Sunday in the Park
May 27, 2011
Public hearings weren’t always so civilized. That’s what I was thinking Wednesday night while I sat listening and watching the thoughtful presentation about the Bonanza Park area of town. Developer Mark J. Fischer and award-winning architect Craig Elliott laid out their Big Picture ideas for a tired commercial, haphazardly planned and zoned area that is currently unattractive and unproductive.
Folks could purchase wine or beer prior to the talks and we sipped and listened and then commented in a civil fashion about what we had seen. Two hundred and fifty people showed up. It had been years since I had seen that kind of crowd turn out. Though I’m certain there have been other such occasions, I was reminded of just one …
It would have been in 1979, I think, right when I moved to town and became the only reporter for The Park Record. There were three of us then, the managing editor, Max, the news editor, David, and the reporter, me. Just like the current discussion, back in the day there was a movement to take the tiny package liquor store off Main Street. In a town of 1,800 people, most of whom lived in Old Town, this was seen as a sobering possibility. The state wanted to move the store to the new part of town, Prospector Square. Politics in this small town was the only form of entertainment back then and folks were fired up when that hearing was announced.
Max and David thought it was a perfect first news story for me to cover. I do not remember why.
Rosie’s was the package store on Main Street. I want to say Rosie’s was located where Quality Interiors is now, but I could be off by a door or two. I had just moved from free-wheeling California to Utah only months before and I found the process of purchasing liquor odd.
I think you had to wait until 3 o’clock before they could sell. You stood behind a counter and shouted to the clerks what you wanted. They thumped your purchase down and you handed them your cash. There were no charge purchases. Sometimes we would take our mini-bottles across the street to either The Club (now Robert Kelly’s) or The Alamo (now the No Name Saloon) and toast the end of a work week — or hell, the middle of a work week. The Alamo was just a beer bar. In theory, they only served beer. But, if you ordered orange juice with a wink, you could get Darryl to pour a little vodka in it, from under the counter.
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Darryl was a real character. The kind Hollywood could try to make up but never get it quite right. On parade days and holidays and just random sunny days, he could be seen dancing in the middle of the Main Street. (There was no traffic in the off season. None.) He always wore bandoliers across his chest. But instead of cartridges, in the little loops he had a full measure of mini-bottles. This made him exceeding popular on holidays when the liquors store was closed.
The hearing about moving the liquor store was held in the new Prospector Theater space because they were expecting a crowd. The grim-faced men of the state liquor commission sat at a long table and the public took chairs that were set up on either side of a middle aisle.
There were easily 250 folks crowded in. The conversation was emotional. Not exactly thoughtful or eloquent. The grim-faced ones said little. The public: frustrated and venting. And then, out of nowhere, Darryl showed up, dancing down the center aisle, bandoliers filled. Well, actually it became immediately apparent some of them had been emptied on the way. There were giggles, then a hush, and Darryl addressed the panel. He spoke about the need to keep the store on Main Street, about his esteemed role as a bartender there, and he was, flamboyantly, somewhat eloquent. Then, perhaps in the warmth of the room, the vodka kicked in. He started to sway as he approached the unapproachable table. Leaning on the table and breathing on the panel, he shouted and slurred, "And just who makes this final decision anyway? That @#$%^& gold bowling trophy on top of the temple?"
The room erupted. Dissing the Angel Moroni was a step too far and the room broke out in a fight. The police were called. The hearing ended.
The liquor commission voted to move the store off Main Street to Prospector Square.
Sometimes remembering the way we were makes me appreciate the way we became, we are, most days, like Sundays in the Park …
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.