Saturday Single No. 292

In a note I appended to yesterday’s post, I mentioned the Ace Bar & Grill as the site of a minor epiphany. After finishing the note and sending the amended post out through the Intertubes, I realized that it was the second time in six weeks that I’d mentioned the establishment, which is one of the anchors of life here on the East Side of St. Cloud: I noted in a post at the end of March that my mother and I eat lunch at the Ace nearly every Friday.

And I wondered for the third or fourth time in a few weeks: How many other times have I mentioned the Ace? Given that my family has been dining there fairly regularly for more than fifty years, and given that much of my writing here is about the East Side and about the things that connect me with my roots, I must have written something about the pleasant niche in my memories where the Ace sits.

As I said, the question had been hanging around in my head for a while. So late last night I did a search through the EITW archives for earlier mentions of the Ace Bar, the Ace Cafe (which is what we sometimes called it when it was the Ace Bar & Cafe) and the Ace Grill, and there was nothing there. Not a word.

Well, there are some things to write about the Ace, some tales to tell that may not matter to anyone but me and the ghosts of East St. Germain. Given the restrictions I’ve placed on Saturday posts here at EITW, though, this isn’t the day to delve into those veins in the cavern wall. I think I’ll find ore enough there for more than a single post with one song.

Why? Well, I noticed something during the last two lunch stops at the Ace, something that did not surprise me at all. Last week, my mom – who is ninety – and I were seated as usual in the main dining room, a room that’s generally no more than hall-full at that time of day, and we started our lunch the way we almost always do: a glass of chardonnay for her and a pint of Fat Tire for me. As we sat and sipped our drinks, waiting for the waitress to return, I happened to hear the music coming faintly from the speakers in the high ceiling: The theme from “A Summer Place.”

It might have been the hit version by Percy Faith (nine weeks at No. 1 in 1960), but I’m not sure. It was followed by another tune from the early 1960s – I sadly have forgotten which one – also in an easy listening style. And then another. I kind of nodded. It made sense, given the general demographic of the noontime crowd at the Ace, which skews much closer to my mother’s age than mine.

On our visit yesterday, I paid more attention to the music than I had before. And as we ate our lunch, in between conversation with my mom, I heard an instrumental version of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose” and after a few more tunes, there came an instrumental version of Peggy Lee’s 1969 hit, “Is That All There Is?” (With its oddly stoic and disaffected lyric removed, the latter turns out to be quite a pretty song.) And all the songs were in a style that could well have aired on the FM side of St. Cloud’s KFAM fifty years ago when that station was the home of what was called “beautiful music.”

There’s a bar room at the Ace, of course. It’s around the corner and down a short corridor from the dining room where Mom and I have lunch. I’ve never spent any time in the bar at the Ace. From what I hear when I walk past that corridor, it’s a little bit louder, which is unsurprising, and I have a sense that a little after five o’clock on a weekday, it gets a little crowded with a mix of folks who work here on the East Side or stop by on their ways home from elsewhere. Now, I’ve got nothing against spending some time in a crowded bar room; I’ve done so on many occasions and will no doubt do so again.

But the bar at the Ace exists in current time. And when I’m at the Ace, that doesn’t feel quite right. The dining room, with its wood and brass and its murmurs of conversation and whispers of beautiful music, feels like elsewhen. Even though the entire place was reconfigured and rebuilt after a disastrous fire about twenty years ago, when I’m sipping my Fat Tire on Fridays, I can see the place as it was between forty and fifty years ago, when a young whiteray thought there weren’t a lot of better places to go in St. Cloud than the Ace Bar & Cafe.

I’ll dig into those memories soon, and we’ll see how much ore there actually is in that vein. In the meantime, let’s go back to the tune that got this slow train of thought moving the other week. Like so much of what shows up in this space – words and music alike – Percy Faith’s 1960 hit “Theme from ‘A Summer Place’” is romantic with hints of melancholy, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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3 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 292”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    Your recollections of St. Elsewhen are always appreciated.

  2. […] sometimes about the weight of her memories. Quite often, during our nearly weekly lunches at the Ace Bar & Grill, I’ll ask her a question designed to get her talking about her childhood, her youth or the early […]

  3. […] Whatever we did on each of those Saturday nights, we found ourselves heading back to our car about nine o’clock. That was a late night out for a twelve-year-old kid in 1966. But our evenings weren’t over yet. On each of those four or five Saturday nights, after we got back to the East Side, Dad pulled the car over in the parking lot of the Ace Bar & Cafe. […]

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