I remember Forest Gardens in the early 1960s. Tom “Tucker” Walsh ran a class act beer joint, a male refuge much like a private club with no dues.

The atmosphere was always sports-oriented. Red Sox baseball and Boston Celtics basketball were televised on a small black-and-white screen above the bar. The NFL played on Sunday, when the bar was closed because of blue laws.

The Sox and Celtics reigned. Fifteen-cent draught beer, usually Narragansett or Pabst Blue Ribbon, was served in 8-ounce fluted glasses. Frequent refills ensured that the beer was always fresh and cold. Six-ounce “dimeys” were also available, as were 10-cent bottles of “Little Bo Colts,” a National Bohemian brand associated with the Baltimore Colts. Most patrons were Giants fans, but who could resist a 10-cent bottle of beer when short of cash?

“Honey” Gaskell manned the grill that featured a neverending pile of sautéed onions mixed with mustard, ready to grace a handmade ground beef patty. Cooked to order, it was served in a steamed bun for all of 35 cents. There was often a game of Hearts or dime-a-point seven-card Rummy being played in one or more of the back booths. No one ever won or lost much.

The Gardens sponsored a basketball team that played in what was loosely referred to as “semi pro” leagues. I don’t know where the notion of “pro” came from, as no one received remuneration beyond the occasional freebie over the bar. We wore old woolen jerseys, white with green trim mimicking our beloved Celtics. They itched and penalized us further if not washed after every game.

The team was comprised of former high school players, mostly from past Deering teams. “Coot” Coolidge, Dave Murdock, “Sam” Houston, Doug Stone and Joel Densmore come to mind. Ray Farrell and “Billy” Sears were the veterans on the team. The University of Southern Maine contributed Ed Williams, late of Edward Little in Auburn, and Brian LeGarde from Morse in Bath. Coach “Denver” Don Sturtevant drove his beat-up station wagon on road trips. We pushed it halfway home from Buxton one night before finding an open gas station.


Games with archrival “Bubba’s Café” were local highlights. “Bubba” Larkin gathered players from Portland and South Portland high alumni. We all knew each other and continued old rivalries. It was good fun and good basketball.

On the Sunday afternoon that the Portland Seahawks beat the Providence Steamrollers for the New England League Championship, “Tucker” opened the back door, letting in teammates and regulars for celebratory beer in violation of the blue law. The party grew until friendly officers ushered us out of the bar. I don’t recall that any charges were filed.

Forest Gardens has changed hands many times since those salad days, but The Gardens of that era will always live in the minds of many older Portlanders who on occasion may still stop by for a nostalgic draught beer.


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