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Dill's Olde Towne Saloon Traverse City Michigan

Dill’s Olde Towne Saloon, Traverse City, Michigan

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Dill's Olde Towne Saloon Traverse City Michigan

 

The other day I popped The Eagles Greatest Hits into my car CD player, and a memory came rushing back to me. When I was growing up in Ada, Michigan, we also had a summer house (we called it “the cottage”) outside of Traverse City, Michigan (I had a rough upbringing as you can tell). Summers were like heaven, filled with sunshine, swimming, climbing on the swing set and playing with our toys in the freshwater creek that ran along the side of the house. However the memory that the song Take it Easy brought back is a different one.

Once a summer, every summer, we would visit Dill’s Olde Towne Saloon. Dill’s, as we lovingly referred to it, dated back to 1886 when it was opened by a “bohemian” (lol) named Antoine Novotny. It was originally called Novotny’s Saloon and served as a social center for the Traverse City’s south side in the late 1800s. In 1939 it was purchased by William Dill, which is where the bar/restaurant got its name. The building is a state-registered historic site.

Anyway, back to the memory. Once a summer, we would get all dressed-up and my mom would curl my hair and we would go to Dill’s for dinner. I could barely contain my excitement during the preparations, then the car ride, and then waiting in the long hallway that served as the lobby. Although I was thrilled with the virgin strawberry daiquiri and deep fried breaded shrimp I would order, the real reason I loved Dill’s was the music. Dill’s had a live band aka the Golden Garter Review. For me it was the most thrilling thing imaginable since for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a singer.

The group always consisted of a live band and normally about 4 singers as well. They would sing anything from The Eagles to The Pointer Sisters. I hung on each note, hoping and wishing that I had been born with a singing voice good enough to do this myself one day. I knew this would never be, as I was a terrible singer (or so I had been told many times) so it was somewhat bittersweet to watch them doing something I so longed to do. My parents and I would speculate on whether they attended the prestigious Interlochen nearby and they would point out to me that these young people must be the best of the best as hundreds of people would probably have auditioned for a job like this. At the end of the evening I would go home with a song in my heart and in my head, knowing that in bed that night I would be picturing myself up there singing.

I recently Googled (actually I Yahoo!d, but that doesn’t look or sound right) Dill’s and found out that it has closed. That makes me really sad. However, I still have my memories, and my dream…that eventually came true.

*Thanks to www.traverseticker.com for the photo!

 

8 Comments

  1. Loved reading your memories of Dill’s! I was a singing waitress in the Golden Garter Revue at Dill’s in the summers of 1978 and 1979. We had a VERY successful summer in ’79 and Pat Corso, one of the owners, moved out to Schuss Mountain to manage it and brought back their version of the GGR’s called “The Schussy Cats.” Half of us went to Schuss and half stayed at Dill’s. We were mostly college kids from Illinois Wesleyan University and Ball State University. Pat Corso and Larry Avery and their wives attended Ball State and were the original Schussy Cats and then started the Golden Garter Revue.
    It was an incredible 3 summers! Sunshine, beach time, etc. We would go up the last 2 weeks of May and rehearse like crazy….the show was put together by the 10 in each band. We picked the songs, did the arrangements and choreographed the big group numbers.
    We took our kids back to Dill’s for the show when they were little. Such fun! It’s too bad that it is no more. During the late 70’s/early 80s there were several collegiate singing bands in the area: Dill’s, Schuss, Shanty Creek, Brownwood and Crystal Mountain. Thanks for enjoying it!

    • HI Theresa! Thank you so much for your comment. Hearing from you gave me the chills! It’s great to hear about your wonderful memories, and as you can see, you made wonderful memories for others as well. Take care!

      • Thoughts of Traverse City entered my thoughts today so I did a quick Google search and found your post…. I still tell stories of how when you ordered a Bloody Mary at Dill’s they would give you a condiment tray to make your own – it had sprig of pickeled asparagus and you could put Dill Sauce in it. The music was definitely GREAT! An old friend of mine would travel the country and hand-pick those kids from colleges and other gigs. Her name is Susan Draus and I’m sure she is still out there working with talented young people. I hope to visit Traverse City again soon to see what has changed, what has stayed the same and of course drive to where the world’s largest Cherry Pie was once on display.

        • Thanks for sharing your memories of Dill’s. It was such a special place! I also hope to visit Traverse City again soon and show my son where his lucky mom spent her childhood summers.

    • Hello from a Schussy Cat! I was a front Cat in the Schuss Mountain crew the summers of 1980, 1982 & 1983. What a great summer job for a Collegiate music major! Made great tuition money and enjoyed all the golf and tennis we could at the resort during those sunny days! I often wonder about reunions and if Pat and Larry are enjoying retirement!

  2. I was also part of the Golden Garter Review… Pat & Judy hired a brilliant young stranger named Sue Drauss. She could listen to a tune and write the arrangement on s cocktail napkin. I was lucky enough to be able to play from those charts. I was part of the Ball State Singers group and met and knew the folks at the other venues (Schuss, Shanty Creek, The Weather Vane, Crystal Mountain). I actually went out on the road with folks I met through this experience and my time at Disney. Dill’s will ALWAYS hold a place in my heart.

    • Thank you so much for commenting! You and the other performers and Dill’s will always hold a special place in my heart as well. Thanks for the memories!

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