O'Leary's Tavern

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O'Leary's Tavern

 

I was born in East St. Louis in 1937 and my brother, Daniel William O' Leary, was born in 1940. We lived in a brick bungalow on the comer of College and 18th Street. Both Bill and I attended St. Joseph's Grade School and I went to St. Teresa's Academy and graduated with the class of 1955. Bill graduated from Assumption in 1958.

My husband, Richard Goble is also from East St. Louis. He grew up on a farm owned by his uncle, Joseph Schranz, on property next to Assumption High School on Rock Springs Road. Dick worked after school and over summers helping his Uncle on the farm. Uncle Joe later sold the Bishop the land upon which Assumption was built, and Dick graduated in 1953, the first class from the new school. Dick's family, Frank and Agnes Goble and their other children, Rosemary, Frankie and Phillip (Butch), attended St. Philip's Church.

248-o'leary'stavern.tif (106004 bytes) My grandparents, Daniel and Catherine O'Leary, lived on 18th Street between State and Ridge. My father and his siblings, John, Steve, Ed, Eminett, Vincent and Eileen had lived there most of the time when they were growing up. As a child I'd heard stories of the winter of 1857 when the Mississippi River froze so solid that my grandfather drove a loaded beer wagon from one side to the other.

A lot of my memories revolve around O'Leary's Tavem located at 15th and St. Louis Avenue. The tavern, which was owned by my grandfather, was robbed on the night I was born, when someone hid out on top of the big walk-in icebox until after closing. After my grandfather died in 1940, my dad and my uncles Emmett, Steve, and Ed continued to operate it as a partnership. During World War II gambling was open in E. St. Louis. O'Leary's was a family tavern, but there were a lot of slot machines in an inconspicuous alcove during those years. There was also a poker game on the weekends, with my dad usually serving as the dealer for the house. He was a master card player and won more often than not. While my dad was dealing Poker on Saturday nights, my brother and I would get our baths and our hair shampooed, and then climb into Mom and Dad's bed. My mom would then read us the comics from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch until we fell asleep.

Since my uncle, Vincent O'Leary, managed the French Village drive-in, as well as the Majestic Theater, we also had great times at the movies. The Saturday Cartoon Shows meant Uncle Vincent would drive all of the O'Leary grandchildren to the Majestic. We would be seated in the balcony that had been closed off to the rest of the public. This was done to prevent kids from throwing popcorn and candy down on the heads of first floor occupants.

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After some time my dad and mom bought the other shares of O'Leary's Tavern and continued to operate it by themselves. On Sundays they would go to 5:30 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph's Church and then go to the tavern to clean until opening time at noon. In later years. my brother was also "recruited" to work. My mom did all the bookkeeping, and a lot of my teen aged memories bring to mind the sight of her sitting at the dinning room table balancing the white canvas bags full of money from the previous week. She was a very meticulous bookkeeper, and would spend hours looking for the few cents difference when things wouldn't balance. Food was served at special occasions, like St. Patrick's Day, when Mom made huge sides of corned beef and big commercial-sized bags of cabbage to go with the green beer. My dad finally closed the tavern a few years after Dick and I were married in 1956. There had been several robberies, all of the after business hours, but when there was an armed robbery and the bartender, John Rudolph, was injured, my dad locked the doors and put everything up for sale.

O'Leary's was a nice family place, with TV from the early '50s and tables for ladies. I believe someone once said it was a "place where good friends meet." I can still see the big dark colored wooden back bar with the mirror, the front bar, and the shinning brass rail. Years later, when the fixtures of the tavern were sold, the front bar and the brass rail went to a restaurant that operated under the name, "The Brass Rail."

At St. Joseph's School, the first and second grade classrooms were on the first floor, in front of a large auditorium with a stage. The second floor had grades three through eight, a library and a music room, as well as the principal's office. The sisters lived in a big gray house across the street from the church. Each Christmas in), mom would make up a basket of "spirits" for the sisters that were used "for medicinal purposes only." Sister Hubertine taught us and since she had also taught my uncle Vincent.. we all felt that she was as old as God. Some of my classmates were Jean Hanley, Barbara Cange, Tom McTigue, A] Langer, Jack Halpin, Pat Cusack, Jeanette McBride, Mary Pearson and Dorothy Degnan.

My first Holy Communion was on Mother's Day in 1944. We had to fast as a penance from midnight the night before until receiving the Mass. I don't remember anyone fainting in my class, but three years later my brother Bill did when he made his First Communion. We were required to attend daily Mass on school days and sat as a class, with the Nun seated right behind us. Heaven help anyone who misbehaved.

My dad and all of my uncles were members of the Knights of Columbus. It was a fraternal organization first founded to help Catholic immigrants get jobs and insurance if they were killed from doing their dangerous work on railroads or bridges. To a child, the room at the K of C were cavernous. I have vivid memories of attending wedding receptions in the Grand Ballroom. I also went there to CYO dances. East St. Louis was a very unique place because it was one of the few cities where the Shriners and the Knights were friendly to each other. I guess a lot of them had grown up together. They often worked together for the good of the city. or for a special cause.

The class of 1955, with 97 students was the largest to graduate from St. Teresa's Academy at that time. Some of myclassmates were Jean Hanley, Bernice McCarthy, Mary Hendricks, Bonnie Anderson, Delores and Dorothy Weber, Maureen Christ, Pat Green, Carol Fields, Margie Tierney, Peggy Driscoll, Mona Holleran, Joyce Keeley, and my cousin, Peggy O'Leary

(Theresa O'Leary Goble, S.T.A. Class of 1955, Manassas, Virginia)

 

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