Marcia, Marcia, Marcia… No, I’m not referring to the eldest Brady daughter, but (is it possible?!) someone even groovier. This Marcia is the 81-year-old owner and bartender at The Pub bar in Menomonie, Wisconsin, the site of our latest Iowa Roadie adventure.
While the above reference may have you reliving all those Very Brady adventures…Remember when Mike escaped the collapsed mine because he followed the sound of his wife singing Christmas carols? Or how the aforementioned Marcia was dumped after her nose was hit with a football? How about when the Bradys went to Hawaii and encountered the cursed tiki idols? (Bigger question… How could a family of eight plus Alice AFFORD to go to Hawaii…or the Grand Canyon… or ANYWHERE?!
Anyway…Brady memories aside, your next question should be…Menomonie? Where is that, and why would anyone go there? Well, like the Bradys, we are about saving some money…and therefore drove FOUR HOURS to buy windows. Makes total sense. Because there is no Iowa Roadie adventure to be had at Menards.
Anyway, my husband and I loaded up the truck and trailer and traveled into cheese country where we stayed in Menomonie, Wisconsin, a town of about 12,000 people, just west of Eau Claire. Menomonie (pronounced “meh nah mon ee”…not to be confused with “Me No Money” or the Muppets’ “Mahna Mahna”) is home to the University of Wisconsin-Stout campus and its approximately 12,000 students. As it was summer, we did not encounter many students, although we did come across a beer-drinking street preacher who told us that “Jesus hung out with the sinners,” so he was doing the same. (I wondered if we should be offended?)
Our first stop in Menomonie (still inwardly singing Mahna Mahna with the Muppets) was the Abbey Pub & Grub which seated people in cool old church pews. (This, coincidentally, is where we met the street preacher.) Despite its name, the Abbey Pub & Grub did not offer any food other than kettle chips served with an amazing homemade horseradish sauce. They also claimed to serve mojitos.
Now next to the dirty girl scout drink, mojitos are my favorite. Unfortunately, my mojito consisted of 7-Up and some tired looking mint leaves pulled straight from a dying mint plant. The bartender informed me that he was the only person who made an effort to care for the plant. Alas, the God of Herbs (or the street preacher) failed to bless this mint plant, and I speculated a quick demise to the Abbey’s mojito project . (Perhaps Carol Brady’s singing could perk it up?)
Therefore, we left the Abbey and headed down the street in search of the local brewery. Needless to say, we never made it. That is because the Iowa Roadie instead heeded to Rule #3 (Listen up: this is a new one!): When you see a bar that LOOKS like a dive, you HAVE to go in. It’s like Let’s Make a Deal. You never know what’s behind Door #1.
Now for those of you who are unsure what distinguishes a dive bar, here is a Big Clue: It will have an “old school” beer sign hanging outside. This could be Schlitz, PBR or Miller High Life for example. I recently came across a bar with a Blatz sign. (Can one even buy that anymore?) A dive bar will NOT be advertising wine or martinis or my favorite “dirty girl scout” drink. Just plain old fashioned beer. So…when my husband and I passed a faded “Schmidt” sign, we HAD to go in. (It’s Rule #3, people!)
From the moment we entered, we felt transported to a magical place. (OK, perhaps “magical” is a reach. We’re not talking rainbows and unicorns here.) Nevertheless, when we saw a jar of pink peppermints on the counter (right next to a box of home grown cucumbers for sale), we knew “The Pub” was someplace special. This feeling was reinforced when we met Marcia, 81-years old and owner/bartender of The Pub for more than 40 years. Marcia joked that her husband (since deceased) bought the place with the theory that he could blame her if it failed.
(Interject quick history lesson here…The Pub was not always a pub, but a former creamery and soda fountain. In fact, Marcia visited this very soda fountain when she was 12 years old on a school trip, and received an ice cream cone before leaving.)
But now, with nearly half a century of service behind her, Marcia has gained her own cult following. While we were there, two different groups of 40-somethings came into The Pub to reunite with Marcia, their beloved bartender from two decades before, who greeted them all with hugs and $1 Busch Lights, while posing for selfies with them behind the bar. You see, Marcia is mother (or grandmother) to all, and operates the bar six days a week by herself. The exception is football season when Marcia is open all SEVEN days, allowing her fellow Cheeseheads to cheer on their beloved Green Bay Packers.
Now in addition to Marcia and the middle-aged bar alumni, we got to meet some other fun people…like Merv who drove truck and was playing only “singers whose names begin with the letter G” on the jukebox. And while I can appreciate George Strait and Guns & Roses, I deviated from the preferred alphabet letter and played (gasp!)…Kid Rock! I justified my selection in that “K” is only four letters away from “G,” but apparently this was not an appropriate selection. Nor was Katy Perry. Again four letters of separation. (Although my husband tells me that Katy Perry is NEVER an acceptable song choice.)
I also had a very pleasant conversation with a red-bearded gentleman named Hoagie and his wife Barb. Hoagie worked at the wastewater plant, and Barb worked in the kitchen at the local care center. Both were extremely friendly, and Hoagie even sported an old t-shirt from The Pub bearing a slogan with the P-word (rhymes with hiss).
Now I realize many people do not consider this word anything but a verb, or perhaps even a colorful adjective. I, however, cannot bring myself to say the P-word, and therefore could never wear or purchase this shirt. (That…and the only size t-shirt left for sale was a 2XL.) But Saint Marcia presented me with something even better…a jacket with The Pub’s non-explicit logo emblazoned across the back. I felt a little like Sandy in Grease when she slips on that Pink Lady jacket for the first time and goes doo wopping through the school carnival. (Minus the singing and tight leather pants, of course.)
Anyway my new friend Hoagie also had some tattoos that were created using red checkers and guitar string. He claimed they were from a darker period in his life. This revelation did nothing to sway the positive impression Hoagie made with me. Plus it’s hard to dislike anyone named after a sandwich!
As I mentioned, The Pub serves $1 glasses of Busch Light, the Libation of Choice in Iowa. (Did Marcia forget to change her prices over the past 40 years?) These drinks were a hit with my husband, although he did inquire about the availability of PBR. (Please reserve judgement on him.) Ironically The Pub does not serve Pabst Blue Ribbon. While the details are a bit fuzzy, the said story involves an allegation of a PBR sighting in the soda shop during Prohibition.
Even more legendary is the time someone more recently came into the bar with a horse. The reason…a horse cannot get an OWI. This would have been a good alternative for fellow Pub patron Bruce for whom Marcia was calling a taxi, as he needed to some rest before reporting to his job at Perkins, where he has worked for the past 29 years.
It was with great fondness that the Iowa Roadie finally bid farewell to the Pub… but not without receiving a parting hug from Marcia. Leaving I was sporting my new Pub jacket, and my husband was sporting a $1 Busch Light buzz. Better yet…after three hours, several beverages and a new coat, our total bill came to a whopping $16. In the words of the Brady kids, Neat-o!!