Kenosha’s Teen Bars (published in Happenings Magazine SmartReader, 3/11/21)

 

Many Kenoshans who came of age during the sixties and seventies well remember the old Kenosha teen bars. The teen bars were taverns that allowed eighteen-year-olds to drink beer, at a time when the legal drinking age was twenty-one.

 

Hearing tales about the teen bars from early on, we couldn’t wait to turn eighteen and tear out there ourselves. Most of the teen bars were located out in the county, I guess they didn’t want us hooligans terrorizing the inner city with our antics.

 

As memory serves me, there were about six active teen bars during their heyday. Some were around for many years, while others lasted just a few. Although most of us hit all of them at one time or another, each one catered to a different crowd and we all had our favorites.

 

The Brat Stop was one of the most popular teen bars. A larger facility which served food as well as beverages, it boasted an excellent location on highway 50 right off of I-94. Back then, everyone called it Rasmussen’s. (After the owners) Young people from Illinois and Milwaukee also flocked to Rasmussen’s, it was a pretty generic crowd. The Brat Stop is still in business today, offering food, beverages and cheese packages. After two significant fires, it has the feel of a roller-dome with it’s mostly cement and steel make up, but it’s still a fun place to visit.

 

Just down the road from Rasmussen’s was Dick’s bar. Dick Dibble, an old Kenosha tavern owner, ran the small establishment just off the frontage road, about a mile south of highway 50. Dick’s was known as a “collegiate” hang out, quieter and more subdued than most of the other teen bars. (Which rarely saw subdued in their descriptions) Dick’s bar is long gone.

 

About two miles south of Dick’s, also on the frontage road, was The Chaparral. “The Chap” had a Country & Western flavor and was probably number two or three on the “rowdy” list. They occasionally featured live music, again, usually C & W or rockabilly. The Chaparral closed down long ago.

 

Now closer to town, just off of Highway 50 and Highway C, sat Earl’s Club. Earls transitioned into a “regular” bar and was in business up until about twenty years ago. Earl’s was another bar where you could get into a “dust-up” pretty easily. My friend Carl’s uncle, Earl O’Hare, was the proprietor, so we always got good service there. Being the closest to town, it was the most convenient and probably had the fewest pile ups by alcohol fueled teenagers trying to find their way home.

 

Rasmussen’s, Dick’s, The Chaparral and Earls were probably the most popular of the eighteen-year-old beer joints. Another teen bar I remember was called The Pit and was further out in the county. Further out in the county meant more gas money and more chances of a pile up coming and going, so it wasn’t on our weekly hit list. What I remember most about The Pit, it always seemed to be wall to wall dancing. (Nice chick hangout) The Klondike was another bar out in the county, where our group had a few adventures and misadventures as well.

 

Now there’s a few other bars that I remember, but don’t recall if they were teen bars or not. Shakey’s Pizza on highway 31, where Baker’s Street now sits, served eighteen-year-olds beer, I believe. Another bar, ill-fated though it was, was called The Thirsty Eye and sat right next to Mars Cheese Castle on I-94. The Thirsty Eye was a pretty rough joint, and a frequent target of our local law enforcement agencies, who had to visit it on a nightly basis to quell problems. As fate would have it, one day during a storm, strong winds blew the huge Mars Cheese Castle sign down, and it landed right on top of The Thirsty Eye. No one was in it at the time, fortunately, as it was totally flattened. The local authorities took it as a good omen and never allowed The Thirsty Eye to be rebuilt.

 

We had a pretty good time at those teen bars, back in the day. I don’t know how we survived all those wild rides home, but most of us are still around to talk about it.

 

 

**This article is dedicated to The Shelby Raiders, including my brother John, friends Dick, Gary, Crab, Peps & Os. And also to friends Jim, Joe, Carl & Ronna, Dale and George.

 

 

About the Author

Joe Campolo Jr.

Joe Campolo, Jr. is an award winning author, poet and public speaker. A Vietnam War Veteran, Joe writes and speaks about the war, and is a Veteran's advocate. Some of Joe's stories are gripping, some humorous. Joe also writes about other experiences, many of which are also humorous. Joe enjoys fishing, traveling, writing and spending time with his family. Joe loves to hear from his readers, please send him a note on this page or the contact page! (and order one of Joe's popular books from the link on his author page)

Comments

  1. ‘Earls’ was the one most frequented by me and my friends but we did make the rounds to some of the other joints you’ve mentioned.. I played in a local band named the ‘Starfires’ and I remember playing a number of times at a teen bar on Highway 41 close to the Racine county line . It may have been the ‘Thirsty Eye’ but I’m not sure if that’s correct or not.
    I know I was happy about the opportunity to legally get loaded and raise hell but as the old people used to say, “these damn kids today.” As an official old person today in 2021, I can’t think of a more irresponsible thing to allow than having the local teens drive out to a bar, have a few or more beers and then get into a car, no seat- belts, air bags, bad tires, you know, I could go on & on and then allow them to drive home in that condition. Like most of us who partook in those shenanigans, to put it mildly, we were really quite fortunate to have survived those days unscathed. Sort of a primer In a way (all things military) for the days that were soon to come for those of us who were coming of age back in the day.

    1. Thanks for sharing Duke. I recall many times waking up in my bed at home and having no recollection how I got there. You are right, amazingly most of us survived, and like you I soon went into the military and found myself in a peril of a different nature. “God watches over children and fools”, perhaps for a higher calling.

  2. Earl’s was still in business, until about four or five years ago…The land was purchased by a tire & auto repair chain…A service garage, will be built there, in the near future.

  3. Wonderful story Joe I worked at Earls and on Sundays helped out at the Pit when Earls was closed. Mike Bloss ran the Pit back then. Those were great times back then and a place where you could hang out and meet friends.

    1. Tom I don’t know how long this story came out but give me a call 715 214 6818 so we can check on old times.

  4. Don’t forget Leo’s at I-94 and hwy E – good sized place with live music……Milwaukee kids went there, too.

    And out in county was a little joint on hwy 50 just south of New Munster – think it was called Wanda’s.

      1. The Mars Cheese Castle sigh fell and destroyed a bar called Sportsman’s. Thirsty Eye was about a half mile South of there on the West frontage road. It was most recently a truck sales before it was sold to Uline.

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