Gilmores had the superlative jukebox.  This particular box had a number of big band 33s, my favorite - Tommy Dorsey's "song of india", Artie Shaw's "in the mood",  Bobby Darin "mac the knife" , of course, classic Sinatra and Tony Bennett and for us youngsters, plenty of new music, like Question Mark and the Mysterians "96 tears". 

And even though he didn't have a dance license, there were enough cops that hung out that Pat wasn't worried about being shut down, so we danced as long as we didn't get in the way of customers coming and going. (and didn't piss up the bathrooms)  

Gilmore's was a neighborhood bar on the corner of Flatbush and Newkirk Avenue...a little triangle of a corner of a block that managed to intersect with Bedford Ave.  Bars like that still exist in NYC, but where there was at least one on every block in certain neighborhoods, they're a rarity now.  

In those days you went to a bar to drink and socialize, or like in my case to socialize and drink.  Most neighborhood bars didn't serve food because that required another license and NYC is a pain in the ass when it comes to licensing. If you needed sustenance, you went across the street for a burger or got some Chinese or you buttoned up, prepared to face the music and went home.

We knew as much about the regulars as we knew about our own families - except certain secrets that were disclosed only after someone died - like Aggie the barmaid was having a mad love affair with Frankie the NYPD detective for many years.  She - like his wife, put up with his constant drunkenness and womanizing.  He'd bring his woman du jour right into the bar, which is probably why we didn't catch on to the much deeper connection between them.

There was talk that Steve the bartender kept his girlfriends prisoner - they were Irish immigrants - "sponsored" by him, a common practice among certain Irish families in Flatbush who - poor as they were - always had "a girl" who worked her ass off as a maid.  It was and might still be a sort of slavery racket where a person is brought to America from Ireland and works off the cost of the passage and citizenship with "interest".  

Steve was from the other side and was tall, broad and veering towards middle age himself, a good bartender who bought back every three. He had a shine to him - wearing his regulatory starched white shirt, bow tie and vest, hair slicked back and so far as we could see he was good to his girls - they'd bust out of that mysterious situation sometimes and come to the bar while he was tending.  He'd get pretty pissed but they were always young and always round and beautiful and I think he knew he had to put up with their young hijinx, at least for the time he got to "keep them".  He knew the rules and so did they.

Everyone knew everyone's business...and it wasn't as if we lived in those places, but they were the center of the community.  You'd stop by for a beer after work, meet up with everyone else and ALWAYS checked in on weekends.

Pat the owner had been on the wagon for a long long time but suddenly one day he was drinking again and everyone tried to get him to stop, he wasn't a young man and had been clean for a number of years, but being around his bar every day and every night - it was his business after all - eventually it re-snagged him.  

He was old and drinking and in time he took some bad falls going into the basement to retrieve stock and then there was a robbery where he was beaten up pretty savagely and never rightly recovered.  By then we had moved on from the neighborhood - John and I had divorced, he went into the Merchant Marines for a few years and cleaned up his act, came home, met Mickey and me and the kid moved to Ocean Avenue to begin again.  Even a few blocks in Brooklyn put you in another world and I never went back.  Somewhere in that time, Pat died and his kids sold the bar. 

Back then there were Irish bars like Gilmores and Moriarity's (mostly a kid bar, great jukebox with rock and roll and Irish music but the place always kind of run down shabby). And then there was O'Briens, which was also a neighborhood place but not really. People came from all over the five boroughs to meet in places like O'Briens because you could get lost in them.  They were deep and dark and as a rule, no one was looking at anyone else.  You NEVER ate the bar snacks and always drank whiskey or bottled beer.  

If you were a regular, that was an indicator there was some serious trouble in you.  Like if you were determined to go deeply off the wagon, you'd start going over to O'Briens and proceed to drink enough to kill yourself and black out and no one would care.  You'd be scraped off your stool and roughly deposited on the street after lights out.   If you did that enough, you'd end up in a hospital or dead.  The lights were kept real low except right at the bar where the register was. Bad things always happened in backs of those places.  You didn't sit in a booth and even standing at the bar, every surface was sticky.  Some of it might have been beer but the rest, who knows.  

As it was, kids would come and go - neighborhood kids in neighborhood bars, they'd grow up and come in for their first tap beer with their dad or older silblings and hang out with the regulars and then they'd join the the real world, maybe join the service, get married or get divorced and move on.  It was a plateau.  Sometimes it was a landing strip.  Sometimes it became a final destination and you never went anywhere else.  You'd find your lifetime job in a neighborhood bank or insurance company close by - making it easy for you to stop by in the morning for a ball, maybe at lunchtime another and then on to the serious drinking at night.  You'd be surprised how many people lived like that.  

Views: 313

Comment by JMac1949 Today on March 17, 2017 at 12:25pm


Comment by Foolish Monkey on March 17, 2017 at 12:26pm

it was good Terry.  I was just checking facts with the ex. he's watching the parade and doing some remembering himself. 

Comment by Rosigami on March 17, 2017 at 12:29pm

This is a terrific post, Monkey.
Times long past, eh?
I was born in Brooklyn but my folks moved to Long Island when I was 4. Visited family in Brooklyn every Sunday until I could drive myself, and then went periodically until all the grands were gone, well into my 40s. I recognize all the neighborhoods you mention but never once stepped foot in a Brooklyn bar.

Comment by Foolish Monkey on March 17, 2017 at 12:36pm

Rosi funny you should say that - I was deadly wary of bars growing up.  It just wasn't done - not in my family.  Then I met my husband at a mutual friend and that night, we walked me home from flatbush to crown heights and along the way we stopped at a bar and had drinks.  then, after we were married he introduced me to his friends at gilmores and moriarity's and carey's and suddenly, it was our social life.  I guess it was the equivalent to clubs now.  but it was great and I'm glad I did it.  there was a lot of sordid stuff that happened, too, but damn, that's what growing up can sometimes give you - some bawdy good times.  :)


Comment by Rosigami on March 17, 2017 at 12:53pm

Monkey, I stepped foot in plenty of Long Island bars; we went to drink beer and hear local bands, and some big names, too. (And be a little bit bad...)

Comment by Foolish Monkey on March 17, 2017 at 1:10pm

ah Rosi, I was a lotta bit bad.  i was.  GAWD it was fun, wasn't it?

Long Island had that bar that was blocks long!  did you ever go there?

Comment by Rosigami on March 17, 2017 at 3:34pm

It sure was, Monkey!

Happy to say I survived it all relatively unscathed. Luck was at least part of it.

Well...there was the OBI (Oak Beach Inn) which had several locations all over the Island and were all very, very large.

The above article mentions a band I knew called The Good Rats, which enjoyed some success. While they had been around since the 60's, personnel changed a few times and I knew one of the later members pretty well. Since our last names were alphabetically sequential, I sat behind guitarist John Gatto all through junior and senior high school, and we were homeroom pals.
The Rats also played another big venue called My Father's Place. I saw a lot of bands there- The Incredible String Band, Leon Redbone, Taj Mahal, and others..   Memories!

Comment by Foolish Monkey on March 17, 2017 at 3:47pm

Rosi you had some serious fun. That was before they extended the LIE and the Montauk hwy was the prime route.

we had some great times out there too  just checked out the local places, did some crabbing. You could still crab. And ronkonkoma was a small whatever it was with fake sand and hardly anyone went there. 

We took in some terrific sets in clubs in Brooklyn. Lookking back I think we were lucky they didn't burn to the ground they were so old and rickety 

Comment by Rosigami on March 17, 2017 at 4:07pm

Yep. This ^ was fun!

Comment by Rita Shibr on March 17, 2017 at 4:34pm

Enjoyed this and perfect for tonight,  my kids and grandson just left, husband is somewhere doing something and I am reading about Irish bars and thinking of all the St Patty's I used to go out.  Now for me, it just seems like a get drunk night not about Irish music or anything.  We grew up in a huge Irish neighborhood everyone had seven or eight kids like us, in fact it's one of the biggest concentrations of Irish outside of Boston. Anyway,  my mom's dad like to drink and she would have a few (meaning 2 or so not more) with her crosswords on Sunday. My dad's stepdad had to fetched in the bar before he spent his paycheck so although he liked a cold beer now and then I never really saw him drunk and they rarely went to bars after they had us kids.  

I liked bars and still like a good dark bar, with an Irish bartender because they know how to treat you right and a good jukebox but damn if I know where to find one now.  There was one I used to escape to in my thirties when my kids were in bed,  had peanut shells on the floor and live music, my other married girlfriends and I would dance and drink beer and be in the dog house sometimes when we snuck on home.  Anyway.  The best bars I remember were the beach bars, still in your bathing suit and smelling like the ocean and sun tan lotion and a frosty beer.  

We used to call it the No Shower Hour.  Right up from the beach. 

Ok Now I want to meet you for a beer somewhere Monkey..... xo tonight.  Also feel a little lonely. 


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