This is a photo of my father, Verne Stevens, taken in Lebanon, Oregon 1947 or 1948. He worked part time here for a short while (The Town Tavern, but I don’t think that is what it was called in 1948) as a bartender a couple nights a week, while also working his regular job at the US Plywood plant where he’d worked since 1936. (Minus 3 years off to work in Germany as a Machine Gunner in the US Army) He was trying to save up money to buy a house (GI Bill) so as to entice my mother to move to Lebanon so he could start a family. (They’d met in Cleveland when he was on his way to the east coast to catch a boat to Europe)
He had his heart set on this brand new, little (949 sq ft) 2 bedroom house. There were 7 of them in town, all identical: this one was a little less money ($12,000) as it was located on a truck route at 365 Williams St.. He managed to buy the little house and my father continued to work in the mill until he passed on in 1960. (The house is listed on Zillow as being worth a tick over $70,000, and last sold in June of last year for $92K, ouch!)e
50 years after that photo was taken, I found myself working behind that exact same bar for 9 months. (By then called Terri’s Town Tavern , run by Ms. Terri Wiser) I opened up the bar early in the morning a couple days a week. An interesting fact is that most of the clients at this time of day were men in their 70’s and 80’s who came in to drink coffee and play pool. Some of them had worked with my dad at the mill, and when they found out who my father was, they started calling me “Verne”.
One of them, Lloyd Randall, the local shoe repairman, (he just came in to drink coffee, no pool for him) was actually a good friend of my father’s and I managed to have a number of conversations with Lloyd; and much of what I do know about my dad, (other than what my mother used to tell me) I know from talking to Lloyd. Evidently, among other things, my dad was a much better bartender than I was: Lloyd reminded me of this whenever I failed to warm his coffee in a timely fashion.
During that time, I also served as “house guitarist” hosting a Sunday night jam session (actually, the guitar part went on for five years), and more often than not playing in a revolving collection of players (almost always featuring Terri’s brother, the amazingly talented Larry Wiser, on keys) every weekend.
A bar is sort of a stage for a play with an ever changing cast that gets to make up the script as it goes along. People tell stories when they drink and it all mixes up together. They’ll yap away about stuff they’d never say if their tongues weren’t loosened by the alcohol. Getting a call from a baby sitter who’s employers have all the bars in town on speed dial, would be a unique experience for most people. (“I think they headed over to Wood Chippers to drink some hard liquor.”) Being the only sober person in a room full of drunks is enough to drive you to drink.
Sometimes, after closing, I’d sit down at the bar and marvel that a half-century before me my dad had sat in that very spot and had someone take his picture. It’s a postcard from another era, a two dimensional time machine. We were in the same play, even the same theater, but with a slightly different cast.