A look at
Minonk's past

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Yesterday's bars

By Dave Uphoff

The announcement that the Third Base Tap was reopening for business again brought back memories of the taverns that have been located at the 110 year old building at 140 West Fifth Street. The tavern has the oldest and finest bar fixture in Minonk. It is nice to know that the bar will be preserved and put back into operation.

One of the earliest proprietors of the bar was Tonica Ryan who ran a saloon at that location in the early 1900's. Ryan was the father of Marie Ryan who many remember as being the fifth grade teacher at Minonk Grade School from the 30's through the early 60's. Tonica got his nick-name when he was a little boy and ran away from home and got as far as Tonica.

Some of the oldtimers in Minonk remember seeing the coalminers carry their beer buckets into the side door of the saloon along the alley to get their daily refill after a long day's work at the mine. I remember going into the bar in the morning after working the night shift at the bakery and seeing the bartender lining up warm bottles of Star Model beer for a couple of oldtimers who would proceed to down then one after the other and then head home.

After Tonica Ryan, the bar was owned and operated by Tony Ketchmark as Ketchy's Tap. In the 1950's Joe Copp bought and ran the tavern as Copp's Tavern. In 1960 when I was old enough to start frequenting the bars, being a bartender was a full-time job. Baldy Wypeski worked with Joe Copp. George Sabol ran the Glass bar where Jess's Pub is now. Jerry O'Brien and Howard Parks worked at Al's Tap which was located at the site now occupied by the Bowling Alley tavern. Gil Janssen and his father ran Pinky's and Keggy Vogel ran Keggy's Tavern at the south end of Minonk. All of them wore a white shirt and tie. Some even wore arm bands although I never knew what was the function of the arm bands.

My favorite bartender in those days was Baldy Wypeski at Copp's Tavern. He had a gravely voice with a vocabulary of 5000 words, 4000 of which were cuss words. Baldy didn't want to mess with fancy drinks. Just a beer or a shot. You took your chances if you tried to order a ladies drink like a daquari. Also, he didn't like to prepare food. Once in a while my buddies and I would order a pizza from Baldy. He would grumble and walk over and throw the frozen pizza into the little oven and then proceed to forget about it until he could smell it burning. When he served it to us, he would say, "Looks like I cremated your pizza again." He also liked to give us nicknames. He used to call me Fidel because I grew a goatee one time and he thought I looked like Fidel Castro.

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It seems to me that people dressed up more when you went to a bar years ago. I know most of the women wore dresses in the bar. Also, the juke box was more popular and would continuously play. New Year's Eve was also a big event at the local bars. Copp's tavern would start serving Tom and Jerry's in the afternoon before New Year's Eve and would stay open until 4:00 the next morning. With today's crackdown on drunken driving, people are wisely drinking more moderately in public.

The current complaints of the litter in the city reminded me of how shopkeepers years ago used to sweep the sidewalks in front of their stores every morning. I used to sweep the sidewalks of the post office every morning rain or shine in addition to putting up the American flag. One morning I put the flag upside down on the pole. An hour later, Clarence Block, who ran a cleaners across from the post office and had noticed the upside down flag, called the postmaster and asked if Harry Truman had died.

Years ago many of Minonk's stores had awnings to keep out the morning sun. Part of the morning routine was to crank down the awning and then sweep the sidewalk.

I remember when the city crew in Minonk would routinely clean the streets by hand. Joe Mueller and Bill Kalkwarf used to take a shovel and scrape the curbs of dirt and debris and throw the stuff into a city dump truck driving alongside of them. These men were in their late 50's when they did that kind of work.

Minonk was a lively city years ago. Us oldtimers hope that the city can regain some of its character and excitement.