West End Café

Mahanoy City’s Barrooms

Gudd's Cafe Ad
Ad from the Mahanoy City Record American (April 19, 1947).

The West End Café is the longest continuously operating drinking establishment in Mahanoy City. Originally Gudd’s Café, it was run by the Gudaitis family for many years – first by Peter Gudaitis until his death in 1928 and then by Margaret (Maggie) Gudaitis until her death in 1957.

As a fixture of the West End, Gudd’s would have been a frequent stop for Carpatho-Rusyn miners living in the neighborhood on their way home from work or church. Like many of their fellow Slavs, the Carpatho-Rusyns had a reputation for being heavy drinkers, and many of the sociological studies of the Slavic immigrants from the early twentieth century drew attention to this.

Reverend Peter Roberts, who served as a Protestant minister in Mahanoy City until 1907, dedicated an entire chapter of his study Anthracite Coal Communities (1904) to “The Men at the Bar.” “All the Sclavs drink,” Roberts flatly observes. “He looks upon lager exactly as the English do upon tea or the French upon wine.” While he notes that “many drink to excess,” as a whole “even in his drinking habit the Sclav does not forget his thrift. They frequently club together and buy lager by the barrel. The night is spent in revelry, and from the Sclav quarters comes the boisterous roar of ribald songs which gradually dies away as the debauchees fall into a drunken stupor. Observers say that it is only when lager and whiskey are mixed that the savage brute is aroused in the breast of the Sclav, and on these occasions brawls occur which end in bloodshed and death” (1904, 52).

Roberts was so concerned by Slavs’ inclination for debauchery that he included a detailed map of the town demonstrating the unfavorable ratio between saloons (148), churches (17), and public schools (5) for a population 18,904 to illustrate the severity of Mahanoy City’s drinking problem.

Bar Map from Roberts (1)
Map indicating 148 saloons, 17 churches, and 5 public schools in Mahanoy City from Peter Robert’s Anthracite Coal Communities

From the Sacred to the Profane:
Emil Kubek’s “The Good Dad”

C. D. Kaier Brewing Company ad in the American Rusyn Messenger (March 20, 1894).
C. D. Kaier Brewing Company ad in the American Rusyn Messenger (March 20, 1894).

As an integral member of the community, Kubek was well aware of the penchant of his congregation to spend their free time in Mahanoy City’s drinking establishments, and he addressed the theme of alcoholism in many of his works. The priest and scholar František Dancák has even dedicated an entire book to the theme of drunkenness in Kubek’s poetry and prose entitled Drink up, Godfather: The Problem of Alcoholism in the Work of Emil Kubek (1857-1940).

In addition to being a writer of high religious poetry, Kubek also was an accomplished satirist, one who could slip into and out of the voices of many different individuals. In his lyrical poem “The Good Dad,” Kubek writes from the point of view of a young child who sketches a portrait of a father who never seems to be at home.

Before reading the poem, the title suggests that we will find a wholesome tribute to a father, perhaps enumerating his many virtues and imparted words of wisdom, and the first two lines “There’s no type of dad / Like the one that we have” lead us to believe this as well.

We quickly discover, though, that there isn’t much to like about this man, and the child’s lyrical voice expresses his resentment of his father’s carousing, laziness, and miserliness. Nonetheless, the child does sense that his father might not be altogether bad and has turned to the bottle to cope with being unemployed. He wonders “if he’d find a career, / Would we see him more often, / Like a few times a year?” and then asks in the penultimate couplet: “Oh will he ever find / A job in the mines?”

Thus, the repetition of the poem’s refrain at the beginning and the end of the poem allows us to understand “The Good Dad” as a naïve sketch of a drunken father, but one that is not without a sympathetic understanding of his shortcomings. In this sense, Kubek’s poem can be read both as a moralistic and a social critique by drawing attention to a persistent problem within Slavic immigrant communities and diagnosing the economic foundation of it.

“The Good Dad”
By Emil Kubek

There’s no type of dad
Like the one that we have.
A week will pass by
Before we see the guy.
Our neighbors have jobs,
But dad’s just a slob.
We’re sitting in class
When he gets off his ass.
Sometime around noon,
He crawls from his room.
He’s nowhere near clean,
When he puts on his jeans.
“Gimme some change!”
He asks, then complains
Over breakfast in bed,
As he reads the want ads.
It’s been almost ten years,
He’s been bringing mom tears!
He always takes money
From our hard-working mommy,
But it doesn’t go far,
Once he walks in the bar.
There it’s easy to find,
Other men of his kind,
Ones just like our dad,
Who need work really bad.
Until deep in the night,
They drink down their troubles,
And occasionally fight.
After we finish eating,
And are just about sleeping,
We wish once again,
That our dad tucked us in.
If he’d find a career,
Would we see him more often,
Like a few times a year?
At seven on Sunday,
We get ready together,
No matter the weather,
And all go to church.
But dad is still snoring,
He thinks church is boring
His way to be blessed,
Is to get lots of rest!
When we return to the house
We can’t find the louse,
But it’s not hard to know,
Where dad likes to go.
Oh will he ever find
A job in the mines?
Yes, there’s no type of dad,
Like the one that we have.

Walk down:
West Railroad Street
Mahanoy City, PA 17948

West End Walking Tour - FINAL

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