When I was a kid back in the nineteen fifties Mom often sent me to look for Dad. It was always on a Sunday afternoon. I knew exactly where to look for him. At the end of our block just a half-dozen houses away from home was a tavern. Dad enjoyed nursing a nickel draft while watching his White Sox play ball. Taverns were a big part of neighborhood life. In my book, Jun-e-or, Reflections of Life in the Nineteen Forties and Fifties I tell a few stories about taverns.
As I grew older, I began to notice that there were taverns in every town we traveled through. My Grandfather spent a lot of time in a small country store tavern in Michigan. Taverns were places where people went to meet other people. The need for social contact is strong especially when you work in a field by yourself and never see a soul. In my Dad’s case his need to watch a baseball game drove him to seek out a TV. In that era, taverns were ground breakers and used a TV set to draw customers. It worked.
The other day, as I walked through Frankfort, I recalled those early days. I wondered what life was like in this tiny country town of German immigrants. How many taverns did they have? For certain, there was one. It is still in business and doing well. Currently called the Frankfort Tavern, it went by the name of Gracie’s for decades. Why? Because a woman named Gracie owned and operated the place. On the same street, there are three more taverns. All three are inside a place of business. The second oldest is the Frankfort Bowl. No self-respecting bowling alley would be without a bar. The other two are in modern restaurants.
The number of bars grows as one leaves the historic district. Three blocks North is the Stray Bar. It is only three years old. The adventurous owner started his business just as the bottom fell out of the economy. The bar is doing well, and is my favorite. Next door to the Stray is another restaurant bar. After that the closest is a mile away in either East, West, and Northerly directions.
When I moved to Frankfort, the population was about three thousand souls and the few bars in the historical district served our needs. Today, we are sixteen thousand strong and we need more bars to soothe our stressed souls.