Memories of Northside summer nights: Beer for Dad, creme soda for the kids, gossip for everyone


When I was a kid in North Minneapolis in the 1950s, every house had a porch, and on a hot summer Sunday night around 10:30-11:00, when the bugs would ease up, people would be sitting there trying to cool down before heading upstairs to that hot bedroom with the electric oscillating fan. My dad, my older sister, and I would walk up to Charlie’s lunch counter (and 3.2-beer-in-the-back joint). We would wave to the dark porches at every house. Couldn’t really see them, but you knew they were there rocking in the dark in a wicker chair covered by an afghan.

There were two beer joints on every block on West Broadway. We’d head up the street to Charlie’s after the 10:00 news on TV with my dad’s box of 10 returnable brown Grain Belt bottles. Same drill every time. He’d say “Fix this pair up with a couple of creme sodas” to the matronly woman behind the counter. She’d say “Hi, Pat, warm enough for ya? Tommy? Can you drink a whole one or do you want to split it ‘vit ‘ya sista,” and just open two bottles anyway. My dad would head to the back beer garten and see all his friends and have three or four glasses of beer lined up that he had to finish by the time we would bloat out on the creme sodas and go back in the beer garten to collect Dad and leave. He always left with us. We overdosed on creme soda. Neither me nor my sister will drink it now.

On the porches, wives would wait for their husbands to walk home from the local beer joint. Premature widows would just sit and think about how, despite all his faults, they wished they could see him walk up the front steps out of the dark just one more time. That was back when people lived in neighborhoods and there were big “secrets” that everyone knew about anyway but just pretended they didn’t—so as to leave some intrigue and mystery and keep things interesting. Finding out the very latest was the reason for the sun to come up the next day.

Miss those days.