Mind Your Mouth at McGillin’s

While I am not in the habit of sharing images of myself, and the adjacent photo of this Rogues Galleryauthor 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 barbarroom 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.

McGillin's

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!

McGillin's OwnersToday 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

America Revisited

Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited and Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends
“Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, thought I knew she was sleeping.
“I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why”
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America                                                                                                                                    from “America” by Paul Simon

With a full two years of teenage existence already in my back pocket, Christmas of 1968 would mark some degree of  recognition on my parents part as to the direction my restless awakenings were taking me. On that particular December 25th, while they weren’t quite ready to give into my sense of fashion, they would at least accede to my musical tastes. Bob Dylan’s  Highway 61 Revisited and the Bookends album from Simon and Garfunkel would provide the early high-fidelity soundtrack of my adolescence. And in the summer of 1972, with only a few dollars in my wallet, some Paul Simon inspired optimism in my heart, and a touch of Bob Dylan’s cynicism in my head–I would take to the road in search of my own version of the “American Dream.”

The lessons of those wanderings would not be fully understood until much later in life. But after a few years, it did become clear that I would need much more than acquired wisdom, the generosity of strangers, the benevolence of friends, and part-time employment in order to achieve my share of our national ethos. So I decided to further my education at a New Jersey state college. And it was there as part of an assignment for a film class that I, like those adept marketeers at the Bernie Sander’s campaign, decided to use the song “America” as the basis for a visual statement about the country.

McGovern's logoArmed with only an 8mm Bell and Howell movie camera, I would head onto those mean streets of Newark, New Jersey. Well actually, where I was the streets weren’t all that mean. My goal was to try and capture the faces of American diversity in the Portuguese section of the city. Here there was a thriving scene of ethnic restaurants that were reviving and bringing economic stability to a neighborhood that formally was suffering the ravages of crime and poverty. And luckily for me, there were a couple of decent bars in that part of town that would provide a break from the early March chill in between takes. One of those urban watering holes was the legendary McGovern’s, and the other was a comfortable corner tavern whose name escapes me after these many years. But it was that place that had the greater impact on me during my brief stint as an extremely amateur film maker.

During the two days of shooting, I made friends with an older woman (whose name I also cannot recall) that tended bar on most afternoons. In between eight-ounce Schaefers, shots of Rye whiskey, and decorating the place for St. Patrick’s Day we spoke about those things that were at the forefront of each of our lives. My challenges and issues were by no means as pressing as this human being who was then struggling to survive cancer.  In the matter of a few short hours we had become very close. And I remember saving her the inconvenience of waiting for a bus by giving her a ride to a bowling alley where she would join her mom for league night. I was invited in for a quick beer, and to meet her mother and the other gals that comprised their team. And like a politician in a New Hampshire diner, I would shake a few hands,  share a couple of fond embraces, and then part their company forever.

Looking back at those times, I remember the challenges and fears that tested our national fortitude: runaway inflation, recession, an ongoing energy crisis, Three Mile Island, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, and of course the individual sufferings and misfortunes that are visited upon all of us. But the courage and compassion of those that I met along life’s earlier journeys have hopefully served to bring about a greater kindness and empathy toward all as I negotiate, with now shorter strides, the paths that lie before me.

For the record, my pairing of Paul Simon’s genius to Super 8 imagery was judged to be worthy of nothing more than a B-. Whereas, Mr. Sander’s short musical take on the matter has been heralded by some as being one of the best political ads in history.

Hopefully, whichever candidate completes that journey to Pennsylvania Avenue they will bring to that coveted address those heroic and exceptional qualities characteristic of those better Americans that they have met along the way!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

 

 

Lambertville’s Lovely Swan Song

It is quite a pity that the world over seems somewhat unaware of Lambertville, a beautiful little New Jersey village tucked onto the banks of the Delaware River.  But anyone who loves a great tavern, as well as restored 18th and 19th century architecture, would benefit greatly by getting to know her little better.

The Swan Bar in Lambertville, NJ

The American Public House Review has already been to a few of Lambertville’s fine drinking establishments. This week, Chris Poh returns to visit the Swan Bar, a gorgeous bar located in a building full to the brim with atmosphere and history.  Cheers!

How Would Have Jesus Voted on Health Care Reform?

Jesus at Ale Mary's - Baltimore, MD

After the President put his pen to the Health Care Reform Bill, I immediately went over to my liquor cabinet to check on the fate of my whiskey supply. Much to my surprise, my selection of American bourbon and rye had not been transformed into cheap Russian vodka as a warning from the heavens above that our nation was about to usher in a new age of Soviet style Godless Communism right here in the land of mom and apple pie. In fact by day’s end the Dow was up by 103 points. Apparently the free market had once again found another route around the Beltway Bolsheviks.     

I am among those millions of Americans that have some misgivings about the legislation. While I support any effort to rein in the unconscionable business tactics of the insurance industry, I would have liked to have seen a bill that went much further in revamping the practice and delivery of medicine.

During a recent tavern chat session at the Indian Rock Inn, one of the patrons seeded the debate with these two questions: Why all the vitriol over what should be a fairly innocuous subject,  and how would have Jesus voted on health care reform? I called upon my many years of familiarity with both sides of the bar to answer his first question.    

It has been my experience that no bar fight has anything to do with the stated reasons for the malicious transgression. It’s never truly about who won at pool, who looked at whose girlfriend, or who is the better NASCAR driver. These conflicts are fueled by ignorance, low self-esteem, prejudice and just plain not liking the guy sitting next to you. Unfortunately, these behaviors have once again found their way into our national political dialogue. As far as the Son of God’s position on health care reform, I’m still pondering that one; but I suspect most people will spin the divine perspective according to their own personal point of view.     

The Tea Party types would most likely say that there is no way Christ would support a bill that might contain some loopholes for abortion rights. And the newly formed Coffee Party would most likely proclaim that Jesus, the humanitarian and social activist, would vote yes, and furthermore demand a public option. Both Democrats and Republicans would thank Christ for taking the time to care, but would respectfully remind the Savior about the separation of church and state, rather than have him be privy to what really goes on in the halls of Congress.    

In actuality, Jesus would not have to vote on health care reform. He would just simply heal the sick, and for an extra measure of preventative care, he would change their water into wine.  And the only premium that would be raised is the expectation that we treat our fellow-man, even if they are just politicians, with dignity, kindness and respect.     

Now if  He would only come back and turn the coffee into great whiskey, and the tea into a really fine India Pale Ale!    

Amen to that!!                               

   Posted by: Chris Poh     

    

The Tavern at the Sergeantsville Inn

On Black Friday, I ignored shopping invitations from Mr. Macy & Mr. Gimble and whiled away the afternoon talking and taking photos in the warm & cozy tavern of the historic Sergeantsville Inn with APHR cohorts Chris Poh and Ed Petersen, as well as friend Don “Juan” Garrido. The Sergeantsville Inn is quietly situated in the heart of rural, yet posh Hunterdon County, New Jersey, ranked as America’s wealthiest suburban county in 2007.

Don "Juan" Garrido Sipping a Guinness © Kathleen Connally

Don Juan Garrido Sipping a Guinness © Kathleen Connally

Sergeantsville was first called Skunktown because it served as a market center for skunk pelts in the late 1700s, but was renamed in 1827 for Charles Sergeant, a local landowner and Revolutionary War soldier. The Sergeantsville Inn was originally built as a private home but was later used as a grain & feed store, a grocery store and an ice cream parlor.

Old Speckled Hen Tap © Kathleen Connally

Old Speckled Hen Tap © Kathleen Connally

While I was sipping on a beautifully poured pint of Old Speckled Hen, Chris mentioned that a section of the handsome stone structure once served as the town’s ice house, and that some of the Inn’s staff have experienced ghostly encounters in that part of the building.

I was thrilled to learn that Ed is researching and writing a full story about the Sergeantsville Inn for an upcoming issue of APHR, where he’ll interview the employees about their adventures with the shadows and spectres that live there.  I’m looking forward to Ed’s story and to returning to the tavern later this month as I search for the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Chris Poh in the Ice House © Kathleen Connally

Chris Poh in the Ice House © Kathleen Connally

— Written & Posted by Kathleen Connally

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A Haunting on the Delaware

As to whether or not spirits roam the halls of the Black Bass Hotel is a matter of personal opinion and experience. One thing is for certain though, this three century old tavern and inn located in Lumberville, Pennsylvania is about to come back from the dead, and that will go a long way to raise this publican’s spirit.

Having been featured in the premier issue of American Public House Review, it was terribly disheartening to hear that the Black Bass had closed, having fallen victim to the current economic climate and a series of devastating floods along the Delaware River that had  exacerbated structural damage to the property. But Grant Ross, the general manager and the gentleman that is overseeing the meticulous rebuilding and restoration of the Bass assures me that this historic inn will be ready to properly receive guests in the early part of 09.

During a recent guided tour of the construction, I inquired about any paranormal activities that might have occurred as a result of alterations being made to the building. Mr. Ross said that while he had not experienced anything firsthand, a number of the workers had made claims of strange happenings, and one particular laborer would not enter certain areas of the building without suitable escort.

As for myself I encountered nothing out of the ordinary during my visit; but there is the matter of this photograph of the old bar that I took while I was in the tavern room. Now I tend to be quite skeptical about the phenomena of orbs, and the belief held by some that they are the residual energy of those that have passed on. I lean more toward the opinion that they are nothing more than dust, reflected light and some aspect of digital processing. But I’ll let you decide…

Happy Halloween from the spirits at the Black Bass! 

Posted by: Chris Poh, Publisher

American Public House Review celebrates first anniversary!

Today we begin our one year anniversary of the American Public House Review.  Last October our journey began and it is hard to believe that we have been at it for a year already.  But this is a labor of love, and as is the case of with most fun things time really flies.
details at the Braveheart

details at the Braveheart

In observance of this anniversary month, we here at the Pub Talk blog will take a look back at some of our favorite places we visited in this last year.  To begin, we travel back to a place we enjoyed in our very first issue.  It is a fabulous Scottish Pub in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley called “Braveheart Highland Pub”.

With big towns like Bethlehem, Easton, and Allentown right near by, it is easy to pass over Hellertown.  But if you are a lover of great pubs, that would be a mistake.  “Braveheart” is an attraction onto itself.  Whether you want great food, a terrific beer selection, or football from the United Kingdom you’ll find it there.

Posted by: David McBride

Exercising The Right of Peaceful Assemblage

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 General Lafayette Inn and Brewery

 

Every four years our presidential candidates engage in the loftiest and least attainable of all political ambitions – validating the present by associating themselves with the past. I suspect even if time travel were possible, I doubt very much that Doctor Franklin and his brothers in insurrection would attempt to bolster their standing amongst their constituents by making a similar connection with the future generations of  American politicians.

 

In fact any suspension of those inherent properties that seem to keep us operating in our own time and space might have caused them to reconsider the merits of rebellion. But this trivial rite of electioneering does serve its purpose. Any gesture that motivates us to better understand the people and events that gave substance to the American experiment strengthens the overall constitution of the republic.

 

The Eagle and Cannon Sign

 

 During the month of July our correspondents will exercise their rights of peaceful, and on occasion spirited, assemblage by visiting a number of taverns and location that were instrumental to the founding of this nation. And while we may not be able to think like our forefathers, we will make a concerted effort to at least drink like them.

 

The staff and editors of American Public House Review wish our fellow countrymen a celebratory Fourth of July.

 

Posted by: Chris Poh, Publisher

 

A ghostly tale from behind the walls

With all of the talk on this blog in recent weeks about ghosts and hauntings, I thought I would relay to you one of my own paranormal experiences.  It took place in a town we have talked about quite a bit, in a building whose sad story has already been told on the American Public House Review.  It was my first trip inside the Carbon County Jail in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

Now let me begin by saying that I am not a self proclaimed medium.  I am not at all sensitive to so-called spirit activity.  I have never once walked into a place and felt a “presence” and I am somewhat suspicious of those who do.  And to the credit of the people giving us a tour of this historic site, there wasn’t really much talk of ghosts and haunting.  This was instead mostly an important local history lesson, and a compelling one.  Outside of the famous handprint on the wall, very little was said about the supernatural. 

The jail is a fascinating place.  It does have an amazingly macabre feel right down to the architecture and simple details.  But as we toured through the main part of the jail, nothing seemed at all disturbing to me outside the incredibly disturbing details of what happened within these thick walls.  Then we made our way downstairs into the basement or the “dungeon” as they used to call it.  This was where people were kept in an incredibly harsh solitary confinement.   As we descended the staircase, the air began to feel heavier to me.

I was at the end of the line, lagging behind as usually happens to me on these types of tours.  I always end up reading or looking at something for too long.  So I hurried to catch up.  As I moved down the stairs, I could feel my nerves building, though I was not at all aware of why.  I could hear the tour guide speaking about the dungeon, but didn’t comprehend much of it at all.  As I crossed into the dungeon a feeling of fear hit me.  I looked around the place, as the group listened in very dim lighting to tales of human suffering.  For a brief moment, in a cell behind the tour group to my left, I thought I saw a man, mostly cast in shadow, kneeling on the ground. There was no doubt it was a man, but I couldn’t make out a face.  I knew it was not a fellow tourist.  But who was it? 

Within an instant, I flinched to my right, putting my hand to my face as if to block something or someone from hitting me.  But nothing was there.  For some unforeseen reason, I felt as if I had to guard my face from an assault.  Now I was just downright intimidated.  Tour or no tour, I was getting out of there.

I walked quickly out of the dungeon and back up the stairs.  I could hear the tour guide asking my friends if there was a problem, but I was not going back no matter what.  As soon as I made it back up the stairs, the feelings stopped.  And then I went through all the ways I could think of to rationalize the experience.  Was that just a shadow reflecting on the wall in the cell?  Was I feeling some kind of claustrophobia down there?  Was that just a bug I saw out of the corner of my right eye?  I had no idea.  All I did know was that it was time for a drink…

by Dave McBride

Tunes and Taverns

The Historic Washington House According to historian Peter Thompson in his book Rum, Punch and Revolution: Taverngoing and Public Life in Eighteenth Century Philadelphia, toasting and singing were means of drawing together people from disparate backgrounds. It is only fitting that both traditions continue to flourish at The Washington House, where legend states that at this location The Liberty Bell  and its protectors stayed overnight in 1777 during their flight from the British Army.Architectural Rendering of Sellersville TheaterToday the property is not only the site of a splendid 19th century tavern and restaurant; but adjacent to this historic structure is the newly renovated Sellersville Theater.

 In the next issue of American Public House Review our correspondents will raise a glass or two at the bar while some of the best musicians in America raise their voices next door. Taps at The Washington House 

Join us for a nightcap after the final curtain call. 

Posted by: Chris Poh, Publisher

Published in: on April 29, 2008 at 3:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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