Friday, December 7, 2007

Your Chapel: The Happy Hooker, Ft. Morgan, Alabama

Dear Wendy,

... Even though I live in a small town in North Alabama, technology and travel have, at times, drowned out the important parts of life--like sipping a beer at a place called Guinan's and sharing life with the characters around you.

We have a vacation home on a peninsula off the Alabama Gulf Coast known as Ft. Morgan. It has been, until now, a relatively undiscovered jewel on the Gulf Coast inhabited strictly by locals--very few tourists come through. At the tiny Ft. Morgan Marina was a bar called the Happy Hooker (double entendre intended) that became my sanctuary on my trips to the coast. Wanda and Fred (a female "Fred") tended bar and kept us "part timers" up to date on what was happening while we were gone. The locals--Cajun Dave, Crazy Jerry, Normal Jerry, Dirty Dan and Fast Eddie--lined the bar every afternoon to discuss politics, sports (southern football, of course) and the evils of real-estate development. They adopted me several years ago and now refer to me as a "semi-regular."

Sadly, the Hooker never made much money, but it sat on a prime spot overlooking Mobile Bay. As surely as the Redfish feed off of "Dixie Bar," we knew it was just a matter of time. And sure enough, the Hooker was recently sold to a developer who is going to tear it down to build condos. I tell you all of this because when I tell others how deeply saddened I am by this, they simply don't understand. They don't understand how it felt to walk into the Hooker after being home in North Alabama for two or three months and having Wanda or Fred immediately reach into the cooler and hand me a cold Heineken before they even say hello. Or to have one of the bar regulars introduce me to visitors as "one of them." Or to share the sad news of an illness that had befallen one of the locals. They were my family, too.

... I only wish I could visit Guinans. I was actually across the Hudson at West Point on a trip with my fourteen year-old son last year. Had I only known!! Maybe I will make the trip again. Who knows--maybe we could share a beer and a story. I have told my friends what you said in your "Author's Note"--"To anyone who has ever known a spot like this, a spot that makes you feel more at home sometimes than home itself.....go there if you still can. And don't wait for tomorrow. Go today." Profound words.......

Thank you for sharing your story, and that of all the regulars at Guinans. If you get a chance, tell them there is a southern fellow who lifts a glass and thinks of them often.....just like family.

Calvin Brown
Decatur, Alabama

UPDATE: As of this posting, Calvin reports: "The Happy Hooker has not closed yet. The developer who bought the property has given them a little longer to operate. Thankfully, the place is staying true to its roots and the regulars are maintaining the joint as they always have. I haven't been down to the beach in a couple of months, so I am overdue for a visit."


1 comment:

Becka said...

Hi Calvin.... we're neighbors and I've been to Guinan's but never been to the Happy Hooker!! Small world, huh? I have a condo on West Beach in Gulf Shores but never made it to your spot. I lived in Gulf Shores for three years but moved back to Bessemer this past August. I was at Guinan's in Oct 2006 and again in Jan 2007, sat on the stool with the piece of tape! I'll be back at the Gulf in Jan... will check out the Hooker then. My main stay was Pirates Cove. Finding your own Bar/restaurant/anywhere is hard at the beach. You meet someone on Tues and they go HOME on Sat. Enjoyed your post. Becka