Supposing that you were allowed to pay a visit to another time in your life, which would you choose? There is scarcely a month in the year when I pass by 57th and Military Avenue and don’t dream a bit about Louis’ Bar–for this was a very special place in my childhood that I was allowed to share with my father and his friends. To say I felt privileged to take part in this small council was an understatement…and truth be told, I probably didn’t know what privilege was but I did know I was a young girl in a room of men only. It was the same with our visits to the old Arms & Ammo store featured in Mysteries of Omaha: Arms & Ammo (Photo courtesy of the Bostwick-Frohardt/KM3TV Photography Collection at The Durham Museum Photo Archive).
This is how I remember Louis’ Bar except for those bar stools. Now why wouldn’t I remember such a fabulous thing as those? I also don’t recall that cowboy mural on the east wall. Those wagon wheel lights are forever anchored in my thoughts though. Notice that selection of hard liquor on tap–25 cents a shot. One of the many great things about growing up in the 1970s was that there were still pristine environments everywhere you looked– Untouched interiors found in grocery stores, department stores and libraries from the 1950s and 1960s. An interior view of Louis’ Bar, located at 5702 Military Avenue. August 16, 1962. (Photo courtesy of the Bostwick-Frohardt/KM3TV Photography Collection at The Durham Museum Photo Archive).
As I look back on, we only attended this secret meeting place in the afternoon. I recall the sun shining in on our shoulders. Father of Miss Cassette and one of his friends would meet to have lunch and a drink (s), sitting up at the bar of some casual weekend day. This is where I was first introduced to the Louis’ chili footlong, the ultimate sneak food shared between us, as Mother would never have allowed for something like that at home. In fact I wasn’t getting anything near a chili footlong served at home and knew this was a Big Deal. I protestingly believed my family to be the only inhabitants of planet Earth who ate Healthy Food in the 1970s. On the rare Louis’ Bar summit, I was also allowed a soda = A Rare Heaven on Earth Experience. The three of us and assorted other older, solo males faced east on our bar stools with the windows behind us on the west. The Louis’ Market parking lot was out there, as was our family Volkswagon Bug. I can still smell the staleness and cigarettes of the bar mixed with the wafting odors of the grill, even though the doors would be propped open at times. No music. No television. Faint talking and the clinking of glasses and forks on their plates. A well-worn 1940s linoleum floor. 70s man stuff. It was divine.
The eastern half of Louis Bar was their popular, always chockablock package store. It was a treat to be summoned on a package run with my father to restock our family bar in anticipation of a house party. That old, solid bar was built into our 1950s basement and featured a Formica top. My father kept his light up tube stereo down there, which I would die a thousand deaths to own now. The Parents Cassette did a lot of socializing back then, I suppose, and I fondly remember their warm, candlelit, shag carpeted parties–listening from atop my stairs to the adult gales of a laughter and complicated story lines, of which I could make almost no sense. But back to Louis’ Package: I remember some creamy liqueur featured near the front counter in a pink frosted glass, almost like milk bottle with a cow logo on it. I recall it came in chocolate and strawberry and seemed to enchant me. It really drew me in, in a possessing way. Imaginably, I was not the only child or childlike adult to fall prey to this creamy delight. I wanted to taste this drink so bad! It was like those frozen tv dinners from the 70s, featuring illustrated characters on their packaging—a marketing magnet for kids. Despite my begging, my parents would never let me get those gimmicky products. And this strawberry, creamy, cow liqueur, of course, was off limits to a child.
Back in the early 70s I figured that Military and the Northwest Radial wraparound must have been The Thoroughfare to the epicenter of Omaha. After all, it transported us to our home, Louis’ Bar, the Benson Library, and the very modern Safeway Supermarket right on the corner of 60th. I was also keenly aware of St. James Orphanage just north on 60th, which held a certain air of baffling mystery to me as a child. Dark and magical secrets, piquing my inquisitive nature. But more on that adventure later.
You may have picked up the clues already: My Omaha Obsession has a new web design as of today. Thank you to Appsky Labs and specifically, web developer, Melissa Buffalohead. appskylabs.com. They were a true dream to work with. As you may have guessed, Miss Cassette is no techie and regrettably, quite opinionated and particular. Not a good combination. Appsky Labs did all of the gruesome work and just let me sit about and obsess in matters of taste. So poke around here with your flashlight. Investigate. Hide in the shrubbery. Look under these rocks and down those alleyways. I am more than pleased to have you tiptoe about. By the time you head for home, I hope you have been fully Sherlocked and Satiated.
RIP Louis’ Bar. 1930s-2013.
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