Jack, Joe, Charles and The Green Circle Bar

Stephen F. Dennstedt

The Green Circle bar in the old tenderloin section of San Diego was located on F Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues; it wasn’t too far away from Wyatt Earp’s famous Oyster Bar on Fifth Avenue (circa 1887). Yes, Wyatt Earp did live in San Diego for a spell after Tombstone and before eventually relocating to Los Angeles.

Jack (first named in this post) was a retired Navy Master Chief who had married a minor Italian countess in Italy post World War II, Joe (the bartender) was a Hoagy Carmichael-like character right out of Hollywood central casting and The Green Circle was, well, The Green Circle. F Street was also home to the notorious 1940s and 50s Hollywood Burlesque Theatre.

The Hollywood Burlesque Theatre was my adolescent fantasy: boy when I was old enough I was going there to see the strippers perform—swinging tassels, G-strings and all. Jack introduced me to The Green circle in 1971, we were both working at San Diego Office Supply on Seventh Avenue. We would head down there once or twice a week for a pitcher of beer, huge ½-pound grease burgers and fries. In pre-Gaslamp 1971 F Street was still pretty sketchy. San Diego’s tenderloin district extended from about Third Avenue east to about Eleventh Avenue and south from Broadway to about G Street.

Hollywood Burlesque Theatre – F Street, San Diego, CA

A memory that remains is of a customer named Charles. Charles had been a butler to a very wealthy gentleman—when his employer died he left Charles with a pristine Rolls Royce and a modest income for life. Every Thursday, like clockwork, Charles would show up at this seedy little bar (and make no mistake about it, The Green Circle was very seedy) immaculately dressed in his finest, and in his very proper English accent would order a Scotch whisky and a beer chaser. One Scotch and one beer was all he ever had, then he would walk outside to his parked Rolls Royce and drive off. I was twenty-three years old (two years out of the Marine Corps and three years out of Vietnam) and vowed then and there that I would learn to drink Scotch.

F Street – San Diego, CA (circa 1890)

I left San Diego Office Supply, and The Green Circle, in 1976 after attaining the position of corporate Purchasing Manger. I always wondered what became of that seedy little bar with the great grease burgers, fries and beer. According to the link above it became a hipster bar for a while before finally closing sometime in the 1990s. Jack and I parted ways when I left the company and I have no idea what became of Joe the bartender or Charles the butler. All three of those colourful characters were significantly older than me so I imagine they’ve all passed on to their final reward. If you’ve followed this blog for any time at all you know that I was successful in developing a taste for fine single malt Scotch whisky.

3 responses to “Jack, Joe, Charles and The Green Circle Bar

  1. It’s funny how we are influenced by people and situations. At about the same age when I was studying at University, during the holidays I worked at various jobs to help pay my way as a student.
    Once I was a truckies offsider and the driver smoked a pipe. I loved the tobacco aroma and ritual of it all, so when I returned to term , yes I was a pipe smoker. This was back in the early 70’s.
    I didn’t really ever smoke properly so to speak and my new ‘cool habit’ was short lived. I found the pipe recently during a flood cleanup together with other memorabilia.

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