Your Best Stories From The All-American Rathskeller

After 84 years in State College, The All-American Rathskeller will close its doors for good this Saturday. The historic downtown bar has seen thousands of students, parents, alumni, and friendly patrons walk through its doors and has been a common theme in happy memories of Happy Valley.

We asked for your best Skeller stories and you responded with stories of love, laughter, and liquor:

Cindy Pae-Moebius, Class of 1991

“My dad played football at Penn State and the 1960 (?) team photo has been on the wall for years. He died in 2004, so every time we go back, we take a picture in front of it (beers in hand, of course) to toast his memory! He’s No. 11 in the front row: Dick Pae.”

Katie Mailey, Class of 2016

“On September 9, 2017, my sister went into labor with my first nephew during the Pitt-Penn State game. Later that evening, I stood on the booth at Skeller, charging my phone from a wall outlet, and officially became an aunt! Needless to say the back corner booth in Skeller is a special place in State College.”

Alex Bolotovsky, Class of 2009

“I proposed to my wife on stage at the Skeller on Homecoming weekend. My wife and I had our first kiss at the Skeller, so I came up with an elaborate plan to propose to her there. I bought us tickets to the Homecoming game and tickets for us to fly in. I found out what band was playing that night and contacted them a couple months in advance and set up a fake raffle to sing on stage with the band. I had my buddy put my name in “as a joke” and of course got called up. I announced that I was a bad singer but my girlfriend had a good voice, so I called her up. We sang about half a song then I cut off the music, got on one knee and proposed.”

Mark, Class of 1987

“Five dollar cases of Rock ponies for Friday happy hours. You could rent the bottle opener for 50 cents. That led to breaking the Guinness World Record for ‘most cases consumed in one day’ in November 1983. I think it was over 900. Gonna miss that place, especially any time the ‘Ducks’ were playing. I was hoping to share that tradition with my daughter, but she’s only a sophomore and will miss out on one of the truly great college bars!”

Ed White, Class of 1967

“It was an unusually warm Friday afternoon in the spring of 1967. State College residents had recently voted to allow alcohol to be sold in State College. At the time, only draft and bottle beer were sold in the bars. If you wanted to buy a bottle of alcohol, you had to drive to the liquor store in Bellefonte. The Skeller was going to be the first State College bar to be able to serve mixed drinks. I was reporting to the Skeller for my regular Friday afternoon shift. In the middle 1960s, the Skeller would be packed on Friday afternoons from 4:00 to about 7:00 when the crowd would start to thin out. Dean Smith the owner was on the door checking IDs when I arrived. He told me because it was so nice out that he was going to check IDs that day. He wanted me to bartend and cook. There was a flat-top grill in that little room behind the front of the bar — we sold burgers and fries. This particular afternoon the place was packed. Back then, there were no seats at the bar and no high-top tables. Everyone stood unless you got one of the wooden tables. I wasn’t there too long before it happened. The noise level started dropping from the front of the bar to the back. The Liquor Control Board (LCB) showed up and were one by one checking everyone’s IDs. Just then a kid ran into the kitchen from the pool room. Back then that middle room had two pool tables. He said, ‘I have to get out of here I’m not 21.’ I lead him to the back door which was open to let in some fresh air. Before we got to the door, I could see two guys’ legs from the waist down and they were wearing suits. The LCB had the back door covered in case someone tried to get out that way. He said, ‘What am I going to do?’ I said, ‘Get in here,’ and opened the walk in cooler. I told him I wouldn’t forget him. It seemed to take forever for them to make their way through checking LCB cards. That’s what we used at the time for IDs. When they got to the very back room, a kid handed his card to one of the LCB guys. When he did, he bolted for the front door. As you can imagine, he didn’t get very far. He had replaced his brother’s picture with his own picture. There was about another 20 minutes or so before they were gone and out of there. I had forgot all about my new ‘friend’ in the cooler. Dean was glad it was him on the door and not one of us. Then he said, lucky there was only one in here, the punishment shouldn’t be too bad. That’s when I remembered. He had been in there over an hour. I ran to open the door and there he was sitting on some beer cases. He had opened three bottles of beer. He used the shelves to knock of the caps — no twist-offs back then. He said, ‘How much do I owe you for the beer?’ I had to hold Dean back; I thought Dean was going to kill him. The kid ran out. The LCB delayed the Skeller’s liquor license for a couple of months. So instead of the Skeller serving the first mixed drink in State College, that honor went to the Downtowner Hotel Bar and the bartender Cubby Bear. I’m trying to spend as much time with my old friend before she closes forever. No other place like her.”

(Photo: Ed White)
“There are only two of these left in the world. One is hanging in a shadow box at the Skeller, the other one is hanging in my closet. Dean Smith gave it to me in 1997, 30 years after I worked for him. Great guy he was.” (Photo: Ed White)

Jon Neseth, Class of 2017

“Spring of 2017: sat outside with a case of ponies and a couple of buds. A woman in her early 30s sits at our table and starts making small talk (she was kind of inebriated already), helping herself to a beer. We don’t know how to react so we just roll with it until our waitress recognizes said woman. Turns out it was an old professor of her’s who waited tables on Friday nights. The woman helping herself to our beer became embarrassed and eventually scurried away. It was great for us because we weren’t sure how to ask her to stop drinking our beer.”

Jef Wall, Class of 1974, 1976

“For my daughter’s graduation in May 2005, her mother had just had her knee replaced and her sister was away at a high school function. Heather didn’t even want to ‘walk’ but I talked her into it. Graduation was nice, but the afternoon afterwards that we spent at the Skeller was truly memorable. Heather, her cousin Chris, and an endless parade of her college buddies wiled away the afternoon, sipping on cold ones and reminiscing about a wonderful college career. Even though I had spent many a day at the Skeller in the 70s during my stint at Penn State, sharing graduation day with my daughter was absolutely priceless.”

Stacy, Class of 1996

“Seeing Fuzzy Bunny Slippers in a packed house and watching the line form the night before the 5 a.m. opening of the Pony case races.”

Matt Tofani, Class of 2015

“We went to Skeller for Trivia Night pretty much every Thursday for the 2014 and 2015 school year. Anyway, after going enough times, we “made friends” with the host Trivia Steve. After what started as a bit of a joke, we ended up inviting him on a bar tour that ended up at the most infamous place in State College, The End Zone. Trivia Steve shows up and we realize how weird it is we’re there with a man in at least his forties in a dirty strip club. We never returned to Trivia Night.”

Blair Burak, Class of 2016

“My junior year, my friends and I went to meet our other friends at Skeller and it was one of those ‘let’s just have a drink and go home kind of nights.’ When we got there, my one friend told us it was three dollar Three Olives until 9 p.m. and we had just gotten there at 8:30 p.m. We ordered one drink each, noticed the time, and ordered two more. When our waitress came back and we were ordering our fourth, she said “You know the special is until midnight right?” We decided we already were four in and might as well keep going! When we left here was a HUGE snowstorm out and we ended up having a snowball fight with strangers across the street from our apartment. So much for “one drink!” Skeller, you will be missed.”

Denise, Class of 1976

“Having my Penn State son and daughter take me there years later because I graduated before I was 21 and never had a fake ID!”

***

The last two stories submitted to us seemed to have some similar motifs. Compare the two for yourself:

Austin Smith, Class of 2015

“My best friend’s dad who graduated from Penn State made it a tradition with his friends while they were in school to go to the Skeller every Friday before a home game. To this day they still get their group of friends together at least once a year (they call themselves ITK or I Tap Kegs, a name they came up with in school). They get their ITK group together and they all meet at the Skeller on Friday in the first booth and stay there all day drinking, eating, reminiscing, catching up, and passing the tradition off to his son and our friends.”

Jamie Hyde, Class of 2017

“Every home game for the past two to three years, my dad (’84 graduate) and his buddies gathered at the Skeller. They always had the first booth as you walk in on your right. I remember being so anxious to get out of class to go and meet them. Of course, they were there right when the Skeller opened — sometimes before it actually opened. They sit all day, drink beers, share their best college stories with their kids (almost all PSU graduates or soon-to-be graduates), sing Bruce Springsteen, and changing the jukebox to listen to exactly what they wanted to hear. Everyone knows if you want to meet up with John Hyde the Friday before gameday, he’s probably at the Skeller. Who knows where you’ll find him next season!”

(Photo: Jamie Hyde)

What are your favorite memories from the All-American Rathskeller? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the Author

Gabriela Stevenson

Gabriela is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism and one of Onward State's student life editors. She is from Norristown, PA, which she normally refers to as "30 minutes outside of Philadelphia." She enjoys Broadway musicals, neck pillows, and eating cereal at night. To contact Gabriela, e-mail her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @GabiStevenson if you want to feel young again.

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