In every neighborhood there’s one spot you know as “the hangout.”
That one place you go to take a load off your mind.
It’s that sacred place you find mostly men, but make no mistake you will see the occasional female or two hanging tough. I’ve known a few ladies to drink a few of the guys under the table. They are always welcomed, matter of fact, they are embraced.
I’m talking about the bar. The Saloon. A Gin Mill. The Tavern. Watering hole. Whatever you may call it…it’s all good.
There’s been articles written about them. Movies made and of course commercials shot inside of them. There has also been legendary fights inside and outside of them.
Farrell’s Bar & Grill was the popular spot in our neighborhood. Located on the corner of 16th street and ninth avenue. The official address is 215 Prospect Park West. They first opened the doors in the early 30’s.
At one time, back in the day women were discouraged from standing at the bar, they had to sit at a table located way in the back. Legend has it that the actress Shirley McClain once walked in with the writer Pete Hamill and marched right to the bar and ordered a drink.
I first noticed Farrell’s when I was a young boy. Coming from the 11th street playground over in Prospect Park with my mother on my way home to our five-room, railroad apartment on the corner of Windsor and ninth.
“Ma, what are all those people doing outside?”
As my mother holds my hand crossing the street she says they’re hanging out.
“Can we hangout?” I ask.
“No, we have to go home,” she answers
“Hanging out” was an everyday occurrence for the regulars. Some are leaning against parked cars, some are blocking the sidewalk chatting away as they smoke a cigarette. Look inside the huge window in front you notice a ton of people inside, standing at the bar. Some are looking out the window watching the world go by.
They all have one thing in common; they’re holding a glass filled with booze or a white container of beer.
Ironworkers, firemen, cops, mailmen, housewives, writers, musicians, the suits from Wall Street, a local business owner or two may pop their head in from time to time and the unemployed all are welcomed visitors. Doesn’t matter your occupation. I once saw two teachers from Holy Name stumble out after our lunch hour. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the unemployed, they’re hanging out too.
Jimmy Breslin, The Hamill brothers Pete and Denis have all drank and written about the bar on the corner. Click this link to read about the day Breslin bought the house a drink as told by Danny Mills via Denis Hamill of the New York Daily News.
There’s no music in the joint, just conversation.
“Let’s go to Farrell’s.”
“Meet you at Farrell’s.”
“Gimme a Container…”
The tables in the back are taken by groups of softball players talking about the game they had just played down at East fifth street field. The guys at the bar are looking up at the TV set watching the Yankees, as Pete the bartender yaps about the Mets and there’s a guy in the phone booth off to the right of the bar yelling at his wife who is home coking dinner for the family.
“I’LL BE HOME SOON!” he shouts into the receiver and slams it down. No one notices. It’s too loud. Plus, all the men go through the same shit.
Can’t forget about the guy walking out of the men’s room, pulling up his zipper. Employees are required to wash their hands, why not the patrons?
Head out the side door on 16th street and there’s a small group of guys sitting on the sidewalk playing Acey-Deucey. Each one of them has a container placed on the ground next to them.
A heavy-set girl, probably somewhere around twelve years old is walking back and forth past the group disrupting the game and breaking balls. John, who is not having any luck in the card game is clearly perturbed.
“Hey, stop walking by or you won’t get any cake.”
The group laughs. Keep in mind, if you break chops, expect to get yours broken into pieces too.
A few feet away leaning up against a parked station wagon are two females talking about a hot guy at work.
“Go ahead and ask him out, his divorce is official.”
They both laugh. Hook-ups at Farrell’s are popular too.
Laughs are common at the bar. So is arguing. It’s a spot most go to get away from their problems. A few even drown in their sorrows. Or, like JR Moehringer wrote in his memoir, “The Tender Bar, “Of course many bars in Manhasset, like bars everywhere, were nasty places, full of pickled people marinating in regret.”
It’s a place where you can meet up with your friends and realize your neighbor has the same problems as you. One thing is certain, in Farrell’s, everyone knows your name.
Bobby, a Local 40 Ironworker was down on his luck. He had been unemployed for a few months and had a few mouths to feed at him. Not to mention he was behind with his mortgage payment and he had tuition to pay for two kids; one at Holy Name, the other at Bishop Ford. Work was slow down at the Union Hall. Despite the weather being warm enough, there was no iron being set anywhere in the city.
“Thank God for unemployment,” he said to his buddy Billy as they stood on the corner checking out a female across the street.
“Yo honey, can I buy you a drink?” Jimmy calls out as Bobby punches him in the arm.
Before I hit eighteen, I would hang around the bar and talk sports with the bartenders and the locals. I’d stand outside, and at times walk inside to chat with Hoolie and Gerard.
“REDMAN!” is how Gerard would greet me as I walked through the doors. Some nights, when I couldn’t sleep, or there was a domestic dispute I’d get dressed and walk across the avenue to see Gerard who worked the late shift on Friday nights.
Gerard always placed a glass of coke on the bar for me. I felt like a king as i lifted the glass and slugged my drink like I was one of the fella’s.
“Knicks win tonight?” Gerard asked?
“Nah, they lost again.”
One night at last call, Gerard was about to close shop when someone appeared at the front door. Last call also meant closing time; the front door was locked and the only way in would be through the side door.
“GO AROUND THE SIDE!” Gerard shouted.
A couple of seconds later in walked Chris Mullin of the Golden State Warriors. It was just a few weeks until Mullin would report to his new team after playing four years at St. John’s University. Mullin was a schoolboy legend by way of St. Thomas Aquinas in Flatbush and later Power Memorial and Xaverian High School.
Mullin, standing six-feet, six inches tall came in the bar, said hi and ordered two containers.
Gerard made small talk while he filled the two white cartons and Mullin was on his way out the side door.
They come from all over the city to visit the mecca of beer drinking.