Friday, July 25, 2008

Reminders From a Distant Past

This is a cocktail napkin from the Old Town Pump, arguably the first "singles bar" in Chicago (it opened before the famous Butch McGuire's). It was located in Chicago's Old Town, not far from where I live now, from the late 1950's through most of the 1960's. It was sometimes known as a post-college "rah-rah" bar, where the boys often wore plaid bermuda shorts and the girls, beehive hairdos.

My late husband Jules was a co-owner, bartender, and guiding spirit behind this place; running it was a highlight of his life. It was a part of his life that he talked about until the end. He made many lasting friendships there, and so did I.

I met him there in 1964 (no, I wasn't much of a drinker or bar person, but the Pump was like a social club). We didn't marry until 1970, when the Pump was only a fond recent memory.

During the past two weeks, I have been reminded of the Old Town Pump by two things: a dinner with four old friends from those days (old as in both age and time, although I am a bit older than the others) and an encounter with the Old Town Pump slides, the pictures I took there of parties, Old Town Art Fair celebrations, and other days and nights of revelry. Taking pictures was my way of feeling useful, since a full evening of drinking beer was far beyond my capacity.

The dinner (the same group, with a few variations, has met occasionally in the last few years) was a nostalgic occasion. I believe that four of the five of us met our husbands at the Old Town Pump; one never married. Of the rest, only one has a living husband. Three of us are widowed. Two have grown children; those two also have grandchildren. All but one of us are retired from a variety of careers. All but one of us seems to walk with difficulty; we're all a bit overweight. We are all reminders of the passage of time.

The dinner conversation was punctuated by "Do you remember such-and-such an event or person? Do you remember when (so-and-so) did . . . ?" That brought up memories of the OTP slides, which were frequently shown during events at the Pump. While slides were the medium of choice then, I long ago switched to color snapshots, and finally, to digital photography. The old slides sat in my closet and gathered dust.

Fate intervened in the person of a lovely young woman, the daughter of another, somewhat younger Old Town Pump couple. She found me on line through my books and my blogs, and emailed me to ask about OTP memorabilia for her parents' wedding anniversary--the 40th, I think. Lisa came over to look at the slides, and I gave them to her. She had them copied onto a DVD, with music. Relieved by her help in clearing out my messy closet, I forgot all about the slides until that dinner with the "old guard."

I found Lisa's email address and asked for copies for myself and the others. She graciously agreed to bring over copies, and we watched the presentatioon together. There were the years 1966-68, when I was in my thirties and reasonably attractive--except for one picture of me with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth! I hardly ever smoked. I must have been a bit crazy then. There were pictures of people I haven't seen since the sixties, many of them now deceased.

There, of course, was my late husband, young, handsome, and smiling. In a way, the slides were reminders of the passing of time and of my aging. However, I was able to chuckle at the way we acted and dressed then. It was a different world, one I'm glad I experienced. I'm much different now, and I'm glad that I'm still around to see this DVD. I await my friends' reactions, and I've been told that this DVD may be posted on You Tube. If it is, I'll post a link here. We all need to explore where we've been. Doing so makes it easier to deal with an uncertain future.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne


Anonymous said...

Marlys, what a lovely essay! Makes me wish I could hop a time machine and go hang out at the Old Town Pump with you back then.

Mary Wagner

seniorwriter said...

Thanks, Mary. I understand that you and I will be sharing a speaking platform at IWPA in September. Eventually, we'll need to decide who is going to talk about what. I love blogging, especially since I don't have a real job anymore.