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American Public House Review small crimson logo
    RECOLLECTIONS FROM
THE MENGER


STORY AND PHOGRAPHY BY CHRIS POH


“All new states are invested, more or less, by a class of noisy, second-rate men who are always in favor of rash and extreme measures, but Texas was absolutely overrun by such men.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       - Sam Houston


Menger Hotel Bar as seen in American Public House Review
THE MENGER  HOTEL'S NAGNIFICENT BAR



Menger hotel as seen in American Public House Review
OLD TEXAS STYLE

The Sunday morning before Memorial Day finds me anxiously awaiting the arrival of a young barkeep, who as per an agreement cast with the manager a day earlier, will grant me unfettered access to the best looking barroom in all of Texas; the one in. THE MENGER HOTEL I will have ninety minutes to photograph this delicious gem before the hoards of overheated tourists lined up across the street come in with the goal of trying to forget the Alamo by dousing parched tongues with Margaritas and bottles of Shiner Boch.

Even though I had spent the better part of the previous day trying to remain upright and out of the San Antonio River after several hours at Waxy O’Connors Irish Pub, located alongside the city’s famed Riverwalk, I was surprisingly fit and well focused. I suspect the source of my renewed vigor was the Menger Bar itself. Here I was alone in the room that was the exact replica of London’s House of Lords Pub, a room that had provided libations and entertainment for such notables as Cornelius Vanderbilt, Babe Ruth and Mae West, and the room where a young Teddy Roosevelt recruited the Rough Riders.



San Antonio Riverwalk as seen in American Public House Review
SAN ANTONIO RIVERWALK



After what turned out to be a remarkably quick photo shoot, I sat down and ordered a bottle of the aforementioned local Texas brew. Since the bartender was still busy with getting ready for his long day, I did not attempt to engage in conversation. Instead I turned my attention to the activities beyond the side door and began to daydream about the Alamo.
Texas flag as seen in American Public House Review
Flag of Texas

The Alamo as seen in American Public House Review
The Alamo

My contemplations followed the usual course. I reviewed the history, I measured the politics, I imagined the actual combat and I attempted to gain empathy for both sides. Then somewhere along that path I remembered how bad I felt when Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen got killed in the Walt Disney rendering of the story. My empathy for the Mexicans began to wane. Then I remembered feeling not as bad when John Wayne took the fall as Colonel Crockett; but I was devastated when Jim Bowie, played perfectly by Richard Widmark, met his demise. I was relieved of this internal conflict by the offer of another beer.



Bullmoose as seen in American Public House Review
BULL MOOSE


Teddy Roosevelt as seen in American Public House Review
A HUMAN BULL MOOSE



My congenial host, Nelson, had completed his daily setup and now had the time to talk. We spoke a bit about my journey and the reason for me coming to the Menger. Then the conversation turned to his time in San Antonio. He told me that he had come to the city two years earlier to be close to his brother who was in the military and stationed nearby. He spoke about their profound friendship and the fears and concerns that followed now that his brother would be leaving for Iraq. Soon he too would leave Texas to be with the rest of his family, and to participate in that ritual of waiting that has been the burden of soldier’s families long before the fights at San Jacinto or San Juan Hill.

I leave the MENGER HOTEL BAR with a hope and a prayer that Nelson’s future Memorial Days will consist only of remembrances for historic figures and fallen strangers.




THE MENGER HOTEL

204 ALAMO PLAZA
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS 78205

(210) 223-4361

www.mengerhotel.com

DIRECTIONS




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