West Village I: The Fantastic World of the White Horse
June 22, 1961
The young man recent out of Dartmouth School left the $Eight-a-week room he’d just moved into on Greenwich Road and ventured into the oppressively muggy late afternoon. Though a newcomer to the West Village in that summer time of 1951, he made tracks to the White Horse Tavern like an old-timer. Individuals at Dartmouth had advised him concerning the “The Horse.” Conventional watering-place for writers, longshoremen, Bohemians, pub crawlers, socialists, and just-plain-drunks, it was the sort of scene he’d dreamed of.
“Dartmouth” seemed round at the West Village as he marched alongside, taking in the grimy streets, the weary brownstones, and tenements, the huge brick warehouses. There was one thing backwaterish concerning the neighborhood, drained. Wanting on down 11th Road past the NY Central elevated line, then the elevated West Aspect Highway, he spied the ramshackle docks. They appeared lifeless too. The entire scene reminded him of the arid, yellowish-brown desolation of a 1930s Melancholy portray. Nevertheless it was quiet. And quiet — plus cheaper rents — was why he’d chosen the neighborhood over the remainder of the Village.
As a matter of reality, that quiet was symptomatic of what had occurred to the West Village since its raucous, teeming Irish immigration days. By 1951, these dozen or so historic blocks extending from Hudson Road to the North River, and from Leroy as much as Gansevoort, have been so much at ebb tide the town had long before marked them as a blighted area. Not that they actually have been slums. However the metropolis makes strange distinctions, and although Dartmouth didn’t comprehend it, the redevelopment axe hung heavy over his new house as he walked alongside that day.
Summer time Commandoes
On the corner, the afternoon picked up. Three neighborhood Irish youngsters in ragged garments and 25-cent haircuts popped up like summer time commandoes from behind a line of rusty garbage cans. They took one take a look at Dartmouth’s Brooks jacket, his button-down shirt and rep tie, and squawked, “Hey, faggot, why don’cha go back to Ha’vard!”
Dartmouth winced. However he never seemed back as a shower of stones whistled demonically previous his ears.
After which he fronted the White Horse on Hudson and 11th. Multicolored with checkered trim, ship-shape square, it emitted a low drone of speak from its open door. This was Dartmouth’s massive moment. He was landing on Bohemia’s shores after four dry years in New Hampshire. Man!
Inside, the Horse was gloomy however cool. Darkish was the ornate wooden paneling, with saloon-Victorian lamps, adorned by tiny horse heads hanging down from the ceiling. An English pub, no much less! The heavy, old style bar was crowded with men, most of them in sweaty work clothes with ILA buttons on their caps. Within the adjacent backroom a couple of other individuals, together with a man with a Smith Brothers beard, poked at chessboards.
A Navy Vet
The lads have been making one hell of a noise. An elderly man they referred to as “Ernie,” with an ideal white towel round his expansive midriff, shoved beer at them by the gallon. Timidly Dartmouth joined the lads, feeling conspicuous in his Brooks clothes. He was. A stocky, red-faced sort, with shirt sleeves rolled over his knotty, proletarian arms, frowned and muttered one thing because the younger man nudged by him. Dartmouth felt uneasy. But what the hell, 18 months in the Navy had put some muscle on him too (it was robust in Philly in ’46 mothballing these destroyers and inventorying three million bars of cleaning soap).
He ordered what the longshoremen have been consuming — half-light, half-dark beer — and drained his thick white mug. The frowning man was wanting him up and down. Only the frown had pulled right down to a scowl of gale drive 10. Dartmouth belted one other ’alf and ’alf. Braveness, as it does sometimes to all men, came to him. The scowler tacked unsteadily alongside, his breath that of a hundred hop-fat breweries. “Hey,” he stated.
Dartmouth refused to acknowledge the battered face glowing there in Heinz-tomato ripeness.
“Hey. Hey you, necktie,” the sodden voice endured.
Slowly Dartmouth turned to his antagonist.
“You wanna know sumpin? Was guys like you by no means are available here. Now you’re on the joint like flies. You’re ruinin’ the place. Why don’t you go back uptown?”
Dartmouth was getting mad. Which was unlucky.
“Hey,” the scowler continued. “I’m the kinna man belongs here. I belong on this part of Green-witch Village, not you.” Abruptly his face beamed with satisfaction. “You already know why? I’m a sailor. A ship’s engineer.”
“A ship’s engineer,” Dartmouth grinned coldly. “Properly, the place’s your engine?”
Goodnight, Sweet Dartmouth. When flights of sixth Precinct cops have borne you to your relaxation at St. Vincent’s you may be glad to study the jaw was not damaged — solely badly bent.
These have been the breaks in 1951. The West Village might still brawl on occasion, and the longshoremen, truck drivers, or white collar people (lots of Irish descent) whose households had lived around there because the 1870s and ’80s, just didn’t take to outsiders. The ship’s engineer who clobbered Dartmouth was an excessive, in fact, and his aggressive type have been often stored in line by Ernie Wohlleben, the person who ran the Horse for almost 5 many years. But from time to time things did get out of hand.
The Horse had already gone by way of entire phases of West Village history — even by 1951. And because it was such a durable pub, it reflected those modifications about as readily as any in style neighborhood bar does. A longshore hangout because the ’80s, it survived the roughest days of what was generally known as the American Ward, when the Hudson Dusters gang used to select fights with its clients and infrequently break the home windows. One other indication of how strong part of the group the Horse was by the top of World Conflict I used to be the effect Prohibition had on it — that’s, rattling little effect!
In the late ’30s, the Horse once more reflected changing occasions, however entertaining left-wingers in its backroom. Singing of radical songs turned a nightly procedure back then, and although Ernie was a patient man, when the lyrics acquired around to bomb-tossing and unfettering of chains he acquired irritated. “Pay attention,” he stated to the radicals one night time, “can’t you sing those songs as much as potential in some overseas language?”
Literature Moves In
After the Second World Warfare, the Horse said going literary. And it was Dylan Thomas, in fact, who gave the joint such poetic class. Thomas used to stop while on U.S. lecture tours, bringing an entire coterie of admirers with him. It is typically stated he took his final drink there, earlier than dying in late 1953. But the Horse was still no intellectual spa. A day or so after Thomas died, anyone handed the hat for his widow.
“Thomas. Who’s he?” a longshoreman needed to know.
“Some drunk who used to ball it up in right here,” his companion enlightened him.
Across the similar time, a collection of Sunday afternoon literary-political discussions started in the backroom. Norman Mailer, Calder Willingham, Oscar Williams, Vance Bourjaily — these have been a couple of who held forth, typically by the hour. However the dialogue tended to wander, the afternoons to get longer, and eventually the entire thing fizzled out. “We needed to transplant ideas, however we picked the flawed hothouse,” a participant stated later.
So the White Horse modified. As increasingly individuals like Dartmouth found the West Village, so the stability of population shifted from the Gaelic. The world was faraway from the slum map in 1954 and renovations started. Lease went up. Dartmouth, by the best way, had made it into a $110-a-month two-room garden job by 1955. But there have been certain old-time parts in these blocks who resented this invasion. Some had good purpose too, for they have been dropping their flats to renovators. When property started getting scarce, a longshoreman incomes $5,000 a yr is tough put to compete for area with a copywriter flattening $Eight,000.
Politics reared its ghoulish head too. That was in the course of the McCarthy hearings. Some patriotic West Villagers who authorised of “good previous Joe” determined the individuals who congregated on the White Horse have to be Communists, atheists, or fags. They have been totally different, weren’t they? So fights started in the streets. Then one night time a bunch of those stalwarts invaded the Horse smashing beer mugs over peoples heads and kicking within the entrance windows. Minor variations of this happened all by way of that point. Diplomatic Ernie tried smoothing things over, but solely when the draft grabbed the McCarthyites and directed their hostility toward North Koreans did the tensions ease off.
Different Voices, Other Bars
To return to pal Dartmouth. By the late ’50s, he was an enormous man within the Horse. Everyone referred to as him by his first identify, and the house owners let him maintain a tab. But ingrate that he was, he took to wandering to different pubs for variety. Up to El Faro on Greenwich and Horatio, he drank and performed Lola Florez data on the jukebox. Again down on Greenwich and Perry, it was the poetry readings at the Worldwide Bar that caught his attention for awhile. Sitting alongside longshoremen, writers, and anybody else who drifted in, he listened to Bridget Murnaghan and the others by the hour. The Worldwide, too, had its hour of poetry earlier than lapsing into somnolence.
Typically Dartmouth missed sitting and having a drink with the Irish. They’d been vanishing slowly from the Horse (some of them from the West Village altogether). He discovered them nonetheless, within the Cathedral Bar on Christopher, or within the waterfront Foc’s’cle with its sailors from Norway, truckers from Tulsa, and its star character, Popeye. Popeye, who loves the hop, will get so filled with it he takes to directing visitors on West Road. He has three whistles for his work — an enormous blaster for vans, and average tweeter for automobiles, and a tiny peeper for jeeps and scooters. “I’m a federal visitors professional,” Popeye hollers as a truck driver in a 10-ton semi glares down at him. “President Kennedy simply gave me sleeping privileges in the Purple Ball vans.”
‘Horse’ At this time
And what of Dartmouth’s Horse at present? Though most of the longshoremen have gone, writers, painters, editors still gravitate there. The poet in residence is Delmore Schwarz. But school youngsters literally pack the place on weekends, and its almost inconceivable to find a place to take a seat down. In the backroom, Socialists, like Mike Harrington, talk about the world but don’t minimize unfastened with the novel songs anymore. They folksinging crowd which had are available over the the past few years makes all the racket now. The indomitable Clancy Brothers, Logan English, and others sing of their ethnic backgrounds until the little room rocks. They’ve displaced politics.
Dartmouth can’t stand the singing. He can’t stand the outsiders both, or the weekend crowds. “It isn’t the identical,” you possibly can hear him griping, “you need to have seen it 10 years ago. Real individuals then!” And he’s turn out to be a loyal West Villager too. With the individuals once once more considering of redeveloping the neighborhood (it has improved tremendously in 10 years), he’s ready to man the barricades towards the Planning Commission. Just ask him the subsequent time you’re within the Horse. He’ll grab you by the shirt, back you towards the previous grandfather clock, and inform you what a fantastic place his neighborhood is by the hour.
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