While I am not in the habit of sharing images of myself, and the adjacent photo of this author circa 1984 might certainly explain why, it is regrettably the only visual record of my time as a tavern owner in Hoboken, New Jersey. That particular chapter in my life would be the first time I would be directly responsible for seeing over the employment of others. And when it came to vetting potential bartenders, I always made it a point to include the following question during an interview. Who do think is most likely responsible for starting the majority of physical altercations in a bar?
Most of the responses to my query would place the blame squarely on the shoulders of those aggressive and angry souls that had lubricated their penchant for hostile action with too much drink. And while I agree that alcohol can easily be cast into that role of the metaphorical accelerant, it is seldom the cause of the fire–and the initial spark often comes from a source not easily recognized. It has been my experience that many times the person in charge behind the bar, either by design or ignorance, puts the match to that slow fuse. A situation that could have been calmed with a kind word or bit more tact, instead is left to smolder until that which was merely a minor indiscretion erupts into something that leaves someone broken and bleeding on the floor.
It is incumbent upon all of us to understand that our words and our tone will very often be the catalyst of our future confrontations.
After enduring the red-faced rhetoric of last week’s Republican Convention, one might come to the conclusion that our ability to come to terms with those issues that divide Americans can only be addressed in what amounts to some sort of national barroom brawl. Dignity and decorum be damned. But while integrity and statesmanship may have been lacking at the podium of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, those fine customers across the way at Flannery’s Irish Pub, that just happened to be the setting for MSNBC’s Morning Joe convention coverage, helped to restore some of my teetering faith in our ability to overcome our differences in a peaceful manner.
With the Democrats now at bat in Philadelphia, the pundits at Morning Joe have set up shop at one our very favorite Philly taverns–McGillin’s Olde Ale House. William “Pa” McGillin first opened his doors to the public in 1860 during our last war of civil discord. The business began operations as the Bell-in-Hand, and it continued on as such until William McGillin’s death in 1901. The lead role for the second act of this much celebrated saloon on Drury Street would be passed on to Catherine “Ma”McGillin. This beloved, no-nonsense lady ran a proper public house that welcomed anyone just as long they were well-behaved and respectful of their fellow patrons.
When Catherine McGillin left to stand her round at Heaven’s long bar in 1937, thousands turned out to say goodbye as her funeral procession made its way along Broad Street. It was a testament to the ability of a women to meet and, quite possibly, surpass the accomplishments of her male predecessor–an interesting proposition as the Democrats make their case to a somewhat skeptical electorate.
But whatever the American voters ultimately decide, McGillin’s will continue on as that revered institution that provides the perfect gathering place for those among us that choose to cast-off the cynicism and strive to restore reason and civility to our political discourse!
Today McGillin’s is owned and operated by Christopher Mullins, his wife, Mary Ellen Spaniak Mullins, and their son, Chris Junior. Click on the family image to enjoy a podcast that includes an in-depth history, a tale of haunting, and a bit of humor from former patron W.C. Fields.
Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review