Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Foster House an inn place since 1842

The Foster House is located at 50 North Elm St. in Westfield MA. Micajak Taylor built it in 1843. In the 1850’s it was and in called the Pontoosic House but was named The Foster House in the 1890’s. It was thought to be the oldest continuously operated tavern in western Massachusetts. It was built within 100 yards of the Railroad Depots; The Boston & Albany; and the New York New Haven and Hartford. The Foster House became a place for railroad workers and train passengers to stay. In those days it was a great place to take your wife or girlfriend for a 25 cent sandwich and glass of beer.

We moved to Westfield about 1984 and about 1 block from the Foster House and it was a really going place at that time. Mike Phillips owned the business and John Merphiditis had the restaurant as Mike didn’t want anything to do with the food. He just wanted to sell booze. My wife and I have moved a lot, back and forth across the country and we have sampled a lot of Prime Rib. At the time of our arrival, we found that John had the best Prime Rib we had ever eaten, period. People flocked, in droves, to his restaurant from the surrounding 4 states. On the weekend we would go over and the bar would be about 4 deep. The trick was to figure out who was going in to eat next and go stand up behind them so you could grab their stools. It would take about 1 ½ to 2 hours to get seated in the restaurant but if you could get a bar seat, who cared. The Foster House had a great reputation as a place that didn’t tolerate fighting and a woman could go in alone and feel safe. If I was meeting my wife and was late I didn’t worry about it because part of the bartenders job was watching after the women. Mike, an old bachelor, did not tolerate any swearing and if you tried to hustle a woman sitting alone, you could expect to receive the full wrath of Mike. If you were 86’d your truly were 86’d and you would never get back in.

The important thing, to us, was it offered a social life that we didn’t have, as our daughter left home and went off to college. We met lots of new friends, our age, at the bar and unlike just a bar, these were friends we did other things with. They were working friends; breakfast friends; friends to invite over to the house or go to their house; friends to go on a diet with; friends to vacation with and the list went on and on. We never went and drank to excess or got mean and had fights but we were all good friends. A lot like the Navy friends we had after we got married. Some friends we went to church with. Wedding and baby showers were held there as well as my 40th surprise birthday party. We went to Christenings, funerals and graduations.The bartenders were personal friends as two of them were my fishing partners. Dick tied flies and I was the lucky recipient of hundreds of them and they worked great. Al moved to Vermont to pursue other interests and we kept going up to visit he and his mom and he keeps coming back to see us. Two of the owners have now passed on and one of them, Harry and I were very close. As I write this it brings tears to my eyes to remember the fun times we had. A Halloween party where I dressed as a fat woman is one that comes to mind. Then one day, Michael the present owner, locked the doors for good. He owns a business next door and could use the space for his own parking of trucks and for business expansion. The Foster House had become a financial drain on him as well as a drain on his time. It was time to stop the bleeding and he did. By the time he closed the doors, the long lines for food were gone, the menu had changed, the people from out of state had stopped coming, Times had changed and so must we.

There was nowhere for us to go. The places we tried had a different crowd and they were all younger. We still had a few friends left that we keep in contact with but most have disappeared. We run into people that we haven’t seen in a couple of years now and we ask the same questions, “have you seen ….?”, “where do you guys go now?” All have the same answers and do the same thing we do. There is nowhere to go and they occasionally run in to someone who also says the same things the others say. It is basically a group of 50 or 60 of us and some retired and moved on. Others started taking long trips to visit new grandbabies or are rebuilding the house for the kids. A lot of the ones we run in to have some type of health issues and some have died. For my wife and I, we became very active in our church and our grandson and she is active in Kiwanis. I build birdhouses and write a Blog. Most of us are in our 50’s and 60’s and I guess we just plain “Grew Up”, for the last time.


Anonymous said...

I remember the Foster house from the 50's & early 60's when my parents would take us. I left Westfield in 1964 and didn't return until 1997. From then untill it closed it was a Friday night ritual [and many days inbetween.]There arn't any "JOINTS" like the Foster House anymome. Nice people and good food. We were there om closing day. Mike broke our hearts when he closed, but thats progress???

Bill Hobbie said...

Many fond memories of that place. Tenderloin Brochettes for $6.95. I would take my Dad there, he always ordered Pot Roast and I believe that was $5.95!!!!!!!!! Indeed there are not any "joints" like that anymore.