Opinion

Jourgensen: Set ’em up and knock ’em back

By popular demand, I am boarding the Time Machine for a virtual tour of Lynn’s old watering holes with a resident West Lynn expert as my guide. 

Most, if not all, of these joints have fallen to the wrecking ball or changed names a half dozen times over the years. But they once were neighborhood gathering places or dens of iniquity, depending on your perspective, that were a part of local residents’ lives in a bygone age where life was defined by working an eight-hour shift, eating lunch in a diner, cafe or cafeteria, and stopping in for a beer and sometimes a beating. 

Our journey begins in Central Square at the Cameo Lounge once located hard by the commuter rail tracks. My resident expert tells me the Cameo was a decent place to dance to rock and roll bands. 

The Cameo was across the square from Huntt’s, and the Castaway Lounge, so my guide tells me, was across the street from Cal’s News. “It was owned by two cops,” he said and, more importantly, it was as far east as any intrepid West Lynn resident ventured.

The Coral Room was also located by the tracks and it was known as an establishment catering to perhaps a more respectable clientele (“mucky-mucks” is the description provided by my guide) along the lines of the Hotel Edison’s bar and Anthony’s Hawthorne. 

“You wouldn’t pay a buck for a beer in the Coral when you could get it around the corner for 15 cents,” he said. 

Wander through the square in the direction of Union and Washington streets and you ended up at the Crystal owned by Ernie Dow and John Spina. “It was the last bar in Lynn with a black and white TV,” our guide informs us and located down the street from Cronin’s, rated by our guide as one of the “toughest” bars in bygone Lynn.

Tony’s was located at Union and Washington across from the Dubonnet which sported a round bar. A handy Polk street listing guide identifies three bars on Spring Street, including Rick’s Lounge and the former Celtic Cafe. 

“You’d start to feel good at the Crystal and then go around the corner to Rick’s,” says our guide.

There’s no overlooking the Pinecrest in Central Square where country and western music played upstairs. 

True to his West Lynn roots, our guide hustled us over to Lennon’s Bar and Grill, later known as the 50 Club. Guffer Murphy’s was located opposite Lally’s Cafe. “It actually had saw dust on the floor. My father used to put me on the piano and let me sing Irish songs,” our guide tells us. 

Kenny’s Lounge was owned by Kenny Reed and located at Nelson Street and Western Avenue. Ranked among former local establishments that were not for the pacifistic, Kenny’s was often a transit point, along with Ruthie’s for West Lynn drinkers who might end up at the Flamingo Lounge, aka “Flam..Bam.”

Our guide remembers the Arena as one of Lynn’s toughest bars, but “owned by a nice family.” He recalled the Emerald Cafe as more of a workingman’s bar located on Commercial Street just before the railroad tracks. Frannie McDonough owned the Erin Cafe and two other bars, and the Venice Cafe on Spencer Street also had a tough reputation. 

A longtime friend recalls how she was instructed by her parents to cross Boston Street instead of walking past Frank’s Sea Grill, and our guide notes that any West Lynn bygone bar tour must include the Dreamwold (not “world”) Cafe, Whelan’s and the Cedar Lounge. 

Of course, due tribute must be paid to the former Blue Moon and the bars with one predominant clientele or another across the city, including the late 595 Cafe, Bennie’s and the Lighthouse on Washington Street before it became Fran’s and before it fell to the wrecking ball. 

Simard’s, our guide informs us, had a rough reputation on Union Street but the Red Fox up by the Fayette Street fire station was a nice place. The Shawmut Grill, we’re told, was also known as “Divorce Court” because drinkers prone to infidelity were invariably bagged by their spouses drinking in the Shawmut. 

Our guide tells us the Shawmut was also a popular Thanksgiving drinking spot for those attending the English High-Classical High football games. 

In a similar vein, the Latin Villa had a downstairs bar that allowed patrons to stay out of sight and out of mind. Ruthie’s was “a cowboy bar” and the Lithuanian Club was nicknamed “The Lit,” according to our guide. 

Over at the Somerset, the cook prepared the hot dogs in beer and the Gaelic Club served a River Works clientele. Let’s not forget the White Eagle or the former Wortman’s on Lewis Street. The Kennedy Lounge had a pool hall downstairs and the Silver Swan tucked off Union Street on Blake Street was rated by our guide as the “filthiest bar in Lynn.” This sounds like an unkind ranking but apparently the city fathers saw fit to locate a police substation near the Swan. 

No respectable bar guide forgets the Golden Circle or Four Winds or the Time Out Lounge once located on Broad Street. 

I never darkened its door, but my favorite bar because of the way its name was spelled and where it was located, had to be the Klub Kar. Tucked beneath the commuter rail tracks at 71 Mount Vernon St., the Klub Kar closed in 1987 but not without a last hurrah: A Daily Evening Item story described how patrons protested the bar’s demise with a demonstration complete with chants and placards. 

For Lynn’s legendary watering holes, last call has come and gone. 

 

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