Missing The Odd

My dad used to own a bar.  For those of you in dear old Ireland (and other places) you may refer to it as a “pub”.

I liked that bar.

It wasn’t a fancy place.  Nothing high fallutin’ about it.   It was just a gathering place.

Anna was the cook.   I think of her often.

Dad ran it.  The boys helped.  Every once in a while I would get to.   I would stand behind the bar and wash the beer glasses and mugs.  There was a three sink system.  Hot soapy water with scrubby things that were suctioned to the bottom of the sink.  The glasses were turned upside down and scrubbed up and down in the hot soapy water.  Then dipped in the blue water.  I don’t have a clue what that was.  Then dipped in the cold for rinsing.  Dad said the difference from hot to cold killed any germs.  I don’t care what the science is.  It is the only thing I will ever believe about doing dishes because it’s what dad said.  So it’s the truth.

So sometimes I worked behind the bar doing the dishes.

Sometimes I worked in the kitchen.  Reheating the chili and serving it.  Or making hamburgers.  I did not care for that job.   People are more demanding about their food than their beer.  And I was not a confidant child.  I got yelled at once for chili being cold.  I cried.

What I did like….was the walk in cooler.

It was the oddest smelling place I have ever experienced.

And I miss it.

On the nights when it was hot and smokey it was a little piece of heaven to go in that cooler with all of the cases of beer stacked.  And some of the foods.  I would sit in there and let my eyes and throat rest from the smoke of the bar.

To this day I don’t think I could identify what some of the smells in that cooler were.  Even though the freezer was air tight it had an old but not heavy smoke smell.   The cardboard of the beer boxes probably had something to do with it.  Maybe salami?  I don’t know.  For all I know it could have been mold I was smelling.

It was an odd smell.

I’ve never encountered a smell like it in all of the years since dad sold that bar and I’ve never gone in another bar’s walk in freezer.

I would recognize it  if I ever smelled it again.  Maybe as an adult I wouldn’t like it as much.  But I suspect I would.  Smelling a long gone part of my childhood would be wonderful.  I probably wouldn’t even notice the oddness of it.

56 thoughts on “Missing The Odd

  1. Yes, it’s odd how smells conjure certain memories. By the way, can’t say I blame you about the waitressing thing. I tell you, I do not envy waitresses. I highly admire them but I do not envy them. They have to put up with a lot of s***.


  2. I did not know he owned a bar. Some can be very successful, some not. But with a tyke doing the mugs, it was sure to have been a success! Scotch straight up, I hope, and not on the rocks… AND WOULD DIE FOR SOME OF THE (ASSUMEDLY) SALAMI THAT WAS IN THAT FREEZER! I think I will have a slice now!


  3. I myself miss the smell of a cigar being smoked. When my son-in-law lights up I can see my dad on the couch smoking his cigar right down to the very end. My dad wasted nothing! Oh how I miss that wonderful man…..


  4. I know the smell of that cooler: New cardboard boxes filled with bottles of beer, stale spilled beer from long ago, a slight bit of mold, a whiff of bar smoke, and perhaps a box or bag of onions for the hamburgers. It all brings back memories.


  5. The olfactory sense is a powerful one indeed, especially when it triggers memories. Here’s a Columbus one — I lived in OSU’s Morrill Tower in (uh-oh) 1975-76, and probably didn’t set foot in it again during my time as a Buckeye. Then, three decades later, in 2008, my oldest son was assigned to (im-)Morrill as a freshman. When we moved him in, the smell hit me when I walked in the front door and it all came back to me. It smelled pretty much exactly as I remembered it. Not bad, mind you, but a little stale and industrial — yet very comforting. It began a huge nostalgia trip that continued when my second son moved into Morrill two years later. Part of me is still in Columbus. Fond, fond memories. (P.S. … I’ll be running the Columbus Marathon again in October. Maybe I’ll see you out on the course!?)


    • Growing up …up the road, literally a mile or two, you would think I had been to OSU more often. And dad’s bar was in Columbus. 🙂

      Oh how I wish I would be on the course for a marathon! I’ll tell you what, I have no plans, BUT if they do develop to include being there I will let you know ! 🙂


  6. Colleen, I have no memories of old time smells at all, I remember Mom’s cooking and the resulting taste, I remember the chicken frying in the black iron skillet, I remember the biscuits in the oven and their golden brown look, but no smells to go with these visions. But I do remember tastes. Tastes that no matter how hard I look, or hard I try, the tastes escapes me. But I know if I were to taste it again t hat the memory would flood back..

    Damn!!! I take that back, I do remember an old timey smell, and I wouldn’t have if you hadn’t wrote this is post, I remember the outhouse on grandpa’s farm, LOL gee thanks for the memory. At least I can’t taste it. LOL Take care, Bill


    • Oh when mom makes her Christmas date cookies that taste takes me back.

      OUTHOUSE!!!! We had one on the farm. Probably 150 years old when we were still using it! OH MY GOSH! That smell has never been replicated! hahahahahahahahahaha!


  7. My uncle (my grandfather’s brother) owned a bar/restaurant years ago. I have very vague memories of it, I do remember one or two people but not by name. The pantry in my grandparents’ basement gave me the same sensation as you had with the walk-in cooler. From the food they stored to various bottles of liquor they kept stored.

    I thought only Mojo Nixon used the phrase “high falutin'”.


  8. Scents do a good job of bringing back memories. Lovely story, except the part about getting yelled at for cold chili. Nobody should get yelled at for cold chili. I would have cried, too. (Probably still would!)


    • Right? I still remember the thing we used to heat up the chili, per serving. Anna made a huge pot of it. Then as it was ordered it was put in this cup like thing that I then plugged in to the gizmo it was built to be inserted in to. LONG before microwaves. And when it was done it was put in a bowl and served. I am glad I am not the only tender hearted chili server. 😉


  9. Smells are a marvelous memory trigger for me, Colleen. Something in the walk-in cooler left its mark on the space, and then on you. I wonder what it was? I like your guesses, though. I didn’t know your dad owned a bar. My dad loved to socialize in bars! They would have gotten along on the opposite sides, I do believe, my friend. My dad loved bar owners who ran a fair place, and I just know your dad did.


  10. The film “Someone Like You” had a really cute scene in which Ashley Judd asks a doctor to kill off her sense of smell so she would not be reminded of someone. It was a comedy, so it did not happen. As to the smell– Was it a kind of refrigerant?
    A friend of mine worked at a bar, and I remember him cleaning in that three sink system too. Cannot recall what each sink was though.
    Sounds like your dad had a great pub. 🙂


  11. The comfort of smells, pipe smoke and coffee does it for me, brings back so many happy memories of my dad. I hope you can smell it again and that it transports you back to one of your happier times.


  12. I liked how you brought us into the bar, let us know the chores involved and the aroma of heavy smoke, then the cold, refreshing ‘odd’ smell that you associated with the bar’s cooler. I could probably have a proximity of a memory, since I was 15 years old, I have worked in many different restaurants. I would go in there to ‘cool down’ when someone was being ‘mean’ or if a customer had hurt my feelings. I think you and I are alike in that way, we are over-sensitive to comments. I am sorry that sometimes you cried, back then. I always wish we didn’t have to, as children, have anything ‘bad’ like that happen.
    I loved your thoughts about your Dad. Thanks for sharing this. July 31, my Dad would have been 82 had he lived today. Thanks, Colleen! Great minds are on our daddies…


    • Oh I was sooooooo sensitive up until about ten minutes ago. 😉 I kid! But for real, it’s only the last few years that I can really work through someone’s flippant or off hand comments in a quick time and not carry them around emotionally.

      Yesterday I sat at my desk and was thinking of dad so I drew a Bloghead version of him. 🙂


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