Jerry’s Bar Via The Howard

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The Howard, originally the Eagles Club House, on Washington Avenue, had just completed a thorough remodel under the guidance of Senator Ron Johnson’s two daughters.  It was open now on the 23rdof October, but only until 6 PM.  Therefore we six set out earlier than usual from Don and Judy’s in the white van. Washington Avenue and other streets in the area were in the last throes of repaving, but Don found a way to the new parking lot (formerly a gas station).  

            We walked across the lawn (sidewalk wasn’t rebuilt yet) to the front door and recalled the other two attempts at restoration: the Electric Lounge in 2011 and Studio One at Washington Square in 2013.  The Studio One owners had ambitious plans or the place; plans that got thwarted months later when a heavy rain flooded the bowling alleys on the lower level of the building.  The place sat empty until the two sisters decided to renovate it to its former glory. Work started in 2017 and was nearly complete by October 23 when we stopped in.  The café on the first floor was open and a few people were there sipping coffee and working on their laptops.  

            Don stepped up to the counter and asked what beer was available.  “None” was the reply.  They had mainly a variety of coffees and juices.  Well, can we see the changes that were made? We were given a brief tour of the ballroom—very nice.  But the bar wasn’t open on the north side of the ballroom.  “Can we see the bowling alleys?”  “No.” “Why not?”

            We looked at each other.  Decision made.  “Let’s go to Jerry’s.”  We left mumbling about a possible return months later.

            Jerry’s Bar, home of the Otter Street Fishing Club, is just a short distance away by car, but miles away in atmosphere.  It had been decorated for Halloween, but not the cute stuff with smiling pumpkins. Rather it was festooned with macabre witches and ghouls.  Jerry’s was one of the first stops we made on the evening we began our beer trail rides back in 2009.  Then a huge set of antlers hung from the ceiling with an assortment of women’s bras dangling from their various points.  A few years later, the antlers were still there minus the bras (part of the #metoo movement?).  Now the antlers are gone; I don’t know why.  To Judy’s delight a quarter machine has been added.  We gave it a try and had our usual bad luck with that.  

            Usually at this time of day Scotty, the owner, would be behind the bar, but not tonight.  Instead a pleasant guy was there eyeing the clock as he only had to work another 30 minutes or so.  We all ordered October Fest served in frosted mugs.  All, that is, except for Gary who would now be our designated driver. There were a few guys at the end of the bar and another guy who struck up a conversation with Marv.  

            The November election was not far away.  We did not talk politics, but rather early voting. There’d been a push for early voting. Gary and Elaine had to vote early in the Omro Town Hall, as they would be on a trip to New Orleans on Election Day. Wisconsin’s early voting is not the same as absentee voting in which a ballot is mailed to the voter, who fills it out and mails it back in.  Instead it is done in person this time as Oshkosh City Hall’s city clerk’s office. One other time it was in the council chambers at City Hall and once even in the convention center downtown.  Marv, son Tom and I voted the third day that early voting was available without any problems.  Don and Judy voted a week or so later and said the corridor to the City Clerk’s office was jammed with voters.  Now, weeks after the election, we all know the turnout of voters was one of the highest ever in a fall bi-election and we were glad we voted early before the rush.

            Jerry’s Bar has only two TVs—one to the left and one to the right of the back bar.  An endless drone of weather reporting was on one.  The other had the three other bar patron’s raptly watching Home and Garden TV. That’s right—not one of the umpteen sports channels Spectrum TV offers.  What’s the world coming to?

            We had time for one more stop and that was going to be a supper spot.  We decided on the Mexican restaurant, South of the Border, on Oregon Street.  We drained our beer glasses and left.

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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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