Woodsie’s, like many old storefronts in Wheeling, looked normal enough. Windows and a large entrance. But in older buildings there was often to the side another door, often unnoticed. Behind that side door are steps up to the second floor. Woodsie’s bar (we said Woodzees) was built like that. Wayne Wood and Bess lived upstairs.
In the summer months of 1964 two twelve year old kids, Mike and myself, would pedal our bikes from East Wheeling to our first ‘jobs’ at Woodsie’s. Mike was Wayne Wood’s youngest son, and he lived in Alley H. Our job at Woodsie’s was to take out the trash, sort the pop bottles for return, and mop the floors. Then on Saturday, Mr. Wood would give us our wages in very official looking envelopes. Two dollars each.
With money in our pockets, Mike and I would immediately hitchhike up to the Oglebay stables and ride the horses for an hour. At first, we had no idea how to ride. We just said “Sure! We ride horses all the time” and before you knew it we were both on a horse. Something not even conceivable now, but that was the ’60s. By the end of the summer we were pretty good at it.
On normal mornings, when not at Oglebay bragging about our equestrian skills, we were there at Woodsie’s. It was interesting to be there. Interstate 70 was being built and there were a lot of people working. The midnight shift workers often came in early for a beer or two and breakfast. If you’ve never worked the midnight shift, having a beer early in the morning might sound strange, but it’s no different than anyone else stopping in after work.
Bess fixed the breakfast for the guys and Mr. Wood worked the bar. Slowly the crowd would thin out until lunch. Looking back now, it was a different time in Wheeling; there was a confidence. It’s sorta hard to describe, but even us kids could feel it. When things slowed down, Bess would sometimes fix breakfast for Mike and I, a mixture called a ‘farmer’s omelet’. Potatoes, onion, sausage all mixed together with scrambled egg. Still think of Bess when I have a farmer’s omelet.
When you’re a kid, summers seem to last for years. Eventually we had to go back to school, but it was good. ‘ Woodzees’ taught Mike and I a lot of things:
– Learned that the Dr. Pepper bottles went with the 7up bottles.
– Learned what a German grease gun was – Mr. Wood had one from WWII in the basement.
– Learned that you traditionally drink home brew very cold and from a tin cup. (Yeah I know, at 12 years old it’s not exactly recommended – but we only tasted it once)
– Learned you can burn garbage in a coal furnace.
– Learned that riding a horse, like many things, is scary at first but was more fun every week.
– Learned the poorest looking people are often the best and the richest looking are often not.
– Learned work is not work if you’re laughing.
– Learned life is best when time doesn’t matter.