University of Notre Dame Archives, S. J. Prugh, South Bend Tribune, The Dome, The Observer
Editor’s Note: Our summer issue about South Bend included a brief reminiscence about the local places students frequent most — the bars. A few years ago, editor Kerry Temple ’74 shared his personal memories and asked for yours. Here’s his 2012 reflection, our latest Magazine Classic, and an invitation for another round of South Bend tavern nostalgia. Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We never got carded at Louie’s. It was a pizza joint on the corner of Notre Dame Avenue and South Bend Avenue. There were booths and tables and Louie was there, and beer too. Even as freshmen we never got carded.
That’s mainly where we drank as underclassmen, in the early 1970s. It was a short, safe walk south of campus. At some point it became Club 23.
The first campus hangout I patronized was called Frankie’s. My older sister took me there when I was still in high school. It was on Notre Dame Avenue, and Frankie’s would later become Goose’s Nest then the Library. Or vice versa.
I spent my 21st birthday doing bouncy, exuberant polkas at a place on the Michigan state line called Kubiak’s. On Sunday nights we went to B&L, a tavern in Niles because you could drink in Michigan at 19 and on Sundays, and B&L had good ham sandwiches, onion rings and frosted schooners of cold draft beer.
Unlike Kubiak’s — or Shula’s, the bowling alley lounge also along the highway in Michigan — B&L was a clean, well-lit place where boys of 19 or 20 could drink in a man’s bar and feel masculinely mature.
Sweeney’s was a popular downtown bar where Frank O’Malley used to hang out and drink. It had a pool table, a bar that ran the length of the place, and it sold those cool white football jerseys that said “Sweeney’s” on the front in dark green lettering above a green a shamrock. I had one of those.
I also had a Senior Bar T-shirt. The Senior Bar was located in an old, two-story brick house where Legends is now. The house, long gone, was a great place — just an old house full of mostly empty rooms and seniors drinking beer, shooting pool and playing air hockey. Girls of all ages were admitted free, no ID required.
I got thrown out of there one night — literally — but that’s another story for another place and time.
I was in a South Bend bar fight once — in Corby’s, a little dive at the Five Points area (not the newer one between downtown and campus). The fight was about Frank Sinatra. Really. I had interceded as a peacemaker but didn’t feel particularly blessed.
The Five Points area was prime drinking geography in the early 1970s. Along with Corby’s (frequented by seniors only) was Nickie’s and a place called Felix’s that became The Commons. Bridget McGuire’s was there . . . maybe Bridget Maguire’s Filling Station. It’s kind of a blur now. There was another place nearby.
I went to the Boat Club only once. Simeri’s, I’m pretty sure, was before my time — not the one still going strong on Indiana, but somewhere there along Hill Street near Rocco’s. Rocco’s is still a favorite place to go, but even though it sells beer by the quart, it’s a family-style pizzeria not a bar.
Coach’s came and went, or at least converted to a sports-style restaurant-grill. Well, grille.
Then there’s the Linebacker, the ‘backer . . . a place that just makes you smile and shake your head.
Back in my day, we didn’t set out to get drunk, didn’t do drinking games, didn’t celebrate wanton behavior (although I’d be lying to suggest no one drank to excess). We went to these places to let off some steam, to loosen up, have some fun, solidify our deep-felt camaraderie. There weren’t many girls around in those days but we liked to look.
The nights out made us closer.
Mostly we talked, and had another, and talked some more, then had another, then walked back home (or, on special occasions, made it to Fat Shirley’s for a cheeseburger topped with fried eggs and bacon).
These places helped us live the college life, helped us find ourselves, find each other, find our way. And when I now recall my college years, the friendships and times that made us friends — friends that became close enough to warm my heart decades later — those old bars and hangouts were pretty important places for all that to happen.
I don’t think that’s unique to me or my generation.
I’d like to know which places meant something to you — and why. I’d like to know which place was your favorite, or the best, or the place you miss. I’d like to hear some stories (tastefully told please), stories to be shared across the generations, stories that speak of life at Notre Dame.
It might be fun to get a conversation going and see what might happen from there. It could maybe be like sitting at your favorite bar, hanging out, reminiscing, swapping tales, helping each other examine the meaning of life, putting us back in touch with who we are and who we used to be.
Kerry Temple is the editor of this magazine.