BY SKYLER, DEB & TIM SMITH
I hope you enjoyed your Halloween and do your best to maintain that spooky mindset. I’m back this week for an encore attempt to scare the bejeebers out of you with more haunted tales from Ye Mendon Tavern. Just to reset the table, if you’re picking up this issue of the Sentinel without having read last week’s . . . the Tavern has been haunted for the past sixty years by the ghost of Harold Folts, the original owner and grandfather of current proprietor Pat Freeman, who I simply refer to as Freeman.
On a side note, one highlight of writing this article is that I got a chance to reunite with my Grandmother’s best friend. There’s some irony attached to this that’s a bit complicated so pay close attention while I attempt to connect the dots. What are the odds that the owner of the Tavern, my Grandmother’s best friend, and Freeman’s mother would all be the same person? Kind of a mind blower, isn’t it? Well, it’s true, and that person would be Barb O’Connor.
At age 85, Barb is still sharp as a tack, and still a dyed-in-the-wool, tell-it-like-it-is spitfire chick. Most women age out of appropriately being referred to as a “chick”, but even at 85 Barb is still one feisty chick. I used her as a source to research some names, dates and general hamlet vibes from back in the day. Little did I know Barb would also bestow upon us first hand, eye witness stories featuring my Grandmother, Dad’s mother, involved in tales of illegal alcohol consumption. And to connect all of the dots, the woman alluded to in the sentence above would be June Smith, former Mendon Town Clerk for 22 years. As Barb shared, “The two of us raised some hell together.”
Returning to my Halloween theme, my next tavern tale I’m going to do is the moving juke box story. You’ll love this one. Because of Dad and Deb, I love classic music, and I love watching old TV shows. My suggestion, combining these two passions, is that if your CD collection contains a disc of all-time greatest theme songs, pull it out and cue up The Twilight Zone right now. Rod Serling, the Binghamton native who was both writer and narrator for The Twilight Zone never got the script for this Mendon Tavern Tale, but if he had, I feel sure he would have turned it into an episode. I asked Freeman which 1960s actress she would want to play her part in the episode and knowing that I love Batman she suggested Julie Newmar in her Catwoman costume. Usually it’s Freeman who calms me down, but this time I had to talk her in off the ledge.
At any rate, let’s return to the juke box story. On one fateful day in 1986 Freeman goes out and buys a stereo system to essentially replace the old jukebox that has provided the tavern tunes for the previous few decades. Times are changing and free music for the patrons seems like an appropriate sign of the times.
But apparently Harold is not so receptive of this change. Freeman tells me that after making this purchase on Sunday, she goes to work at HF-L on Monday only to receive the most perplexing phone call. Her father, tavern manager, Tom O’Connor, calls her at school with a problem and a question. The problem: The old jukebox is unplugged and sitting in the middle of the tavern floor. The question: Who moved it there and why? As I analyze this situation I come to the following conclusion . . . as the conservative financial overseer of Harold’s Place, Harold is not happy to see that the revenue generating jukebox is being replaced by a sound system that will play free music for the patrons. Rather than quietly retreat to his gravely residence, Harold chooses to voice his displeasure in this financial decision in a very defiant manner. The jukebox is in its usual position when Freeman locks up, nobody has been in the building between her and her father, and somehow the jukebox has moved itself 10 feet into the middle of the room. Perhaps the jukebox had some help from Harold?
Next I’ll let Freeman tell you the story of the mystery dart player. This only happened once, but it was clearly heard by three different people. Freeman states, “We are playing the tavern’s dart game (I was terrible at it) and just laughing and having a good time. When the game is over the players return to their seats at the bar. Then, at the same time, we all hear the sound of darts hitting the board, but there is nobody playing. This scenario repeats itself several more times throughout the evening, being heard by multiple people. We never did see anything, but we sure heard those invisible darts hitting the dart board!!!”
Next week I’ll be back for last call at the Tavern.