THE LAST FINE TIME

11 Nov
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1991 Hardcover First Edition 202 pages Non Fiction

Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1991
Hardcover First Edition 202 pages
Non Fiction

“Snow begins as a rumor in Buffalo, New York.”

This is a book I’ve had since 1991 but never got around to reading. It is a non-fiction telling about a time of innocence and nostalgia – about much cooler nights in a postwar era on the east side of Buffalo – about a family owned Polish-American tavern that later became the swank nightspot of the neighborhood, and about the people who lived in The Last Fine Time.

Eddie Wenzek inherited the business in 1947, and along with George, Eddie‘s brother-in-law, they turned the neighborhood workingman’s bar into the neighborhood’s gathering spot for the prosperous. Today, 722 Sycamore is an empty parcel of land where the memories swirl in the minds of those who knew it well; of those who shared the laughter and a Highball or two; and, of those who were lucky enough to have lived it.

This isn’t just the telling of a nightspot, it’s Klinkenborg’s homage to a culture long forgotten. Of what it was like to live in the aftermath of WW2. Of what it was like to live in the quiet time between 1947 and, what was later to be known of the 60s as, the end of innocence. George and Eddie’s closed its doors for the last time in May of 1970.

Klinkenborg asks us to imagine as we become drawn-in and fall in love with the calmness that was once America. An America, that even if you didn’t live it, you will miss – because of this book.

.

.

On the cover of the paperback edition, there is this photograph. Imagine it is Eddie with Regina, and George with Freda, their wives. Imagine you hear Vic Damon in the background over the tinkling of glasses and through the swathing of tobacco smoke. Outside “…. the streetlamp illuminates the snow on the ground.”

The photograph, of course, is not inside George and Eddie’s, nor is it anything like I said.* But Klinkenborg wants me to imagine, and so, I do.

.

.

 

 

Verlyn Klinkenborg (1952 – ) has a Ph.D in English Literature from Princeton, and has written several books including: Making Hay, and Several Short Sentences About Writing. He lives in upstate New York.

 

 

 

 

*anonymous patrons inside Buffalo’s McVan’s Nightclub, during the 1950s. The photo is courtesy of Robert Petruzzi.

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