So Long 49’r Lounge
When I was single and living in Dundee in the 1980s and 1990s, schlepping to the 49’r Lounge with my best friend every Friday evening became a ritual for us like eating pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. No matter what the weather, my friend would drive to my apartment, and together we would walk down 49th Street to Dodge where we would make a quick left, take a few steps down a narrow sidewalk, and reach the door of the great neighborhood dive where everyone really did know our names.
As we pushed the door open, a cloud of smoke escaped like a prisoner just paroled and billowed past our heads. Known for its diverse jukebox selection, competitive dart games, and lively shuffleboard tournaments, the 49’r had easily become our home away from home—a place where we could truly be ourselves. Week after week, we ordered pitchers of beer, fed our starving stomachs with 99-cent packs of beer nuts, and lamented over men, our jobs, and our futures.
Everyone knew where we were on a Friday night. The 49’r was the kind of place where we could put our feet up on a chair without worrying about dirtying the cushions, listen to the Stones on the jukebox, and write a check for cash if we ran out of money. It didn’t matter if we could see our breath in the bathroom in the winter, that the furniture needed a paint job, or that the wallpaper was peeling. It was a time when life was as simple as our needs. We wanted for nothing more than a cold beer, good conversation, and a place to hang out and dream.
The 49’r wasn’t the kind of establishment that served frou-frou drinks or gourmet food, but it was the place where I met my best friend’s future husband for the first time, where we caught up with high school friends who were home from college for the holidays, and where we laughed until it hurt. It was the kind of place where you could loudly sing along to the jukebox, openly scream for your team during a fierce shuffleboard tournament, and whoop with delight when you saw someone you hadn’t seen in a long time—all without receiving one glaring look from an uptight stranger. The 49’r was truly frou-frou free, and that’s why we loved it.
Every Friday night as we opened the door to leave, we turned around and waved to the bartender. He would wink and then yell, “See you next week!” In a time in our lives when nothing ever seemed certain, my friend and I knew that no matter what, we could count on the 49’r to be there. There was no question—we would be back.
And then we both were married in the same year. My best friend and I both had children and became as busy as any two young mothers whose priorities had suddenly changed from drinking cold beers to wiping runny noses. Our visits to the 49’r Lounge became less and less frequent until they finally stopped a few years ago.
On October 26, 2010, after a valiant fight by the neighborhood to keep the 49th & Dodge Street corner as it had been for so many years, the 49’r closed its doors for the last time. When I heard the news, I called my best friend. This time, instead of discussing men, our jobs, and our families, we discussed change and how, no matter how hard we try sometimes, we cannot stop it. My best friend and I have both lived enough life to know that our memories are not lost as the 49’r is torn down to make way for a new business, but instead, follow us everywhere. My grandmother once gave me a plaque that read, “You never really leave a place you love. Part of it you take with you, and part of it you leave behind.” One fact is certain—I lived a lot of life inside that little neighborhood dive—a piece of my life I will never forget.
Thanks for the memories, 49’r.
Do you have your own memories of the 49’r? Please share them below.