton’s grave, we
finally arrived dog-tired at our quaint hotel in
Rudesheim , Germany on the Rhine river. Most of our
entourage collapsed into the comfortable
accommodations to rest up for our scheduled Fasching
celebration parades throughout the Rhineland . But
not me!! I thought to myself,” I didn’t come to
Germany to sleep. I want local color”. Ziggy, a German
born Philadelphian who was our translator on the trip
and who could quaff unbelievable amounts of
Bitburger, had advised us prior to departure on the
proper etiquette in German saloons: correct glass for
brand and style of beer, keeping track of downed
beers on the back of coasters and most importantly to
always order two beers at a time.


The German insistence on order and being precise
demanded that the beer must exactly correspond to
the line on the glass with the head forming above that.
Since this requires a time delay, the two at a time is a
great way to stave off future thirst. Armed with this
information, I set out to find a suitable Gasthaus and
after a short walk found one that looked promising
and which could have been taken from the pages of a
German travel magazine: leaded glass windows,
ancient arched oak door, and painted hop vines on the
stucco front.

I could picture an elderly, portly man named Hans
behind the bar, just waiting to pour me two steins of
Bischoff’s, the local pils, to be enjoyed whiled listening
to the oompahs. With eager anticipation I pushed
open the door and entered while thinking “I’m getting
a leg up on my resting companions. I’m gonna see the
REAL Germany before they do!”. I eased up to the bar
and had my dreams dashed when I observed the
innkeeper wearing a kilt and T-shirt that proclaimed
“Drink Guinness”. I had wandered into the local Irish
pub. The only thing missing was Crosby on the
jukebox.


Closer to home, two great barroom stories have been
handed down to me by my father and grandfather,
both dealing with Rudy’s, a small bar in Newark’s
Vailsburg section run by a Mrs. Posdech, who my
grandfather insisted upon calling  “Mrs. Poopdeck”.
From the the 1940s through the mid 1960s the annual
“Miss Rheingold Contest” was a high point in
metropolitan area tavern life. At one point the number
of votes cast for Miss Rheingold were surpassed only
by the numbers cast for President of the United States
. Customers could vote for their favorite as often as
they wished at any establishment that sold Rheingold.
One of the regulars in Rudy’s was Mary Duffy, a local
gal who liked her Rheingold. In fact she liked it so
much that another regular thought it would be a
spectacular idea to initiate a write-in campaign for Mrs.
Duffy, an idea greeted with much enthusiasm by the
rest of the patrons.


Happily the Rheingolds went down as the ballot box
was stuffed, and though  Mary did not become Miss
Rheingold of 1951, an honor bestowed upon Elise
Gammon, she did garner more votes than Miss
Gammon in Rudy’s, one of the larger polling precincts!


Also a fixture at Rudy’s was “Hooley” , a diminutive
Irishman who sustained life on a diet of shots and
beers and who had an unequalled talent to instigate
fights when he was in his cups, which was usually
twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Never
actually getting into the brawls, he would sit quietly in
his starched collar and tie and start them. One snowy
evening, as Hooley was being particularly obnoxious,
my father stopped in and was asked by Mrs. Poopdeck
if he would be so kind as to drive him home. (In her
words, “Please get him the hell out of here”).

After a brief protest Hooley acquiesced to my father’s
offer of a ride, and wipers blasting snow off the
windshield, my father proceeded west on Mt. Vernon
Place about five blocks to the corner of Reynolds Place,
where Hooley lived. Pop dropped him off on the corner
and instead of turning around, he turned north into
the one-way Reynolds Place for two blocks before
turning east on Woodbine Avenue for five blocks and
then heading two blocks south on one-way Kerrigan
Boulevard in order to return to his parking spot on Mt.
Vernon Place, in front of Rudy’s and headed in the
direction of home.

Unbeknownst to him, Hooley, after disembarking from
the car, saw a golden opportunity and quickly boarded
the #54 Public Service bus, heading east on Mt.
Vernon Place and thus was able to beat Pop back by
about four blocks worth of time. My father reentered,
anticipating a couple of freebies from Mrs. Poopdeck
for his services, only to find Hooley, seated on his
usual stool, arguing over the recent Eisenhower-
Stevenson election campaign. That evening Hooley
didn’t hit the bricks until closing time, my father having
chalked one up to experience and Mrs. Poopdeck
having waved the white flag of surrender!


Walking into a bar can provide some tremendous
laughs, but so can walking out. Some of those I’ll save
for a later column.




Cheers!

Dan
Another two
glasses up
article from
Dan Hodge!
Someone
has to say
these things
and it could
only be
Dan!
Bernie's Band  rocks
Farcher's Grover
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Ziggy brings a supply of
Bitburger beer for Dan
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