Drinking with the Animals

December 18th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Eagles, Owls, Lions, Moose and such were oases in the West Virginia desert. When I came of drinking age (18 for beer and wine at the time), WV sold only that soda pop called 3 point 2 beer. That is, the alleged beer could be no more than 3.2% alcohol by volume and was generally even lower, below what even British pubs serve.

eagles

Moreover, the town where I spent my summers and holidays was in a dry county. That was, a dry county of no liquor stores, no booze, beer or wine in restaurants, and no bars, except for fraternal organizations.

Surrounding counties had beer joints, generally called taverns. All they offered was pickled eggs on the counter, maybe burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, and bottled lagers. My grandfather favored National Bohemian (Bo). My sister and I would have dueling orange sodas — Pal v. TruAde.

If you wanted a real beer, you could head North the PA or MD or East to VA. That was too far if you wanted one or two beers on a hot day or cool night.

Instead, men went to visit the animals. All the birds and mammals were really bars, as were the American Legion, VFW and such. To this day, I think of those opaque glass blocks that formed the exterior walls and where the windows would be as VFW brick. Of course, they were where transparent windows normally would be, except they hid the disgrace of non-productive time for men doing something still seen as sinful by much of the populace.

For us late teen types, there was that other problem. None of us was a war vet; we didn’t belong to those. Nor were we family sorts who were part of the Moose, Elks or other animals.

The Order of the Owls flew to our rescue. Just outside of town on the highway was an Owl’s Nest. This was not the Independent Order of Owls related to the Freemasons. As I recall, this was the Loyal Order of Owls. Membership required showing a driver’s license and buying a membership card for (ta da) $2.

For that, you were an Owl for a year. There was burger-level food, but guys were there for a local beer. Hampshire County regulated this as a fraternal organization. After all, you were a dues paying member.

There wasn’t much memorable about this roadhouse, except for a particularly dexterous waitress. She was middle-aged, our mother’s era, but she could pour. From the first visit, we were impressed. Five of us sat at a round table. She brought five bottles and five glasses pressed together into a glass castle. In one motion, she set them all on the table, with the glasses facing us. She quickly pulled back, taking the five bottles toward her and in the same motion, arced them to the glasses’ rims. She quickly and neatly poured all five simultaneously and slowly enough that no foam frothed over. Next, she set the bottles down and in a final motion, spread the five glasses, three with one hand and the others with her second, so each of us had a full glass in front of us.

That’s not exactly high stagecraft, but it was better entertainment than we were used to for the price of a beer. I bet she got good tips. She did from us.

Hoot.

That Nest and those days are gone. There’s a state liquor store on Main Street/Route 50 in Romney. You can get a mixed drink as well as milder stuff at restaurants throughout the county. The grimy glamour was more remarkable.

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