Gorilla’s: Celebrating Don’s Birthday


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 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.

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 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 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. 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 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.

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.




About Author

Frankie Mengeling

Frankie Mengeling taught English at Oshkosh North High School and Lourdes High School and was co-director of the Fox Valley Writing Project at UWO. She lives on the Oshkosh’s only hill, with her husband Marvin, son Tom and cat Katrina. The blog www.ridingthebeertrail.wordpress.com began in the summer of 2009 after the three couple beer trail began.

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