Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tending Bar in the Midst of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Yesterday, Kat at Keep the Coffee Coming posted a series of along related to drinking, beginning with Drinking Wine Spo-dee-o-dee and ending with Hangover Blues with One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer and Show Me the Way to Go Home sandwiched in the middle. Since I am still in the ruminating mood that I’ve taken pleasure in for the past couple of days, listening to those songs reminded me of the summer I worked as a bartender. I realize that I haven’t told that story; a tranquil Sunday morning such as today seems like an excellent time to share that brief time in my life.

When I graduated from the University of Kentucky I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and given an active duty reporting date four months hence. I sought work for the summer, but because I had only four months available the only job I could find was as a bartender at the Officers’ Club at the Bluegrass Army Depot near Richmond, Kentucky.

Among other missions given the Bluegrass Army Depot was the storage and destruction of over 500 tons of chemical weapons of mass destruction, including but not limited to blister agents, GB nerve gas (Saran), and VX nerve gas. One would think that being in the midst of so many agents of death would hinder one’s ability to work. I never even thought about the chemical weapons!

My primary job was to operate the small bar on the Officers’ Club golf course and occasionally tend bar at the main bar within the club. I also acted as a short order cook, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers—cheezburgers (but not for LOL cats) for a nickel more—and deep frying French fries.

It was basically a quiet job at the golf course bar. On weekdays perhaps a dozen or so golfers would drop by the 19th hole after a round of golf. These golfers usually ordered beers and would sit at the tables and brag, embellish or maybe complain about their round of golf while I stood bored behind the bar.

Of course, I did have a few regular non-golfers. These were serious drinkers who seemed to prefer the solitude—and anonymity—of the usually empty golf course bar.

One was a civilian employee who generally dropped by after work three or so times a week. What I remember best about him was that he wore the worst toupee that I have ever seen. He always sat at the bar and ordered double Scotch and sodas (seventy cents at the then Officers’ Club prices). Inevitably I had to “cut him off” and send him home before he became too drunk to drive. I learned that the time to send him on his way was when his toupee began sliding off his head.

Another regular was a women civilian employee who drank daiquiris. Since I had never trained as a bartender, I had purchased some books on mixing drinks and believed that I was quite proficient, since I had experimented with drink mixing quite a bit and my experiments tasted fine—to me. This woman, however, brought her own packaged daiquiri mixes to the bar and all I had to do was add the booze.

She would come in each Friday and place three of the packaged daiquiri mixes on the bar. As she finished one drink, I would have another ready for her. After she drank her three daiquiris she would pay the tab, including an absurdly large tip for me considering that all I had done was mix powder and booze, smile, and leave.

I learned quite a bit that summer, some of which was invaluable later in my military career when I was investigating larceny at a non-commissioned officers' club in Germany. But that’s another story that I will share at a later date.

In remembering those days and Kat’s post, I’ll end by sharing one of my favorite love songs, Scotch and Soda, sung by the Kingston Trio.

Scotch and
Soda ~ The Kingston Trio


  1. I love reading people's memories Nick,yours are so interesting!

  2. my international business and culture teacher told us that one of the best things he could recommend for us to do is sign up for bartending classes immediately, as a good summer job and a way to make some fast, pretty easy money. After this point i think i will! sounds like a good opportunity to people-watch.

  3. I enjoy stopping by you always have great posts.

  4. I've worked behind bars too. Quite an educational job, I felt. If one's a student of human nature, behind the bar is a good place to hear lots of strange things!

  5. Akelamalu : Thank you. I keep forgetting that I have memories and experiences to write—until something like Kat’s post reminds me.

    The Mighty Beluga : I fully agree with you international business and culture teacher! And, yes, tending bar is a grand job for people watching—and to gather memories for blog posts.

    Mike Golch : Thank you. I really appreciate your words.

    Puss-in-Boots : I so agree! I certainly learned plenty about human nature from tending bar.

  6. Nick,
    That is my favorite Kingston Trio song. It was on the jukebox at the cafe in college, and I played it again and again.

    It had been on Coffee at one point so I didn't repeat. I'm glad to find it here!

  7. So you are saying that you did not do the Tom Cruise Booze Juggle from whatever movie that was... i keep hearing the Beach Boys song kokimo in my head bu i can't remember the movie title.

    You went to the University of Kentucky... the undefeated University of Kentucky? The ones playing Alabama next weekend? It is going to be a good game!!