Kevin, Paul, Joe, and I were virtually inseparable for several years. Whether it was watching Indiana University basketball on the television or listening to the Cincinnati Reds on radio at Paul’s apartment, or attending the hydroplane races down at the Madison Regatta where Paul went swimming in the Ohio River, there was an excellent chance that where you found two of us you would find all four.
Of all of the places we went, our favorite haunt was Manor’s Lounge in Muncie’s Northwest Plaza. When and why exactly we started going to Manor’s is a mystery. It was never a mystery why we kept going back. Manor’s was home to the area’s best nachos and was one of the few drinking establishments that always had Stroh’s long necks on hand. It was also home to the friendliest waitresses in the city. They also happened to be the prettiest waitresses in town, a small fact that weighed heavily in favor of the bar. Once we established ourselves as regulars we were able to request one particular booth and began requesting one of two waitresses.
Kim was our first choice. Typically dressed to kill, she was known to turn a lot of heads of the male patrons at Manor’s, oftentimes with unwanted results. The four of us always treated her with respect. She showed her appreciation of that by adopting us one night as four of her regular patrons. From then on, we started requesting her for our waitress. Kim called us “dudes” so often that it inspired us to give ourselves the nickname “The Dudes”. We had been calling each other “Dude” for so long anyway that it seemed to be a natural fit. A bit of a wild child, Kim would occasionally flirt and we weren’t afraid to flirt back. It was all in good fun and no women, children, or elderly were hurt.
Kathy was our next choice, although if she met us at the door she would often take us without giving anyone a choice. We never minded when she did and while Kim would often feign that she was pissed, she was always okay with it, too. Kathy, who when push came to shove was Paul’s favorite, was not quite the extrovert that Kim was. Kathy, usually dressed in a simple top, a short skirt, plain white sneakers, and ankle socks, looked like the girl next door. She was sweet and friendly and always kept us up to date on her little boy and how she was doing in school. For years after Manor’s ultimately closed its doors, Paul would bring Kathy up at least once a year, either after running into her somewhere in town or just because he liked to. Oddly, this habit stopped after he met his future girlfriend/fiancée/wife.
The rest of the staff at Manor’s Lounge were just as friendly and just as good as Kim and Kathy. The two “K”s were our favorites, though, and the staff was perfectly fine with that.
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Kevin, Paul, and Joe had been friends for several years, dating back to when Kevin and Paul were in high school and met Joe at a church retreat at St. Lawrence Catholic Church. Kevin, Joe, and I were pretty good friends by the time we were going to Manor’s every Friday night. Paul and I, on the other hand, were still getting to know each other. While we did meet at the Tally Ho, Paul didn’t hang out there a lot and graduated a few months after I met him. It wasn’t until Kings Corner and the Chug A Mug that we spent an appreciable amount of time in the same space. Now that the four of us were spending more time together, it was only rational that Paul and I learned a bit more about one another.
We learned that we shared a love of baseball and were both lifelong fans of the Cincinnati Reds. We shared similar tastes in music, especially 60’s music in general and The Beatles in particular. With those as the basis of our friendship, we quickly became closer friends.
The depth of the friendship that Paul and I shared became quite clear one night at Manor’s when Paul let the entire bar know, “Dammit, Studebaker! You’re a pretty good drinking buddy!” The staff at Manor’s was very good about removing empty bottles, so we had no physical indication of just how many Stroh’s Paul had consumed. The volume of his pronouncement suggested it was more than one.
Later that same night, Paul asked me a question that I know he asked me on my first day at the Tally Ho. It was a question that if I had a dollar for every time that a Wes-Del High School graduate asked me, I would be… well, maybe not wealthy, but I would have been able to pay for all four dinners that night.
The popular question that Paul asked: “Are you related to Nellie Studebaker?”
My straight-faced response: “Why? Do you smell her spoor on me?”
Kevin’s reaction: Audible laughter.
Joe’s reaction: Silent laughter. You knew when you got the body-shaking silent laughter from Joe that you just struck gold.
Paul’s reaction/response: “No! She was our guidance counselor at Wes-Del. I just thought you might be related to her.”
My reaction: A look of “Can you believe this guy?” to Kevin and Joe.
Kevin’s reaction: Louder laughter.
Joe’s reaction: “OH MY GOD!” followed by more silent laughter.
Paul still had a curious look on his face. I let the moment hang for a bit before telling him that, yes, I know Nellie Studebaker. In fact, she is my grandma.
Paul though that was cool and went back to his nachos and beer. I couldn’t be sure if he was oblivious to what just went down or if he was the greatest straight man since Bud Abbott. For his sake, I hoped it was the latter.