There are many places. Places you’ve been to eat, places you’ve visited for fun and profit, places that you hate. But there is only one Place. Maybe two, if you’ve moved around a lot, but usually just one. The Place is where you met friends during high school or college, hung out and had fun. Some memories of The Place are fuzzy because you tended to be drunk there a lot. The Place is always there, in the back of your head, ready to tickle forth a memory of something that was funny, or sad, or weird, or often a little bit of all three. You know that if you go back to The Place at any given time, you’ll likely see someone you know. An old friend, an old lover, perhaps even an old enemy. Chances are, they will be there in the Place, knowing that someone will eventually come in and begin to share in the memory of what was.
I had a chance to visit my Place this weekend, occasioned by the marriage of a friend. My Place is what I think of as a True Place. I can go there any given night of the year, drink beer and shoot pool and know that I’ll see someone that I was or still am friends with. Sitting there late on the Saturday before the wedding after God only knows how many beers I began to think about everything I’d seen or heard in The Place, all of the friends and acquaintances and crazy goings on and decided that someone needed to memorialize my Place before the memories are lost to time. I saw people that I haven’t talked to in better than 10 years that night.
So now, while I’m still alive and my memory is pretty good I’m going to relive in words some of the things that strike me vibrantly about the Place. It’s about time since I came to the realization that I’ve been going to The Place for nearly 20 years. I’m going to share memories, some of which are probably better left quietly buried. There will be funny ones, sad ones, and ones that are important to me, but probably not to anyone else.
I will not tell the name of The Place, and everyone’s name has been changed, mainly because a few of my Place-mates read these boards, and probably wouldn’t want me to put their names out here for your consumption. Most of the stories will at least note what year they occurred, and I’ll try to be as chronological as possible, but I’m occasionally fuzzy on that, so don’t spaz if I don’t put a date down. I’ll try to be coherent. I’m happy to answer questions about any of the events or people you read about here. I hope that you find it enjoyable, though if not enjoyable, at least readable.
A note: These stories are true. They contain drug use, violence, adult humor, and a bunch of stuff that isn’t suitable for young children (and even a few adults), so if you’re easily worried, offended, or just plain looking for a reason to get pissed off go away now. I don’t know how much of the history I’ll share. I’ve got a lot of memories of The Place and I might tell you all of them, I might tell a few and taper off because I lose interest. Please feel free to inundate me with feedback.
** The Place**
In this episode: A little history, some description, and a brief introduction to the owners of The Place.
The Place is a large warehouse that was built near the train depot in the town in 1902. It acted as a warehouse for goods that were shipped via rail lines to various parts of the country. During prohibition a huge cellar was built secretly beneath the foundation of The Place. For a while the cellar acted as a secret bar and distribution point for alcohol, and the front for The Place was still to act as a warehouse for goods that were being shipped via rail. The Place was raided and closed sometime in the mid-20’s and seized by the government. For the next 20+ years The Place was a government warehouse for surplus furniture and equipment. In 1945 The Place was put up for sale as surplus government property and was purchased by an antiques dealer. The Place was sold as-is, and still contained a huge inventory of government equipment, much of which was stored in the cellar. The antiques dealer ran his business for many years, finally dying of a heart attack (in The Place) in 1964. The dealer had no family, no partners, and no one to leave his estate to, so The Place was again in government hands. It was put up for auction again and purchased by two friends, Ben and Jerry, who grew up in the town which hosts The Place. The Place was opened as a pool hall in late 1965 by Ben and Jerry.
Initially there were two pool tables, three dartboards, and a small bar that served Guinness bottles, a home made beer, a local home-made whiskey (for some customers), and water. The taps were added in 1969. The Place struggled to survive well into the mid-70’s. Ben and Jerry lived in the back area of The Place and put every dime they made working at other jobs into The Place to make it more attractive to potential customers. The bar is made from the lumber and timbers of a warehouse next door to The Place that was torn down in 1968. It was handmade by the partners, stained and polished with care, and sits there still.
In 1972 Ben and Jerry built a deck that sits along the entire back side of The Place. In 1976 Ben and Jerry moved out of the back room and made it into an area for darts and live music. By 1979 The Place had a whopping six tables, an expanded bar, and an active nightlife. In 1981 Ben and Jerry converted one of the store rooms to a pay play for quarters area with 6 tables and a few chairs. In 1982 the tables were expanded to 8 full size tournament tables and a sitting area along the bar was added. In early 1983 another storeroom was converted into a small kitchen and sandwich area, and The Place began to sell food. In 1984 I played my first game of pool at The Place, at the tender age of 12.
So I invite you to see The Place as it was then and now. There are four entrances to The Place, though most people only know about three of them. When you walk in the front door you take a trip down a short hallway and the room opens in front of you, yawningly huge. To your right is one of the two back entrances to The Place that lead to the deck. The tables spread across the warehouse floor, though the first thing you see when you enter is the beautiful bar. Behind the bar the wall is lined with mirrors and shelves. In the corner is a shelf that holds one bottle of each beer they serve. The taps are along the rear. The Place serves Bud, Bud Light, Fosters, Harp, Newcastle, Guinness, Sam Adams, and Pete’s Wicked Ale on tap. Bottles of Bud, Bud Light, Corona, Newcastle, Fosters, Harp, Newcastle, Guinness, Sam Adams, Abida, and usually a few specialty beers that Jerry has taken a liking to for one reason or another are available.
Both Ben and Jerry are Irish boys from Irish families, and you see no advertisements or promotional materials for any beer other than Guinness or Newcastle, with one minor exception. One of the Guinness mirrors that hangs behind the bar was broken during a fight in 1987 and was replaced with a Michelob mirror as a temporary measure. Ben decided they should leave it up “so that when someone tries to order a Michelob I can tell them we’re out and offer them a real beer instead.” Both owners believe that anyone who drinks American beer either has no taste or is just a cheap bastard. It is widely rumored that neither Ben nor Jerry has ever tried an American beer. Spend 10 minutes talking beer with either one and you’ll believe it too.
Passing the bar you walk through a small door and into the darts area. Eight dartboards “Real cork, dammit, not those fucking plastic electronic things” are situated along the back wall. To the left is the stage, where local bands can play music. The band room connects to the back of the bar. Many musicians have played drunk in The Place. To the right is the other door that leads to the outside deck. An array of tables and chairs stand between you and the doorway. Walking through the door you are on the deck, which faces a small wooded area. There is parking there, though it isn’t paved (The Place doesn’t have a paved parking area, it’s all gravel). You can’t park along the back deck unless you’re an employee, owner, or friend of either. There is a sign that announces this:
If you don’t work here or own the place, your car will be towed into the street and left there. Parking for customers is around the front.**
I’ve only seen a car towed once, and it was towed to a holding lot instead of into the street, but I still wouldn’t risk it. Get Jerry in there on a night off with a bunch of beer in him and you could wind up with a car that was towed to another county.
Welcome to The Place. Pull up a stool and order a Guinness. I hope you enjoy your visit.
Next: Meet the Kelly’s, Rats in the Bar, A few more introductions.