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Bar Hopping Good Times

Someone professes to love Nora. I know this because I’ve seen it written on the side of a Jacob Street building in South Wheeling for quite a few years now.

The Nora love graffiti is on the same street where age and abandonment have taken many buildings out of use. And there are several green spaces where familiar homes and businesses once stood. Now let me jump north to the out-the-pike area.

There has been a lot of hullabaloo being made over the closing of Ye Olde Alpha restaurant and bar, a longtime fixture on Carmel Road in Wheeling. The bar’s decor of dead animals hanging on the walls has served as an attraction over the years. Its well-worn bar top and stools have seen their share of celebrities, including our own John Corbett, share a pint or two with friends. The Alpha has been a neighborhood pub, a late-night hangout for the college crowd, and a meeting place for family and friends returning to Wheeling for various holidays, especially Thanksgiving weekend.

But it’s not unique in that respect. South Wheeling’s streets once had the distinction of housing dozens of bars and social clubs. Patrons could easily walk from bar to bar for an evening of social frivolity among friends and neighbors — and then walk home. Each bar had its own personality, often ethnic in nature. Some had music on Friday and Saturday nights. Others touted great bar food — much of it homecooked.

And that’s where I return to Nora. Some of my fondest memories rose out of visits to the old Trophy Club, a longtime fixture on Jacob Street. It was owned and operated by Eddie and Nora Rothermund. They lived next door to the bar and I can still see Nora, better known as “Granny, carrying pans of food between her kitchen and the bar.

Ask anyone who ever pulled a seat up to the bar, Nora and Eddie knew how to cook and serve up libations. They had a special dish each noontime, packing in customers ranging from the well-heeled attorneys to the blue collar truck drivers and plant workers. Eddie, also referred to as “Pappy,” was a generous supporter of his community including sponsoring youth sports teams and helping others down on their luck.

Time and age took its toll and now only the memories of those days and places remain. And yes, a lot of people loved Nora.

Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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