Bars, like the people who frequent them, have a variable lifespan; No one guarantees how long they will last. Only one thing is certain; if they survive infancy, they move into childhood, then adolescence, adulthood, old age, and finally, after years of serving patrons, they will die. Chiodo’s, the Homestead, Pennsylvania stalwart corner tavern, is now long dead.
Back when the Homestead steel mills were running three solid shifts, Porky Chedwick was the “platter pushin’ Poppa, your Daddio on the raddio” and the Pittsburgh Steelers were perennial also-rans in the NFL, not a powerhouse in the AFC, Chiodo’s was the place to be. The corner tavern, family-owned and operated since the year of the flood, closed its doors. The building disappeared, and (as Joni Mitchell once moaned), they “put up a parking lot” for the big, new Walgreen’s store.
While we can replace one drug with another, one building with a parking lot, we will never be able to replace the memories of the corner bar. Chiodo’s was the latest in a long line of cornerstones of the old neighborhood to disappear. The shot and beer tavern, just down the block, has gone the way of barbershop, the local radio station, the traffic cop and, for that matter, the steel mill.
Farewell, old friend.
If you had visited Chiodo’s during its last days of operation, chances are you understood why it is now gone. Its time had passed. People don’t hang out at the corner bar anymore. You can blame it on drunk driving laws, destruction and the downhill spiral of the old neighborhood system, or to ticking of the clock. The simple fact is that once the mills shut down, it was just a matter of time for the Chiodos and their bar.
Just like your grandfather, your grandfather’s tavern is now gone. Rather than mourn, try to think about the good times - a cold one after the last shift on a Friday, the Steelers on a black and white TV, or the night when Helen gave the bartender her bra.
Among the treasures seemingly haphazardly tossed up onto the shelves and walls of Chiodos, there, next to the autographed photos of Presidents and football players, displayed next to trophies and pennants, were bras – lots of bras. Depending on who you asked, there were different reasons behind the women’s undergarments on display inside the bar. Some said they were the result of bets. Others told tales of New Years’ celebrations past. Each brassier had it’s own story (just as in real life). They hung, randomly, for any customer to contemplate as he or she ate a mystery sandwich and sucked down a cold Iron.
I’m not sad for Chiodo’s. The Chiodo family did fine after the fall of the bar. We, the customers, found a new haunt. The neighborhood, having bottomed out a few decades back, will rebound, or not. If not, it will be replaced by a new, better place to live. That’s the cycle of life. Neither do I worry about the stuffed alligator, the photo of Khrushchev or green weenie, all of which stared down at us for years from behind the bar.
I am concerned about those bras, though.
They held an auction to sell all the strange memorabilia that once formed the centerpiece of that completely unique watering hole. Photos of Babe Ruth, John Kennedy, Honus Wagner and Steelers known and forgotten were auctioned off, as was the famous shuffleboard table and the giant sign from the back of the building that once proclaimed Homestead of the “Steel Mill Capital of the World”. There were plenty of bidders from far and wide for those items.
But who gave a dollar for those used bras?
At one time, they meant a lot to somebody. For each of the dozen or so under things that once hung from the walls, there was a story, probably a damned good story. No one knows what those stories are now. No one remembers who once wore those bras. And soon enough, no one will remember Chiodo’s either. That’s how it goes with bars. They’re born, they grow, live, and die just like the people who frequent them. Bars come. Bars go.
Bras live forever.