Friday, October 12, 2012

Clarke Bars

FRANK CLARKE
HARD AT WORK
about 1960

My grandfather, Frank Clarke, was, among other things, a moonshine dealer in the Greater Portland area during Prohibition and afterwards.  The basement of the old house on Payne Road in Scarborough was a haven for illegal whisky production.  Many in the family were unaware of this side job.  My mother spoke of her father Frank loading up the back of his truck with produce and meat from the family farm, and jars of root beer, all for sale, and underneath the blanket there was always a row of bottles of the Clarke "home brew" for sale to places like the St. Regis Hotel in Portland and some of the merchant seamen houses along the waterfront, which were referred to as "Houses of Ill Repute".

The tradition of Clarke liquor sales carried through to three of his children, all siblings to my mother, and all who have passed away of this writing.  It is no coincidence at all that they were also three of the heaviest drinkers in the family.  They each managed and owned a number of bars throughout their lives.  Each of these bars was successful in its own laid back, neighborly way.  They were not fancy places, but very friendly dive bars in seedier parts of town.

WILLIAM ARTHUR CLARKE
1936-2011
My Uncle Billy, once he finished up with the Navy, settled in Sanford Florida with his family, yet ultimately moved to Meridian Mississippi in the late 60's.  While there, he opened up small and informal local bars around town.  One of his bars caught on fire (need to get this story).  Another of his bars, the "Bar-B-Q Pit" was in Lauderdale, and is now known as "Jimmy's Pub & Grub", but appears to have now closed down.  One thing Uncle Billy always said was "Let's go on down to the bar and tell some lies!"

BARS ON 8TH AVENUE
MERIDIAN, MS
The two buildings pictured on 8th Avenue in Meridian were both bar businesses owned by my Uncle Billy.  The one on the right was always known as Bill's Lounge.  The one on the left wasn't owned long by Billy, but he sold the bar to his sister Florence Clarke-Brewer, for $1.00.

FLORENCE MAY CLARKE-BREWER
1929-1987




AUNT FLO AT FLO'S LOUNGE

POLAROID ON WALL
AUNT FLORENCE AT THE BAR
FLO'S LOUNGE
ON WALL OF FLO'S LOUNGE
ABOUT 1975


My aunt Florence, whom I only met once, I really connected with.  She was a fun loving lady, but a big fan of the beer.  She bought Flo's Lounge (still in business today) from her brother, and ran the bar for many years.  She died in January 1987 in a tragic car accident on Route 39 involving a drunk driver.

The sign above still stays.  It is, and always has been, Flo's Lounge.  She was a very popular lady, and the patrons of the bar still remember her today.

MARILYN CLARKE-BENNETT
1938-2008
My aunt Marilyn, always known as "Butch", or if you were my Grammy Clarke, you would call her "Putchy", lived in Boston most of her life.  She was a tough character, and was known to have beaten up a few cops in her day.  Aside from her violent nature, she was a sweet lady to her family, who did anything necessary to take care of her own.  Basically, if I were ever in a fight, and Butch were there, I'm certain I wouldn't have to lift a finger, and the other guy would end up in the hospital.

I got to stay with Aunt Butch a couple times when I was in a summer program at Boston University.  I have fond memories of her loving, giving nature, and also of her pirate-like language.  I remember her driving me home to Maine from Boston after one visit, and she sang along with the radio while I slept in the front seat.  Her terrible, off key, singing kept me entertained as I drifted off to sleep.

CLOCK TAVERN
SOUTH BOSTON

CLOCK TAVERN
(INTERIOR)


She was a regular at Clock Tavern at 345 West Broadway in South Boston, a bar owned by Irish nuns, believe it or not.  The Sisters lived upstairs from the bar.  Around 1990, when the sisters were getting on in age, they sold the bar to Butch.  Butch oversaw a massive renovation of the bar, knowing all the while it was a competitor with the very popular, and swankier, Shenannigan's Pub next door.  She opened the pub early, at 8:00 a.m., and stayed open until about 11:30pm, every night, when other bars would close at 2.  After her passing, the bar resumed to normal 10am-2pm hours.

The bar was her passion, and she was a very popular bar owner and bartender.  The draw of the Clock was in its simplicity.  It was the quiet, seedier dive bar you went to with your friends to play darts and pool, listen to the jukebox and drink cheap beer.

My Uncle Billy, my Aunt Flo, and my Aunt Butch are very much missed by our family!

2 comments:





  1. Awww,

    I certainly enjoyed reading this blog !
    It brought back some good memories,
    but brought many a tear to my eye.

    Good job, Scott !!!

    Sentimental ole me.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I just found an Antique bottle that says registered FRANK J. CLARK So. Boston

    its very cool ! musta been beer huh?

    ReplyDelete