A New Paltz Cornerstone
A History of Hospitality at P&G’s
…to the Spring of 1900, the year that local builder John H. Hasbrouck and his men constructed a 50′ x 28′ two story building at the site where P&G’s currently resides. Look around and begin to imagine…
The first floor featured a fountain with water softly falling into a cobblestone basin, enhanced with goldfish and blooming water lilies, the effect was exotic. Palms were placed liberally throughout the room, providing an air of privacy for those seated at the groups of small tables and chairs. Patrons, dressed in their finest, sit chatting, sometimes courting, and enjoying the fine refreshments.
The Casino’s owner, Mr. Steen, has correctly envisioned the areas’s many tourists, summer boarders, and trolley passengers stopping by to enjoy the many unique features of his establishment. The terminal station for the trolley line for Highland is located just across Main Street. It’s said that Steen had patterned the Casino after the famous Boardmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.
On June 1, 1900 the Casino officially opened. That evening “a large number of people” enjoyed the ice cream, music, and the lovely mountain views, according to the New Paltz Independent newspaper. Music was provided by a band which included a piano and several other instruments. The Casino soon became famous for Saturday night dances held on the second floor of the open pavilion, which was decorated with baskets of flowers and vines suspended from the rafters. The crowds were so large that “special” late trolley cars were run to accommodate the guests and take the orchestra back to Poughkeepsie.
The electric power was shut down at midnight, according to the Independent writer Delia Shaw “…the time of closing and the departure of the last trolley (run by electricity) had to be reckoned with: but as was often the case, several folks ‘Missed The Last Trolley’… seems between intermissions the fellows would walk their girls down the street where numerous straw thatched summer houses were located on the banks of the Wallkill River and they were so occupied with making love by the light of the silvery moon that they forgot everything!”
Shaw continued, “Saturday Nights In New Paltz Became A Legend! There was not a single hitching post available, nor an inch of space under any of the sheds of the five local hotels. The Casino drew people from surrounding towns and they came via hay loads and four seated carriages; while some even walked and carried their dancing shoes! ‘Little Larry’, the shoe shine fellow, did a landslide business on Saturday nights! As did all of the merchants with the stores open ’til 9 p.m.”
The Blue Crane Inn
By 1921 the Casino had changed hands and names, becoming the Blue Crane Inn. Ads of the era read “The Big Night At the Blue Crane Inn/Dancing Every Wednesday and Saturday Evenings/In the Chinese Hall~Good Jazzy Music.” The cornerstone of nightlife in New Paltz continued to thrive.
In 1925, after 28 years of service, the Highland to New Paltz trolley company folded. The demise of the trolley business and the affordability of the automobile meant people’s outings were no longer confined to the trolley lines’s narrow corridor. They could drive to any village, hotel, entertainment, or scenic spot that caught their fancy. Indeed, New Paltz and the Blue Crane Inn lost their “captive” audience. The Inn, however, continued to accommodate people well into the 1930’s.
For the next two decades a number of diverse businesses occupied the then divided building. These included Carroll’s clothing store (1937), Akins Drug Store (1933), Schaffert Real Estate Office (1945), The Maria Shop (1950), and Dick’s Bar and Grill, among others.
Pat & George’s In 1947 Dick’s Bar and Grill was purchased by two Lake Mohonk employees, Pat Cafferty and George Jayne. Legend has it that neither told their wives of their intention to purchase the business. They immediately changed the grill’s name to Pat and George’s. Among its soon loyal customers, it was simply “P&G’s”.
The Stormy Years
One of the best things to happen to P&G’s occurred in 1951. An ex-Dodgers baseball player named Storm Nickerson became the bartender. Stormy, as he was affectionately known, became something of a legend. His kind heart, good humor, and generous spirit made P and G’s the one place that welcomed all from the harsher outside world into a refuge for college students, business people, local characters, and even for a while in the 1960’s, “bikers”. According to one source, “They weren’t as rowdy a crew as you might expect because although he was quiet, Stormy commanded and got respect.” His professional baseball background made him a natural to pitch batting practice for the New Paltz College teams, and he did so for a number of seasons. One college fraternity, the Kappas, considered P and G’s their private domain, the scene of everything important: news, views, camaraderie — and especially — humor.
After the Mount St. Helens volcano erupted and news reports discussed the possibility of considerable ash fall-out across the US, Stormy came to work to find the staff dressed in garbage bags with metal kitchen colanders on their heads. Since no ash was reported on anyone, Stormy reasoned the attire had been effective by making everyone in New Paltz laugh their ash off.
In June 1991, after 40 years, Stormy retired from P&G’s. He died in June of 1994. From his casual humor that lingers, to his Chili recipe we still serve, and the fond memories often repeated by his many friends, Stormy lives on here.
Ed Beck’s Party
In 1969, Edwin Beck bought P&G’s. His first weekend as owner was completely successful. The following weekend, however, the place was deserted. A disheartened Beck couldn’t understand what he had done to alienate everyone – and so quickly! He was relieved to learn it was simply a matter of poor timing; everyone was away mud-wallowing in a farm field in Bethel, NY … a music festival, or something …
Ed Beck never spent time worrying. He looked across Main Street and down Plattekill Avenue, eyeing the thousands of thirsty SUNY New Paltz College students who, for the most part, remained on campus. Taking a good supply of liquid refreshment, Beck went to the campus and threw a well-received free party. In doing so, he introduced PandG’s to a wider audience and gave the students (all legal in those days) a new place to call home. He transformed PandG’s from a neighborhood bar into a local institution.
The force of Beck’s personality had much to do with the continued success of P&G’s — the place was fun. One oft quoted story about Beck concerns a young P&G’s enthusiast who admitted he wanted to be just like Beck when he grew up. It is reported that Beck in all humility replied, “Well, son, you can’t do both.”
P&G’s – It’s Official
The name, Pat & George’s, was officially changed to P&G’s in the 1980’s by Ed Beck and his son, Mike. In 1985, Mike bought out his father’s interest. In January 1994, he undertook extensive renovations making the building exterior appear more as it did in 1900, when it was The Casino.
Mike Beck continues to run P&G’s and is frequently joined by one of his three children as hostess or waiter staff. The atmosphere is inviting and allows you to settle right into the casual setting. This is a regular lunch and dinner stop for many locals and tourists alike.