(photo from compujeramey’s Flickr)
Dad: Uncle Jerry’s in town for the wedding already. He got in and he’s probably at Gene’s funeral this morning. I didn’t go. I went to the wake, I was an hour in line.
Me: How old was he?
Dad: He was 85. Aunt Carolyn called and told me it was all around the neighborhood that Gene had died. She said I just knew you’d want to know …
Me: Was that the bar that had the fire?
Dad: No. That was Kennedy’s. Kennedy’s was down an old dirt road off Catherine Street. We called it Burma Road. It was like a secret road. The original Kennedy’s was down there. Across the street was this place owned by Mrs. Tutuska. She served Hungarian food. We just called it Ma Tut’s.
Me: Was that a bar, too? Was it a restaurant?
Dad: It was a bar with a back room. So one of the first sheriffs of Erie County that I remember, B. John Tutuska. His mother was Ma Tut. She was in her eighties and she tended bar. She closed at 9 p.m. She never asked for I.D. We would go in their after our baseball games and have a drink. It was where you went to have your first beer. We all thought, who’s gonna bust Ma Tut, when her son is the sheriff?
Me: Gene McCarthy’s…
Dad: There was no fire at Gene McCarthy’s. Gene sold it about five years ago. And, ironically, the guy who bought it hits from the other side of the plate. And I guess he’s pretty open about it, too.
Me: No shit?
Dad: Yeah. He’s got a foreign name too.
Me: How did that go over with the regulars?
Dad: I think it’s fine. But things are changing there. I guess John McCormick was telling me, you were there, that they have a Buffalo beer tasting club, and McCarthy’s is on the rotation for beer tastings. That’s different for McCarthy’s (laughs).
Your uncle Jerry and his buddies actually had a coffee club that met at McCarthy’s every morning for coffee. They’d come in every morning and shoot the shit and Gene would open for them and have coffee with them. Uncle Jerry, Billy Black, Tony Corso, some other guys.
They’re all older than me. Anyway, there’s this kid, he’s not a kid but he’s slow, this kid who works there and mops up, we’d call him a “jack,” and he’s been there for years, he was mopping up not too long ago after the new guy took over.
Uncle Jerry was the first one there and banged on the door and said, “Let me in.” And this guy just shakes his head “no.” And keeps mopping. So Uncle Jerry bangs on the door and says, “Hey! Let me in!” And he says no.
So finally Uncle Jerry says, “Open the goddam door!” and the kid comes to the door and says, “Sorry, Jerry. But he said I can’t let anyone in when he’s not here. I don’t wanna get fired.” So Uncle Jerry goes in and says, “Don’t worry, I’ll talk to him and tell him I made you do it.”
So Gerhard shows up. That’s his name, Gerhard. He’s into soccer, too I guess. There’s soccer stuff all over the bar now. The other boys get there and Gerhard is there and he says, “Sorry, it’s not you guys, but I wanted to make an impression on him not to just let anyone in when we were closed.” So Gene isn’t showing up to join them for coffee because he was enjoying his retirement, and they didn’t feel kicked out exactly, they just weren’t overly accommodated. They had to start going somehwere else for coffee. And Tony’s dead. That’s McCarthy’s, in the Old First Ward.