Jul 19, 2013 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
My Aunt Kate Tarbe died last week at age 93. Her late husband, my Uncle Walt Tarbe, spelled his last name with an E instead of a Y.
His older brother, my Uncle Joe Tarbe, also spelled it that way while the younger brothers, my Uncle Ed Tarby and my dad, Russ, spelled it with a Y.
Tarbe’s replaced Therre’s
But as in most families, older brothers rule. When the Auburn-born boys returned to Central New York from World War II, they pooled their greenbacks and bought a beer joint on First Street. They purchased it from Aunt Kate’s family. They christened it Tarbe’s Grill.
Before that it had been Therre’s. That was Aunt Kate’s maiden name, and her family had run the place for at least a dozen years.
When the brothers opened for business in 1946 as Tarbe’s Grill, Uncle Walt manned the bar.
Some customers didn’t appreciate Walt’s prickly personality. He wasn’t your usual friendly neighborhood bartender. He could be short, gruff, even rude on occasion.
One explanation for his difficult demeanor was that he was half-deaf, having suffered permanent hearing damage as an artilleryman in George Patton’s Third Army.
Walt had helped keep the big guns roaring through the Battle of the Bulge and crossed the Rhine over the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen in March 1945 as the Allies zeroed in on Berlin and Patton pushed on to Bavaria.
When Walt was finished fighting, however, the persistent sound of cannon fire had severely impaired his hearing. It was a subtle disability, one that he adamantly denied, but which left him at a distinct disadvantage when it came to connecting with other people. As a result he grew bitter and sarcastic.
Uncle Walt was always pleasant to me, but he often rubbed the regulars the wrong way.
When I was a kid in the late 1950s I always enjoyed visiting with Uncle Walt, Aunt Kate and my cousins, Dave and Patty, at their home on Maple Street in Baldwinsville.
Dave was a few years older than I, and whether we were playing badminton or playing rock ’n’ roll records, I learned a lot from him. Once he had dug a hole in the backyard deep enough for three of us to stand up in. I know it was nothing more than a hole in the ground, but to us kids, it was a holy haven and a rare retreat.
While Dave bragged and barked, Patty was quiet as a bird. She was a cool, cute little chick, though. On her bedroom wall, she posted photographs of pop singer Paul Anka.
In the Tarbes’ basement, Dave showed us Uncle Walt’s war souvenirs. As the Third Army rolled through Europe, Walt has somehow managed to snag a big red swastika flag, a German luger and a few Stahlhelm, those distinctive Nazi helmets with their iconic “coal scuttle” shape. Since I’d only seen such swag in the movies, I was amazed that my uncle actually owned the real things, and I hope Dave still has them.
But one of the best things about visiting with the Tarbes was the delicious breakfasts Aunt Kate served us after sleepovers. She made the best pancakes I’d ever tasted, and she served them with a big smile, one I’ll never forget.
White Water Pub chef Larry Pavese is steaming hundreds of clams on selected Friday evenings. For instance, from 5 to 9 p.m. July 12, diners enjoyed all-they-could-eat little necks accompanied with corn on the cob, salt potatoes and plenty of melted butter all for the bargain price of $16.
On Monday nights Larry steams snow crab and serves all-you-can-eat for $24; 314-7398.