Playing Pool, Pee Wee Herman and Tequila – Pt. 2 New Glarus Road


This is the second installment of a group of memoirs about my travelings through a small town in New Glarus, Wisconsin. To read the first installment, go here.

The bright July sun baked the inhabitants of southwestern Wisconsin that year.  My family once again stopped by New Glarus on the way home from our camping property.  We were disappointed to find that the New Glarus Bakery no longer operated their upstairs cafe, only the storefront bakery was open.  It was my first lesson in the fact that each moment must be enjoyed to the fullest because it is a rare occasion when its luxury can be repeated.  My best friend since kindergarten was with my family this time.  She, being two years older than I, had already past the awkward first stages of womanhood, and was flashing her perfectly shaped legs in short, shorts, on the street side of the sidewalk.  I, on the other hand, still had braids in my hair.

As a weekend destination, many of the restaurants for tourists were not open during the day on weekdays.  Our options were limited.  So, mother led the way to a little bar next to the bakery.  As we walked in,  we felt the eyes of many small town regulars follow every move we made.  Even though the quaint town had become a place tourists stopped by, it was evident that we had tread upon sacred ground reserved for locals only.

The room was a cave compared to the light of the summer day.  The odor of cigarettes and beer were very unfamiliar to me.  My family of faith included generations of ministers, and an atmosphere like this was completely foreign to me.  Shortly after choosing our table, it seemed that the staring eyes were finally able to tear themselves away from the cityfolk who had invaded their territory.

Trying to feel more at ease, my mother’s eyes roamed the room.  “Look girls,” she coaxed, “A jukebox!  I haven’t seen one of those in years.”  And handing each of us a quarter, we edged our way toward the wall with the currently quiet contraption.  Due to my sheltered childhood, I struggled to find a familiar tune.

“There!”  I said to my friend, “Eye of the Tiger!  Isn’t that from the new Rocky movie?”

I can not tell you the stir our choice started.  If it wasn’t obvious before that we didn’t belong there, it was completely obvious now.  But undaunted, we were determined to have a good time.  Noticing a pool table in the middle of the room, we asked my parents if we could try playing.  Notice the word TRY.  I had never played pool before in my life.

My friend, thoroughly enjoying every cowboy-want-to-be eye on her, began stretching across the table every which way.  Next, it was my turn.  BAM!  My ball went across the table onto the floor.  There was a long collective draw-in breath.  I looked up, afraid to make eye contact with anyone, but looking for some reassurance.  Finally, one man in overalls and a baseball cap with the name of a manure company embroidered on it, smiled… then chuckled, and pretty soon he was slapping his knee and laughing.  Slowly, like the “Hallelujah Chorus” one man joined in, and then another, and another…until I was laughing too.

Suddenly, we were no longer on foreign soil.  We had become a part of the town of New Glarus.  We belonged.  Looking back on it, the scene reminds me of the movie “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” when he has offended the inhabitants of a biker’s club and they threaten to kill him.  Giving him one final request, he plays a song on the jukebox and dances for them winning everyone over….except we didn’t get a free motorcycle.

Has an event ever seemed to break the spell of an unfamiliar and unfriendly place?  Tell us about it.

Go here for next story…

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30 thoughts on “Playing Pool, Pee Wee Herman and Tequila – Pt. 2 New Glarus Road

  1. Nice tension breaker at the pool table. I can relate to the awkwardness of the ‘between child and woman stage’ and how it’s worse when a friend is already on the other side.

    I enjoyed part 2. Thanks for sharing your memory.

    • You are more than welcome. It’s fun remembering childhood events…My friend, was so lovely and was boy crazy so much before me, I remember feeling a little abandoned. Actually I don’t remember every detail. There are parts of this story slightly fictionalized.

  2. When I think of Wisconsin…it’s curious to think of tequila.

    When I was in France as a student, there were LP’s in the rec room. I found one English record of Billie Holliday…I had never really listened to her, yet her words in that setting were so familiar. Others in the room smiled as I instantly identified myself as American.

    • Haha! Georgette that’s funny! I would say that’s true for me as well. I guess that’s why I hope it to be a great hook title…I love your story…and my daughter would be very jealous of you…she would love to go to France, and she loves Billie Holiday. You should blog about that story some time.

  3. Thank you my precious friend for taking me down memory lane. Brings back alot of memories of your summer cabin out in the woods in WI. We had some wonderful awesome adventures up there in the summer that I will never forget. I think you added some fiction when describing me (your too funny).

  4. Many years ago, I was on staff at a science fiction convention hosting a number of Brits from various shows like Doctor Who and Blakes Seven. One of the ladies, the actress Sally Knyvette, was a very beautiful, stately, and seemingly aloof person, while the rest of her fellow British actors were much more open and warm. One of her costars, Michael Keating, decided to “”have her on”. Earlier in the day, I and some of the staff had taken Michael to the Michigan City (Indiana) beaches, and on the way back, we passed a sewerage treatment plant. Once we explained what it was, Michael launched into a comical “tour” scenario of the plant. He decided to drop this on Sally. A group of us, plus a large number of businessmen, were sitting in the hotel bar with Sally, when out of the blue, Michael starts in on his “sewer tour” routine, using me to supply confirmation. Sally sits through all this, then asks Michael again what the place was. When he re-stated it was a sewerage treatment plant, she exclaims, in a VERY proper British accent, “What, a SHIT factory”?
    Dead silence for 5 seconds. Then the entire bar, EVERYONE including the businessmen, bust out laughing uproariously. Completely out of character for Sally, and definitely NOT what the business crowd was expecting!
    I hope I didn’t sound like I was trying to “one-up” you. Your description was wonderful – I could just see the first guy to laugh. Matter of fact, I think he lives just down the road from me. 😀

  5. Boy, I was right there with you on that one! There are moments in your life that feel so foreign, but if you are lucky enough to be incorporated into the mix, it’s great. Sort of reminds me of one of the Sister Act movies when the nuns go into the bar and play the jukebox. Love awkward moments…they are so fun to write about!

  6. I remember being about your age when one of my mom’s cousins took me to a little grocery/bar/pool hall near my grandmother’s house. Seems like I remember the ball doing the same thing! I really felt out of place, but everyone there knew who I “belonged to,” though I didn’t know any of them. I was very awkward and shy, now I’m just awkward! LOL Thanks for sharing.

  7. So, so nice! I love the ball flying across the table and onto the floor and the subsequent laughter. I remember bowling once–I threw the ball down my lane so hard it bounced over into the next lane. I cringe, even today, thinking about it. Love these vignettes of small towns.

  8. What a great story! I think that in those situations when people see that you’re willing to take a risk (of embarrassing yourself, for example), they more readily accept you. Nicely done!

    • Thanks! Yours was amazing too, I felt the rush of adrenaline at being approached by the young men and wondering what they were going to do next. Then I experienced your elation at having earned their respect. Have fun in Chile! (My aunt was a missionary there for 26 years!)

  9. Pingback: A New Point of View – New Glarus Pt 3 | Journey Towards Epiphany

  10. Pingback: Obstacles in the Journey – New Glarus Pt. 4 | Journey Towards Epiphany

  11. Pingback: All Roads Lead to New Glarus Pt. 1- A Travel/Memoir Series | Journey Towards Epiphany

  12. I love this story dearest! Your purity, innocence and fear are palpable. I love that you were ultimately welcomed. I love you!

  13. Pingback: All Roads Lead to New Glarus Pt. 1- A Travel/Memoir Series – Retelling of a Story | Journey Towards Epiphany

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