After all the stress we just went through on Election Day— no matter which side of the fence we’re on— memories, today, might make us feel happy, although maybe for baby boomers, they also might just make us feel old. That’s what happened to baby boomer writer Bill Cushing of Glendale, California, when he read the obit of a man who gave him great joy— and lots of beer— when he was younger.
Of course I feel old! I’ve retired, registered for Medicare and Social Security, and gained weight… along with wrinkles, age spots, and stiff, noisy joints. Also, I’ve seen celebrities and artists I grew up with pass away.
But I’ve managed to take all that in stride.
However, on the day before my 68th birthday, I read of the passing of Frank Mockler, which truly marked the “passing of an era.”
Who was Mockler?
He founded Patrick’s Pub, a place where most of us raised in New York’s Little Neck area cut our drinking teeth. He made his name by introducing his own blend of Irish coffee at the 1964 World’s Fair. In 1966, he opened Patrick’s. By the seventies, he and his brothers had two other locations under different names. Although famous for its corned beef, Shepherd’s pie, and black and white pudding, my preferred dish was its steak and eggs, a meal with which I ended many an early morning after spending a night in Manhattan.
My first visit to Patrick’s would be my 18th birthday, when my dad bought me my first legal beer. People piled in every St. Patrick’s Day as pipers played throughout the evening. Cheers had nothing on this place.
But my greatest memory of the pub (and the first to come to mind, after reading Mockler’s obit) was Christmas Eve, 1972, when a friend and I decided to go to Patrick’s to hoist a few.
The place was crowded, but we managed to get a table in the dining area. Ordering our pitchers and an appetizer (to justify taking the table), we drank in Christmas. That’s when Santa Claus appeared.
“Ho! Ho! Ho! Merrrry Christmas everyone.”
There he was in all his glory. The outfit and beard were perfect, but the voice was the real attention-getter. Our faux Santa wended his way to the first table, sat down with two couples, and started singing “Jingle Bells.” Everyone in the place joined in while Santa sat there conducting the chorus with a mug of beer. The song done, he stood and moved to the next table. Once there, he started in with “Silent Night.” Now everyone quieted down to reverently sing it.
That’s when I noticed that Santa was refilling his mug from their pitcher.
The tune over and all applauding, St. Nick now moved to another table and began singing “Oh, Christmas Tree.”
And, of course, refilling his empty mug from that pitcher of beer.
“Check it out,” I nudged my friend, pointing. “Santa’s getting tanked— with everyone else’s beer.”
And so he was.
We noticed he never hit any table that didn’t have a pitcher within reach. Our Santa was discriminating, leading revelers who had beer in their pitchers in song, while draining the contents of whatever pitchers they had.
So join me and raise a glass to Frank Mockler and people like him. They give us great memories as we move along in years and make getting old worthwhile.
Bill’s book of poems is, “A Former Life.”