It wasn’t the Gold Rush that brought us to your door. It was the 10-hour shift six days a week.
Working the mines breathing air filled with lead dust and zinc left us tired and parched in need of a drink. The George Wedige Tavern was the mirage that got us through to quitting time when the whistle blew. Like bats flying from a cave we rode hard to see who was first to quench their thirst at the Badger Bar. It was the place where we could unhitch, dust ourselves off, and have a whiskey with a whiskey wash or a snit of beer.
The George Wedige Tavern aka The Badger Bar was built to serve hardscrabble men. Night shift came in early morning, day shift later in the afternoon. The doors opened in 1906 … seems like yesterday. Its mammoth windows facing west, 19-foot tin-stamped ceiling adorned with neon lights that would mesmerize the miners’ light-starved eyes.
This was no ordinary beer hall; it was the working man’s Taj Mahal — a place to rest your foot on the brass rail and socialize, tell a few jokes and forget about work for a while. Libations in moderation would send the boys home with a restful afterglow, for tomorrow came time to give the mine another go.
Time marches on — make no mistake. Women’s suffrage, the stock market crash, prohibition and war hastened the pace. But through it all the ambiance of the Badger Bar held shield. Weathered by the years, echoing the good times and stained with some tears it remained virtually unchanged.
The daughters of George kept the bar alive for years after he passed away. After Cat and Georgie passed on granddaughter Diane, a school teacher by trade, took over the reins with an eclectic flair. Pastel colored pictures, an arboretum, with a table boutique; the pristine back bar, well stocked and adorned with twinkle lights and figurines changing with the seasons.
There was no stereo to deafen conversation. The only sound was that of tinkling waters cascading from a fountain, or from an occasional minstrel presenting a song.
God, I love that place. There was no tolerance for rude behavior; curse words were not allowed. Esprit de corps had to be earned. A kind word or vase of flowers would make the matriarch smile. Diane’s pot luck suppers never went out of style.
Some may say this tavern was old school, out of step and out of date. To me it was timeless. It is a place where history came alive. At times you could feel the presence of patron spirits that have passed — a tabernacle of a tavern, a place to give thanks and reminisce.
I found George Wedige’s Tavern to be a special place, where you could have a drink, rest your foot on the rail, dust yourself off and contemplate life for awhile. Cheers to George Wedige’s Tavern aka The Badger Bar!
Dedicated to the memory of Diane Clark.