Welcome back. I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July. My wife and I tried something a little different this year.
In years past, we would host a cook-out on our deck for friends and family, then go to the local park for the fireworks, but we sold our house last December and moved into an apartment in a golf complex in Brookfield, Wisconsin, just about 10 miles due west of Milwaukee. We live on the 3rd floor, and one of my favorite amenities is our two balconies. One over-looks the golf course and the other faces east toward downtown Milwaukee.
The plan was to eat lunch at a restaurant in Milwaukee we had not tried before that serves specialty sausages. Then we would head to a couple good old German beer gardens, and then back home to catch the fireworks from our balcony.
We pulled up to the eatery at about 2:30 and the darn place was closed for the holiday, so we drove to our first beer garden and it was also closed. By this time our stomachs were growling, so we googled our brains out looking for a place to eat. My wife remembered a place west of the city called Bosch’s Tavern that we had always wanted to try, and they were open until 5:00, so we headed back west to the town of Hales Corners. We had a wonderful lunch of crispy onion rings with some killer dipping sauce, a brisket sandwich on toasted french bread, a Swiss melt on rye, slaw and a dill pickle slice.
As luck would have it, there was a parade starting at 4:00 along the street just outside the tavern. After lunch, we stepped outside onto the porch and viewed a line of marching bands, antique cars, stilt walkers, patriotic floats and even a camel. It was just perfect.
When the parade ended we drove a short several blocks into Whitnall Park to their beer garden. It was open, yea. The weather was perfect, mid-70’s and low humidity. We enjoyed a pint of dark German beer, watched the picnickers, and gabbed with several of the good citizens of Hales Corners.
We arrived home at about 7:30, and at dusk we setup on our balcony. I put on some John Phillip Sousa music, and we viewed no less than 19 fireworks displays from around the city parks.
I think we may have a new Independence Day tradition.
Thanks to all who have served.
Here’s one I heard a while ago:
Jesus was playing golf and Moses was his caddie. They came upon a par 3 water hole. Jesus asked Moses for his 9 iron.
“Lord, I think you should try the 8 iron”, said Moses.
“No Moses, Arnold Palmer always uses a 9 iron on this hole.” Said Jesus. So, Jesus used the 9 iron and the ball dropped in the water.
“Moses, please retrieve my ball. “said Jesus
Moses dutifully parted the water, found the ball, replaced it on the tee and instructed Jesus to use the 8 iron this time. But, Jesus refused stating that if Arnold Palmer can use the 9 iron so could he. Jesus once again found the water with his ball and Moses retrieved it again.
“Lord, if you insist on using the 9 iron, I refuse to retrieve your ball”, said Moses.
Jesus hit his third ball in the pond. As he was walking on the water looking for it, a single player arrived at the tee. He looked at Jesus, on the water, and said to Moses,
“Who does that guy think he is, Jesus Christ?”
“No, replied Moses, he thinks he is Arnold Palmer”.
Ready for your Chapter of the week from my memoir? Here you go.
People started arriving at Ken’s bar shortly after the wake. We were all anxious to tip a few in Mrs. Kelly’s honor and to talk about old times. Many of the boys hadn’t seen each other in quite a while. It had been several years for most of us, so this promised to be a great impromptu reunion.
Ken sent all his servers’ home except for Gina. She had been under Ken’s employment for about a year. She was a beautiful twenty something blue-eyed brunette with a body right out of Playboy, and the hot pink string bikini with spiked heels didn’t hurt either. She was quite an eyeful.
I hadn’t been in the tavern for a good twenty years and it didn’t even resemble the old Cameo Club. The California beach theme was surely different from the dimly lit biker bar motif of the seventies. Ken draped fish netting from one end of the forty-foot wrap around bar to the other. There were seashells, conchs, petrified starfish, beach balls and even a couple of bikini tops strewn throughout the netting. He had a surfboard attached to the ceiling with the phrase, ‘Drink up yur behind’, written across a Beach Bunny’s bare bottom, and I was amazed to find some old Beach Boys tunes on the jukebox.
Ken broke out the back wall of the old tavern and added a 10ft. square game room, with a flat screen TV, pinball machine and a dartboard. It was paneled in a light wood wainscoting about 4 ft. up the wall with a 12-inch-deep ledge for placing drinks around the perimeter, and several black vinyl steel-legged bar stools. A huge rotating fixture that encased a team of Clydesdale horses pulling an ornate Budweiser beer wagon hung from the ceiling.
The long, heavily polyurethaned, dark wood bar adjacent to the game room seated about twenty patrons, and the stools were also black vinyl. Three shelves of various liquor bottles were placed along the mirrored back wall of the bar, and different colored neon beer signs touted Corona, Miller Genuine Draft, Budweiser, the King of Beers, and Killian’s Red. These beers were available on tap, and each had a unique logo knob attached to a draft beer draw handle located at the center of the bar.
Four platform tables with bar stools stood against the wall across from the bar, and the weathered hardwood oak floor still had the same marvelous creak to it. There was also a small men’s and ladies room along the wall that only allowed one patron at a time.
The jukebox and an old-fashioned popcorn wagon stood against a large picture window in the front of the bar room. There were small white paper bags next to the wagon and the popcorn was free. The Old Style Beer sign that hung in the window read Krabby Ken’s Beach Bar, and could be viewed from the outside along Western Avenue, a very busy four lane street.
Ken set up a buffet in the game room fit for kings and queens. He had pure beef Vienna Hot Dogs, Polish sausage, Italian beef sandwiches, and chicken wings in three different kinds of sauces, and all the relishes and side dishes you could think of. It all looked and smelled fantastic. We took up a collection to cover the food cost, and Ken threw in for the draft beer but had to charge regular price for mixed drinks. We all began to dig in.
Moose was the last to arrive. He was 6”9” and now at fifty-five years old, weighed in at a hefty 300+ pounds. His once wavy blond hair had turned a snowy white. He was actually a tad self-conscious about his girth and didn’t care for the nickname we tagged him with. Perhaps his loud manner of speaking was his way of covering up his inhibition.
Gina was busy pouring drinks and made sure that everyone’s glass was full as Ken nodded to her to cut the music on the jukebox. We all turned to look at Ken as he called for our attention.
“Everyone, shut the hell up for a minute!” he began. “It appears that all those who are coming are here. I think it would be appropriate at this time for someone to propose a toast to Mrs. Kelly. Who would like to do the honors?”
There was a long delay. Moose finally stood up and walked to the middle of the room.
“You all may recall that in the old days, the last to arrive always had to get everyone a beer. I feel that since I was the last one to arrive tonight that I should be the one to propose the toast, he bellowed. “Please raise your glasses in honor of Shawn’s mom.” As Moose continued, we all stood as if we were going to sing the “Star Spangled Banner.”
“Mrs. Kelly, he went on, “we have all assembled in this wonderful establishment to pay homage to you. As we drink to your passing, I would like to say that we will all miss you in our own way and will of course always remember the wonderful things you did for us during our youth. Now I would like to lead all the Pinky’s Boys in a round of the famous Pinky’s fight song.”
We began to look at one another, a bit puzzled, at first but as Moose started the tune, we had total recall and joined in.
“We are Pinky’s raiders; we’re raiders of the night.
We’re dirty sons of bitches who would rather fuck than fight.
Hidy tidy God Almighty, who the hell are we?
We are Pinky’s Raiders and will always be.”
With that, we all cheered hurray in unison and chugged down our drinks as we used to do in the old days. I found it hard to believe that after all those years, we still remembered that stupid ass refrain.
Pat, Jeff, Shawn and I were situated around the corner of the bar. We drank a shot to Shawn’s mom, and then another one to our moms. This kept Gina very busy, so we toasted to her cute little ass, and finally, we drank to those good old days.
I looked around at those familiar, yet wiser, more experienced faces I had not seen in such a while. I could feel the nostalgia of years gone by beginning to take over, as I started to remember some of the crazy things we did in our youth. The memories were so clear, that it seemed as if we never left that era when we were together as brothers. I turned to Pat, and attempted to test his memory.
“Hey, Pat. Do you remember the first time you and I went to Pinky’s?” I asked. “We were high school freshies.”
“How could I forget?” answered Pat. “If it hadn’t been for that day, I wouldn’t be sitting here now.”
The New Guy
(Late summer 1963)
Pat wasn’t from the neighborhood originally. His mom, younger brother and he moved from the south side of the city in 1963. Pat’s mom was divorced, and even though money was tight, she wanted him to have a good education and sent him to Gordon Tech, an all boy’s Catholic high school. He and I went out for football in our freshman year and became Gordon Tech Rams.
We were second-string running backs on Brother Henry’s “Bomber Squad.” Bro. Henry was an assistant coach whose penitent task was to work with the reserve offensive and defensive players. He truly deserved a high place in heaven. We goofs really gave him a lot of grief, and even though we didn’t see much playing time that season, we sure had a blast during practice.
Pat and I were in the same homeroom and attended all of our classes together. We met just a month earlier during August tryouts and often walked part of the way home together after the afternoon practice session. We took the same route home every day, crossing over the Chicago River Bridge and then cutting on a diagonal through a large empty field. This saved us about fifteen minutes and knocked a couple blocks off the mile or so journey to our homes.
I recall an early September day in 1963 that was unseasonably hot. We were still quite dehydrated from the two-hour workout.
“Man, I’m thirsty,” said Pat. “Is there anywhere around here to get a coke?”
“There’s a diner called Pinky’s on the way home, if we don’t take the shortcut,” I said. “We can get something to drink there.”
“Sounds great, let’s go,” replied Pat.
As we turned north on Western Avenue, we could see the Vienna Hot Dog sign hanging outside the small pink building a short block away. As we got closer, we saw the banner sign on the outside that read, PINKY’S DRIVE-IN | CARRY OUTS | HOT DOGS, in bold black 2 foot high letters, and we were almost overcome by a waft of the amazing smell of greasy burgers that beckoned us like sirens as they sizzled on the grill.
Pinky’s Drive-In had a tough reputation since the mid-fifties. Those who hung out there were automatically tagged as “Pinky’s Boys.” Today’s society may think it sounds a bit wimpy, but nothing could have been further The small one-story building was built in the mid-1950s and painted pink to keep in step with the post art deco style of the times, and was the perfect place for teenagers to meet. It stood on the corner of Western Avenue and Waveland located on the near north side of Chicago.
In its original form, Pinky’s was a tiny twenty by twenty foot square cinder block structure that could only serve five sit down patrons at a time at the counter, but also had a take-out service. It was the only diner in the immediate neighborhood and as word spread of its delicious food, its popularity grew, so in about 1960, it was remodeled and expanded by a new owner.
A wooden structure was built around three sides of the original cinder block building and the outside was painted entirely in pink. The front of the diner was built out about twenty feet to the right as you faced the front of the diner. This new front wall was glassed in with six large picture windows and a second door that opened into a dining room from the street. The glass wall created a sort of passageway that led to the dining room from the original front door. This made the new building almost twice as large as the original.
The inside walls of Pinky’s were covered with panels of smooth tile material. Each panel was three feet wide and floor to ceiling in height, and every other panel was bright canary yellow and white, which gave it a circus tent affect. Yes, you are correct; it was extremely bright for a dining room.
The room could seat twenty patrons at five square gray laminate tables that had napkin holders, condiments, small vases with red plastic flowers, and four stainless steel tubular chairs with yellow vinyl backs and seats. There was also a dark wooden phone booth with accordion doors in the corner next to the door.
The side and front doors stood open on warm days. This created a cross breeze through the passageway that kept the back room a bit cooler, but also allowed the traffic sounds to be let in along with some interesting street odors when a bus pulled away from the stop that was right on the corner. A juke box and an arcade all-star hockey game stood against the far wall.
As Pat and I walked through the front corner entrance, we saw the light pink counter with five backless round stools covered in red vinyl, and the short passageway to the right leading into the back room. There were two chrome napkin containers flanked by salt and pepper shakers, and a bottle of ketchup and mustard sitting on the counter. The large steel grill that emitted all those heavenly aromas sat across the room in the middle of the back wall to the left of a four foot square pickup window that looked into the back room, and there was a deep fryer to the left of the grill for French fries. A coffee pot, malt machine and a soda pop dispenser stood in the middle of the room that offered Coca Cola and 7up, and the Orange Crush machine, my favorite, sat on the edge of the front counter. A wall menu hung above the inside of the carry out counter that read;
| HOT DOG .60 | BURGER .70 | POLISH .75 |
| TAMALE .25 | ITAL.BEEF or SAUSAGE 1.50 |
| MALTS .50 | COFFEE .10 | FOUNTAIN DRINKS .15 small .25 Large
Every available space was used in the tiny diner.
The only other patron at the front counter was an elderly man sitting on the last stool, sipping a cup of coffee. Pat and I sat up on the first two stools in the row and glanced up at the menu in search of the price of a coke. We didn’t have much money, but were able to afford the 15 cents apiece for a small one. We sat there for a couple minutes before we decided to try the back room, but as we started to get up, someone finally appeared from a small storage room to the left of the deep fryers.
“Scrubby Jake” was a chubby round-faced teenager who worked at Pinky’s part-time. A piece of dirty white adhesive tape held the bridge of his horned-rimmed glasses together and his black oily hair hung limp in his face from beneath his paper soda jerk hat. The once white linen apron he was wearing was stained with parts of everything available on the menu. Pinky’s was a true greasy spoon eatery of that era and Scrubby just added to the charm.
“Hey, Woody, how ya doin?” said Scrubby as he squeezed past the take-out counter.” I haven’t seen you since the Boy’s Club Carnival. What can I get for ya?” he asked.
“Hi, Scrubby, I didn’t know you worked here,” This is Pat. We’re both on the football team at school,” I said, pointing to my left. “We’ll have a small coke and an orange crush.”
“Okay, but you guys will have to go around to the back room. The front is only for old people,” said Scrubby as he gestured with his head toward the end of the counter.
Pat and I got up and walked through the passageway to the back room, and Scrubby met us at the pick-up window with our cold drinks. I paid for both as we sat down at an empty table near the phone booth. We were finally able to quench our thirst.
“Man, that hits the spot!” I said as I took my first gulp.
Jeff, Shawn, Spoolie, and Myrat were in the room, sitting two tables away, next to the jukebox. I said hi to Jeff and he motioned to us to join them, so Pat and I pulled up a couple of chairs around their table and sat down. I introduced Pat to the boys. Shawn, Spoolie, Jeff and Myrat just nodded and said hi.
“Order up! Who’s got the fries and large Coke?” Scrubby tapped the order bell and placed a red plastic basket of steamy French fries and an ice-cold paper Coca-Cola cup on the pickup window counter.
“Hey, Myrat, that’s for you, dickhead. If you don’t want the fries, I’ll eat ‘em as long as it is on you,” said Spoolie.
That’s mine, Scrubs, how much?” Myrat hollered as he approached the window.
“That’ll be 53 cents. 25 for the fries, 25 for the large Coke and 3 cents for you know who,” replied Scrubby.
“I’m short the 3 cents, can you let me slide on the tax?” said Myrat
“Just pay it next time, okay?” said Scrubby.
“Thanks, man,” said Myrat.
Myrat was a big kid and was always ready to eat. He was an eighth grader, but even at 13 years old, weighed in at about 200 pounds. He had broad shoulders and a large waistline, and his meaty hands looked like ham hocks. As he sat down at the table with his food, he plucked a wrapped plastic straw from the condiment caddie, tore off the end and blew the wrapper across the room and out the open door onto the sidewalk. Then he squeezed a pool of ketchup over the mound of crispy fries and dug in with his chubby fingers.
“Man, it is hot in here!” complained Jeff.
“Maybe that’s because it’s 90 degrees outside, Einstein,” replied Shawn with a cross-eyed look.
“What’d you call me?” said Jeff as he stood up abruptly. Jeff was known for his hot temper and was able to back it up. He didn’t take crap from anyone.
“I just called you Einstein. It’s a compliment, man. Einstein was a genius. He discovered the A-bomb or electricity. I think he even invented the first airplane, didn’t he, Spoolie?” said Shawn as he held up his hands.
“No, you dumb ass. Does the “Theory of Relativity” mean anything to you?” said Spoolie with a slight swagger.
“Yeah, that means he discovered how to trace people’s families back to the Bible times and shit, doesn’t it? So, they’d know who all their relatives’ were,” said Shawn as he nodded for recognition.
Jeff, Myrat and Spoolie just looked at each other and shook their heads. “Just forget about it,” said Jeff, sitting back down. “It ain’t worth it.”
Shawn got up and dropped a dime into the Jukebox. You got one play for a dime and three for a quarter in 1963, gasoline was 29 cents a gallon and you could buy a pack of smokes for about a quarter. We could sit in the back room of Pinky’s for hours, if someone ordered something to eat or drink and fed the jukebox from time to time. The boys hung out there every day. It was a part of their turf.
“Play A13,” said Myrat.
“C24,” said Jeff.
“I only have a dime; do you mind if I play the song I want to play?” Shawn retorted.
“You should have asked us first, you jerkoff. We could have chipped in for a quarter and got three picks,” replied Jeff.
“It’s too late now, man, I already put it in the slot and I’m playing what I want to!” Shawn said as he quickly pushed his play.
The Bally’s jukebox arm searched the row of 45rpms and stopped on “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison. Shawn began to sing at the first bar and we ’backup singers’ let out a guttural grooowl at the appropriate time. It was Friday at about 4:00 and several more boys started to show up from school, and by 4:30, all five tables were occupied. The jukebox had a half hours’ worth of plays stacked up, so we all mellowed out as we sipped our soda pops and malts.
Bugsy and Little Tony were busy playing the hockey game. All-Star Hockey was about the size of a pinball machine. It would feed a single metal ball at a time, and the player would attempt to score goals against the machine by manipulating a lever connected to a three-inch metal hockey stick. Tony and Bugsy were addicted to it. They dropped quarter after quarter, trying for high score to become “PREZ” of Hockey World.
They were both Italian and small in stature, but giants when it came to playing hockey. Bugsy also worked behind the counter at Pinky’s when Scrubby’s shift ended. I was sure half of his meager salary went into All-Star Hockey.
The owner of Pinky’s was a stocky bald man in his 50’s we called “Big Al.” Al added on the back room to attract more customers, and hopefully boost profits. He hired Scrubby, Bugsy and a couple other boys to help out behind the counter for about $1.25 an hour, which was minimum wage in those days. He also employed one of the older guys from the Cameo Club to be his manager, so he could work his day job to make ends meet.
Al usually showed up at Pinky’s around 4 or 5 o’clock and stayed until closing time, around 9:00. We all got along with him most of the time, and were welcome to hang out as long as we were spending money, or until Al decided we overstayed our welcome. Dinner time was taboo to us. The after-work crowd gave Pinky’s its best business. Between the hours of 5 to 7, the back room was reserved for what Al referred to as real customers.
Big Al had quite a unique way of letting us know when it was time to vacate the premises. He had a three-phase approach that never failed. He would first calmly walk around the front counter into the back room and start pushing in empty chairs, cleaning any debris and wiping down tables with a wet cloth. He also took note as to how many of us were there and if we were still paying customers. Inevitably, by about 4:30, we all finished our cokes, malts, fries etc., so Al would ask us to buy something or leave.
“Paying customers only,” He said. “Eat or get out.” Then he went back to the front counter and took care of his other customers. That was phase one.
We usually ignored his request. Five minutes later Al initiated phase two. His round face with the heavy five o’clock shadow appeared at the pick-up window and he offered a sterner second request. “Leave now or you can’t come back!” he said in a louder tone. We once again ignored him as another five minutes went by. This non-compliance always caused Big Al to lose his temper. When he was in phase three, Al reappeared in the back room and shouted at the top of his lungs, “That’s it. Out, ya bums! Get out now or you’re banned for good!” That always did it for us.
As we all stood up to leave, Jeff shouted out over the music. “Hey, what do you guys want to do tonight?”
“The same thing we do every night,” said Myrat. “Hang around the bowling alley or the school yard and figure something out.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Shawn.
“I’ve gotta get goin’ home,” I said.
“Why don’t you bring Pat by tonight,” said Jeff. “We’ll either be in here, across the street at the bowling alley or in the schoolyard.”
Pat and I shrugged and told Jeff that we’d see him later.
We didn’t realize it at the time, but Pat and I were about to start out on a series of adventures that would play an intricate part in our lives over the next decade. We met up that night and the next and the next. The bonds that were formed back then still hold firm today.