LOCALS

In England , references to one’s “local” do not
mean taking the train that makes every stop. The
“local” is one’s usual pub, located near his home
and in addition to serving pints of beer, is a place
where he is known, where he knows others and
where unwritten “schedules” can generally pin
down when he can be expected to stop in. Here
in America, we don’t really find the term “local”
used in the same way, usually hearing terms like
“corner bar” or “neighborhood tap room”, but
even though beer lovers may stray far afield in
search of new and interesting brews, there is
always a local stop which is sort of a home away
from home where  they can meet friends and
enjoy a few pints.

I’ve always preferred locals to new taverns. For a
person like me that doesn’t much like change,
usually liking things that are tried and true, the
local tavern offers a friendly alternative that
greatly overshadows the excitement of seeking
out new brews in different places, even though
good new places can become locals after a few
visits.

The first place I ever considered a local was
Galaida’s Rahway Inn, a corner tavern on the
Rahway-Colonia border, cheerfully serving
glasses of Pabst to me several years before the
age of 21. This obvious flouting of the law was
made possible by the fact that good friend and
fellow mummer, the late Harvey Gillespie, was the
man behind the bar. Harve correctly subscribed to
the theory that if you were old enough to attend
the hostilities in Viet Nam , you were old enough
to have a beer in the Rahway Inn. (and seldom, if
ever, have to pay for it). The place was owned by
Mrs. Galaida who resided upstairs with her pet
boa constrictor and who would occasionally come
down with the reptile wrapped around her torso
and wonder why what moments before had been
a full and happy bar was suddenly reduced to
being occupied only by her, Harvey, the snake,
and a sleeping drunk. Bars and boas…..not so
perfect together.

After the USMC caught hold of me, my local
became the Sportsman’s Tavern, in Quantico ,
Virginia , a town surrounded on three sides by
the Quantico Marine Base and on the fourth by
the Potomac River . In this typical military town
of bars, hamburger joints, Laundromats, dry
cleaning establishments and uniform shops, the
Sportsman stood out like a sore thumb. Bernie
Tierney, the proprietor, like Harvey Gillespie, was
not a huge fan of checking IDs. (Aren’t the Irish
a reasonable, wonderful people?) Therefore I
was able to forego the mess hall for evening
chow and have dinner and a couple of Schlitz’s at
The Sportsman’s, where buck privates, NCOs and
officers could cheerfully fraternize and talk
baseball until the wee hours.

Separation from the Marine Corps with a new
bride and moving to Union , N.J. put my local
activities on hold for a couple of years before I
rediscovered Pauly’s Tavern in Newark , owned
by the Dolan Family. Pauly’s was an English style
pub with stained glass windows, a Seton
Hall/Irish crowd and steins of Pabst Blue Ribbon,
fresh from the brewery only a couple of blocks
away, all nicely complemented by the pounding
on the ceiling from the Irish step dancing school
upstairs. My grandfather had made the stained
glass and was a regular patron long before I was
born. My father informed me that this patronage
existed even during the 1920s as many
establishments in that part of the city, which was
largely populated by Irish policemen and
politicians, didn’t observe prohibition. Yet another
tribute to Celtic heritage!. Later, Pauly’s was
owned by the Campisi family of mob fame and is
now a Haitian storefront church.

While seeking friendship and solace between
marriages, I became a regular at The Swiss
Chalet in Union Center , which oddly enough
served nothing Swiss. It specialized in German
cuisine and although a couple of German brews
were available, it primarily purveyed the
headache inducing Budweiser. But the ambiance
of NO television, NO jukebox, the warm
personality of old time professional bartender,
Charley Cybulski, and stimulating conversation
made the Chalet a wonderful local. I was
personally privy to a great barroom tale from the
Chalet. As an Eastertime promotion, the
management placed a large jar of jellybeans
behind the bar and offered dinner for two to
whomever came closest to guessing the number
of beans in the jar. One night, shortly after
closing time, Charley’s temporary substitute, John
Haggerty, thought it would be a great idea to
draw the blinds, have another beer and count the
beans. Employees were ineligible to win, so I
alone submitted a guess which corresponded to
the exact number of beans in the jar. But I didn’t
win, leading to the suspicion that there’s a lot of
backroom dealing surrounding those bean
contests!

When the Chalet changed hands, the Monday
night post-band rehearsal crowd began
frequenting the Spaeter Club, hangout of many
local German-Americans and possibly even a few
ex-Nazis. But it served great beer very cheaply
thanks to the largesse or forgetfulness of
bartender Heinz Muller and had a great jukebox.
(Where else could you hear “Molly Malone” sung
in German by Heino, the German equivalent of
Sinatra).

Eventually the Spaeter Club also changed hands
and morphed into a sports bar, so the Monday
night musicians found a new local, Farcher’s
Grove, which was within walking distance of my
home . A previous Beer My Way article describes
the atmosphere at Farcher’s in detail, so I’ll not
mention any more about it other than to say it’s
closure and subsequent razing forced me once
again to find a new local.

The Gaslight is the farthest from home of any
local I’ve ever frequented and even though the
four mile drive puts constraints on how many
pints I can safely have, it’s well worth the
sacrifice. Outstanding beer, outstanding food, an
extremely eclectic crowd, very personable owners
and courteous and knowledgeable staff make this
a great local. In addition to the above there’s
something for everyone: darts, shuffleboard, TV
sports, video game, popcorn machine and even
the infernal and hated (by me) jukebox. (Except,
of course, when it plays Sinatra).

Hopefully, the Gaslight will remain prosperous
and open so I’ll never have to go on the express
to find another local. Contrary to the new
administration’s promise of change, I like things
the way they are.





Cheers,


Dan
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