(# External Photo Attribution at the end of the Post). #1
The City of Lake Oswego is a burg of 40,400 about five miles south of Portland, Oregon. It’s an affluent locale surrounding the 405-acre Oswego Lake with a prestigious country club and good schools. The town was founded in 1847 and incorporated as Oswego in 1910. It was the hub of Oregon’s brief iron industry in the late 19th century
The median household income was $108,927 (second in Oregon) compared to $76,554 the comparable statewide figure in 2019. It houses an educated group as 71.4% of the residents have four year degrees. https://www.ci.oswego.or.us/community/demographics (#2 – 3)
Oregon City, where I went to school in junior high and high school was a blue-collar mill town. OCHS (The Pioneers) and Lake Oswego High School were then in the TYV League and we always had a zealous desire to “Sink the Lakers” – kind of an elitist high school mascot and one you couldn’t sink your teeth into like their competitors – Lions, Dragons, Tigers, Grizzlies and, of course, The Cheesemakers (Tillamook).
It therefore seems like having a classic dive bar right in the heart of the LO commercial district – at the intersection of State and A Streets would be out of context. But the wonderful Firehouse Pub is right there and packs them in.
From a conversation with the friendly bartender, Ira, it has a long history although an extensive search of media found no reference, they have no website and their Facebook page has nothing about the origin or annals.
Ira did say that they were lucky to survive the pandemic and the bar was closed for two years during pandemic events. One other person said that the bar was once named “Cheers” and the owner is a tax accountant who just enjoys owning a dive bar.
By contrast, the Gemini Bar and Grill, owned by Lordean Moran is only one block away around the corner on State Street and is a notable drinking establishment, but much different from the Firehouse.
The Gemini, which I reviewed in Thebeerchaser in 2019, has expansive space for bar and table seating, pool tables and a stage for jazz and other musical gigs. The performers play to sold-out crowds on most weekends.
“Since 1982, The Gemini has been the premier live Music Venue in Lake Oswego.”
The Firehouse Pub has a cozy hole-in-the-wall ambiance. This 2014 Trip Advisor review is apt:
“This place offers a respite from the other establishments in the LO area. One can just cozy up to the bar and order from their wide arrange (sic) of beverages and enjoy some quality time. The décor is, surprisingly, firehouse themed. (Note: Of course, this begs the question, given the name of the establishment, why that surprised her!)
The staff goes above and and beyond to make you feel at home and create new cocktails for you. The food menu is simple and unpretentious. I highly recommend this place to relax.” (#4)
There was one interesting reference in the news media about the bar which went back to 2015:
“A Lake Oswego woman who received a courtesy ride home from police officers last week was arrested after driving her car back to the Firehouse Pub, police said.”
Since the Firehouse does a good job celebrating events ranging from the Super Bowl, to Mardi Gras to the Kentucky Derby, I thought it would be enjoyable to hit the watering hole after the Oregon State vs. Oregon Civil War Game on Saturday November 25th with my friend, Rus Jordan.
As is the tradition with other Beerchasing companions I introduce for the first time, some background below on Rus is below and he’s an interesting guy. I first met Rus about five years ago when we were in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).
I thought it appropriate to celebrate the Civil War Game because Rus was not only a fellow midshipman at Oregon State (one year ahead of me), but a member of the famed Oregon State Giant Killer Football Team in 1967. He was in the Sigma Nu fraternity and I was an SAE and we didn’t know each other in college. In retrospect, given the challenge I had in second-term Calculus, that’s too bad as I would have hired him as a tutor….
Rus is a great example of the guys on that legendary team as described by my fraternity brother and friend for many years, Jud Blakely, a foremost authority on that ribald group:
“The Giant Killers of Oregon State. Epic. Recalled so often––and honored so often––for all the right reasons. You were ‘grace under pressure’ again…and again…and again. You were the Laws of Physics in action again…again…again. You epitomized the marvel of a ‘team.’”
Rus, like the other members of that team I’ve featured in Thebeerchaser including Craig “The Dude Hanneman (1968), Billly “Rabbit” Main, Duane “Thumper” Barton and Gary Barton (1968) – Thumper’s Brother.
They were not only outstanding athletes, but possessed admirable character and integrity. (Photos left to right clockwise below- Jud Blakely, Craig Hanneman, Billy Main and Duane and Gary Barton)
Rus graduated from Beaverton High School in 1965 as a three-sport athlete – football, basketball and track. He played linebacker and fullback and was a member of the Metro-State Shrine Football Game the year he graduated. (I might add that one of Rus’s traits is his modesty – I had to coax this biographical info out of him!)
Like current Beaver Football Coach Jonathan Smith, Rus Jordan was a walk-on at OSU, made the team and earned a tuition scholarship his last two years in college. The Viet Nam War was raging at that time and Rus enrolled in the two-year NROTC program. His teammates, Billy Main and Duane Barton were also in that NROTC class.
Upon graduation in April, 1970 Rus was commissioned as a Navy Ensign and reported to Communications School at Newport, Rhode Island. He subsequently served on the USS Taluga (AO62) based in Long Beach on the West Coast.
The Taluga was a Cimarron-class fleet oiler acquired by the U.S. Navy during World War II. (It’s shown refueling the USS Iwo Jima in the photo below). (#5)
After teaching for a year at Sheldon High School in Eugene where he was also an assistant football coach following his discharge from the Navy in 1972, he went to graduate school at both the University of Oregon and Washington State University in Pullman where he was awarded his Master in Math Education.
Rus then worked for two years at The Navigators – an International Christian non-profit, followed by Multnomah Bible College while concurrently serving as football coach at Portland Christian High School.
He jokes about “fully employing” his degree for the next eleven years as a products plant manager for Georgia Pacific making doors including tasks such as driving a forklift – a job he loved.
But anyone who gets to know Rus, will discern that he has a heart for teaching and natural skills in education. He taught math part-time at Portland Community College for five years while also driving charter buses for Raz Charter and working at a resort in the summer before becoming Vice Principal at Portland Christian High School for four years.
After getting married in 1998, teaching high school math while assistant coaching was his full-time occupation for a combined total of fifteen years at Century High School (5 years) and then Hillsboro High School (10 years).
Rus has some artistic talent and would generally give his class a warm-up problem with an illustration projected on the board. This inspired one of his students to respond with his own illustration:
He returned to PCC as an adjunct prof and still teaches one or two math classes each term. Exploring the internet allowed me to find out some opinions of his students on his teaching ability.
Now anyone who has either viewed one of the Rate Your Professor sites knows that most of the reviews are negative. College kids are too preoccupied to participate unless they have a gripe about the prof and/or want to warn others. I was therefore astounded to see following distribution of the 72 ratings:
Awesome (56) Great (11) Good (2) OK (2) Awful (1)
Rus could provide the standard deviation of these stats, but what’s more interesting is to click on the link above and see the comments – all from 2018-2022 – a few which are shown below:
“Rus was honestly one of the best, if not the best, math professors I’ve encountered. He is very kind-hearted and his teaching is very clear. He always cracks jokes and his way of teaching makes the class easy!”
“I love Mr. Jordan. He is a sweet, caring man who genuinely wants his students to succeed. He’s full of cheesy jokes; he helps take the stressfulness away from math. He is positive and always accessible, willing to come on days he’s not scheduled to. He answers any and all questions without hesitation and his quizzes and homework are great cushions!”
“Rus is an absolutely AMAZING teacher! He’s kind and patient, and genuinely wants to see you succeed. If you get something wrong he’ll tell you why and then give you another way to look at it. His experience really shows in his teaching style. He always tells random, funny little stories, making the whole class laugh. Go out of your way to get Rus!”
(The awful rating was by a guy who flunked his course and not because he didn’t like his sense of humor – or at least he didn’t mention that.)
“Absolutely AMAZING teacher”
Back to The Firehouse
When we decided to meet at the Firehouse after the game, I told Rus to avoid making any cheesy jokes like the student referenced. (You can get beaten up…..) Given the score at the end of the third quarter, we almost decided to skip the fourth and meet earlier, but fortunately waited and saw a memorable Beaver comeback and victory.
The bar was filled – almost all of them Beaver fans based on their attire and conversations. I looked towards a crowd of them, pointed at Rus and said, “Go Beavs! And this guy was even a member of the Giant Killer Football Team.”
A young guy in the group said, “I played football for OSU too – a kicker,” so I got a picture of Rus and Quinn Doan, now a regional sales director for a health-care education firm who graduated from OSU in 1999.
We drank our cheap beers – not too many on tap, but when one can get PBR on tap – that’s fine. They have a limited menu as seen below and the food gets mixed reviews, but it’s fine for a dive bar.
We sat next to a nice guy who was a 1998 University of Washington grad named Mike Strand. He then got an MBA at Carnegie Mellon and is now a technology consultant. Mike is a regular at the bar and agreed to take our picture.
The Firehouse has a nice ambiance, friendly staff and is worth a visit. I’ll close with another good summary from a Yelp review which conveys this well.
“If you are looking for a solid drink and good people in Lake Oswego, you need to go to this place. It’s a dive bar– nothing fancy. But the people you meet here are simply the best. Many neighborhood regulars greet you with a smile and, after you know them, a hug. There are lots of laughs to be had and you can enjoy video poker or a game of pool.
The staff here make sure its homey. After one visit, most of them will remember your name and your favorite beverage….. I heartily recommend it as a chill place in a town that can sometimes be a little cold and hoity-toity.”
Merry Christmas from Thebeerchaser!
External Photo Attribution
#1. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Patrick-hendry-438303_Flames_in_the_night.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Patrick Hendry 6 November 2017.
#2. Wikimedia Commons (File:Lakewood Bay Oswego Lake.jpg – Wikimedia Commons) Llicensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unportedlicense. Author: Esprqii 2 April 2008.
#3. 2014 Winning Photos | City of Lake Oswego
#4. Firehouse Pub Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=543572160920447&set=a.543572120920451)
#5. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USS_Taluga_(AO-62).jpg) This file is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, it is in the public domain in the United States. Source: US Navy.
Don The Gemini used to be The Open Seas when it was a true dive bar around the time we graduated from high school. It’s kind of gentrified itself now. Not really a dive bar. Pete
Hi Pete. Nice to hear from you. Yes, the Gemini has a great history although I didn’t remember it being the Open Seas and you are
right about the gentrification which is one thing that makes the Firehouse a good alternative. I hope you and Terry are well and enjoying retirement!
Don, the fire house is great. The Gemini used to be called the open seas and it was a real dirty dump which we referred to as the open sores. Give me a call at 503-936-3725 when you have a chance. Merry Christmas, Doug
Don, Merry Christmas to Janet, you and the girls. Hope your fully recovered from back surgery and that 2023 is the best year ever for you and your family.
Bill n Ro
First you belittle us as being elitists and then you can’t even remember the name of our greatest dive bar. You know that your high school never beat us in swimming, golf or cross country. It’s not all about football! Did you guys even drink beer in high school. In 1965, the Firehouse was the Oasis Tavern and it later became the Pump House, both great dive bars.
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Thanks Pete, and you help validate my assertion. While you guys were reliving the glories of Don Schollander and having varsity tennis matches at Oswego Country Club, we were winning the TVY Basketball and Football crowns – in the trenches.
I appreciate the history of the Firehouse with the prior names and know that your class enjoyed sipping gin and tonics there! Cheers Don
Don always gets his pub. A shame places don’t take more time to include their history on websites or even in their menus. A belated Merry Christmas. We’re just back from Saxony.
Thanks Rich. I agree – especially where a place like the Firehouse and some others I’ve been to have a rich history as an important part of the story. I’ll look forward to hearing about your continuing travels to great pubs with great brew! Happy New Year.
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One can never have too many “dive bars” in inventory! You’ll never know where you’ll be when the need arizes!
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