Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall Back at The Sopwith Camel Bar

At 2 am on Sunday, we have to turn the clocks back one hour and end Daylight Saving Time.  At 2am on the second Sunday in March we have to Spring forward again.  This system was set up during WWI in order to save energy for war production.  By “Springing ahead” we could take advantage of the longer daylight hours between April and October.

After the Great War, the system was dropped but reinstituted during the Second World War. In the 1950’s it was left up to the states to decide if the wanted to follow Daylight Saving Time.  It was made a federal law in 1966 and we have followed it ever since.

“Fall Back” has meant different things to me and my contemporaries at different point in our lives.  In our early twenties, we spent many of our weekend nights in our favorite local watering holes.  The end of Daylight Saving Time was met with much rejoicing.  It meant the bars would all be open for an extra hour. 

One of our favorite haunts was called the Sopwith Camel. It’s still in business today under a new name, but I still refer to it as The Camel.  It was a small place that had a circular bar that took up most of the room.  There was a large model Sopwith plane hanging from the ceiling over the cash register.  The best way to describe the Camel is that it was like the bar in the TV show Cheers.  Except, instead of knowing all 12 patrons in the place, you knew all 100.  It seemed like every one my age in town would be there on a Saturday night.  On any given night, you might bump into some kid you played little league with, your best friend's older brother or, less enjoyably, a girl you dated last summer.

Jack, the grumpy “old” (probably in his late 30’s) bartender, was a fixture at the Camel for years.  He was a quirky guy who would put up with a lot of our silliness back in the day. My friend Johnny still imitates the way Jack would talk out of the side of his mouth.  This made it tough to understand much of what he said.  He also had a “funny” way of cleaning off the dirty beer mugs. We would watch him dunk said mugs into a sink filled with soapy water, then a sink of clean water and then right back to the taps.  It’s a miracle we all didn’t die from some infectious disease.  I guess Jack felt that the alcohol in the beer, the little there was in those watered down drafts, was enough to kill any germs.

Flash forward many years:  Now, me and all my buddies have children who will soon be old enough to frequent these same local bars.  The parent in me hopes that they don’t waste as much time as I did in these places. And my biggest concern is that they don’t try to drink and drive. Now, the end of Daylight Saving Time means the sun wakes me up that much earlier on Sunday morning.

But there's a nostalgic part of me, the part that is still stuck in his twenties, that hopes my kids enjoy their twenties as much as I did.  That they have great  memories of the people and places that shaped their lives.  That they can rejoice, as I once did, at an extra hour of laughing and drinking at the Camel.


  1. I remember the Camel. I was there once...from 1979 to 1983. :-)

  2. I grew up in Orange County hearing about the pub. My grandfather's prop was supposedly donated/sold to the Camel a while back and mounted over the bar. Does anyone still have pictures of the pub?