Of Cheeseburgers & Dive Bars


Seriously, is there anything more American than the cheeseburger? Sure, we have hot dogs, baseball, and apple pie … but we live on cheeseburgers.

Our family lived in Ferguson Missouri for thirty something years. Yes, that Ferguson. No, not the Ferguson you have read about in the media, which is a conversation for another day, because today we are talking cheeseburgers, dive bars, and the characters that form the personality of those bars.

The Golden Greek’s was a bar and grill on the corner of S. Florissant Road and Paul Avenue, housed in a turn of the century brick building. The front door was set back from that intersection at a 45-degree angle to those streets. I don’t recall anyone ever entering through that front door unless they were returning from a smoke break. I parked and went in through the side entrance, like everyone else.

Nobody would accuse Golden Greeks of being a “Fern Bar.” It maintained a degree of cleanliness just above a level to avoid any serious letters from the health department. The wall behind the bar contained a potpourri of inspirational quotes like; “In God we trust, all others pay cash,” and “Life is hard, but it’s harder if you’re stupid.”

If you wanted a glass of wine, you were in the wrong bar. They kept a small stock of Sutter mini bottles for those few customers silly enough to order wine at the Greek’s.

As you sat at the bar the large walk-in fridge with its antique brass hardware was on the right. The kitchen was on the far left of the building. Efficiency experts were not a thing at the turn of the century. The layout did, however, provide the patrons at the bar with a sneak preview of the goods being delivered to the kitchen. Periodically someone from the kitchen would walk behind the bar, into the fridge, and emerge with a platter containing a heaping mound of ground chuck. This was not a collection of perfectly formed beef circles of an identical thickness, unloaded from the back of a Sysco truck. That mound of raw meat was the foundation for some of the best burgers in the region, soon to be formed by human hands before being tossed onto the ancient griddle. The patties were often misshapen, of inconsistent weight, but consistently tasty.

Any good dive bar should also provide a group of entertaining regulars, and the Greek’s was no exception. It didn’t matter which night I was on hand for take-out, the cast of characters remained constant. Two or three off duty postal workers, still in uniform. A couple of mature ladies, who in my imagination were retired roller derby players, broad of shoulder, muscular, and always attired in jeans and flannel no matter the season, and several construction workers wearing the makeup of drywall dust. The most interesting though were the two who blurred the lines between employees and customers, Carol, and Chico.

I was never sure of Chico’s specific job duties at the Greek’s, he worked some in the kitchen, did various odd jobs and his bartending was limited to twisting the tops off beer bottles. Chico was Hispanic, Mexican to be precise. I know this because I overhear Chico telling another patron as he laughed, “All those people who say Mexican’s are hardworking, well they never met me.” From Chico’s stories he was on a first name basis with every police office in Ferguson. He walked a fine line between being a productive citizen and incarceration, but his laugh was infectious.

Carol worked days and moved back and forth from the kitchen to behind the bar as needed. Her shift ended at 5:30 and that’s when she moved from one side of the bar to the other, switching roles and becoming a customer rather than a bartender. Carol was of medium everything; height, weight, build, hair, and face. She could have disappeared into any crowd, anywhere and not be noticed. The only thing not medium about Carol was the ease of her life.

Dropping in 3 or 4 times a month for take-out did not qualify me to be a regular. I rarely joined in any conversations, I was content to be a listener and observer to this wonderful kaleidoscope of humanity swirling around me.

One Friday night I took a seat two stools removed from Carol. She was deep into customer mode at that point. She was engaged in conversation with Billy, one of the regular construction workers. Carol was relating stories of the cruelties inflicted on her by her ex-husband. She described how he would push her up against a wall and hold an unloaded pistol to her head while he pulled the trigger. Billy nodded sympathetically while Carol paused, taking a sip of her beer, before continuing. “You know the funny thing is,” she said calmly and matter-of-factly, “That was the same gun I shot him with.”


The Golden Greek’s has been closed for years now and we have moved to another county. Over the years I’ve learned to make a decent burger at home. My secret is using a super-hot cast iron skillet to quickly sear the burgers. They aren’t bad, but I still miss the cheeseburgers from the Greek’s … but not as much as I miss the stories and the characters.


Inside and Outside

At The Four-Acre Wood tonight, there is the inside, then there is the outside. The outside … well it’s been 24 hours of sleet and freezing rain, nasty stuff, even Mimsy with her four-leg drive has slipped and fallen (me, let’s not talk about it … the video would have gone viral). Far from The Four-Acre Wood the world news seems even more dismal. It’s a time for perspective and faith. 

Inside we are blessed to have our oldest daughter, and youngest granddaughter with us while her husband is on the other side of the world on miltary duty. We have heat, we are safe, and we have have enough produce for a nice salad. We take none of these things for granted. 

Outside the trees lift up their bare arms, covered in a coat of ice, waiting for spring. Waiting. Spring will come as it always does. Bare limbs will become green once more. It’s ordained, it’s God’s design. 

Inside we finish watching “The Major and the Minor” a classic Ginger Rodgers movie. We dance with baby Adeline (not as smooth as Ginger) but dance we do. 

Outside we place the future in God’s hands and go along for the ride.

Poppy, SuSu, Erica, and Adeline

A Late Valentine’s Day Musing

I’m a guy. To say I’m a clueless guy would be redundant. Valentine’s Day is winding down at The Four-Acre Wood. The only roses present are the Don Juan climbing roses outside, trying to weather the winter. At this point we are all trying to survive the frigid temperatures. Soup is always in order in February. A quick pantry inventory directed me try potato soup: Yukon Gold potatoes, celery, sweet onion, white queso, bacon, etc. and we were in business 

Decades ago, I married my high school sweetheart and never looked back. Ups and downs, of course. Bumbling … to this day. But never regrets. 

Embers burn a long time, they may not be flashy, but the heat is still there, in our case, decade after decade. It’s been a tough few weeks for my high school sweetheart dealing with elder parent issues. I can make a decent soup, solving other problems, not so much.

Note to self; next year make soup but buy some fresh roses too.

The Big One (Kitchen Remodel)

If sent to the grocery store with only four things to buy, I’ll return with five or six, but only three will be on the original list. That’s how my brain works, but I can remember conversations from a year ago. A prime example is our first visit to the house on the four-acre-wood. We walked into the open house, the real estate agent hosting the event was perched on a stool in the kitchen. We exchanged greetings, he passed over his business card and a pen with his name running up the side, waved his arm across the room, and said, “It’s a great house, but the kitchen is a little dated.”

My first thought (and I can’t speak for Susan) was that it didn’t look that bad to me, the granite countertops were nice and it was larger than any kitchen we’ve ever had. Fast forward a couple of months and the house was ours.

For years our golden hour has been the time of dinner preparation. I love to cook, it was my therapy after work. Glasses of wine are poured, music is turned on, and the events of the day are discussed.

Now we have a new home, I’m retired, but the golden hour remains the same. It wasn’t long before the words of the real estate came back, yeah the kitchen is dated, the cabinets are dark, the little electric cooktop was not what we wanted. We started exploring options. The first was to have the cabinets repainted but rework them to allow the changes we wanted. No one seemed to be able (or willing) to do that. Next was having the cabinets refaced, but with the changes in configuration that we wanted. Turns out that was just as expensive as starting from scratch. So the decision was made, we have a new house, newly retired … let’s get the kitchen we want. Was there project creep and budget overruns, oh yeah, regrets … no. The kitchen is the heart of the home and dinner prep is still the golden hour for the three of us.

Tim, Susan, and Mimsy

(details and remodeling experiences to follow)

Shipwatch - Premium Cabinets

Shipwatch - Premium Cabinets

Shipwatch - Premium Cabinets

Shipwatch - Premium Cabinets

Introducing the Four-Acre Wood and “Shipwreck”

Ah, where to begin? 2020 was an eventful year for all of us, (that alone might win the Captain Obvious prize for the classic understatement.) For Susan and I, it meant; selling our beloved 1890 house of 27 years, moving in with Susan’s 84-year-old mother for 6 months until we figured out that she was more independent than we thought, and discovering that we all needed our own space, then searching for a house of our own a month before I retired. The hunt began. While Susan’s mother was doing okay on her own, she’s not going to get any younger and we didn’t want to move too far away. In a real estate market gone crazy with bidding wars, we came across a house that had been on the market for 3 years. The previous owner had an inflated idea of its worth, and so it sat, and sat, and sat until he gradually dropped the price, year after year until we came along, and after a few offers later the house was ours.

The last two homes we owned were built-in 1890. We are old house people, it’s in our blood (and under our fingernails and probably in our lungs) but there aren’t many historic homes in Jefferson County, Missouri, but this house checked off a few boxes. Though only 20 years old, the plans were from North Carolina architect William Poole whose designs are rooted in tradition and southern heritage. The brickwork came from salvaged 100+ year old home demolitions in St. Louis. The full-width front porch mirrored our last two houses, pulled on some heartstrings, and was a major selling point.

Anyone who has purchased a house knows that acquiring homeowners insurance is part of the deal. We submitted bids to several different companies. The little subdivision we are in (a whopping nine houses) is called “Shipwatch,” based on the fact that most houses including ours have views of the Mississippi River. I may have mumbled, or the insurance agent on the other end misunderstood me, but the quote came back with a price to insure “Shipwreck” and the name stuck.

So welcome to Shipwreck!

Shipwreck sits on four acres which is about 3.5 acres more than we wanted, fortunately, most of it is wooded, hence the name for this blog, The Four-Acre Wood, (with a nod to Winnie the Pooh).

As mentioned in the “About Us” page … we invite you to join us on this journey, this chapter turning of; retirement, remodeling, resale shops, cooking, gardening, decorating, family, fashion, dogs (see I didn’t forget about Mimsy), and life musings … not because we have any great wisdom or expertise in any of those areas, but because life is best shared. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us that we are not designed to live in solitude.

Tim, Susan, and Mimsy