I owe my life to a street named Spenard and a rowdy pickup bar called Chilkoot Charlie’s.
Our story takes place in January of 1979, two weeks before Super Bowl XIII, where the Pittsburg Steelers will inevitably squeak out a victory over the Dallas Cowboys 35-31.
I’m speaking to my father in the present day; I ask him about koots, he talks with a kind of calm bewilderment: as if with each sentence he starts by putting down his whittling stick while lifting the brim of his cowboy hat.
“Well, ya know it (wasn’t) nearly as big as it is now, because at that time there was like a fire side bar on the far North end of the building with Hog Bros Café in the middle.” I’m imagining the main bar at Koots connected to a Café that specializes in food cooked on a radiator. “It was a Saturday night, Me, Michael Callahan, and Michael Velasquez were sittin’ in Chilkoots and then I see this beautiful red-headed women come into the bar with a slight blonde lady. It was pretty crowded but we had two seats so we flagged them over (to) come sit with us… She had overalls on, I think I had a thing for overalls.” I get a little queasy.
My Mom has a slightly high pitched maternal voice, it was like interviewing a kiss to the forehead. “Your father at that time had his hair permed, it was quite goofy actually.” Mom and Dad have a back and forth on which celebrity Dad looked like. After a half minute of deliberation they settle on Greg the oldest brother from The Brady Bunch. Mom starts up again with her story, “Anyway, so we sat down and we’re talking and your dad spilled a drink on me.” I ask why, “Well, I think he was drunk.”
My Dad’s counter to the apparent party foul only helps my Mom’s intoxication theory, “You know, having one of those really good times and (you) kind of get excited and talk with your arms flailing, mine hit the beer and it splashed right in her lap.”
Mother chirps, “And then he spilt another one!”
“Well I was thinking it was probably twice, you know once just isn’t enough. *he laughs with acceptance* Yeah, I think I spilt two beers on her. But she came in (to Koots) the next Saturday night and she saw me, I saw her, so we kind of got together and laughed and I don’t think I spilt anything on her that night.”
In a sweetly sincere tone Mom says, “I thought he was just funny and goofy.”
Joyce Yvonne Talley and Andrew Lynn Collins were married in a courthouse before a small gathering of family and friends, July 4th of 1981. This will be their 32nd wedding anniversary, and my younger sister and I owe it all to a cruddy bar on Spenard, and beer soaked overalls.
“I just think that Chilkoots was a wild and wooly place back then, and Dad and I aren’t horribly wild and wooly anymore.” They keep each other happy by stocking the freezer with non-diet ice cream, visits from their children, and the television show Mad Men.