|Stew at the helm of Ralph Hicks's Alsager off Antigua|
Back in the day, the social if not exactly the cultural hub of Newark, Delaware was the Townie Bar at the Deer Park Tavern.
Back in the day -- that is, when there was a day to be back in -- Newark was a quaint college town with but three places to buy a drink. One of them was the Deer Park Tavern, which Edgar Allan Poe is said to have cursed when he got falling-down drunk following a lecture at the then mens-only Delaware College and was thrown out onto Main Street. The Poe story is apocryphal because the tavern didn't exist when the legendary poet-storyteller gave the lecture, but that hasn't prevented owners past and present from plastering raven images on T-shirts and other stuff.
The Deer Park back in the day
There was nothing new about the Deer Park back in the day except fresh coats of shockingly white paint on the Townie and College Bar ceilings every year or so after they would turn a bilious yellow from cigarette smoke.
The tavern's glory days were long in the past and beyond the memories of all but the most elderly tipplers. The Townie Bar underwent a metamorphosis from daytime to nighttime as most of the old timers moved on and the dirt and decay, as well as the bright glow of the neon beer signs, disappeared behind thick clouds of cigarette smoke. The two constants no matter the hour were the smell of cigarettes and beer and the likely presence of Bob "Stew" Stewart and Jim "Muggs" McGinnis, who while not passionate about having to toil as house painters, reveled in storytelling, drinking shots and beers (usually "black and tans" drawn half and half from kegs of dark and light bargain-basement lagers and chased with rye whiskey), as well as clobbering all comers as members of the Deer Park's phenomenal softball teams. This was in the early to mid-1970s.
Stew and Muggs will be remembered at a . . . what to call it? How about a Scots-Irish wake and celebration. It will be held on Sunday, January 15 at 2 p.m. at the Blue Crab Grill in Suburban Plaza off Elkton Road in Newark about two miles south of the Deer Park. Stew died on November 30 at age 69 while Muggs left this mortal coil on December 3. He would have been 73 this month.
Back in the day and for a few years before moving on, Stew and Muggs painted houses in Newark and Wilmington, or anywhere there was a buck to be made.
For Stu, that was sailing yachts from New England to Florida or the Caribbean in the fall and then back again in the spring when he was not painting houses, and later working as a plumber.
For Muggs, that was indulging his passion for opera and fine literature when he was not painting houses, and later working as a water engineer and full-time father when the mother of his children died.
Stu grew up in Nottingham Green off West Main Street in Newark and was a graduate of Newark High School. He is survived by two daughters, a granddaughter and three brothers.
Muggs grew up in Wilmington and was a Salesianum School grad, where he had been a quarterback on some of Dim Montero's legendary football teams. He got a full ride to the University of Delaware, blew out a knee but stayed on and graduated. He is survived by a son and daughter, two brothers and two sisters.
|One of the championship softball teams. (Muggs is third from upper right)|
As the names implied, the Townie Bar was for locals and College Bar was for university students. This segregation was not enforced, but we looked down our noses at the mob of students who stood three and four deep around their bar on most nights, especially Thursdays.
Even though they were only a few years younger than us, we believed ourselves to be worldly wise while they were naifs. We were ready for anything, or so we thought, because we had gone out into the world and had its measure. Or at least had begun to figure it out. Some of us had survived Vietnam and some of us were working at the Chrysler assembly plant and in shipyards and factories. A few were even teaching those students, who we believed had no time for anything beyond slamming down drafts and doing shots of tequila.
Back in the day, the Deer Park was a retreat from that all too real world and a great equalizer where a pipe fitter could hoist a pint with a PhD. For the students looking through the door into our smoky lair, Stew, Muggs and the rest of us must have seemed terribly grown up. I suppose we were.
YACHT PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN DILL, SOFTBALL PHOTO © FRED COMEGYS