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We rushed to get in another trail ride before Don and Judy set out on the road to Morocco for a wedding.  It was June 18 just a few days before Elaine’s birthday.  Wow! Born on the summer solstice (Latin translation: the sun stops) Marv and I designed and printed a card with

Last Tavern on Oshkosh Avenue

Elaine’s pic hefting a cold one, of course.  Don and Judy put together a six-pack of assorted IPAs.  Both were well received.

After hugs and kisses we climbed into the white van and set out for our first stop-the Spot, 1226 Oshkosh Avenue.   We’d been here before when it was the Sawyer Creek Pub. More about that later.

Don drove us through the roundabouts on the Washburn frontage road and to Witzel, then Sawyer and into a parking lot next to The Spot. Before entering, Gary fixed the Spot’s sign realigning the fallen “M” in Monday specials.

 

Sign now corrected by Gary

Except for the change in signage, The Spot resembles the previous taverns that were in this building.  The walls are deep red, the back bar still looks like it did in the 1930s:  carved columns framing a large mirror.  The ceiling is still painted black.  Beyond the bar is an area with tables and chairs and off to the right is a small room that contains a pool table.  Two small restrooms are in the pool table room.

Susanne, leasee, was out bartender.  For some reason the taps were down so we opted for

Susanne, leasee of The Spot

bottled beer.  Don, Judy and Marv had Pabst.  Elaine and I had Rolling Rock.  Gary our designated driver for the rest of the night had nothing.

There’s not much going on in taverns on Monday nights. That was true this Monday.  The only other patron was the janitor from Kelly’s bar.  We’d seen and talked to him when we visited Kelly’s.  Nice to see him again.

Like a couple other taverns in town, the Spot has a fry machine at the end of the bar.  They are hoping to serve food soon.  Russ, Susanne’s son, will be the cook.

The Spot sits on a part of Oshkosh Avenue that’s going through a major change in the next few years.  Just a couple blocks west is the former Lake Shore golf course. Its clubhouse has been torn down to make way for the headquarters of the Oshkosh Corporation.  The UW Milwaukee archeologists have finished excavating for Indian artifacts.  (I think state law requires this now.)  They found a lot, by the way.  As my friend Jeff Behm, archeology professor at UW Oshkosh, says, “If you’re on dry land in Winnebago County, there are Indian artifacts under your feet.” The 70 or so acres left will become a city park.  Also planned for this street are a hotel, restaurant and gas station / general store.

 

Birthday Girl and Gary

Meanwhile the 1200 block looks very different from the 1970s.  There used to be five taverns in this block.  They were popular spots for workers at the Paine Lumber Company just across the river and Pluswood just on the corner of Sawyer and Oshkosh.  The one at 1216 went out of business in 1959. Another at 1224 was razed in 1998. Another at 1240 was torn down after 2001.  And soon to be torn down is Repp’s Bar at 1202.  The fifth one was across the street and was demolished in the 1970s to make it possible to widen Sawyer Street.  Demolition of Repp’s is necessary to extend Sawyer Street north to the Fox River.

Marv shared with Don the news of the nine recruits for the UWO women’s basketball team.  He is fascinated by the name of a new point guard from Union Grove, Brooklyn Bull.  They, along with the men’s team, should be dynamite in the 2018-2019 season.  Marv also knows that the UWO football team is ranked second in the country according to Street & Smith’s annual college football yearbook.  That probably explains why two of the pre-season games are with Division 2 schools.

A lot of our talk was about Don and Judy’s upcoming trip to Morocco.  I started singing, “We’re off on the road to Morocco…and like Webster’s Dictionary we’re Morocco bound.”  What? What’s that? They asked.  “You know, the theme song from the movie Road to Moroccostarring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour.” Well, no, they didn’t know.  So, I rattled off the “road” pictures that this threesome had made: Road to Singapore (1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (1945), Road to Rio (1947), Road to Bali (1952), and Road to Hong Kong (1962).  I probably saw some of these starting with Utopia with my grandmother Lala when my sister and I stayed with her in Kaukauna.  She went to nearly every movie that came to town.  Alas, my friends didn’t have Lala as a grandmother and so missed those movies.

Also in Morocco is Casablanca that brings to mind another movie Casablancawith Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  Just read on Facebook that someone has opened up a club called Rick’s Place in Casablanca.

A final touch at The Spot was Don ordering a shot of Fireball, that hot cinnamon liqueur. “Tastes like Heaven / Burns like Hell.” Indeed! We each had a sip till it was gone and our throats were on fire.  Chocking on it and wiping our watery eyes, we left to head off to The Granary.

Elaine Tasting Fire Ball

Don Tasting Fireball

 

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Leaving the Overtime, we crossed South Main Street, walked through the large parking lot of the Menominee Nation Arena and entered the Maple Pub, the restaurant and bar located in the northeast corner of the Arena building.

“Maybe we should have made a reservation,” we said as nearly every table was filled.  Oh, it’s Taco Tuesday.  Buy a drink and make a taco.  We thought of leaving, but a wait staff member pushed a couple of empty tables together and arranged six chairs.

We ordered beer, of course.  Judy chose Spotted Cow; Don, Dos Equis (He was trying to make himself the most interesting man in Oshkosh!); Elaine, Lakefront IPA; Marv, Blue Moon; and a Blu Bobber with blueberries in the foam for me.  If Blu Bobber is available, that’s what I get. It has nothing to do with blue berries or the fact that it’s locally brewed at the Fox River Brewery.  No it has to do with the fact that I’m in a water aerobics class at the 20thStreet YMCA.  Gary and Marv refer to me and my classmates as Bobbers.  Gary even does an imitation of a bobber sinking and rising.  Marvin and Gary think he’s very funny.

 

The Maple Pub at The Arena

Gary, Elaine, Don and Judy took advantage of the taco bar, but also ordered off the menu.  Elaine and Gary chose the bruschetta sampler.  Don and Judy split the chicken quesadilla.  I had a small flatbread pizza, but we all agreed Marv had the best dish:  Stout Braised Beer Short Ribs with mac n’ beer cheese and Jack Daniels BBQ sauce. Not only was it taco night, it was also Margarita night.  Judy wasn’t going to pass that up.

Ralph Harrison, sales and marketing director, introduced himself to us and snapped our picture that is now on the Maple Pub’s Facebook page.  We exchanged cards.  Harrison was pleased to tell us there would soon be corn hole tournaments held here. I assume in the arena itself. These tournaments would have celebrities playing.  Who the celebrities would be I don’t know.

 

Don, Elaine & Marv waiting for beers.

The Maple Pub is fairly large and very attractive. The tabletops and bar surface are butcher-block style—lovely woodwork.  Hmmm, maybe maple?  I am guessing too that the wood comes from the Menominee Nation forests.  Edison light bulbs, boy they are popular now, hang above the bar.  There is no back bar.  There are also charging stations so that your phone or “device” need never go dead.

If you visit the website of the Maple Pub you

IMG_3091

Harrison and Cornhole Board

will see a picture of the abandoned Buckstaff lumber company which was torn down to make room for the arena and its parking lot.

After the Milwaukee Bucks chose Oshkosh as the site of its farm team, the Herd, there was a lot of speculation about where they would build the arena.  Many people thought it would be built somewhere along the Highway 41 corridor. Others though they would tear down the long vacant Pioneer Inn and build the arena there.  I knew that wasn’t going to happen, as the site wasn’t big enough to hold an arena and parking lots.  I thought the decision to build it on the South Main Street site of the empty Buckstaff furniture company was great.

The Buckstaff factory closed in 2011 after being in business here since 1850.  It was one of several furniture / lumber companies here in “sawdust city.” And it was the last one.

IMG_3094

Flatbread Pizza Yum!

In 2007 John Buckstaff sold the company to Martin Corwie.  However, under his management the business collapsed.  An Oshkosh Northwesternarticle that I read online cited poor management.  Bills were not paid; workers were not paid; orders were not shipped.  Public Service finally pulled the plug.

From 2011 to 2017, the factory buildings sat empty. When it was vacated, anything inside that could be turned into cash was salvaged.  That included machinery, wiring, metal pipes, etc.  A fireman friend of mine told me the place was a major fire hazard.  Yet there were people who felt it should be saved and turned into a museum / historical site.  Certainly the arena is a bright spot on Oshkosh’s south side and will perk up that neighborhood.  Now if only someone would tear down the Pioneer and replace it with a new resort.

Our visit to the Maple Pub marked the first time Elaine, Gary, Don and Judy had been in the arena.  Marv and I had been to a couple Herd games and one UWO Titan women’s game.  So, after our supper, we peeked into the arena itself.  Not surprisingly there was an event of some kind going on.  Lots of non-basketball events take place there. Joe Ferlo and his crew at The Grand Opera House also help manage the bookings at the Arena.  Both Oshkosh North and West held their high school graduations there.  And Marv and I took in the Jeff Foxworthy show on June 15.  Kareem Abdul Jabber will be in the arena next September. Hmm, I hope he doesn’t hit his head or repeat his Dancing with the Stars appearance.  And then there are the Corn Hole Tournaments.

Our last real trail ride was in November.  The Florida folks were now back in town and it was time for a visit to some bars.  It was May 16 and over the long winter we had collected names of some.  South Main Street had our interest.  With Oregon Street closed, Marv and I usually had taken Main Street home from downtown and we’d noticed the changes going on at Overtime, formerly The Lucky Penny.

Street View of the Overtime

Hugs all around at Don and Judy’s home where we met and decided South Main Street was our destination.  We climbed into the white van and set off with Don whirling us through the four roundabouts on Ninth Avenue.  He and Marv discussed the changes in coaches for the men’s team at UW Oshkosh.  We liked that Matt Lewis had been chosen as interim coach for the 2018-2019 season. Heading east on Ninth Avenue we slipped through the intersection with Oregon Street and caught sight of the piles of gravel, giant pipes and lots of yellow heavy machinery.  A right turn onto South Main took us to the parking lot of the Menominee Nation Arena.  Might as well park there as the Maple Pub was going to be our second stop.

Marv, son Tom and I had voted early in the February 13thprimary election at City Hall and chatted with assistant clerk Angela who told us that The Lucky Penny,which had been for sale for several months,had been purchased, had a new liquor license and was being renovated.  It opened April 28.

Overtime obviously takes its name from the fact that it is just across the street from the Arena where the Herd, the Milwaukee Bucks farm team plays its games.  I knew that the building dated back to the 1910s, but surely the glass block front was added many years later.  I’ll

Elaine Making Sure We Saw the Sign

have to look that up.  We paused long enough to snap a picture of Elaine with the outdoor sign saying that it was “Cantastic Tuesday” and all cans of Busch Light, PBR, Miller Lite and Bud Light were only $1.50.  We recalled from a previous ride that these were called “shit” beers on the bar menu at Pete’s Garage.

The layout of Overtime is very similar to that of dozens of old taverns in town:  a long narrow room with the bar stretching along one wall, a large table and chairs at the entrance and a few tables and chairs along the wall opposite the bar. None of the furnishing of the former Lucky Penny remain except the large mirror and fancy woodwork over the back bar. Jamie, our bartender told us all the rest (back bar, the bar itself, and the plumbing) was new.  Where are all the pennies?  Jamie had no idea what had happened to the 24,000 pennies that used to be there embedded in the woodwork, the bar’s surface, picture frames, room dividers, etc.  We gave up looking for pennies and instead checked out the rest rooms.  Like most old taverns, the restrooms are small containing just the necessities toilet and sink.  Each had a sassy sign above the toilet:  “Take a rest” in the women’s and “Have a saet and make yourself comfortable.” In the women’s restroom, however, the sink sits atop a large beer barrel.  Another large beer barrel supports the table top at the entrance to the tavern.

A couple of games that we had never seen before caught our attention.  One was a vertical four-hole Corn Hole type of game.  Judy tried it out and followed the directions “Underhand throws only.” We used to call Corn Hole Bean Bags when we were kids.  When did that name change? Corn Hole has really become popular.  Marv says there was a national Corn Hole tournament in Las Vegas that was shown on one of the sports TV channels.  Who knew?  Another new game to us, anyway, was a version of Battleship that sat on the table.  The ships were strips of wood with holes for shot glasses:  3, 4, or 5 shots.

The tables and bar surface are beautiful wood as are the walls.  We selected seats at the bar in front of the taps:  Spotted Cow (Don, Judy, Marv and I chose that), Hopalicious (Elaine), Miller Lite, Bud Light, Door County Stout and Leinekugels Summer Shandy.

We helped ourselves to popcorn from the bowls on the bar. And Don, the only golfer in the bunch, took a golf tee advertising Overtime from another bowl.

The Overtime is taking advantage of its closeness to the Arena.  There are two basketball jerseys in frames hanging on the wall.  One, a Bucks jersey, sports Number 34 belonging to Bucks’ star Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak and the other is a Herd jersey with Number 15 on it.  I don’t know to whom that one belonged.  There were also two TVs on the walls and a dart game.

While we were sipping our beer,Jamie set a basket of spiral cut French Fries in front of us. Their thin slightly curled shapes reminded us of thin apple slices.  At the end of the bar Kurt and

Spiral Fries! Delicious!

Serena had ordered supper.  They invited Elaine and me to taste the goodies they had:  batter fried Portobello mushrooms and battered fried bonnet head shark strips.  Very tasty. Very tasty.  I had never had shark before; it had the consistency of white fish like cod, but tasted better.  Overtime’s menu also includes calamari rings (squid, in case you didn’t know.)  That got us talking about invasive species especially those that might make their way up the Illinois River into the Great Lakes, like Asian carp.  Kurt says it’s possible that a shark could adjust to fresh water and also do this, Yikes!

The Overtime has a long list of deep fried appetizers as well as the mushrooms, and fish.  Also, they serve 8” pizzas with this choice of toppings:  Pepperoni, sausage, bacon, red onion, green peppers, Portobello mushrooms, roma tomatoes and banana peppers. A pizza oven and an Auto-Fry sit at the far end of the bar.

 

Jamie, our Bartender

Later I looked up this bar in Larry Spanbauer’s book, Oshkosh Neighborhood Taverns andthe People Who Ran Them.  Larry refers to The Lucky Penny as “the only tavern remaining on South Main Street.”  His earliest date for a tavern on the NW corner of 11thAvenue and Main Street is 1910 when the owner was Thomas Crowner.  It seems it was closed during Prohibition (Really?) but reopened in 1933 under the name Sig’s Cozy, but that owner then moved to 602-604 South

Tin Ceiling and Edison Bulb Classy!

Main in 1936.  It then became the Big Smile in 1936.  Later names were Bill’s Tavern (1942-1943), United Tavern (1945-1952), the Double R (1945-1952) and that’s when 24,000 pennies were inlaid in the bar and woodwork. It picked up the name RR’s Penny Bar in 1957-1973.  Between 1974-1975 it was JJ’s Penny Bar.  Shorty Bar (1977), Judy’s Gin Mill (1978), Heckee’s (1985), Penny’s Pit Stop (1991). Sometime after 1991 there was a Mexican restaurant and then Davie’s Catering and restaurant run out of this building.  However, I think these places used the small restaurant space on the north side of the building.  Who ran the tavern?  Marv recalls that the tavern was open while Davie’s was.  I haven’t the foggiest idea.  Since 2011 it’s been the Lucky Penny and now the Overtime.

Most commercial buildings that date back to the start of the 20thcentury had tin ceilings.  The years after that a dropped ceiling of fake tile was put into these buildings.  Now, the Overtime owners have removed part of the false ceiling and the tin one can be seen over the bar area.  Quite beautiful along with the Edison larger-bulb lights.

Alas, our visit had ended.  It was time to stroll across the street to try out the Maple Pub in the Menominee Nation Arena. Still, I wonder, where are those pennies?

Back Bar and Mirror from Former Times

 

 

 

Well, here’s a dumb question:  Why do people go to taverns?  There’s probably a zillion answers to that questions, but here’s a quick list:

To have fun with friends

To play sheepshead

To have a drink after a long day at work or before a long day at work

To play darts

To shoot pool

To drown some sorrows, etc.

Then, here’s a second question.  Once there what do people talk about while downing a beer or sipping a Martini?  I asked my son and husband this question.  “Women,” said son Tom. “Yeah, and sports,” said Marv.  Maybe complain about work, or problems with family, and certainly politics. (although one commenter on our blog said people don’t talk about politics in bars.  Really? Wonder what bars she goes to.)   What do we six beer trail folks talk about? Well, you can cross work off as a topic since we are all retired.  But sports and current issues-city, state, country and world. Also travels, books, movies, TV shows, food, the weather.  Yeah all that stuff.

IMG_3058I’ll get back to this topic but first a digression.  We subscribe to Science Focus, a slick magazine published every other month in Great Britain.  The articles are short, well-researched and illustrated and cover just about any scientific topic, say from A to Z astronomy to zoology.  The latest issue arrived a few days ago and after I finished reading an article on the Nissan Leaf, an electric car, I turned the page to find “The Science Festival Guide.” It was a listing with pictures and web addresses of “the best science festivals happening in 2018.” The 5-page section included festivals for kids (I expected that), family, teens as well as adults-only at places like Oxford University, the Royal Society, Royal Albert Hall, as well as cities:  Bath, Cheltenham, Swansea, Manchester, etc.  And what especially caught the eye of this beer trail gal were ones that would be held May 12 – 14 in pubs located in 32 different cities in the UK, “science in pints” read the ad with web address www.scienceinpints.co.uk.  I typed in the address on my iPAD.  Yep. There it was with registration form included.

Cool! So cool, I thought, that I linked with them on my Facebook page.  Just minutes later I got a reply from former student Mark, a geography professor at the University of Oregon.  “There is a U.S. version of this called ‘Science Café’ or sometimes ‘Café Scientific.’ Sometimes they are organized by local universities even though they are off campus.  I did one last November in Colorado Springs,” he wrote.  And then he added the link http://www.sciencecafes.org. Of course I went to the website and typed in my zip code to see if there were any science cafes around here.  Five popped up:  Ashland, Menominee, Superior and two in Minocqua.  Not exactly my part of Wisconsin.  Later I learned there are some in Madison and Milwaukee.

Nada in Oshkosh.  Hmmmm, since this discovery I’ve mentioned the idea to many people-not just my beer trail buddies.  One, Joe Ferlo of The Grand said the Grand Opera House Lounge would be a perfect place. I also thought of mentioning this to science profs I know at UWO and organization like the Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance.

Would you attend one of these sessions?  They’re not a lecture where you must take notes because there will be a test next week.  But rather a chance to learn something about a science topic and have a conversation about it.  Just imagine sipping a Spotted Cow and taking part in a discussion on some scientific issue. Like why the Packers seem to have more injuries to key players than most other teams?

In the summer of 2009 when we began our beer trail rides, craft breweries were just beginning to pop up. Locally, there was the Fox River Brewery and in the southern part of the state New Glarus Brewery. And it seemed to us as if the local breweries that had been around for ages, such as Kingsbury in Sheboygan, were disappearing or gone completely or were swallowed up by large breweries such as Miller and Budweiser. So it was

looking in from outside

that on our first ever trail ride we chose Oblio’s as they were serving the original Schlitz after Schlitz had made the mistake of changing the formula of its original beer and gone from #1 selling beer in America to zilch. The “real” Schlitz was back. Even now, having been on this glorious beer trail ride nearly nine years, we usually opt for the smaller, craft breweries. You will see New Glarus’ Spotted Cow mentioned frequently in our blog posts. Having said that, we were looking forward to stopping in at The Fifth Ward Brewery, Oshkosh’s newest, on November 9, which was a Thursday.

Normally we prefer a Tuesday or Wednesday but our choices were limited. Don and Judy would be headed to Florida in a week. Marv and I were headed to New Orleans the week before Thanksgiving and Elaine and Gary were headed to California’s Death Valley the same time we would be in The Big Easy.

The founders of The Fifth Ward, Zach Clark and Ian Wenger, became brewers while students at UW Oshkosh. They lived in a rental house on Prospect Avenue in Oshkosh’s real Fifth Ward. In that house’s basement they brewed their first beer. And yes, their landlord knew they were

Me, Elaine, Gary & Marv–Happy to be here

doing this. “We read every book we could find” on the art of brewing they told us. And they served “culinary apprenticeships” under Ron Kitckes at Dublin’s Irish Pub, on Oshkosh’s west side. Finally they were ready to launch their own brewery. They say they picked the name Fifth Ward even before

The Music System

they started brewing beer.

Their location at 1009 South Main Street, in the newly named Sawdust District, is just a block north of the new Menominee Nation Arena where the Milwaukee Bucks G-League team, the Herd, plays its basketball games. I don’t know what ward of the city this is.

The Fifth Ward serves their own beer plus many others. That November 9th night, they had 22 beers in addition to their own. Don ordered a flight that included their three Fifth Ward beers plus New Glarus’ Snowshoe and Three Sheeps (Sheboygan) French Coast. Fifth Ward beers were Comb and Crocus, a honey saffron wheat ale, Burl Brown, a cinnamon molasses brown ale, and 842 Pale, a dry hopped American Pale Ale. We all took sips. I liked the Comb and Crocus. I’ve yet to develop a taste for brown ale. Well, since I’m a Sheboygan native, I also liked the 3 Sheeps French

Taps against the Wall

Coast. Then we settled in with full glasses: Judy had Outboard from the Milwaukee Brewing Company. Elaine chose the 3 Sheeps French Coast and Marv and I had the New Glarus Snowshoe. One of those 22 taps is a craft soda, Sprecher’s Root Beer.

The barroom itself is on the north end of the brewery building. It’s about twenty feet wide and 50 feet deep. Opposite the bar, seven small tables line the east wall. The taps are on the wall behind the bar, backed up to the brewery’s cooler. Therefore, no lines are needed leading from keg to tap. And they say, the beer is colder.

The bar is beautiful. Its wood is blue denim pine from North Dakota —a honey colored pine with blue veins. A fungus causes the blue coloration. For added interest, one of the bar’s boards sports a bullet hole. A man from Neenah who built the bar for the Lyon’s Den built the bar here. If

Blue Denim Pine and Brown Ale

you’ve been a faithful reader of our blog, you will recall our visit to the Lyon’s Den after it had been rebuilt following a fire that destroyed the old tavern. Look up our post on that place here: Lyon’s Den: A Phoenix Out of the Ashes at www.ridingthebeertrail.wordpress.com.

We were at the Fifth Ward on their second day after their grand opening. Seated next to us at the bar were Scott and Julie, members of the investment team. I gave them one of our cards and told them how pleased we were to see this place open. And we wished them lots of luck. There were lots of people in the place that night celebrating the newly opened brewery. We munched on popcorn and drank our beer while chatting with other patrons. Popcorn is the only food available there. However, they have made a deal with Gardina’s restaurant. One can order a meal at the Fifth Ward from Gardina’s and they will deliver it to the Fifth Ward. All the other bars we have visited have some kind of juke box \ music machine. Things are much simpler here—just a 33 rpm record player. Yep, check out our photo.

As they usually do, Marvin and Elaine went on the tour of restroom. Brand new and spotless with off-white walls. And each had a baby changing station. The men’s also had a poster advertising the Fox Valley Winter beer fest on Jan. 13.

Among ourselves we talked about our upcoming travels. Don and Judy had been to New Orleans last year and told us we must have some

Here’s to The Fifth Ward!!

beniets. I didn’t tell them that I had been there years ago and much preferred pralines to beniets. But really all the food in New Orleans is great. When my sister and I were in high school, our parents took us to New Orleans during March for a two-week vacation. My folks loved that city especially the French Quarter. My dad never passed up a chance to have raw oysters. I knew that Marv was looking forward to having some of those too. We think Elaine and Gary have been to nearly all the National Parks in the USA. We were curious as to what Death Valley would be like and asked them to look for the mule team loaded with Borax.

We had a serious conversation about another mass shooting. This time in Las Vegas. Don, sarcastically, commented that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (a Wisconsin Congressman) said, “Prayer works.” Really? Apparently God’s not listening to anyone praying for tighter gun laws. Now I am writing this post in February 2018 and there has been another mass shooting. This time at a high school in Florida. Time to write to my Congressman and Senator once more.

One last item since our visit at the Fifth Ward. Marv and I have been to a Milwaukee Bucks G-League Herd game at the new Menominee Arena just a block away from the Fifth Ward. We noticed Fifth Ward beer is on sale at the arena. We think things are looking good for Oshkosh’s Sawdust District. Now if only someone would buy the dilapidated Pioneer Inn property and build a hotel and marina there.

We had finished our beer and bowls of popcorn. Time to find a place for supper. We headed to West End Pizza.

 

Though all of us had often been to the Roxy Supper Club at 571 N. Main Street. None of us had ever been to the Roxy Lounge. Wisconsin banned smoking in restaurants sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s. This ban also included any bar in a restaurant that was open to the dining area. This affected the Roxy as well as other restaurant and bar combinations in the state. But if the bar were in a separate room behind a closed door, well then smokers could drink and smoke in that room, but not eat. So the Roxy took a room used for private parties and turned that into their bar and smoking lounge. Then, July 2010 Wisconsin became “smoke free” and that included all workplaces and all bars and taverns.

The Roxy, A Supper Club with Lounge

Often while dining at the Roxy, I have seen people enter the lounge through a door in the dining room, but I had never ventured into it. So this night, October 16, we entered the lounge from its own entrance on Main Street. A bar runs along the north wall. The back bar lacks the fancy ornamentation of old bars. Three flat screen TVs hang over it. The opposite wall has a row of tables and chairs that are bar height. We hiked ourselves up on the last available table and ordered our beers: Elaine had Hopalicious; Don, Badger Amber Ale; Judy, Spotted Cow; Marv and I, Badger Club. Marv slapped a five-dollar bill on the bar to pay for our beers. The bartender said, “That’ll be $8.00, sir.” Marv added another five and an explanation, “We just came from Gorilla’s.”

Marv, ever the New York Yankee fan, was distracted by a Yankee game on TV. They were ahead 4 – 0 in the 7th inning. He can’t wait to see their new 2018 “Murderer’s Row.”

We know supper clubs are common in our part of the states. So we are often puzzled when some out-of-stater says they’ve never heard of them, or they have some strange notion of what they are such as expecting a large dance floor and stage. Well, some do or did have that. I remember the Flamingo in Sheboygan did; that building was torn down ages ago. There are a couple of coffee table books on supper clubs in Wisconsin and northern Illinois that I have. According to these books, what supper clubs seem to have in common is a

Back Bar of the Lounge

menu (lots of steaks, fish fries on Fridays, prime rib on Saturdays) and drinks, especially Old Fashioneds, made with brandy in Wisconsin and usually whiskey in other states. Also many of them are in the rural areas of Northern Wisconsin. My sister and her husband who live “Up North” rave about the excellent meals they eat at supper clubs in their area.

While Marv was at the bar ordering our beers, a guy from New York City in Oshkosh on business introduced himself and said he’d never heard of supper clubs, but loved the Roxy. Marv gave him our card and mentioned we’d been on this beer trail stuff since 2009. “And your group’s favorite place?” the man asked. Probably Oblio’s Marv said, but no food there, just drinks.

We moved from the Lounge into the dining room for supper. “Show of hands,” Don asked. “How many of you think Oshkosh Corporation will build their headquarters here?” “I sure hope so,” I said raising my hand. I know Marv raised his, as I would have kicked his shin if he hadn’t. The rest were doubtful. They had that “Oshkosh is never lucky” attitude. We’ve been burned too often, I guess. Lost the airport to Appleton, major shopping mall to Appleton, etc. Some people moan about losing a city owned golf course that is the site where Oshkosh Corp. will build its headquarters. Really? A golf course that costs the city lots of money each year and no profits? A golf course that many city golfers don’t like playing on it? And no one can call it a “public park” since its bordered by No Trespassing signs and a rock filled shoreline. Here’s a quick update: A few weeks later, Oshkosh Corporation decided to build on that site in the city; ground breaking is set for April. Hurrah!! Play golf at Westhaven.

Our other topic of conversation was the Wisconsin Herd, a G-League basketball team of the Milwaukee Bucks. Their arena on South Main Street was nearly finished. Going to any of their games? Marv and I, who don’t go south in the winter unless its to Fond du Lac, said we certainly hoped to get to some as long as they did not conflict with the UW Oshkosh Titans. The Herd and its arena, the Menominee Nation, is another plus for the city.

Time to order dinner. Usually Marv and I are here on a Friday, fish fry night, or Tuesday, German night. Regardless of the day, I always choose blackened salmon. Elaine, Marv, and Judy had the mounds of shrimp. Gary, (we are going to start calling him Wimpy—as in the Popeye comic strip) had a hamburger and fries. Don, the birthday boy, had surf and turf. By now our waitress, Cassie, knew it was

Elaine, Cassie and the Birthday Boy

Don’s birthday so she arrived at dessert time with a small cake and candle. While Don blew out the candle we sang Happy Birthday. Many people sitting at the nearby tables joined us in our singing.

We left by the main entrance to the Roxy that meant we passed through the large oval-shaped bar that separates the two dining rooms. That’s the bar Marv and I sit at on Friday nights after the University Club’s cocktail parties and have a Manhattan. The best in town, we think.

Our October 18th trail ride was also Don’s birthday. So we printed him a card that showed him celebrating an earlier birthday also on a beer trail ride. That October we were at Mario’s (now replaced by Chester V’s) and Don was looking at a birthday candle stuck in a scoop of fried ice cream. After kidding Don about being a year older and looking at all the smart alecky cards he had received, we piled in the

Elaine, Don and 400 LB Gorilla

white van headed toward Gorilla’s at 1309 Oregon Street. We had been here before, but then the tavern had a different owner and name. Chillerz. Since then it had become 10 Pin Tap, but we never got there. Now it’s Gorilla’s. Owners are Cooter and Momma. After they purchased the place last spring, they have done a lot of remodeling.

As we parked in front, a car passed us with its horn beeping and passenger and driver waving. “Who’s that?” We asked. Don laughed, “My golfing buddy Dennis and his wife Lisa.”

We walked up the two steps leading into Gorilla’s and seated ourselves at the bar. We noticed that there are no taps here but a large refrigerated case with glass doors that showed an impressive selection of beers. Marvin and Elaine chose Killian’s Red, Don had a Rolling Rock, Judy a Corona Light and I had a Spotted Cow. After my first sip, Marv pointed out that I could have had a Pabst Blue Ribbon. (I’ll have to tell nephew Steve about that. It’s his favorite beer.) Gary, our designated driver, had nothing.

 

Back Bar with Cooter

We gave Cooter our card and were telling him about our blog when the door swung open and Dennis and Lisa popped in. Turns out they were celebrating their 37th wedding anniversary. So we raised our glasses in a toast to them. They knew about our beer trail

Happy Anniversary Dennis and Lisa!

rides and were tickled pink to find us on one.

Then Cooter and I had a nice chat. He wants to get his hands on a copy of Larry Spanbauer’s book Oshkosh Neighborhood Taverns and the People Who Ran Them. I know the book’s been sold out for years and I also know I’m not giving up my copy. Elaine says the book’s not copyrighted, so legally anyone could print one for himself or herself. According to Spanbauer who printed his book in 2012, this location has been a tavern since 1906. During Prohibition it sold soft drinks and near beer. There’s a picture in the book of the interior of this tavern in 1940 when the bar was named Cy’s Casino. What’s interesting about that picture is the absence of the elaborate back bar which the place has today.

Cooter and Momma previously ran a bar on Oshkosh Avenue (also called Gorilla’s). We had been there when it was known as Sawyer Creek Pub. (You can read about our visit there at this web address http://www.ridingthebeertrail.wordpress.com. Then type Sawyer Creek Pub in the search window.) Both back bars are the same! I remember looking for the Robert Brand Co. trademark there and not finding one.

Back Bar Capital

Wish we could find out who made these bars.

Gorilla’s calls itself more than a tavern. It’s a “neighborhood Bar and Grill.” So we could have had a supper there of the usual tavern fare. But chose not to. Cooter told Gary that he was installing a new device and soon would be serving crab. Watch for it in December. Now that’s certainly different from the usual burgers and pizza.

We took a tour out back to the outdoor patio and the sand volleyball court. Yes, Gorilla’s sponsor teams for volleyball and pool. Maybe more, but those were obvious. “What’s this?” I asked pointing to a large square board with numbers and pegs. “Hmmm, looks like Plinko!” Anyone who’s watched the TV show “The Price is Right” knows this game. We wanted to

Plinko, Anyone?

play a game, but the board wasn’t installed yet. It had been Momma’s idea to have a Plinko board in the tavern.

Meanwhile our talk was about traveling. Marv, son Tom and I had spent a few days in Chicago celebrating Marv’s birthday. His birthday dinner at Shaw’s Crab House started with raw oysters and a bourbon Manhattan. I skipped the oysters, but not the Manhattan.

Don and Judy were in Door County a few days with their Florida friends. These friends are French and live in France half of the year and the other half (winter, of course) in Florida. They had never been to Wisconsin. They were impressed with Door County, especially Death’s Door and the Lake Michigan shoreline. I think many of us Wisconsinites don’t realize the significance of the Great Lakes. They are the largest supply of fresh water in the world. And, of course, great for all kinds of recreation. The beaches at Sheboygan (my home town) were great for swimming as well as “working on one’s tan.” Elaine and Gary are headed west to Las Vegas, boating on the Colorado River and visiting Death Valley.

Nothing Subtle About This Sign

We had fun reading all the clever signs in the men’s and women’s restrooms. As well as the ones on the back bar. We admired Cooter’s chute that quickly sent empty cans and bottles on their way to recycling bins.

We’re not too sure why this place is called Gorilla’s. Maybe because of the 400-pound gorilla statue at the front door. No one is going to steal that easily! Whatever the reason, Marv thinks Cooter should dream up a Jane Goodall martini.

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