Tales Out of School . . . Bars

Author: Notre Dame Magazine


In the fall of 1966, we freshmen didn’t go to bars . . . to drink. At ages 18 and 19, we only went for the pizza.

Frankie’s, down Notre Dame Avenue, was a fine restaurant and bar close to campus. It unfailingly required IDs. We couldn’t get a beer there even if we tried. Louie’s, a bit further down, was the “intellectual” bar, a status none of us had yet acquired.

Rocco’s! It was down South Bend Avenue a bit. But, like the others, its ID requirement relegated us to . . . pizza.

Wait, what’s this? A smoker at Rocco’s. What does that mean? Watch the away game in its basement. Eat pizza and maybe have a beer, or two. It was worth a chance.

The basement was a bit scary. As I recall, it was small, no windows. We crowded in, filling all tables. The black-and-white TV was high enough that we could see well. Of course, they served pizza. And beer. No one asked for my ID — I must have looked well over 21.

Quarts! Several of them! Not only was that the best pizza and beer I ever had, we cheered loud and hard as Oklahoma fell 38-0.

Frankie’s and Louie’s are long gone. One must-stop when I return to campus is Rocco’s. All those memories come back. The same family, gracious as ever, still owns it. And the pizza and beer still are the best.

— Dave Redle ’70


Not an exclusive ‘Club’

Carroll Hall Vermin referred to Club 23 as “Planet 23” in recognition of its eclectic blend of middle-aged locals, ex-clergy, burnouts and students. You knew you were there when you could smell stale beer, hear crunchy carpet and see the dull haze of cigarette smoke.

The first Friday after winter break in 1991, we had just sat down with a pitcher when Indiana’s Excise Police sealed both exits looking to make quota. Not to worry, we thought, since we were of legal age, so we slowed our pace and waited for the crowd to thin out one inquisition at a time. Once cleared, even those over 21 had to leave until the police had checked everyone.

Dave had renewed his license in Nevada over Christmas. It had a new design that apparently no other state knew about, so the rest of us spent a snowy, sub-zero, no-bathroom hour in the parking lot while the cops phoned the Las Vegas Police Department to verify Dave’s age.

Club 23 always held an inflated place in our memories, and we always looked forward to catching up there during football weekends. More than a decade ago, the inevitable happened when we attempted to meet there: Our beloved 23 was gone! Nothing, not even the parking lot. Our hole-in-the-wall was literally a hole-in-the-ground. Apparently, a shooting that wounded two students outside the bar in 2007 hadn’t been good for business.

— Matthew Caito ’91

Black and white photo of the facade of Corby's bar
Stephen Moriarty ’69, ’80M.A.


Under Corby’s influence

Understanding that 250 words would not do justice to Corby’s influence on student life in the early 1970s, I present relevant bullet points and a personal note or two.

· Second semester sophomore year I procure a fake Pennsylvania driver’s license and admission to Corby’s, thus graduating from Rocco’s. I quickly familiarize myself with the staff, local patrons, student imbibers, the pool table and 80-cent quarts of Busch beer.

· Notable highlight: 1973, Notre Dame 24-13 over USC. Game day, 10 a.m., I’m in charge of dispersing 50-cent double bloody marys. Postgame, hundreds gather to party in the intersection as Corby’s fills to capacity. 1 a.m., Corby’s runs out of beer.

· Notable Corby’s men: Gasman, Loadman, Wildman, Redman, Raitman, Budman.

· Notable visitor: After delivering the el squasho on a hapless wrestling opponent in Elkhart, Yukon Moose Cholak spends late night hours at Corby’s and, gentleman that he is, leaves his wife in the parking lot.

· Notable event: As Corby’s allegedly sold more Busch beer than the rest of the taverns in St. Joseph County combined, the company films a possible national TV commercial from Corby’s. It opens before noon. Beer is free. The tavern is packed. No footage is appropriate for national viewing.

I was fortunate that I had an extra year to enjoy the tavern’s camaraderie as, for some reason, it took me five years to graduate.

— Jerry Bradley ’74


Ring Club

As the drinking age vacillated between 18 and 21 in Indiana and Michigan, finding the appropriate bar was a never-ending search for my buddies and me.

Road trips in those days were relatively rare until we had access to our cars as upperclassmen. A favorite bar on Sunday night was Kubiak’s, just across the state line in Niles. Polka dancing, cold beer and standard Polish fare were a great way to spend the evening.

Most of the time we hoofed it from the circle to our weekly bar of choice: Corby’s if we wanted to play pool anywhere besides LaFortune, and either Louie’s, Rocco’s or Frankie’s if we just wanted pizza and beer.

Our go-to senior year was Frankie’s. Less than a mile from the circle, straight down Notre Dame Avenue, Frankie’s became the site for the Ring Club.

After receiving our class rings, celebrating became an every-Wednesday (over the hump) routine. Our numbers included Phil Michaels, John McNulty, Tom Flood, Larry Burns, Steve Flood, Greg Stepic, Rich Ruddy and me and a few others, depending on the demands of the week. After a celebration of our rings, we indulged in pitchers of cheap beer and pizza after pizza after pizza. Dividing the bill was always a nightmare as we were strapped for cash, but we always managed to scrape together a respectable tip.

— Dorn Kile ’72


A Tip Top experience

I joined the Notre Dame debate team as a freshman in 1958. Our schedule included a spring tournament hosted by the Navy Pier branch of the University of Illinois. My excitement bubbled. I hadn’t visited Chicago before, and this tournament was my first.

Our coach drove us to Chicago, where we stayed at the Allerton Hotel.

The Navy Pier campus was a wooden structure built to house Navy recruits during World War I and converted into classrooms, meeting rooms, an auditorium and offices. White-painted, weathered, worn and running the pier’s mile-length; a letdown to my grand expectations.

The debate was fierce, but we triumphed. The trophy was a sweet reward for hard work.

Following dinner at the hotel, Coach bid us good night with a command: “Enjoy your evening but behave. Remember, breakfast at 7:30 and leave for campus at 9 sharp.”

The hotel’s Tip Top Tap was a swanky lounge that had hosted the likes of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball. The atmosphere was electric: a large bar with cozy tables in front of a piano-playing emcee named Sam.

A master entertainer, Sam riffed while trilling the keyboard, regaling us with jazz, blues and rock ’n’ roll, mellow sounds like Nat King Cole’s, a wild rendition of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” and a honky-tonk version of “Alley Cat.” Fabulous!

We finished our drinks at midnight and called it a wrap at the Tip Top Tap.

— Fred Fitzsimmons ’62


When Elizabeth Taylor wanted to dance

My high school buddy Mitch’s office was down the street from Notre Dame’s London Law Program, which I attended in 1986. Sometimes I would meet him for high tea at Brown’s Hotel. He was so fancy after a few years in London, eating hamburgers with a fork and knife and extending his pinky while drinking tea.

Sometimes he and his girlfriend would take me to Annabelle’s, a private dinner club with a set menu and dinner times. One night Elizabeth Taylor and George Hamilton sat down late at our table. Hamilton was pretty quiet.

Taylor had the most amazing purple eyes and kept looking at me while chatting. Mitch’s girlfriend, who was sitting next to her, later said she sensed a cougar vibe and felt Taylor was not thrilled to be with Hamilton, who was ignoring her and enjoying his scotch. They both looked pretty drunk.

I guess I sensed it, too, and had I been sitting next to her things might have been different, but I was sitting next to Hamilton, and I was getting his vibe that this woman was trouble.

When dinner was over, she asked me to dance. Hamilton nudged me. I politely declined.

Mitch’s girlfriend made fun of me for not being able to say I had danced with Elizabeth Taylor. I said, “How many people do you know turned down Ms. Taylor?” None.

— Timothy Farrell ’85

Notre Dame Magazine invites personal essays of no more than 250 words on subjects of nostalgic interest to alumni of all ages. Here are upcoming topics, deadlines and details about how to submit.