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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.

Boots on Merritt and Monroe

Boots on Merritt and Monroe

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.

 

Honoring Those Who Served

Honoring Those Who Served

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

Brandi, Our Bartender and Cook

Brandi, Our Bartender and Cook

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.

 

Black Hawk Jersey with Hockey Sticks

Black Hawk Jersey with Hockey Sticks

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

Deep Fried Beans & Cauliflower. Yum!

Deep Fried Beans & Cauliflower. Yum!

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..

 

Telling Stories

Telling Stories

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.

IMG_1600

The Dockside at 425 Nebraska Street was our supper destination on June 9. Its website describes it as a riverside restaurant and bar. I’d guess that on a pleasant evening many if not most patrons arrive by boat and tie up at its piers as arrive by car. Judy’s white van was one of the few cars in the lot, yet the place was far from empty.

View of Dockside from the parking lot

View of Dockside from the parking lot

Don and Judy and Marv and I had dreamed up our tavern visits at this very place in June of 2009. We had been at an Oshkosh Vision get-together at the Convention Center. While we were sipping a beer on the patio afterwards the idea of our beer trail rides were born. Don had brought up the idea of what the old places looked like on the inside. Many times we had driven past these bars on our way to work or shopping and never took the time to stop in. We decided to ask Gary and Elaine to join us. And so the beer trail came into existence.

Since that night the Dockside has changed hands and has been remodeled. But the outdoor patio remains the same. Between the building and the Fox River are about a dozen metal tables and chairs under large umbrellas. There is also a small outdoor bar on the north side of this patio.

On the inside the bar, which originally dominated the middle of the main room of the restaurant, has now been moved to the east wall. That leaves a large square interior for the dining room. The weather was lovely this evening, sunny and warm which explained why the dining room was empty and the patio filled.

 

Don and Marv and some guy in the background

Don and Marv and some guy in the background

We pulled two tables together and tilted the umbrellas to keep the sun our of our eyes. That was only partially successful so those of us wearing sunglasses sat at the east end of the tables and those without at the west end. Alyssa was our waitress. Marv, Elaine and Don ordered Dockside Amber. I was about to get the same when Marv said, “Here’s one for you; tell your water aerobics friends you had a Blu Bobber.” Marv has referred to my aquatic exercising friends as The Bobbers. “Sure, why not,” I said and told Alyssa to bring me one. Judy, our designated driver, had an O’Douls. Gary ordered a glass of water.

I wondered if my beer would be blue, but it wasn’t. There were, however, four plump blueberries floating in the foam. Since that night I have seen packs of Blu Bobber, made by the Fox River Brewing Co., on the shelves of super markets and even Shopko. Yep, they sell beer there too. And, some of my water aerobics friends have tried the Blu Bobber beer also.

Count the blueberries!

Count the blueberries!

We studied the menu which we felt was much improved from previous years and previous owners. Marv and I ordered grilled cheese with bacon and avocado sandwiches. Elaine had walleye fingers which she shared with Judy who had Bam Bam shrimp. Don had the Cuban sandwich and Gary a burger. Whoever came up with the idea of calling strips of walleye “fingers.” Thank God they didn’t decide on toes.

At an adjacent table were three male friends of ours who live in Omro. They had arrived by boat. “Where are your wives?” we asked. It turns out they were at another bar in town participating in a learn-to-paint-while-drinking-beer less. They raised their glasses in a toast to that.

Gary again brought up the book The Bees. Don has now read it. I’ll have to give it a try, I guess. It does sound good. I have read other books in which animals are the main character like the rabbits in Watership Down. Speaking of books about animals, Don mentioned The good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood.” He heard about it from a woman on the Florida beach who said it was “exciting.” Don made it only halfway through. Guess he didn’t find it “exciting” or else it was due back at the library. I thought it must be a biography of some rich business tycoon, but no it’s about a pig that a woman rescued. Don’t think that will go on my “Must Read List.” One more comment about books in which animals are the leading characters. I remember Watership Down was the book on Chapter a Day, an NPR program. The reader got halfway through and quit. He couldn’t take another page of rabbits in control.

The Beer Trail Riders at Dockside

The Beer Trail Riders at Dockside

But there were other topics of conversation. We teased Judy about her driving, how she took the direct routes and main traveled roads to get from Bare Bones to Dockside. A sharp contrast to Gary’s choice of the back streets and supposed “short cuts.” Gary also has a motorcycle and I think that has led him to the lesser-traveled streets, where survival is surer.

And then we put in our two cents worth on the U.S. summer topic: politics. Who came up with the adjective “presumptive” to hand on the name of a candidate who won the primaries? We couldn’t remember that being used in former Presidential races. And will the “presumptive” Republican candidate get the nod at the Convention? Yahoo News thinks not.

A more enjoyable topic was Marv’s report on the new recruits to the UWO man’s and women’s basketball teams. Already the men’s 2016-2017 season is up on the UWO Titans website.

We had finished our supper and our beer, but lingered longer in the pleasant evening watching people strolling the Riverwalk on the north side of the Fox. Now a portion of the south side Riverwalk stretches from Oregon Street east to the Dockside. Whoever had that idea for the Riverwalk, kudos to him or her.

Boats, River, Riverwalk

Boats, River, Riverwalk

We six had been talking about a “trail ride” to the Bare Bones Brewery almost since it opened a couple of years ago. It was finally time action not just talk. It was Wednesday, June 1 and Bare Bones was our destination.

Marv and I parked in front of Don and Judy’s house a tad before five and found Gary and Elaine’s car already in the driveway. Don greeted us with “Elaine and Judy are upstairs looking at wedding dresses.” Really, what didn’t I know?

Pic from Kelly Reemtson's book

Pic from Kelly Reemtson’s book

I joined Elaine and Judy in an upstairs room. Judy was pulling dresses out of a closet. “This is what I’m wearing,” said Judy as she revealed a two-piece ivory frock. It was gorgeous—the sleeveless dress buttoned down the back. The “buttons” on the matching jacket were tiny pink silk roses.

We oohed and aahed over the workmanship of Mrs. Ju at Ju’s Tailoring in downtown Oshkosh. That woman’s a genius with needle and thread. But the show wasn’t over. There were also mother-of-the-bride dresses, prom gowns, a Baptismal dress and Judy’s own wedding dress.

“So,” I asked, “Who’s getting married?” “The grand daughter of a dear friend in France,” Judy said. Wow! Going to a wedding is cool. Going to one in France is even cooler!

Next we took some minutes to look at an art book of Kelly Reemtson, Judy’s niece. Not only was the art work beautiful – the picture titles were clever. Our son Tom enters his photos in shows. He takes a lot of time coming up with just the perfect title. So, a close up of our tabby cat becomes “Tiger in the House” and the close-up of a dandelion gone to seed is “The Big Bang.”

Judy was our designated driver that night. She took charge: Gary and Don in the back seats, Marv and I in the middle and Elaine riding shotgun and navigating.

Bare Bones Brewery on Cty. Trunk S

Bare Bones Brewery on Cty. Trunk S

It was then I realized that Judy didn’t know how to get to Bare Bones. Highway 10? Highway 76? No. No, we said. Highway 45 or else County Road S. With the calm voice of a navigator telling her to turn right in one-third mile, we got onto Ninth Avenue, then Interstate 41 and across the Butte des Morts Bridge and then the “flyway” exit onto Highway 45. Soon enough we exited onto the Ryf Road, turned onto County Trunk S and there in the bright red building was the Bare Bones Brewery, 4362 County Highway S.

We admired the outdoor patio; its pots of hop vines climbing to the roof. It looked inviting, but we went inside. The barroom is spacious; it has six tables seating 4 each and two tables seating three each. The long bar has 18 bar stools. To the right of the bar hung a sign listing the Bare Bones brews of the day. There were a lot to choose from. We ignored

Me, Marv & Hop Vines

Me, Marv & Hop Vines

the craft beers from other breweries and selected Bare Bones own. Gary, Elaine and I chose Bare Bones Alpha Pale Ale. Don and Marv chose Bare Bones Amber Ale. Jerry, the bartender filled our glasses for us. Judy, our designated driver, chose a non-alcoholic beer. Hers came in a bottle; it was not brewed by Bare Bones. “I’m used to having a candle with non-alcoholic beer, “ she said. Reader, don’t ask me why. I just write this stuff down. We raised our glasses in a toast to our friendship and also to a dear friend, Jim Flood, who recently passed away.

 

Elaine with Beer and its Makins'

Elaine with Beer and its Makins’

We pulled two tables together so we could drink our beers and talk. The only food available here is popcorn. Since that is a favorite food of Marv and Don, they brought a few dishes of it to the table. It went down well with the beer. Meanwhile Elaine continued to look at the list of beers and soon came back to the table with a sample glass of Dog Dazes. It’s an 8 % alcoholic content.  She passed it around and we all thought it was tasty.

It’s clear that Don and Gary are the newshounds in our group. They wake up to NPR, I bet. So it wasn’t

Don, the Politico Newshound

Don, the Politico Newshound

surprising that Don asked, “If the Republicans come up with a third party candidate, what keeps Bernie Sanders from running as a third party candidate?” We didn’t answer that but recalled many Presidential elections with 3rd party candidates. If you paid attention in high school U.S. history class, you should be able to rattle off a few, especially Teddy Roosevelt and his Bull Moose party in 1912 and the Dixiecrats in 1948 led by Strom Thurmond. And, George Wallace in 1967 and Ross Perot, who ran twice in 1992 and 1996. Of course there are always the smaller party candidates from the Libertarian Party or the Green Party. Well, it should make for an interesting election.

Elaine and Gary spent Memorial Day weekend fishing at Fish Lake near Hancock, WI. Of the two of them, Elaine seems to be more successful than Gary at catching walleyes, northern pike and bass. She caught three of each, all keepers. Perhaps it’s because she used leeches as bait. The very word made us shudder. Brings to mind Humphrey Bogart covered with them in The African Queen. Also as kids in Sheboygan my friends and I made a raft and floated it on the Pigeon River from 8th to 6th street. We brought along a box of salt to pour on our bare toes once the leeches grabbed hold. They’d sizzle and fall off.

 

Next Time We Will Order a Flight

Next Time We Will Order a Flight

Spotless, sparkling clean are words I’m using to describe Bare Bones. We check out the rest rooms: neat, clean. Marv found some signs on the men’s room wall that he asked me to include. One read: “Please do not put chew / tobacco or gum in urinal. It loses its flavor after a few flushes.” Another sign advertised a golf outing and a third advertised the Wednesday Growler fills at 8 dollars each. And this last one which fits our little group: “Everyone should believe in something. I believe I’ll have another beer.”We peeked through the windows into the brew room and saw lots of tall aluminum tanks and other spotlessly clean brewing equipment. We liked the sign on the door: No popcorn in the

Okay, I Won't!!!

Okay, I Won’t!!!

brew room.

The Bare Bones website currently lists eleven beers: Bare Bones Alpha Pale Ale, Amber Ale, Bitch in Heat (strawberry jalapeno), Chiquita Limon Cervesa, Dirty snout Summer Stout, Dog Daze, Happy Tail Cream Ale, Sled Dog Coffee Porter, Stone Bone and Swifty Irish Red. We’ll have to come back and try some of these. Or better still order a flight or two. Seems like most beer names reflect dogs and their behavior. One woman came in with her dog and ordered a glass of Dog Daze. Fitting. By the time we left, many more people had entered; some carrying growlers for a refill. The patio was getting filled up too.

 

Jerry, Our Bartender

Jerry, Our Bartender

We have friends who live near the Bare Bones Brewery. After they heard of our excursion there, they decided to visit. But unlike us, they did not drive their car there, rather they road their bikes along the Wiouwash trail.

It was super time and we headed back into town. This time Judy listened to five people telling her how to bet back via County Trunk S. “This isn’t going to work,” she said glancing at Lake Butte des Morts on her right and Highway 45 on her left. But it did and we entered Oshkosh on a traffic circle on Algoma Blvd. She drove slowly past the Schreiber House, a three-story red brick house that had just been moved one block up Algoma from a lot its former home next to the Paine Art Center. It was sitting over an excavation for its basement and still held up by dozens of steel beams. Then we headed for supper.

Bare Bones Back Bar

Bare Bones Back Bar

Our usual trail rides are on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. We choose those days for a couple of reasons. One, the owner’s usually working

Hot Dogs! Must be Trail's End

Hot Dogs! Must be Trail’s End

then and can answer our questions and second, the crowd’s not so big and the noise level is lower. We used to go out sometimes on a Monday, but learned some places aren’t opened on that day. However, it was Thursday April 7, National Beer Day. We had just come from Oblio’s where Jim Draeger of the Wisconsin Historical Society and Lee Reiherzer had spoken about Prohibition and the history of Oblio’s.

The last time we had been to Trail’s End was the night of our first ever rides, August of 2009. We had begun our adventure at Oblio’s on that day also. That time we ate hot dogs, sang and danced to songs on the jukebox. We were novices at this blog stuff and never asked to meet the owner or find out the history of the place.

 

Is this a Brand bar?

Is this a Brand bar?

And again this time the owner was not there. But we had learned a lot about old Oshkosh taverns since we were novices in the summer of 2009. We stared at the old back bar and agreed it looked like a Robert Brand Company bar. The Robert Brand Company would “woodburn” their trade mark on the front of the cash drawers. But those drawers haven’t stood up to the years of operation. In the Trail’s End back bar, the drawer itself is missing. Only a few decks of playing cards and other stuff was tucked in the space where the cash drawer had been.

We had been told by Jim Draeger that taverns before Prohibition did not have bar stools. Instead there was a brass foot rail along the bar that a patron could use as a foot rest. Trail’s End still has its brass rail. Indeed according to Larry Spanbauer’s book Oshkosh Neighborhood Taverns and the People Who Ran Them, Trail’s End Tavern at 500 Merritt opened in 1887 as a boarding house and tavern. It was a “frequent stop” for passengers waiting to board the trail as the Chicago Northwestern railroad station was just across the tracks from the tavern. Rail

Hmmm, is this sexist?

Hmmm, is this sexist?

passenger service is long gone from Oshkosh, but the tracks remain for Canadian National freight trains. Making use of its popularity to rail passengers the name of the tavern was Northwestern Sample Room (1902-1913) and Northwestern Buffet (1914-1920).

It was one of the few taverns that closed during the decade of Prohibition. It reopened in 1933 and took the name Trail’s End. Even though new owners came and went, it remained Trail’s End. The popularity of its “chili dogs” dates back probably to 1985 says Spanbauer.

Since we were here for supper, we chose a table near the jukebox and ordered. Marvin and I drank Spotted Cow and Elaine drank a Leinenkugle Red Pale Ale. Gary and Tom had water. Most important were the hot dogs we had. Tom had two with just catsup and mustard. Marv had one with “the works.” Gary and Elaine ordered three with “the works” and I had one with just the chili meat sauce. The works includes raw onions and the chili meat sauce. The waitress gave us lots of napkins and also produced a bunch of photos of the place from “back in the day.” The lack of bar stools and the brass rail are prominent in these pictures. And so is the back bar−the same as always minus the rack of snacks and ads.

Guess they tasted good!

Guess they tasted good!

Like most of the taverns built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the rest rooms are tiny, containing only a toilet (and urinal for men). Sinks were outside of the rest rooms. You can see that today in many old taverns in Oshkosh including Trail’s End.

Marvin and Gary looked for a Merle Haggard song on the juke box (it’s not a Touch Tune machine), but failed to find one. Since Haggard had just died, Gary thought hearing one of his songs would be appropriate, but that was not to be.

We talked about basketball—that seems to be our favorite topic. Ripon college sports banquet was a few days previous and Elaine said it was a happy event as the women’s team had done so well this year, and the men’s team also.

We also talked about the April 5 election just two days previous. It was the fist one in 15 years in which I didn’t work at the polls. But Gary and Elaine worked the early shift in the Town of Omro. Lots of voters because of the Presidential Primary.

This ends our trail rides with just the four of us. Don and Judy are leaving Florida soon and the “gang” will be back together again. We are looking forward to visiting the new brewery just northwest of the city.

What better way was there to celebrate National Beer Day than a trip to Oblio’s to meet Jim Draeger, author of one of our favorite books, Bottom’s Up, about old taverns in Wisconsin. On Tuesday, April 5 Mr. Draeger was in Oshkosh with other leaders of the Wisconsin

Ahhh, Schlitz as it should be

Ahhh, Schlitz as it should be

Historical Society to open a month-long exhibit on Oshkosh and Wisconsin historical events at the Oshkosh Public Library. Now two days later, he was at Oblio’s to speak about beer. And we were there to listen–Marv, son Tom, and I along with Elaine and Gary.

Our family got there first and greeted Todd and Mark, Oblio’s owners, who were busy behind the bar. Mark was wearing a Schlitz beer shirt−how appropriate. But Mark was not the only one specially dressed for this occasion. Marv was wearing his Oblio’s T-shirt and I was wearing my “Riding the Beer Trail” Tee. Marv and I ordered Schlitz (the beer than made Milwaukee famous way back in the day). It arrived in tall V-shaped pilsner glasses with the Schlitz logo on them.

Elaine Shows Off her Schlitz Necklace

Elaine Shows Off her Schlitz Necklace

All seats at the bar were taken as was most of the floor space. We recognized fellow Titan basketball fans Mary and John and some UWO folks including Barry and Jim. Oblio’s has 27 beers on tap. I’m not going to list them all. You have to stop in yourself and take a look. In addition to Schlitz there were also these that Marv noted: Pabst, Spotted Cow, Smithwicks, Guiness, Mama’s Little Yella Pilsner. By time we had begun to sip our beers, Elaine and Gary had arrived. Elaine also ordered a Schlitz; Gary was her designated driver.

Since 1979 Oblio’s consists of two rooms. Jim Draeger’s presentation was in the room adjacent to the main barroom where is a small bar, a few booths, tables and chairs and a long shuffleboard. We moved to that section and found seats.

We had brought along with us Jim Draeger’s book, which had been a gift from our friends Bev and Bob (who were also there). We IMG_1310asked Jim to sign it. Also among the dignitaries was Lee Reiherzer, Society of Oshkosh Brewers. He had whipped up a batch of Schlitz to taste like that brewed before Prohibition when Oblio’s was a Schlitz tavern (More about him later.) Also present and showing off his Oshkosh beer memorabilia was Ron Akin, author of a book on Oshkosh breweries..

Soon this second room was filled with people eager to hear Draeger and Reiherzer’s presentation and to enter the “design your own beer label” contest. Not only did Jim sign our book, he told us that he is follower of our blog! Great!

We found a place to sit with Elaine, Gary, Ron and Kenlyn, Ron’s wife, Ron to listen to Draeger’s presentation on Prohibition in Wisconsin. Oshkosh mayor Steve Cummings, by way of introduction, said a few words about the Wisconsin Historical Society’s display at the Oshkosh Public Library. As one who spearheads the city’s Landmarks Commission, he is very interested in Oshkosh history. Just recently the city has placed a small plaque on the front of Oblio’s marking the building as an Oshkosh landmark.

Jim Draeger & Me

Jim Draeger & Me

Jim Draeger’s take on why Prohibition came into existence was interesting. Beer was not only ubiquitous but safer to drink than water. We’re talking here about a time before cities had water filtration and sewage treatment plants. So what went into lakes and rivers came out of taps in cities and towns. As a result a beer, called “table beer” (about 2% alcohol) was served in homes to all family members including children. Just like in Pilgrim homes when our forbearers first came to America. There were no laws regulating drinking: no drinking age, no closing hours, no treatment programs for alcoholics. Taverns though were male only establishments; a guy stood at the bar, foot on the brass rail and a spittoon nearby (one hopes). There were no bar stools. If women were present they were “ladies of the evening,” i.e., prostitutes. Many taverns doubled as brothels. It was, as Jim said, a “Devil’s Triumvirate: drinking, gambling, and prostitution.” Is this what old-timers mean when they talk about the good old days?

 

Part of Ron Akin's Display

Part of Ron Akin’s Display

By the early 1900s temperance movements were gaining prominence. Hold that thought and consider this. The national taxes on liquor were one of the main sources of income for the federal government. Tax on alcohol basically covered the cost of the Civil War. So too did the tax on rum pretty much finance the Revolutionary War. Imposing prohibition would cut off that cash cow. However, there was a push to enact an income tax. Aha, problem solved: money from an income tax would replace the money lost from the liquor tax.

So it was that Prohibition came into the USA. Another thing that made prohibition possible was a severe drought that had dried up a lot of the grain supply needed to make beer and hard liquor.

I think we all know that Prohibition failed. We know from reading Larry Spanbauer’s book Oshkosh Neighborhood Taverns and the People Who Ran Them that many Oshkosh taverns remained open. For example, Chaser’s Tavern (now “Boots” that Draeger wrote about in Bottoms Up became a pharmacy because pharmacies could sell hard liquor “for medicinal purposes.” Others became restaurants and soda fountains, but liquor was still available at many of these establishments.

According to Draeger, two effective things came out of Prohibition: One was Organized Crime and the second was that ordinary citizens became criminals simply because they purchased liquor (or made liquor) illegally. Also Prohibition brought women into taverns, bar stools appeared, and other amenities such as cocktails came into being. One theory about cocktail invention says bootleg booze tasted so bad that adding other ingredients like pop or fruit juice was necessary to make the drink palatable. The crowd took in all of this history as many of us stood and and sat there sipping on our now legal beers.

Following Jim Draeger’s remarks, Lee Reiherzer of the Society of Oshkosh Brewers gave a brief history of Oblio’s, which opened in 1884. Famous Oshkosh architect William Waters designed the building. As it is today, it was then two buildings. The north side tavern was owned by Schlitz brewery in 1886. This was one of the few taverns in town (population 22,000, with 85 saloons) where Schlitz was available. Meanwhile the southern half of the building was also a tavern, then a Greek restaurant during Prohibition (wink, wink). Later the south half ceased to be a tavern and became an automotive parts storeand the north side became a tavern again. Sometime in the mid to late 1930s it added a lovely back bar fuilt in town by the Robert Brand Co. That bar is still there today.

Landmark Plaque

Landmark Plaque

It wasn’t until Todd Cummings and Mark Schultz took over in 1979 that both buildings became one tavern—Oblio’s.

The presentations were over except for the awarding of prizes for the best drawn label. We five left and headed to Trail’s End for supper.

Gary, our designated driver, drove us across town from the Jockey Club to Chester V’s, another bar renovated by David Vienola and his crew. It is located at 2505 Oregon Street just a parking lot away from Oshkosh Corporation. We had visited here when it was Mario’s on Don’s birthday in 2012. Don had fried ice cream, with a candle stuck in his portion, for dessert after a tasty south of the border supper. Any resemblance between Mario’s and Chester V’s is “purely accidental.”

 Chester V's New Look


Chester V’s New Look

Gary pulled into the nearly full parking lot behind the Gastropub, (as Chester V’s is referred to). We had heard a lot about this place while it was being renovated and when it opened in early December 2015–phrases like “You MUST go there!” “It’s totally cool!” Most people mentioned the cluster of beer taps at each table. One wouldn’t even have to walk to the bar for a refill.

The entrance (formerly at the front of the building where once decades ago gas pumps stood) is now on the west side. We walked through a wide hallway, made by attaching a shipping container to the existing building, into the barroom/restaurant. This hallway’s north wall is covered with a large photo-mural of a factory crew from the 1890s. One of the figures is extremely large, with an unusually large head.

Once in the main room, we marveled over another mahogany back bar with large mirrors. The bar itself is about forty feet long; the bar stools are metal with backs—kinda like one would find on a tractor. I thought they were comfy, but a fellow “Bobber” (water aerobics class) says they were “awful.” She doesn’t have enough padding, I think. For 6:30 PM on a Tuesday night, this place was jumping.

 

So, who is Chester V?

So, who is Chester V?

Picking out a beer wasn’t easy. Instead of a cluster of taps we were handed a back-to-back 8 ½” X 12” sheet listing the Taps for that day (Week?) Elaine

Just a Few of the Taps

Just a Few of the Taps

chose Wasatch Polygamy Porter on Nitro, from Park City Utah. Really? A beer named after polygamy? Marvin says it must mean you can have more than one. On one of their many travels west, Elaine said she had had this beer. I had Milwaukee Brewing Co. Louie’s Demise, American Amber Ale, Milwaukee Brewing Company’s most popular beer. Supposedly Louis was a real guy from Sheboygan who was cracked over the head with a beer glass and died. This happened in Sheboygan in the 1890s. You can read the whole story here: www.mkebrewing.com. Marv wanted a Kentucky Bourbon beer, but that was not available, so he had a glass of Louie’s Resurrection also from Milwaukee Brewing Co. Our designated driver Gary had only a glass of water with dinner.

After buying our beer we moved to one of the many tables with its own assortment of taps. Each table has a nest of four taps. A patron can easily refill his glass with one of the beers and keep a tab, via a small tablet-sized screen. The cost is 25 cents per ounce. There are two adjoining dining areas but there are no taps on those tables.

 

Taps at our Table

Taps at our Table

Most of the beers on tap are craft beers. I think one reason craft beers have become so popular extends beyond their taste and the local cache to the names. I mean wouldn’t you want to drink something called “O’so Rusty Red,” or “Tyranena Down & Dirty,” or how about “Loqunitas Hairy Eyeball”? Doesn’t that sound more exciting than Bud Light or Millers?

Our waitress was Allysen. It was only her third week. She was from northern Illinois and had attended Elgin Community College. So had Marvin (but back in the 50s when it was new and just a wing on the high school building). But now it has a large campus on the West Side of Elgin and an enrollment in the thousands. She has moved up here to finish her education at FVTC? UWO?

Our Friendly Waitress Allysen

Our Friendly Waitress Allysen

The menu lists Appetizers, “Gastro” Burgers, “Greens & Broth,” “Sammies & Stuff,” “Plates” (salmon, ravioli, chicken, steaks), and a signature dessert: Blueberry Amaretto Bread Pudding (more about that later).

Elaine chose the PoBoy wrap with shrimp and clams; I had the Cajun Tuna Melt. Marv had the Honey Bourbon burger and Gary also had a burger. He “built” it himself with tomato and cheese on it. The food was very tasty. So much so that both of us couples have returned on separate occasions to have supper there. The second time Marv and I were there we visited with Dave Vienola. Marv had a bottle of Mob Craft Batshit Crazy Coffee Ale from a Madison brewery. (See what I mean about craft beer names?) I had Spotted Cow. We told Dave about our blog and handed him our card. He told us about remodeling this place—the use of shipping containers for rooms and outdoor storage. He also pulled out an 8 X 11 inch photo of the original tavern that stood on this spot. It looked like a lot of Oshkosh’s old taverns: two story, center entrance, large plate glass windows. He told his next renovation—the fire damaged Timbuktu. Oh, and we got a gift—a generous serving of the signature dessert: Blueberry Amaretto Bread Pudding. To Die For!!

 

Photo of Original Tavern on this Site

Photo of Original Tavern on this Site

But back to February 16. Everything about Chester V’s point to the “high end.” That includes the strings of Edison lights looped across the ceiling. Edison lights are shaped, I guess, like Edison’s original bulbs, the glass is clear and the elements glow. And that includes that 40 foot heated bar—hot water pipes run beneath its surface. And that includes good booze: Wild Turkey 101, Knob Creek, Bullitt, Woodford, Templeton (supposedly Al Capone’s favorite). And whisky such as Canadian Club, Jameson, Glenlivet 12, Glenmorangie, McCallan 12 & 18 to name a few.

And speaking of “high end,” let us not forget the restrooms. Elaine checked out the women’s and reported the lavatory sink was a lovely glass bowl. Marv checked out the men’s room. A sea of tans and browns in 12-inch tiles. And partitions between the two urinals. No ads, no pics on the walls.

The President’s upcoming trip to Cuba was one thing we talked about. I told how I wanted to go to Florida and Cuba (a hot spot for college

Elaine with more Taps and Those Edison Lights

Elaine with more Taps and Those Edison Lights

students at that time, 1957), but a case of the German measles keep me in Sheboygan. Elaine told how her dad had been there on a business trip in 1958. He took the entire family to Southern Florida and left them at the beach while he continued on to Cuba to do business. When he and his colleagues arrived, probably in a company plane, Castro’s men, now in charge and armed, met them and escorted them into the airport, where they were told there would be no business done, and they were permitted to leave. The airport building had shell holes here and there and Elaine’s dad and his bunch thought the group they came to see had been imprisoned or shot. At least that’s the story. Would any of us go there now? Maybe?

Our food was gone, our beer glasses empty. Time to head home, but first a quick stop at Marv and Frankie’s to listen to some Bonnie Tyler.

Whoopee! We are back on the beer trail. Elaine and Gary are home from Florida. And though Don and Judy are still there, we decided to visit a couple of bars without them. Let’s just say Don and Judy came along in spirit. Via phone and email we had chosen two places for our first 2016 trail ride. Both are newly renovated places that we had visited before. It was time to see the makeovers.

New Siding on Jockey Club

New Siding on Jockey Club

The four of us set out in Gary and Elaine’s Focus; Gary is still our designated driver. We left Westhaven around 5 PM on Tuesday, February 16. Gary whirled us through three roundabouts at Ninth Avenue and swept us onto Interstate 41; we exited that at Highway 45, swung onto Murdock and through another traffic circle and into the nest of tiny street in the Oshkosh neighborhood known as Nordheim.

 

Elaine & Gary Reflected in the New Entrance

Elaine & Gary Reflected in the New Entrance

And there at the intersection of Gruenhagen Avenue and Jefferson Street stands the Jockey Club. It’s been there since 1924. In our 2014 post on the Jockey Club I mentioned Larry Spanbauer’s, book Oshkosh Neighborhood Taverns and the People Who Ran Them, and gave the history of owners of this place.

We had been there twice when the Strachan family owned it. That era had ended and a new owner had completely remodeled the place. Actually the Vienola people who have quite a list of taverns they have renovated in the city for example The Beachcomber, did the remodeling. I had read Nate Beck’s “Streetwise” column in the Oshkosh Northwestern in which he tells about the new mahogany bar and the hickory flooring in the Jockey Club.

Though its size is the same, it didn’t look as if it had been built in 1924. The exterior is now a blue/gray siding; its entrance way is on the corner with curved concrete steps leading to a door with a large window. Etched onto the window is a horse and sulky. Gone is the former side entrance with its machete wound on the door. (See our 2014 post)

Julie & April, Bartenders, at the Mahogany Bar

Julie & April, Bartenders, at the Mahogany Bar

What a change inside! The walls are a warm, cranberry red color. The back bar which occupies the same space the old bar had, is dark mahogany complete with pillars on either end of a large mirror. Glass shelves hold an array of liquor bottles. I asked if the bar was rescued from a former tavern in town. We learned from the renovator himself that he and his crew built this bar. We had given our card to April and Julie and told them of our former visits there. And we told why it was called the Jockey Club as jockeys hung out there after their races at the fairground (now the Fair Acres Shopping Center) Julie brought out pictures of the sulky races at the fairgrounds. Yep, we said, some of those guys probably slept on the floor of this place “back in the day.”

Goose Island Glasses, Classy!

Goose Island Glasses, Classy!

We sat at the bar long enough to order our beer: Marv and I had Spotted Cow and Elaine (ever the experimenter) had Goose Island Winter Ale. In addition to those the Jockey Club also has Coors, Bud Light, Miller Lite and Leinenkugel Red Lager on tap.

April was out bartender who described herself as “the best bartender ever.” Julie, the other bartender, smiled prettily at that and offered no comment.

We moved to a table; there are four of them along the east wall. The bar is on the west wall. We studied a menu. Back in the days of the Strachan brothers, I don’t think the Jockey

Frankie Sporting Her New Shirt

Frankie Sporting Her New Shirt

Club served food except for the annual pig roast it held outside in summer. From a long list of appetizers Gary ordered us a plate of poppers. Very hot (temperature wise) and very tasty. We were familiar with all the appetizers listed on the menu except for Scotch eggs. They are hard boiled eggs wrapped in sausage and served with gravy. What kind of gravy, we wondered. Maybe that white stuff. Oh, I hope not. Julie assured us the gravy was brown. We decided not to try them; all of us remembering Scotch food (like Haggis) from trips to Scotland. Maybe we should just recall Scotch whisky (note the UK spelling.).

 

Delicious Poppers

Delicious Poppers

Other items on the menu included a variety of 9” pizzas, prime rib, shrimp basket, burgers, Reubens and black bean chili. A party of ten was seated in the back room having dinner.

While we drank our beer and popped poppers Gary and Elaine told us about their month in Florida. They enjoy fishing, but said it wasn’t very good. Too windy most of the days. And in one two-day period nine inches of rain fell. Since I am reading Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, I can report that Florida gets more rain than any other US state. And much of that rain is thunder storms and some tornadoes and hurricanes. Every Thursday they took in a local Hootenanny and I’m sure sang along. They also visited an archeological site and watched University students and their professor unearth piles of oyster shells in a midden created by Pre-Columbian Indians.

Elaine checked out the women’s rest room and reported that it had a “grab bar” to help you up, I suppose. Marv said the men’s room had three black and white photos of Victorian nudes. “If they were nude, how did you know they were Victorian?” I asked. Gary checked them out and reported that they had on enough Victorian clothing in particular spots. They looked naughty and bawdy, and Marv says he will close his eyes the next time he goes in there.

Elaine and Gary had told friends that we were going to the Jockey Club and from them picked up an interesting tidbit. Supposedly many years ago a stripper named Blanche performed there. She was a hefty woman who was particularly skilled at twirling the tassels strategically located on her upper body.

Sulky Races at the Fair Ground years ago.

Sulky Races at the Fair Ground years ago.

As we were sitting there talking and enjoying our beers and poppers, Marvin noticed a song playing in the background that has long been one of his favorites−Bonnie Tyler singing “It’s a Heartache.” Tyler is one of Marvin’s three favorite female singers, along with Billie Holiday and Janet Planet. He has lots of CD’s of all three. So he excused himself and checked out the machine formerly know as a “jukebox.” Eighty-nine (count ‘em!) Tyler songs available. It cost 4 quarters for one play of Marvin’s favorite “anti-romantic” song “A Total Eclipse of the Heart,” but it was worth it, even though he can listen to it at home over and over for free. Elaine said how she had always liked the song too. Final note: when we were young people on beer trail rides you could play a song for a nickel.

So it was with Tyler’s final notes ringing in our ears, that we shrugged into our winter jackets and left The Jockey Club headed for a second remodeled bar and supper.

 

 

 

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