Road trip To Smith

Rahar’s was the 1950s home away from home for me and my pals. The watering hole served as the Northampton, Massachusetts headquarters for visiting collegians pursuing female companionship at Smith College.

The dilapidated bar and restaurant occupied the ground floor of a post-Civil War Victorian mansion set on a spare hilltop a block off Main Street, just close enough to get your date back to her dorm in time for the midnight curfew. They weren’t very picky about underage drinkers, so Rahar’s was a popular place to hang out.

Chris Miller, Dartmouth ’62, co-scripted “Animal House” catching the zeitgeist of his fraternity Alpha Delta Phi. My beloved Chi Phi was next door to AD and we shared many of their maladroit social customs. Women were a rare commodity, except for special weekends such as Winter Carnival, House parties or Green Key, when they were imported in droves to an otherwise celibate campus. Weekends in Hanover were like “Weekends at Bernie’s”, road trips the only escape from the granite of New Hampshire. Otter, Boon, Flounder and Pinto solved the problem in “Animal House,” famously heading to a roadhouse with Otis Day and the Knights belting out “Shout.” Our guys hit the road to Rahar’s with Roger Williams records sedately tinkling “Autumn Leaves” on the 1940s jukebox.

The road trip to Smith was a sinuous three-hour trek on truck-choked Route 5. The halfway point was a sloppy men’s room at a truck stop diner in the Vermont town Bellows Falls that we rechristened Fellow’s Balls. It was common practice to load up the car with beer in Hanover. That we never got arrested or had an accident was a miracle.

Arriving at Rahar’s, we’d be greeted by the hardy bartender, an old Irishman by the name of Murph. If you were a regular and short of cash he would comp you till the next time you came in. The place was always loaded with Smithies decked out in pearl necklaces, their boyfriend’s J. Press Shaggy Dog sweater draped over a men’s 14”-32” OCBD, Peck & Peck gray flannel Bermuda shorts, and navy blue knee socks anchored in penny loafers. Rather what the young lady is wearing in the accompanying archival photo. That’s me on the left reviewing the Rahar’s scene in 1958.

The Big Green went co-ed in 1972, Alpha Delta Phi is ancient history at Dartmouth, and the Hanover-Northampton trip is now a breezy glide on Interstate 91, bypassing the infamous Bellows Falls.

Oh, and I remain married to the same beautiful Smith graduate I met 60 years ago in New York. Fortunately we missed each other at Rahar’s.

 

RICHARD PRESS

13 comments

Preferred using Rhona’s Fathers charge account at Wiggins Tavern

Joel February 18, 2020

Never went to Rahar’s much. Still wear those shetland sweaters to work. Love to Vida.
Roz

Rosalyn Doggett January 29, 2020

Amherst class of 1974 (last year before coeducation) — So many of us had dates at our sister schools, Smith and Mt. Holyoke, but it all cooled when the Dartmouth boys arrived on big weekends. We went home to our dorms but the boys from Hanover stayed over.

Michael Rogawski January 28, 2020

I never made it to Smith, but I spent many hours on I-95 in my Volkswagen commuting back and forth between Yale and Connecticut College for Women, as it was known in those halcyon days of the late ’60s.

Rpbert W. Emmaus January 28, 2020

Brown ‘71. My store was Hillhouse on Thayer Street, the former Langrock location. They also had a branch in Springfield. Hillhouse finally closed in 1996 when the University wouldn’t extend their lease. The last I looked it was being used to store refrigerators for Brown Student Agencies. Harvey Ltd., which started selling Ralph Lauren in the late 60’s, and Mark David were the other traditional stores on Thayer Street. The only tie you can purchase today on Thayer Street is polyester with a Brown logo at the Brown Bookstore. And Harvey Ltd. is a Subway.

Robert Solomon January 27, 2020

What a great story, Richard. Loved it.

John Tinseth January 27, 2020

Years later I always told me wife, if you have to drive with a drunk let him be from Dartmouth or Yale. They know how to drive drunk over long distances.

joel dobris January 27, 2020

I love this little story of a time gone by. Thank you for it. And thanks also for continuing to keep alive the best in style of those times, which enrich our present. I learned it well during my own time in New Haven back in the 70s.

Tom Morris January 27, 2020

Thank you for your stories! What a great sometimes innocent time that seemed to be! “Press” on with history!

Sims Harrigan January 27, 2020

Mr. Press, I’ve followed your stories and comments for some time. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate you. I know I’m not the only one to romanticize “your collegiate era.” Attending college in the early 80’s, we not only had “Animal House” memorized, but it seems we had a longing to recreate your era and the scenes you describe here. Thank you for sharing.

Bean Boot January 27, 2020

Great memories! I was Chi Phi, Kappa Chapter.

Richard Meyer January 27, 2020

These little vignettes are such wonderful trips down Memory Lane. Pitch-perfect capture of so many aspects of those times. I hope J. Press will compile them all, and when the time comes, publish them as a collection.

Gerald Brecher January 27, 2020

Rahar’s!!! What a memory to start the day. As someone who grew up in western Mass. and then headed north to Hanover In the 60s, there was some familiarity with that famous place.

Dwight Keeney January 27, 2020

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