A schooner toast to Bill Dupree

A schooner toast to Bill Dupree

A schooner toast to Bill Dupree

As a young tyke in the late ‘30s I spent some summers at the beach in Madison Park with my grandparents where I made lots of friends.

War happened.

I lost dad in 1942, and lived briefly with my grandparents. Mom bought a home nearby, and I became a student at McGilvra Elementary. 

The neighborhood started to change after the war. It used to be very quiet and inhabited by mostly older people, but in the early ‘50s the atmosphere really did a turnaround. Flight attendants, college students and office workers began to move in. Schoolmates and I were almost 21, and it was time to be part of the happy crowd.

It was fairly quiet on the Ave most days, but when the sun set the taverns could be heard before they were seen. Laughter, great music, dancing and the spirited imbibing beckoned myriad singles in droves. Since there was no TV in the taverns, people naturally were more sociable. The only source of entertainment was the pinball machine, and that was always in use, so other games and challenges ensued. 

Arm and thumb wrestling: both required optimal concentration, occasionally ending in fisticuffs. Poker played with dollars was a very popular game. The stakes were high—hardly anyone spoke. There were various dice games like “Ship, Captain, Crew,” “Thirteen Aces,” “4-5-6”and “SOL.”

Bill and Ada, owners of the dime store between the two taverns, sold cards a little larger than a dollar bill. They were used in a game called, either “At the Gate” or “Horse Race.” Each line on the card was a name of a horse, and all the lines were connected to one. The task was for one player to light the fuse-like line with a cigarette (there were plenty at the time). Patrons would bet on a line of choice. When the spark lit the lines, we would yell, “And they’re off!” The winner was the one whose line sparked brightest and reached the finish line first. It was all the dime store could do to keep up with the demand.

All forms of gambling were illegal, so it was kept on the Q.T. and, with the popularity of the two taverns, the liquor board was keenly aware of that and underage patrons in the taverns. There were fines and 7-14-day closure. 

There was one challenge that was held around 1965, and there was only one winner—I never saw him lose. 

That gentleman was Bill Dupree. A schoolteacher by day, in the evenings he was part of the neighborhood taverns. He’d pour just about a swallow of beer into a glass, offer it to his opponent while pouring himself a full schooner. The game was who could finish what was in their schooners and set them down on the bar the fastest. Someone would yell, “Go!” The opponent swallowed his beer and saw Bill had already stood his empty glass on the bar. It always brought laughter and free beer for the challenger. 

Bill’s reputation spread pretty far north where loggers hung out. I think the challenger’s name was Tiny, a 300-pound dude that kept his talent with only an occasional challenger. Bill got the phone call that a challenge was suggested by a friend from college who logged during the summers. 

One of Bill’s friends flew him to the area, and then they got a ride to the tavern. Bill stepped in sporting his famous wide smile, and everyone stared. Why? He was wearing a tuxedo with white gloves and a top hat. 

He sat in a booth with Tiny. They shook hands, and the crowd gathered. There were big bucks on the event. No schooners here—full pitchers!

They grasped the schooners and someone counted, “3! 2! 1! Go!” Not moments later one pitcher slammed down bone dry. Guess who? Who else? Mr. Dupree! No one could believe it.  The town’s hero lost; and let’s not forget the money. 

Tiny had turned the pitcher so the spout was facing his mouth.  Bill turned the pitcher and drank from the side, so he could plainly inhale all the beer. Tiny was still drinking with his eyes on Bill, not believing what was happening. People gasped and laughed, and Bill won the respect that night; and of course bought the house a few rounds.

Shaking hands, they both laughed and Tiny told him he wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes. Bill answered that he was a great opponent and he looked forward to drinking beer again with him.

Bill went on to be featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. After performing his art with a yard of ale at the Olympic Four Seasons Hotel, bill moved to Arizona.

Here’s to Bill Dupree, as I lift a Heineken in his honor. If you lift a schooner to Bill, it should be consumed “Bill Style.”