Marty McFly was duped. You don’t need a time machine to see what it was like to live in the middle part of last century. All you need are a few hours on a Saturday morning at some estate sales, and you’ll be more intimately acquainted with those bygone eras than you ever thought possible. And this is pretty much exclusively why David and I go to them. It’s more of a sociological research project than a quest to find the perfect china hutch or stock up on half-empty cleaning supplies.
Once I’ve entered an estate sale house, I bypass all the bedroom costume jewelry and kitchen cookery and head right for the basement. One of my absolute favorite things to see are those swanky basement bars that were all the rage in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Made out of everything from bamboo, to quilted plaid, to tufted vinyl, to faux-wood paneling, to the leftover Marlite from a recent bathroom remodel, private basement bars were the absolute pride and joy of the men who lived in these houses. They were a place to get away from the wife and kids. A subterranean refuge in which to unwind from a long day at the job. A local hangout to invite friends and neighbors over for libations and lung cancer. And they always stocked your favorite brands.
Each basement bar always has it’s own distinct flavor, and much like snowflakes, no two are ever alike. Some are classic Old Spice-and-wood-paneling manly, and others are more of a velvet smoking jacket, Sinatra type of gaudy elegance. Some have elaborate custom signs and saloon doors, others are just a corner space next to the washer & dryer with a few amber swag lamps. But whatever the style, you can always picture grandpa and his buddies gathered around the Formica bar top, pouring Schlitz beers and mixing highballs, ribbing one another and laughing about that time during the war when so-and-so accidentally ran the Jeep into such-and-such.
In addition to the unique styles of the bars themselves, we always find interesting things inside those basement bars– vintage booze, half-empty tins of smokin’ tobacco, swanky cocktail glassware, swizzle sticks from airport lounges, good luck charms, girlie magazines, gambling dice, stolen ashtrays from Atlantic City motels, and sometimes, sometimes, even a package of 35 year old condoms. Yes, grandpa was certainly a busy guy down there. Or at least he was ready to be.
The Retro Ranch didn’t come with a basement, but I like to think that if it did, we would have the best vintage bar west of the Mississippi. After all, we’ve certainly spent enough time studying this popular midcentury trend to know exactly how to accessorize it. But we’ll have to save that knowledge for our next house.
Now, can I light your Lucky Strike and pour you a Pink Squirrel?