Overtime Bar and Grill: Where Are the Pennies?

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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.

            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 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 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. 

            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 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?

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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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