25 February 2024

The Bar

Most people have memories from various bars over the course of their lives. These memories may be good ones from the times when they were the happy center of attention or it was a gathering of good friends, a time they hoped would never end. But then, some could also be bad memories. A time when bad happenings affected their life, or they made bad decisions not easily undone.

My memories of bars started in a 3.2 joint in Wichita, drinking red beers and playing pool with, at that time, a good buddy. We were both underage, but other customers in this establishment were scarce and the bartender didn't ask to see IDs. Next came my part-time employment in one of the first Pizza Hut franchises. The owner of a 3.2 beer joint leased space in a defunct barber shop next to his bar, set up the pizza shop in that space, and sawed a window in the interior wall between the two businesses so that beer could be pushed through one way while the pizzas went the other direction. The boss' waitress cum mistress usually took care of any business conducted at the window. It wasn't exactly Cheers, but everyone seemed happy to be there. After that came the Army's NCO Club, which advanced ten-dollar chit books to its clientele, so that any broke NCO who wanted to could still wet his whistle. Of course, come payday, the chit book recipient immediately paid off his debt to the club.

Then, in early '71, a new job came along and the memories changed. Seems criminals and undercover Special Agents tended to operate in the dark corners of life. Bars were one of the accepted meeting places. Turned out, anything could happen in a bar.

One night, I dropped into a mob owned bar in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Sitting up to the bar counter with a drink in hand, I gave a dollar to the waitress and asked her to to get me a pack of cigarettes. She took the dollar and walked to several places in the bar before disappearing in the back room. At no time did she approach the cigarette machine set along a nearby wall and in plain view to me. When she returned, she handed me a pack of cigarettes. The pack had no license or tax stamps on it. This pack was either stolen from a warehouse, or bought clandestinely out the back door of a tobacco factory. No idea how many cartons of smokes were involved.

On a different night, but still on the Missouri side of the river, my partner, a KCMO vice-cop, and I had a federal arrest warrant for the son of a capo. We went to a night club owned by the capo, found a secluded table and ordered drinks. When the waitress brought the drinks, we told here we wanted to speak with the capo. Five minutes later, he showed up at our table. My partner explained that we had a federal arrest warrant for his son, but we did not want to disturb his wife or his home life, so we came to him here. He replied that his son would be in our office early Monday morning. Then. to show his thanks for our discretion, he said the drinks were on him. We did now wish to offend him by rejecting his offer, nor did we want to be in his debt for anything, so we left a tip for the waitress large enough to cover the drinks plus a nice tip.

On the Kansas side of the river was a biker bar known as Mother Pearls. I once bought a small quantity of crystal meth in one of their rest rooms. The purchase turned out to be crystal, but not methamphetamine. In those days, if the U/C guy got burned on a buy, he either got the money back, or he made the burn up out of his own pocket. Making up a burn was usually a long, involved story concerning bad decisions on someone's part. Sorry, but these stories are best told in a bar......if told at all.

Further up the river in St. Joe on the Missouri side one night, I was in a bar with an informant and a surveillance team. After a couple of beers and a no-show on the potential defendant's part, I made a trip to the head. As I stood there, a large, rough-looking guy appeared on each side of me. "Hi, Pockets," one of them said. "How's your evening going?" Turned out they were ATF agents that I knew. I was there to buy drugs and they were there to buy guns. Trouble was, our informants were trying to buy from each other. We called it a night and drove home.

There are plenty of other bar stories, but I'm not at liberty to tell most of them.

Like I said, anything can happen in a bar, plus everything may not be as it first appears. Mysteries abound, plots hatch, and con men flourish. Perhaps it is safer to curl up with a good book, like the Murder Neat anthology, and just read about what happens to other people in a bar. Someone might get murdered in their bed, or even in a dark alley behind a bar, but at least it won't be you.


  1. Love your last story, RT!- truly had me giggling (I started to say snorting, but realized that might be too much of a groaner of a pun.) As usually, your posts are highly entertaining!

  2. Loved your story - that last line is great.

  3. R.T., for a guy who looks a tad like Captain Kangaroo, you've sure lived on the wild side.

  4. Thanks for the comments. We just returned from out of the country where cell and e-mail coverage was was poor or none. Now, I'm running to catch up with everything.


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