Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Stag Bar

To some of us, the stag bar at the 63-Club (later the China Seas, when the Navy took over its operation) was our home away from home -- the place where we gathered to unwind and be among friends.

It was sort of a cross between Cheers, from the TV series of the same name, and Monks, the diner on Seinfeld. Everybody knew your name and nobody was a stranger after his first visit. By your second or third visit, there was a good chance that Pete or Bobo, the regular bartenders, would have your usual drink ready by the time you made your way from the entrance to the bar.

It was located in a small building just a few yards away from the main entrance to the 63-Club. We'd sometimes stop by the stag bar for a quick cold one after work, then head over to the main club for something to eat. If you didn't want to make that trip, you could just order whatever you wanted to eat at the bar and the bartender would call it in. A few minutes later someone would deliver it or the bartender would make a quick run over to the kitchen to pick it up.

The stag bar was populated mostly by singles and a few of us married folks whose families were back in the States. It was a "safe" place for both groups. You could be yourself, have a good time, not spend very much money and mostly stay out of trouble. It was a refuge of sorts.

It was nothing fancy, just a few tables and booths, a couple of pool tables, a jukebox, a shuffleboard table and the bar along the back wall. Sometimes a card game or two -- mostly pinochle or blackjack -- would break out, often lasting all day on the weekends, with players shuffling in and out.

When I arrived there, it was a males-only environment. No wives, girlfriends, or anyone of the feminine persuasion was allowed, period. But one day the earth shifted on its axis. I remember clearly the afternoon when the door flew open and in walked a fit looking female who wasn't smiling. In her best command voice she proclaimed, "I am a petty officer in the United States Navy. I am going to sit at that bar over there and buy myself a drink." Everybody just went back to whatever they were doing and that was that. The next day a couple of other females wandered in and within a month the plate on the door was changed from Stag Bar to Casual Lounge. I don't think I ever saw that first female sailor in there again. I suppose she decided that she'd made her point and that was enough.

There was a brief period when someone set up a couple of beer cases to serve as a backstop at the end of one of the pool tables and craps became the game of the day. Some fairly serious money changed hands some nights and the club management (by then it was the Navy) banned the game within a month after it started. Most games were low stakes, like the occasional card games, but every now and then some of the players would get a little carried away.

There were occasional disagreements in the place from time to time, some of them pretty heated, but I never saw anything close to a fight or even a shoving match in the stag bar during all of my 15 months in Taipei.

We probably would have been better off spending all those hours doing something more constructive, but all things considered, my memories of the 63-Club/China Seas Club stag bar are very pleasant ones.



Lacey said...

I remember the Stag Bar. This would be 1969. At happy hour, they had free food. If we didnt have any money, we'd go to the stag bar and eat for free. I also remember pin ball machines. First time I ever played. Loved them. There was also a rum drink that i was quite fond of, but I can't remember the name. It was fruity. Wow. Memories. Things I thought I had forgotten. Mullins, Jeff Dinsmore, Don Smith, Ken Royce, Terry Goodbody, Stanley Rupe...

Don said...

Lacey, if we're talking about the same Ken Royce, he was there as a YN1 when I was there in 1973-74. He worked just down the hall from me. Married to a local girl, as I recall.