Thursday, April 5, 2007

78. Making the old rounds. Happy Easter.

I've lost some of the passion - reached a small plataeu of sorts, one which I've not found the words or feelings to overcome. Life here on the Left Bank of the Ohio River at Milepost 606 has been in a bit of stasis as old seasons end and new ones begin.

Foremost in a lot of Kentuckians' minds might be the governor's race. Might be. The truth is more Kentuckians are probably waiting for Billy Donovan's decision than are paying attention to whatever Otis "Bullman" Hensley and Billy Harper have been talking about. Actually, I am sure of that last statement, as those are the bottom rungs in their respective political parties, Democratic and Republican. I haven't read anything from Harper lately, who is badly trailing the governor and Mrs. Northup, the defeated Congresswoman from Louisville, who is also badly trailing the governor, one poll having her nine points down from Ernie. On the Democratic side, where I cast my lot, the candidate I am supporting, State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, at 39 the youngest of the Democratic Seven, is not doing nearly as well as I would have hoped at this point, a short six weeks and five days from the election. A recent poll shows him twelve points shy of the co-leaders. As this is a Primary nomination, I am hopeful that efforts are forthcoming from Miller's campaign to reach out to the older and more traditional voters who show up every time there is an election. I am one of those.

Down the ballot, I am supporting MaDonna White in her race for Secretary of State. She is a college professor in Louisville and is one of my co-alumni, as we both are graduates of Durrett High School, formerly located in the building which since 1991 has housed Louisville Male High School. Here is a link to MaDonna's webpage where you can read more about her and volunteer to retake this constitutional office currently in the hands of the Dark Side of the Aisle.

MaDonna has some very good ideas intended to make the coming of the age of 18, where one can finally cast a ballot in November, as important for young people as is the magic numbers of 16 and 21, one for the acquisition of a driver's license, the other for the ability to flash that license and gain entry into a establishment which engages in the sale of liquor.

On the latter matter, many of those same 21-year olds, if they followed in the footsteps of those of us who went before them, have probably already entered such a place, and chances are pretty good they have already purchased their first "rum and cola" or whatever the drink de rigueur happen to be this week. As a pre-21 year old, I had a few regular hangouts, one on Preston Highway and the other on Poplar Level Road. As both establishments are now out of business and, with regard to the Poplar Level Road location, the proprietors have gone on to their eternal rewards, I can admit that, yes, I had a few beers before I was legally allowed to flash that driver's license for real. Back in those days, it was a practice in many places to give you a free beer on your 21st birthday. The day that occurred for me, I was in the hospital. Upon release from there, I took my hospital discharge papers and made the rounds, cashing in on the generosity of several of Louisville's barkeeps.

I started downtown with Mike at the old Decanter Lounge on Market Street, where the Cowger Garage is now. From there I went on down to the see Mama Zena at the old Zena's, also on Market, but now located on Main. Alas, Mama Zena is no longer with us. Over to Swan and Breckinridge, Big Jim Gravatte ran Gravatte's, where the real deal was a bowl of Chili. Then out to the Shelby Park neighborhood at Camp Street and East Ormsby and the Ormsby Cafe (or was it Mary's?), ran my Mary Meier, where one drank beer in an eight ounce glass. (As an aside, somewhere in my last-Election night revelry, while drinking Old Forester bourbon out of the same style of glass, I recall remembering doing the same at Mary's all those years ago). Mary is still alive; I saw her during the Lenten Fish Fry at Holy Family a few weeks ago. From Shelby Park, I headed over to Schnitzelburg, a subdivision of Germantown. I went to see Tony (now a postal carrier) at Check's Cafe in Germantown; then down Hickory Street to The Old Hickory where a Pinochle game was eternally being played in the front corner and Jim "Pop" Reddington was usually winning. My dad is a pinochle player, but he hung out over on Taylor Boulevard somewhere. Leaving the Old Hickory, one could stop in Flabby's and Huelsman's, both still operating along Hickory Street. Across from Hulesman's Cafe, at Hickory and Ash, is the All Wool and a Yard Wide Democratic Club, which is actually meeting tonight. They used to have summer Chicken Fries on Fridays in the summer. Next Thursday, I'll be having a "Beer and Brats, Hot Dogs and Cokes" fundraiser there ($25) for the Miller-Maze campaign, starting at 5:30 in the afternoon. But, I digress.

On out Poplar Level Road, I'd stop in Tim Tam, the old one not the current one, and play a game of pool. The pool table in the old bar was located right in the front room on Clark's Lane. The bar has since moved a few doors to the west, and the pool tables (now several) are located in the back. Over to Preston Street, I'd go in town a bit to the B&B Lounge, just north of the corner of S. Preston Street and E. Brandeis Avenue. Ed Garvey, Whitey Phelps, Dumps Miller, and Danny Meyer were all the old timers, usually engaged in a discussion of politics, and they were always willing to allow a young kid in on the conversation. I've tried to replicate that practice, always encouraging those younger than me to participate in the process, as someday they will be in charge, and truthfully, the sooner the better. Mr. Garvey was the Democratic Chair of the Board of Elections. Dumps was a state senator and his nephew Danny Meyer was first an alderman from the old City's Eighth Ward, and later a state senator in the old 38th District.

I'd leave the B&B and head out Preston Highway. First, there was Moore's Cafe, now gone. It was a huge place and the specialty was rolled oysters. Mazzoni's wasn't the only place in town with that tradition. If I remember right, Florence was the woman's name who made them. Spike and Beulah DuVall hung out in there. She was the secretary to the Jefferson County Legislative Delegation and he was a union leader. Both are gone. Further out Preston was Dattilos on the left and Kelly's Ice House a little off the road on the right. Dattilos had a bumper pool table and a foos-ball table. The Ice House was a tiny place where the beer bottles were shoved into mounds and mounds of crushed ice, the best way to keep beer cold. The game of the house at the Ice House was Uno, which was played atop a large horizontal box freezer. Down in the back, sometimes a skillet of chicken or fish might be fried up but there was no cost, only a donation to the cook, who actually cooked it on a skillet on an old barbecue grill outside. Quite a few of the guys I went to high school with hung out in there.

My trip was drawing to a close. My final stop was Four Sisters, a cafe located at Poplar Level Road and Mercer Avenue, next door to Holy Family Church. It was a combination restaurant on one side with a full service liquor store on the other. Originally ran by Mr. Joe Kayrouz, by the time I was of age, it was ran by his son Eddie, and daughters Hortense and Margaret. Hortense ran the liquor store, Eddie was the bartender, and Margaret was the cook. Margaret also kept the bar's money intake safely inside her amply sized bra where no one was about to get to it. The two other sisters (both still living) are Jemella and Mary. This was my hangout for many years, both before and after my 21st birthday. Many nights Eddie would leave a group of us playing cards and helping ourselves to beer by saying "I'm going upstairs (where he, Hortense, and Margaret all lived, as none had ever married) and going to bed." We'd leave our empty beer bottles on the counter along with the appropriate amount of money, and lock the back door on our way out.

Those were all fun times. But season's change. Today, the Louisville Bats open Baseball here at Slugger Field in Louisville, the city where the National Amateur Baseball Federation was founded over 90 years ago. Today is also Holy Thursday, the day Christians celebrate the Passover of the Lord, the institution of the Washing of Feet, and that of the Eucharist. Tomorrow is Good Friday, leading to Easter on Sunday. I do not anticipate making any entries between now and Monday. Happy Easter to those of you for whom that matters. Happy Spring Break to everyone else.


Anonymous said...

Jeff, what a reat trip down memory lane. Even though there is an age gap between us, I remember and have visited many of those places that you named.

Happy Easter, thanks for the memories!

Ray Crider

Anonymous said...

I love taking these mental trips with you, especially at work. I think I caught a buzz!

Matt Jablow

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.