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   A GOOD FRIEND AND A GOOD DRINK AT TRAIL'S END
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STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS POH
The bar at THE EAGLE HOTEL in Quakertown, PA as seen in American Public House Review
THE BAR AT THE EAGLE HOTEL IN QUAKERTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA



Robert Gustofson
ROBERT "GUS"GUSTAFSON

For a number of years Robert “Gus” Gustafson was just a voice on a phone line. He would call into my radio program at WDVR-FM on an occasional Friday afternoon, and we would discuss politics, folk music and his personal recollections of life in Greenwich Village during the tumult and turbulence of the 1960s. While most of our conversations centered on his past, there was some mention now and then about his current state of affairs. He spoke of the hardscrabble times and matters of ill health that had caused him to reconcile himself to the possibility that Quakertown, Pennsylvania might be the last stop on life’s journey. Then there was silence, and for several years the gravelly timbre and whiskey eloquence of Robert Gustofson was no longer a part of my Friday afternoons.

Recently I met a couple that shared some colorful tales about some of the local talent that frequented the taverns in Quakertown. I asked if they had ever encountered Gus during their travels. They had not; but apparently the mere mention of his name put into motion that providential thing that occurs in the universe when one asks the right question. On the very next Friday a familiar voice on the studio phone was making inquires as to whether or not I could remember the name of a song that I had played almost ten years ago.  Within a week’s time my wife and I responded to Mr. Gustafson’s invitation to join him for libations in his living room. His parlor just happens to be the bar at the EAGLE HOTEL During that session, and a couple that followed, I was privy to the particulars of a interesting American life and another unique American public house.




Knight Eagle  Carriage  Tours in Quakertown, PA as seen in American Public House Review
Donna Zummo proprietor of KNIGHT EAGLE CARRIAGE TOURS pictured with Tanya Lightner and Gus alongside the Eagle Hotel in Quakertown, PA. For information about their personalized “Pub or Dining on Wheels Tour” contact Donna at 610-847-8013 or visit them online @ www.knighteaglecarriagetours.com




Robert Gustafson was a child of the “New Deal” born in Wolcott, Vermont in 1941, while his father labored in a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. After the Second World War the family moved to Massachusetts, and during those formative years in New England Gus developed a keen interest in music. By the late 1950s he was playing the skins in a couple of R&B bands.  At some point he got tired of lugging around a drum kit and picked up the harmonica. This moved him toward the burgeoning folk music scene and a club called “The Pesky Sarpent" in Springfield, Massachusetts, that was fast becoming a proving ground for musicians from New York to Boston.

Along with Gus, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Phil Ochs, Eric Andersen, Tom Rush, Ritchie Havens and David Mowry of Beaucoup Blue were just a few of the mainstays of the era that took to the stage on a regular basis. David Mowry recently told me that Gus was the first actual beatnik that he had ever met. And if Mr. Gustafson has anything to say about it, he will also be the last actual beatnik any of us ever meet. He is a man that has remained true to his calling.

During the early sixties Gus split his time between Springfield and New York City, where he was sharing a sixth floor walk-up on East 3rd Street above Slug’s Saloon with Ritchie Havens. When he wasn’t blowing harp in the Village clubs, he spent his days bartending, writing songs and recreating in a 1960s fashion. The next two decades found him married and working in the antique’s business in Florida. By the time he arrived in Pennsylvania in the late 1980s, the old furniture was still with him – his old flame was not. For a few years, he ran a large antique emporium in Quakertown; but the onset of Emphysema had greatly limited his ability to work. In 2001 Gus took up residence at the EAGLE HOTEL.



Old photo of the EAGLE HOTEL inQuakertown, Pa as seen in American Public House Review
OLD PHOTOGRAPH OF THE EAGLE HOTEL



The EAGLE has a long standing reputation for providing a safe haven and a good drink to those that have ridden the long hard trail. During the late 1800s, the notorious Kulp Gang, who had a partiality for staging holdups in and around Philadelphia, used the EAGLE HOTEL as both hideout and headquarters. And America’s favorite cowboy and cowgirl, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans would stay at the EAGLE while conducting business in the area. Roy’s trousers were manufactured at a factory in Quakertown, and Trigger Jr. one of the three palominos that Rogers rode during his film and television career came from a breeding farm in nearby Souderton, Pennsylvania.



The pool room at the Eagle Hotel in Quakertown, PA as seen in American Public House Review

Picture hanging at the EAGLE HOTEL in Quakertown, PA as seen i American Public House Review
BILLIARDS ARE SERIOUS BUSINESS

GURUS ARE HONORED ON THE WALL



Today, Danny Kane the very generous and well liked owner of the establishment does an admirable job of watching over both his long and short term clientele. On any given evening you’ll find an eclectic mix of humanity gathered around the bar, and the only shooting that goes on these days occurs in the perfectly outfitted and tastefully decorated pool room off to the side.

The EAGLE HOTEL is much like the taverns that were such an important part of my life during my pre and early legal drinking days. But somewhere along the way I abandoned their simple pleasures in search of those houses that filled their shelves with expensive single malts, and whose taps seldom ran with domestic flavors unless it was the creation of some revered upstart brew master. I had forgotten about the wisdom and judiciousness that one can acquire by spending time in neighborhood saloons.



Sign at the EAGLE HOTEL in Quakertown, PA as seen in American Public House Review

The chief's chair at the EAGLE HOTEL in Quakertown, PA as seen in American Public House Review
PHILOSOPHY IS DISCUSSED

THE CHIEF'S CHAIR



There are bars like the EAGLE HOTEL in every small town and city throughout America. Their shortcomings (and distinctive charms) are obvious and easily understood, hence their limited embrace in certain social circles. But within their walls you will always find souls like Danny Kane and Robert Gustafson, people with great stories and even greater hearts - making such places another welcomed stop along the trail.






EAGLE HOTEL

201 EAST BROAD STREEa
QUAKERTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA 18951

(215) 536-3316

no web site

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