Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hey Bartender!

At one time I used to enjoy going out to the bars to have a drink with friends. That's become a rarity over time. Watching three taverns work with Fond du Lac police and residents to get their licenses renewed shows how attitudes have changed over time about your neighborhood bar.

Owning such an establishment has to be a risky business. Even if you have everything going in your favor ultimately its your customers who are going to decide whether you sink or swim.

Growing up in a small town I can tell you that a change in tavern ownership was a big deal. In Manistique, Michigan when I turned old enough to sit on a bar stool I quickly learned which taverns you frequented and those you didn't.

Christie's was where you went if you wanted to pick a fight. I never did. The Harbor had a mix of clientele. I rarely went there, but did stop by on two occasions following family wedding receptions, bride and groom in attendance. Herb's 40 was a good place to play pool, always had the right tunes on the jukebox and was where I usually went. Jackpine was out on M-94 a ways, but their food was worth the trip. There were a handful of others, but we didn't usually go to them.

Christie's is still there, my little sisters like it, but the roughneck image has eroded over time. The Harbor also continues to do business. Herb's 40 (still don't know the significance of the name) has changed ownership quite a bit. Jackpine went through a slow period, but the popularity of snowmobiles and ATVs has helped it out.

My best experience in a bar was probably when I was 12 or 13 years old. It was at Normie Jahn's bar in Manistique. My dad took me there because it was a Packers bar. Normie was a genuine character. He regularly attended Packers home games. He could tell some whoppers, but treated everyone special. My dad was the one who had the beer, I had root beer. Normies been gone for years now. Over time the bar evolved serving upscale clients and last I knew it had become a bistro.

Hopefully more Fond du Lac County taverns will take up Tavern League President Tim Lakin's invitation and become members. Maybe it's not so important whether everyone knows your name when you go in a bar. Maybe it's more important that the people who are serving you want to make sure you enjoy the experience and get home safely. Most do, more should.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

1960's Wedding!

My little brother Matt got married last Saturday in what was a 1960's themed wedding. It was different, fun, but still about family. Flanked by his 1969 Super Bee and her 1964 G-T-O they got married in their side yard.

The wedding party and many of the guests wore 1960s garb. Matt looked a little bit like Tommy Chong in his hey day. My brother John nearly stole the show in his get up. He really did look like a hippie, but the hair topped off the look. He actually used a long wig borrowed from a Halloween witch's outfit and was barely recognizeable.

After the brief ceremony the procession of muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s made its way to town doing burn outs along the way. Then it was off to the nearby Hiawatha School for the reception. It's no longer a school, but everyone still refers to it that way.

There was no triple or quadruple tiered wedding cake, but a variety of single layer offerings. One featured the yellow smiley face. The bride and groom's cake actually had likenesses of their cars on it. Unfortuanately one of the kids ate my brother's car, the cake version of course, before he could get to it. The food was good and the company was better. The dollar dance was a little different with my brother doing his bit, but the bride had a stand-in.

There was one party crasher, a dog that made his way into the school gym. Everyone thought he had been brought by a guest, but word quickly spread that he had simply wondered in. Later we got a good laugh when the lady that owned him pulled up in a minivan and ushered him into a back seat with a few harsh words. He didn't mind. He had his moment.

Matt and Laurie were married by a minister from the Universal Life Church. My sister Diana told us the next afternoon that she also was a minister from that church and could have married the couple if she had a license for Michigan instead of Ohio. Someone joked that they didn't want a headline like "Sister Marries Brother" to get out.

My Dad passed away when I was a sophomore in college. He's now missed three family weddings, but it was nice that Matt got married the day before Father's Day. The reception was held in the school about a mile from Indian Lake. My father spent many summers vacationing on the Lake. He loved it. Maybe part of him was in the warm breeze that blessed the day.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Each year the Milwaukee Brewers host a "Media Day" to pay tribute to the Radio and TV stations that carry Brewer Baseball games. KFIZ's Mark Kastein attended this year's and told us afterwards he was surprised how openly Bob Uecker was in talking about a recent incident in which he had to go to court to file an injunction against a woman who had been stalking him for years. "Mr. Baseball" said he'd been putting up with it until she showed up at a hotel pool when the Brewers were in Pittsburgh for a series with the Pirates.

We've heard horror stories about celebrity stalkers and some of them have ended tragically. I thought I'd put in my two cents worth with my own story. No I wasn't the stalker, but the stalkee.

It happened while I was working in Munising, Michigan. I started getting calls at the radio station I was working for from a woman who was actually a neighbor. She sounded a little off telling me stories like my landlord used to sneak over to her yard at night and smoke marijuana underneath her bedroom window.

One day she decided to up the ante and pay a visit to the radio station. It was a small station and typically there would be times when I would be working alone, this particular day happened to be one of them. We used to make copies for people so it wasn't unusual for anyone to walk in off the street to ask for that service.

So in walks this woman with a can of Pledge or something similar. She pulls out a pair of rubber gloves and slips them on and as she is talking to me she starts spraying office desktops and dusting them. She mentioned something about germs. I can't really tell you what the drift of the conversation was after that because I was too busy trying to diplomatically get her to leave.

Not too long after that she called me one day and told me that the house I was living in was on fire. That was upsetting so I called the local Sheriff and asked him if he was familiar with the woman. He was. Was she dangerous? He said no except for that one time she sat on her front porch and fired off a shotgun over cars that were passing by. He then said she was an annual visitor to the local mental health facility and perhaps it was time for that yearly trek. I don't know what the Sheriff did, but I didn't hear from her again during the remaining time I worked there.

It surprised me to hear that Bob Uecker had a stalker, but then anyone who knows me could say the same thing.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Rosenow 50th

It's amazing how quickly the years can melt away when you attend a school function. For me that was the case when I attended a 50th Anniversary celebration at Rosenow Elementary School in Fond du Lac.

The excitement of the children in a learning environment is contagious. Of course it was just before summer break, but the sunny morning and having Mom or Dad on hand probably helped as well.

Festivities occurred during the school's morning kick off. Announcements are made, jokes are told and everyone is a partner in education. "Why won't a shark eat a comedian? Because they taste funny." That will bring a smile to the face of a youngster.

High School students who think they have it tough or aren't appreciated should participate in a mentorship program with an elementary student. When the Fond du Lac High School Marching Band came into that gym you could hear the murmur of admiration. The younger students really look up to those high schoolers and it's pretty evident.

The Band led the students out to the playground playing catchy tunes like "Ghostbusters" while a small plane made passes overhead. Eventually it dropped bags of ping pong balls from the sky, 500 in all. The kids were able to redeem the balls for a piece of cake from one of five large sheet cakes, a nice little treat to cap the school year and celebrate 50 years of education and community pride.

I'm not sure what Rosenow looked like in 1955, but for me it reminded me of what the elementary schools I attended looked like. I went to three all told as our family moved around. One of them has now been converted into a community center (where my younger brother Matt gets married next week), another is still open and the other..well I'm not sure. When a school has been open for 50 years and is still a vital part of the community there should be an anniversary celebration and the students, teachers and staff at Rosenow couldn't have done it better. Congratulations Rosenow and to all the students who have attended it over the years!