Big Moose bar helps wayward boys to grow

My mother hit me upside the head when she caught me drinking beer in the Big Moose bar up the street from where we lived.

I was 16 years old at the time and sipping a Ballantine beer with a friend from Dobbins Technical High School. Someone must have ratted me out as my good friend Joe Walsh and I — both young white guys — drank in the African American bar in a section of Philadelphia called Brewerytown.

Joe was a year ahead of me in school and had just introduced me to what he called a “Sneaky Tine.” That’s a Ballantine beer with a shot of red liquor mixed in.


Rite of passage helps boys become good men despite their faults

I never got a chance to drink more than a taste of the beer when my mom entered the bar, dragged me out and started to hit me on the head. “Is that’s what you do with the money I give you?” she shouted at me in the early evening hours. It was still light out and all I kept thinking was of the humiliation I felt in full view of everyone I believed watched it.

I could have told mom I was spending my own money which I made as a messenger boy at a printing place in center city. But I kept my mouth shut and took the punishment like a man. Embarrassed, but a little wiser.


Big Moose played an important role in my oldest brother’s passage to adulthood. George and a bunch of older teenagers had broken into the bar and stole beer and soda. He was the only one caught and was given a chance by a judge whether to go to jail or got into the army. He chose the latter and made a 22-year-year career out of the military. He helped to pave the way for me to become an officer in the army years later with both of us ending up in Vietnam at different times in our lives. (Meanwhile, my drinking buddy, Joe Walsh, became a homicide detective in the City of Brotherly Love.)

The bar no longer exists. The building has been converted into what looks like a small apartment complex. Driving past it the other day I couldn’t help but recall how much it played in lives of my brother and me. It provided us with a “rite of passage” of sorts. It helped to make us grow into the salvageable men I believe we later became.


15 comments on “Big Moose bar helps wayward boys to grow

  1. I hate the thought of this as a parent, but I think all kids need a surreptitious rite of passage, or one that feels illegal (with the parents, not the gov’t).


  2. sarafryd says:

    Michael this is wonderful. Haven’t heard from you for a long time. Glad you are well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      Me too. I hope to finish a book of posts I wrote here and dedecate it to ny gandson whose brith is being induced tomrrow His name is Jameson and will be delivered in Lancaster, PA, God willing.

      Good to hear from you too!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Oscar’s candy store was where my mom found me swooning over a song on the jukebox. She came equipped with a fine leather strap which she applied generously as she marched me home chanting my curfew time with each contact of the belt! It was only a half block but, it felt like a mile of embarrassment. I did not risk being late again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      You gotta love the moms that tried to teach us young whipper-snappers about right and wrong. We all have stories on growing up while exploring the “wild side” so to speak. It was our way of testing the envelope for our growth!


  4. contoveros says:

    The following are comments shared at the Facebook site:

    Tamara Ambros
    Love the old memories that paved our way through life. Thanks for the smile on my face right now.
    Old memories are sometimes the best ones.
    Actually, I never heard of new memories except In a psychologist’s office.
    Tamara Ambros
    What is a new memory? Something you are doing right now or planning to do in future?
    — Yes to both questions.
    — Like the ones we are making now!

    Sharon Sabrarose Ivanov
    Wow a homicide detective! Kinda interesting… Do you two ever get to talk now? OX
    No, he lost the love of his life right after high school. The young girl left Joe and went into a convent.

    When I met Joe more than 20 years later, I learned that she had left the convent and was back with Joe. But I haven’t heard anything from him or his new “old” girl — “Mac” — in recent years.

    He’s no longer with the police force after retiring several years ago.


    Nadja Dalantinow Cross
    Funny how 50 years later you meet old acquaintances. Back then social media was meeting in the lunchroom
    Have you had contact with our friend Jane Searles? I saw her at a VFW gathering a few years ago.
    But I am in contact with Rosemary DeRosa, Tamara Ambros and Peter Demchenko. We had a get-together two weeks ago and hope to meet again in the fall. A few of us attended the 50th reunion last year and met socially soon after.
    (Tamara actually wrote some things for this Blog.



    Good to hear from you Nadja. Please stay in touch!


  5. says:

    What a great story. George never told me about his past experience. It does explain so much about him.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this story, Michael. My Mom would have “hit me upside the head” too. Thanks to their dedication to steering us in the right direction, we become the good people we are. – And thanks too, for you and your brothers service.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. paulifeblog says:

    When the drinking age was 18 and we were 16 its only 2 years…….but we had mothers who saw it differently. I can totally relate to this story.

    Liked by 1 person

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