Mid July found the six of us picking a date for our next trail ride. We decided on July 20th. Don and Judy were back from France and Gary and Elaine back from Cleveland (The Paris of the Midwest). They had a family reunion there and had taken in –those lucky kids—an NBA championship game at the Quicken Loans Arena via video stream. But still a lively full house and, most importantly, Cleveland won that game and went on to win the championship.
We gathered at Judy and Don’s late on a hot afternoon. Before setting out we three gals looked at the wedding pictures from France. We oohed and aahed over the lovely bride and handsome groom, the lovely setting and pretty church. Of course Judy looked lovely too in her “wedding” dress. They stopped in Paris for a pair of days before flying home. In Paris, they found themselves staying next door to some Portugal soccer fans. Didn’t have to ask if they were from Portugal as their costumes spoke for them.
Our first stop this evening was Boots, formerly know as Big B’s and before that as Chasers. Don drove us from Westhaven, through the four roundabouts on Ninth Avenue and then across the city. Oops, he turned right onto Ceape before Marvin and I could tell him about the road construction from the railroad tracks to beyond Bowen. A real mess we said and explained the back street way we had taken less than a week before to get to a house on Bay Shore Drive. Don turned quickly and sent the white van north on State Street and then right on Washington Avenue avoiding the nest of one-way streets in that part of Oshkosh. “Just look for the steeples of St. Mary’s Church,” we said as he asked which way to go. St. Mary’s was built decades ago when Oshkosh Catholics thought it would be the home of a diocese; so it had been built as a cathedral. Well, the diocese didn’t happen, but the church is grand and gothic and recently improved.
Boots is on the southeast corner of Merritt and Monroe just across the street from the former St. Mary’s school where Judy once taught.
The new owners have brightened the interior of the tavern by painting the walls and ceilings a sunny yellow. By the way, the ceilings are fifteen feet above the floor. On the west wall and ceiling of the barroom hang the U.S. flag and the flags of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Below the flags are framed photos of the owner’s family members who served in the military from WWII to the present. It’s quite a nice display and tribute to their family.
Brandi was our bartender. She served up glasses of Spotted Cow for me, Marv, Don, Judy and Elaine. Someone said the only other beers on tap were light beers. Gary, our
designated driver for the rest of the evening, didn’t drink, not even a glass of water. Brandi told us the name of the current owners, but I missed that fact. Interestingly, the former owners of the bar when it was Chasers were sitting at the bar. We gave them our card and had a pleasant chat with them. They seemed right at home in their former establishment.
The guys moved into the back room of the tavern where the décor on the walls and ceiling switches to sports teams. Kinda hard to miss was the large Michael Jordon poster, and also, of course Green Bay Packer jerseys, pennants, etc., and Chicago Cubs and Chicago Black Hawks jersies. Marvin, the guy from Illinois, had me take a picture of the Black Hawks display. Somehow among the sports and military displays hangs a picture of Elvis painted on black velvet. You are nearly as old as we are if you remember all the “on-velvet” paintings sold from the back of vans and pickup trucks at gas stations during that era.
We gals stayed in the barroom to listen to Judy tell us about her friends whose grandchildren are spending the summer here in Oshkosh. One of the many activities the grandparents chose for these grade-school kids was the garden camp at Growing Oshkosh. The kids were not overenthused, but after a day or two at the camp were really happy and excited to go. One exclaimed how great it was to eat kale for a snack. The other said making compost was great fun.
We knew Boots served food from the signs posted outside the building. Most of the choices were appetizers. Brandi showed us a list of appetizers and Judy ordered the deep fried green beans and cauliflower. Very tasty, but I think the beans won out over the
cauliflower. Everyone else agreed.
This building is one of the oldest taverns in Oshkosh. You can read its history at our earlier post on Big B’s on November 2013. We gave the information from Larry Spanbauer’s book Oshkosh Neighborhood Taverns and the People Who Ran Them in that post. The building dates from 1885. According to Jim Draeger’s book Wisconsin Taverns, this tavern turned into a pharmacy during the Prohibition years. If you know your history, it was legal for pharmacies to sell hard liquor during Prohibition “for medical purposes.” Marv checked out the men’s room. You have to remember how old this building is when you think of rest rooms. They are tiny. Many of them had no room for a sink; that stood out in the hallway. However, the ones here had a sink in them. And all the fixtures were very new and clean. The one-foot square tan stone floors impressed Marv and Gary. “Looks like this stone came from the Maribel caves,” said Gary. Say what? Elaine and I checked out the women’s rest room, which is in the back room. It too had all new fixtures and was spotless. Plus it had a large print of Georgia O’Keefe’s Camellias and purple painted wainscoting..
One topic of conversation was airports. Lost of stories of missed or late flights. I prefer flying out of Milwaukee’s Mitchell Field or Appleton and try very, very hard to avoid O’Hare. However, flying home a few years ago from a writing conference in New Mexico, I arrived on time (4:00 PM) at O’Hare only to learn my flight to Appleton would be delayed thirty minutes, a time period that stretched to three hours. Meanwhile the weather got worse and worse. One couple ditched O’Hare and rented a car to get to Milwaukee. Another woman threw herself on the floor sobbing that she couldn’t get to Fort Wayne, Indiana that night. I finished the mystery novel I was reading but was reluctant to pick up another one in the bookstore for fear I would miss my flight to Appleton. Finally it was called and we passengers boarded in the rain, wind and thunder. The plane took off with the pilot announcing ours was the last flight to leave O’Hare that night. Marv greeted me in Appleton saying “What took you so long?” “I’d like a drink.”
Judy told how just a few weeks ago her older brother and his wife flying in from California were stranded at O’Hare when their flight to Appleton was canceled. But they struck up a conversation with a couple from Arlington Heights who invited them to spend the night at their home, provided them with breakfast and drove them to O’Hare in the morning. See! There are good people in the world!
Of course UWO basketball season was only four months away, so we had to talk about the new recruits and also the possibility that a Bucks D-League team will be located here. We hope. We hope, We hope.
The last crumbs of deep fried veggies and empty glasses were all that was left on our table as we decided to move on to our supper locale.