Jan 19, 2015

At Ole Tyme, it always seems just like (yes) old times

Mary and Ambrose Owczarzak
Doc’s report:

"What is patriotism,” asked 20th century Chinese writer, translator and inventor Lin Yutang, "but the love of the good things we ate in our childhood?"

That was certainly the case with this blog’s co-founder Dan Nowak, who wrote under the pseudonym Baldo. As often as not, his happiest memories were of his service in the Navy and of the Polish cuisine of his youth in Bay City’s South End or, as he liked to say it, “Da Soud En’.”

Funeral meals, weddings, local restaurants like Krzysiak’s and the Oasis, Holy Name breakfasts -- above all, meals at  his parents’ and grandparents’ homes -- it all came down to potato dumplings, golumpki (stuffed cabbage rolls), czernina (duck's blood soup), the ubiquitous kielbasa, cabbage noodle soup, pierogi, Busha’s butter cookies if you behaved -- the cuisine of late-19th century Eastern European immigrants.

(In high school, I was in a polka band called The Ubiquitous Pierogi. We opened for Stan Drzewicki. The public voted with their feet.)

In the South End of my 1950s youth, the typical Polish home housed three generations and spoke fluent Polish. It was, I Iater realized, a sort of Polish Catholic shtetl: a small,
The well-stocked bar at Ole Tyme
self-contained community with its own values, relationships, commerce, religious beliefs and rituals, cuisine, music, cultural norms and the like.

If you could say "dzien dobry" (pronounced "jean dough-bree," meaning "hello") and "dziekuje" (pronounced "jean koo-yoo," meaning "thank you"), you’ve pretty much got Rose Marie off to the prom.

The Polish dads were a tough bunch.

For instance, when I was working third shift at Bay City Chevrolet in the late 1960s, I once saw a girlfriend's father have the following 2:30 p.m. lunch: black coffee, an apple, two hard-boiled eggs with salt and pepper, a raw onion, a tomato from his wife’s garden with sugar, and a one-inch thick lard sandwich on black bread. No utensils.

On the weekends, they’d drink a case of Stroh’s and listen to Ernie Harwell and George Kell broadcast the Tigers games on radio. No wonder they could stand up to both Hitler and Stalin.

Some say that lovemaking and eating are the only two human experiences that appeal to all five senses simultaneously. And so it was not surprising that we enjoyed great food and the company of a happy married couple when Harry and I, accompanied by the G-Man,
The adjoining dining room
revisited one of Baldo’s favorite South End restaurant bars, Ole Tyme Broadway. The proprietors are Junior (née Ambrose) Owczarzak and his bride of many happy years, Mary (née Lobodzinski).

When I was a pale and frightened Irish lad among the Poles, Junior was five grades ahead of me; Mary, two. She was the homecoming queen of St. Stan’s class of ’65, which is celebrating its 50th reunion this year. (The Ole Tyme -- which hosts many weddings, graduations and the like -- would be an ideal venue.)

As Junior tells it, he informed Mary Jane (now she goes mostly by just Mary) in high school that someday she would marry him. She did.

There’s a reason the Ole Tyme continues in business while buildings that once housed similar establishments, like the Beaver Den and Trinity’s, are used for storage.

I could go on with Soud En' relationships. Everyone knows everyone, everyone is related to
Neon from the old days
everyone, especially if you’re a Nowak or a Maciejewski. But you either know that or you don’t care. Drzewicki --done. Przbylski -- no prob. Wojewoda -- piece of cake. But an outsider named “Williams” moves in and I grow up pronouncing my last name "Vee-yumz."

The one thing I will say is that the finest meal I’ve had in Bay City -- and I’ve had them everywhere -- is from the recipe Junior perfected while both his parents were working and he was a teenager teaching himself to cook: his Polish omelet. (It's on the breakfast menu.) The kielbasa, sauerkraut, cheese, peppers and onions are only the beginning.

Put it in your bucket list and have someone help you carry the leftovers to the car. Bring your game or stay home.

See the hairy guy's report on Ole Tyme: Smiles are on the house, the pool table is gray and Fireballs flow behind door #4

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