Those Were The Days

Those Were The Days, My Friend

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Those Were The Days, My Friend

Written and sung by Mary Hopkin

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And think of all the great things we would do

Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I’d see you in the tavern
We’d smile at one another and we’d say

Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days
Oh, yes, those were the days

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me?

Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days
Oh, yes, those were the days

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh, my friend, we’re older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same…

Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days
Oh, yes, those were the days

"Will That Be All, Sir!"“Will That Be All, Sir?”

Once upon a time there was a tavern, where we used to raise a glass or two. In fact, once upon a time there were four taverns where we used to raise a glass or two, as we gathered after work. Only one is in existence today, but in the mid ‘70’s, these were thriving businesses that had very convenient hours, were all within walking distance in the loop, and as one closed, we moved to another, then another, then another, until the evening was through. Rush hour in Chicago in those days lasted until 1 or 2 am, or until the Last Train to Clarksville was leaving the station, (I remember reading all of Charles Dickens’ works while standing outside on the platform between train cars on the South Shore Line.), unless I drove into work.

There was the Aquarius Inn, where we spent most of our time after work, drinking pitchers of beer, brandy and soda, or rum and cokes, and eating Greek Pizzas. We’d keep the swizzle sticks on the table to keep count of how much we drank. We had a regular table in the back near the jukebox, and were there five nights a week, playing the jukebox, conversing, arguing, and laughing. No subject was taboo.

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We would spend hours trying to figure out things such as the words to “My Favorite Things”, or the names of Santa’s eight tiny reindeer, or the names of the Seven Dwarfs. We’d argue about which was the better movie – “The Deerhunter” or “Apocalypse Now”. We’d try to remember the words to “The Ballad of the Green Berets”. We’d talk endlessly about World War II, religion, and politics. We’d insult one another, each other’s families, and anybody else that happened to wander by our table.

We had who we called “The World’s Greatest Waitress”; she would make sure we never had an empty glass. She retired on our tips alone. We drank pitchers of beer – with one rule – each person at the table had to have his own pitcher – no sharing.  One time, my drinking buddy Ronnie got under my skin so much that when I went to the men’s room, I took some paper towels, removed the circular odor fighter from the urinal (much like a hockey puck-shaped moth ball), and slipped it into his pitcher of beer while he wasn’t looking. He didn’t even notice until it plopped into his beer glass as he emptied his pitcher, just as another one was being delivered. Ronnie wasn’t too happy about it, but it didn’t ruin his evening.

The Aquarius was “Cheers” before there was “Cheers”. The nightly ritual began with just me and Ronnie, but eventually our ranks grew to include four or five regulars. Usually, they all left when the Aquarius closed at 9 pm, except for the Big Dummy and Little Buddy. Sometimes The Doctor (later known as Ted Nugent) would make the trip from his wooded compound in Indiana to join us. They began to stick around for further frolicking, and soon discovered the bevy of attractive waitresses we would run into on our adventures.

After the Aquarius closed for the night , we moved to King Arthur’s, where we drank yards of ale or beer and ate the most wonderful white cheddar I’ve ever had. They had a big, round block of it sitting on a table, and you could help yourself to the cheese and little rye bread slices. After King Arthur’s closed at eleven, we had two choices, the Bar 181 or the Bar RR.

My choice was always the Bar RR Restaurant & Lounge, which was a Country & Western Bar in the basement of the Greyhound Bus Station.

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Their claim to fame was their house band, The Sundowners…and other guest celebrities, (“Continuous Entertainment Nightly Starting at 8:30 PM”), and 30 different types of Chili (“Get Into Orbit With Our Chili”). You could order the Chili Mac Tamale Cheese Bowl, The Chili Mac Tamale Cheese Salami Bowl, the Chili Mac Tamale Ham and Cheese Bowl, and my personal favorite, the Chili Perch Cheese Bowl. From the Char Broiler you could order such things as the “Buffalo Bill” Beefburger, The “Jim Bowie” Polish Sausage (A BIG ONE!), and the “Chief Sitting Bull” Francheezee – you get the idea.

sundowners1usethisoneThe Sundowners

The dance floor at the RR was always entertaining, from suited banker types, to cowboy wanna bes hanging out looking to score for the night, to barflies who were always smashed, and, more often than not, the dancing midgets, dressed in full cowboy regalia. You didn’t dare make any comments out loud about the midgets – they were a feisty group, and ready to “throw down the gloves” at the slightest provocation.

This was an excellent way for me to get over both my recent divorce – and avoid rush hour at the same time! Being single again meant I had plenty of time on my hands after work, and had nowhere to be and no one to be there with.

Our last stop, one of desperation to get another drink, was the Bar 181, which was right across the street from the Aquarius, which is where we started the evening! I never really liked the ambiance at the 181 – it was full of too many people who had way too much to drink, and thus a little too dangerous to be in so late at night.

Once in a while, after the Aquarius closed, we would go on a road trip (in my car, of course). Our favorite stops on the road trip included Grace D’s Island House on Belmont Avenue in Chicago.  You had to get “Buzzed In” to enter the place.

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Once inside, you found yourself in a unique Polynesian setting where, while you sipped your cocktail, you could listen to the sound of a waterfall and Hawaiian music, gaze at tropical fish, and watch the tropical birds fly freely around the bar. Many a time I had to cover my martini with my hand, lest something other than olives would end up in my drink.

Another favorite place of ours was Resi’s Bierstube, on Irving Park Road. They had a wonderful beer garden out back, and everyone in the place spoke mostly German.

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I often wondered about this place, as, in those days, they had an awful lot of German Army war memorabilia on display, and usually had some old guy sitting at the bar wearing a German Submarine Captain’s hat. The beer and Brats here were outstanding however.

After the Bierstube, we’d stop in at Zum Deutschen Eck, which was the consensus favorite of our group. It had a horseshoe shaped bar, a plethora of liqueurs from all over Europe, and German beer on tap.

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Every Friday night, they had a “Sing Along”, led by their German Oompah Band. We sang along to such classics as:

  • Drink, Drink, Little Brother Drink Trink, Trink, Bruderlein, Trink
  • The Lonely Goatherd
  • Bell Bottom Trousers/Be King To Your Web-Footed Friends
  • Waltzing Matilda

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When we were done frolicking at the Eck, we usually went home, but sometimes we’d end up in Clarksville at the Grapevine Lounge for vintage jazz, or at the Airport’s Shannon’s Landing for Irish music, or at Spiro’s Country and Western Bar in Indiana, a truly transcendental experience.

This period of stopping at various establishments lasted from 1975 through 1978, which I affectionately refer to as “The Lost Years”. Our little group lasted until roughly 1985, but the pace of the Lost Years was never to be repeated. Those were some wild and crazy nights – but were great fun. Those were the days, my friend!

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