Sunday, January 29, 2006

Arrivederci Pastime!

I know. I know. Old news. The Pastime Cafe closed last Saturday, January 21. I suppose I was feeling rather melancholy and sluggish about it all. Too many memories for me and I know that I am not the only one in this town that feels that way. Four generations can recite their fond memories of this great Walla Walla landmark. I have yet to read a menu that offered fried egg sandwiches or fried salami sandwiches like the Pastime. Simple, working class and full of greasy savory flavor. No other restaurant in town would offer the poor man a free bowl of soup, either. No one left the small diner hungry that was started by Italian immigrants. The bar was like walking into a time warp of 1940. Laborers would drop by to cash their paycheck and stick around for a shot of whiskey. In the summer if you were unemployed, the farmers would stop by and give you a job for a day or so.

As a small child I can remember going there for dinner with my parents. Going out to dinner on a Friday night with my mother and father was a big deal. I was mesmerized by the chilled butter pats that were imprinted with a four leaf clover marking the dairy from where they were processed.

In high school I can remember several dinner dates at the Pastime. It's a small town, so some of those dates I still see from time to time socially with other friends or even in the grocery store. One date I had forgotten about until recently. I remember I dined on the Pastime's famous lasagne with a side of fried pepperoni. I would discover that the date was as slippery as the pepperoni grease that floated to the bottom of the lasagne plate. Thirty years later, he got in my way again, and made a bigger grease spot than before. "They" say that "To err is human and to forgive divine." I became divine once. It's a nice sentiment, but "They" also say "Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me." By the way, who are "They?" I hold my good memories to my heart and like I always told my kids, bad memories are okay as long as we can eventually set them free, and let them leave us with a valuable life lesson. Did the karmic aura of the Pastime ever know that they were responsible for all of that?

A couple years later I would be dining with a girl friend and happen to notice a handsome man at one of the half-circle booths dining with his two adorable red-headed toddlers. These beautiful toddlers had the attention of many of the diners with their curly red locks. Who knew that several years later I would be married to that man for 20 years and the red haired children I would eventually call my own. Now their children, my grandbabies, happen to resemble the toddlers that captured the diners attention.

Later came several dinners celebrating birthdays, anniversary's, graduations, and a lot of dinners after Mass on Saturday evening. Recently we chuckled at the wine list - who would have ever thought that the Pastime would offer a $100 Leonetti wine to go with their lasagne noodles and fried pepperoni? We ordered the basket of Chianti for $12.99.

Over forty years of memories for me. In the mean time, some of the locals are up-in-arms about the Pastime closing and a new owner taking over. Yes, the new owner wants to "clean" the place up a bit, update the menu and possibly add a wine bar. Maybe the new owner Charles Smith of K-Vintners will create some new memories for us - - if we let him.

6 comments:

tcriss said...

Lovely article, Catie. Of course, I, too, share many fond memories of the Pastime. It will be missed by my whole family. We used to go there - all 8 of us! We'd sit in the back room amidst all the pictures that chronicalled the history, not only of the Pastime, but of Walla Walla, too. I wonder who now owns those priceless photos...oh, well, cie la vie!
-Tim Criss

Leana said...

I wrote this poem last fall before I knew of the Pastime's impending doom. I always had a meal there when I was in Walla Walla. I am glad I had the old Pastime experience. Next time I am there perhaps I will give the new Pastime a chance. Thank you for your wonderful rememberences.

The Pastime Café

It is certainly not the food that lures me back
Though they do a fine veggie omelet
And a respectable split pea soup
It is everything else about the place

The waitresses who have worked there
For ten, twenty, forty years
Who call you “Hon” whether you are
Male, female, five or eighty
The wooden booths with concave seats
Eroded out by generations of rear ends
The big green luminescent clock that boldly
Says, SPAGHETTI & MEATBALLS
And in even bigger letters announces
COCKTAILS, lending a sophisticated air
The murals of Capri or is it Venice
Covering the walls of the dining room
Where only dinner is served and
The Rotary Club Christmas banquet

What gets me most is the joy with which
Any employee will give you a guided tour
Of the restaurant’s historical photo’s
Going back over seventy-five years
That line every room including the bathrooms

Catie said...

Leana, thanks for writing and sharing your memories. Also, your timing is perfect, as I have another Pastime blog in the making and will publish it as soon as the publisher tool decides to cooperate.
Cheers!

Aunty Pol said...

WOW...I was just surfing my faorite blogs and came across this...Man...does this bring back memories. The old gal was a landmark in W2.

Best Regards

407bistro said...

I too find myself drifting back to a simpler time when things were just"right". I worked at the pastime starting out stocking shelves for cigarette machine money. I eventually moved on to dishwasher then cook. I literally grew up in this place. Some of my fondest memories are of the 1st generation, Louis Fazzari. He was a riot. Franky and Bobby Fazzari were great people to work for. My mother also cooked for them for years. It's nice to see other people have fond memories of the place too.

Kary Donovan said...

For a few years before the Pastime closed I ran Karaoke in the backside of the bar. We had so much fun there! The food was Awesome! Sure miss it. Thank You Robert Fazzari for everything!
-Kary Donovan-