Friday, March 28, 2008

The Red Door, Celina, Ohio

After my Air Force years, still not quite ready to do college full time, I wandered back to Celina, Ohio, after a time living in upstate New York(Rome). Worked for a while back at the old Huffy bike factory, then in Coldwater at Paxs, and finally a year as a custodian for Celina Schools while I attended a class or 2 at Wright State University Lake Campus. My main "watering hole" was a little place called "The Red Door" on Main Street, I, and a few hundred others had been hanging out at The Door since our high school days in the mid 1960s...folks came, and folks went, but those of us drawn back to Celina always, it seemed, managed to meet back there.

The Red Door, located at 211 South Main in Celina, had began, best as I remember from the stories, back after World War II, as the "White Front" first recollections were later on, in the early 60s when it was filled with pool tables and became a high school and young adult hangout called "The Golden Cue"....eventually a bar, strobe lights, and black lights were added, along with the famous Red Door. The place started out simple enough with tables, beer, and pizza, but as it grew, the sit down crowd was run out and it became a pretty hard core rock and roll and hard drinking bar. I started as a nightly visitor back in 1967, when the drinking age was 18 for 3.2 beer....I would also stop by nightly on my leaves from the Air Force, and finally when returning from Rome, New York, in 1973, I reverted to my old habits.

By the time I returned to Celina, the Red Door had changed hands, and a retired funeral director from South Dakota, Wayne Hohlman, had taken ownership, He had not really considered himself a bar owner type of guy, but had purchased the joint for his son to run, which didn't pan out. I met Wayne while hanging out at the Door in late 1973....I first got to know him well when a drunk from Chicago punched Wayne's lights out on the lighted dance floor, my buddy Mike Schilling(later to become a Celina Cop) and I jumped the railing and took turns kicking the Chicago boy's ass, finally running him out the door and into a parking meter shoulder first....I remember the defeated idiot's final proclamation as we walked back inside...."I'm from Chicago, and I'm gonna bring my boys back and kick your asses"....laughter was the only reply from us.

After sitting back down at the bar, Wayne whom I had met on a customer/owner basis bought us a beer, sitting down, he says "Thanks, this place is a zoo, you know, I need somebody to run this place, you interested?"...well, I had a few months left on my custodial contract with the schools, and was working from 1 till I say, "Sure, if you can work around my hours until I'm done with being a janitor"....Wayne agreed and thus began probably the wildest 1 1/2 years of my life, full time from the spring of 1974 until heading off to Hocking Technical College in the winter of 1975. I was the head bartender, bouncer, bottle washer, cook, and cash collector for the infamous "Red Door".

High school friends, new acquaintances, hangers on, Disk Jockeys, and others became nightly visitors to the house, and I became frequent visitors to theirs as well. For the 20 month stretch, I took only one vacation to Florida, and worked 6 days a week the rest of the time, and even on Mondays, my day off, I would be at my bar all reality, The Red Door was my home for that entire time.....and through the good and bad, it is one of the most vivid memories I have of any period of my life.

Wayne, who passed away back in South Dakota, a few years back, sold the place in 1976. It became Bumkins, a few other names, and finally today is called "The Fuse". Seems the Fuse owners want to bring back those days from 40 or so years ago, and are having a Red Door 40th Reunion on Saturday April 5th....already been told "You have to be there, you were one on the main players"....main player?, I don't know, the one thing I do know, if I had not quit the Door and headed off to college and then marriage, I probably would not be here typing this this today.....I did just about anything and everything back in those days, I don't regret it one bit, but, I'm glad it was only for a short period of my life.....I loved the place, but I aged pretty quickly when I was running the joint.

Jim Olson, Rick Pearson, Rick Tester, Bob Jones, Randy Winkeljohn, Nick Hromish, Herb Stanfill, Jerry Jones, Mike Schilling, and a few hundred others hung around with me and at the Red Door back then. Most are still around here today. Old Herb has passed away, Jim is in North Dakota and I see him a time or two a year, Jerry is in California, but the rest I see on more than an occasion a year, and are living within 50 or so miles.

The Red Door, back for 1 night this April 5th....I have a double header that afternoon, but will probably use shoe leather express and walk up, and see who else hobbles in after all these years.


The Red Door as it looks today, now the Fuse....the flyer for the 40th Reunion of the Red Door... me(L) and Jim Olson our resident DJ at the Red Door, on our summer of 75 trip to Florida....that was pretty much the final days of the Red Door for me and Olson, he headed back to North Dakota that fall, and I headed off to college, the rest of the gang, including Rick Pearson, my best man, shown with me(top photo) on my wedding day in 1976 in Wisconsin, pretty much broke up. They went off to work, college, marriage, and different ways of life, fortunately I still am in contact with most of the guys......those days can't be repeated, but they can't be forgotten either.


Buck said...

...I probably would not be here typing this this today.....I did just about anything and everything back in those days...

I have a similar story, Pat. Unlike yours, mine is not about a specific place, but more about the attitude I had until about age 30. I credit The Second Mrs. Pennington with saving my life. I was on a very bad road when I met her, and she turned me around.

I'm convinced my life would have had a pretty bad (and early) end if it weren't for her...

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Those are great stories, and great hints of more to come. I'll enjoy reading about the reunion.

Jack said...

Pat........we will be at "The Door" on Saturday..(all the way from Coldwater).....I will bring the old red door mascot may know him as 'KNAP'