The Cheerful Tortoise – Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Aesop Was Correct!!

Since the Greek story-teller Aesop, was purportedly a slave, it is doubtful that he conveyed his fable about the tortoise and the hare to Aristotle or Herodotus while hoisting a mug in a fifth century Greek pub.

Aesop’s Legacy

The Cheerful Tortoise Pub (CT) by the Portland State campus, however, has an eclectic mix of PSU students, professors, athletes and OHSU medical students so drinking yarns and tales of  yore are prevalent.  With its 42 television sets, gobs of sports momentos and historic sponsorship of PSU athletics, the CT was voted the top sports bar by Portland City Search two years in a row.  However, it’s far more than just a sports bar as one patron stated:

“One must remember that this place is a college bar that is a sports bar that is a karaoke bar that is a neighborhood dive bar. Most of the time it is chock-full of regulars, but at other times is a raucous mess of barely 21 college student who get stupid after 2 beers.”

Scholarship Support for the Viks….

I was fortunate to be joined by my good friend, former insurance company president and now Director of New Business Development for the PSU Athletic Dept. Dennis Ferguson.   All the bartenders know Denny, who is an extrovert and so optimistic that he once started a diet on Thanksgiving Day.  He commented on the generosity of owner Amy Nichol and Pat Lockhart (former) whose contributions generate PSU scholarships.

A TV Spreadsheet to Keep Track

Thursday night is $1 beer and $2 wing night so the probability of seeing out-of-control college kids escalates.  Trivia Nights on Mondays are for those who desire a more mundane experience.     

Denny, Allison and thebeerchaser logo

While a few of the reviews commented on unfriendly and slow service, our experience was great.  Our bartender, Allison, helped educate us about the bar which opened in 1940, and she and fellow bartenders Lana and Brooke were all intelligent, friendly and great looking!

Sports Memorobilia Abounds

The TC has 18 beers on tap — I had a Hamms which is always $2.75 except on $1 beer night.   Karoke is on Wednesday – Friday and Saturday.

Distinguishing Characteristics

The History – Although fellow PSU Grads, historian John Terry and former GE College Bowl PSU Captain, Jim Westwood, wax eloquently about the tradition of PSU-area pubs such as Lydia’s, the Chocolate Moose and Birdies, andthebeerchaser remembers some good draft beer after class at Sam’s Hoffbrau (now a McDonalds), none of these survived – and the Cheerful Tortoise is still going strong after 72 years!

It evokes Park Blocks memories for many  – whether it is WW II vets taking courses at Vanport Extension Center, Ben Padrow coaching his 1965 College Bowl Team or the outstanding dialogue when masses of students gathered to hear and debate decorated Marine Corps officers and Viet Nam veterans, Lt. Ancer Haggerty (Silver Star and Purple Hearts – now a federal judge) and Cpt. Jud Blakely (Bronze Star and Purple Hearts)  when they recruited on campus during the late ’60’s.      

Promoted Dialogue in a “Charged” Environment


Denny and the Building — Both Historic…..

The Character –  There are essentially no windows and the 42 TVs provide the light so it’s very dark yet the big fireplace roaring all year makes it warm and hospitable.  One night, you may see a bunch of international students in front of one of the TVs cheering on their favorite soccer team. It’s quirky trademarks such as $1 Beer nights and the $1.99 Breakfast available every day, have a wide following.  As Willamette Week’s 2009 Drink Guide, listing their 100 favorite bars, aptly stated:

“The CT packs the benefits of a college sports bar without the vomiting sorority girls and Dave Mathews fans….But on the Bar’s legendary $1 beer nights…there is no escape.  Come ready to get drunk– and relive the glory days.”

You don’t have to be a student to enjoy the Cheerful Tortoise – give it a try.

The Cheerful Tortoise                         1939 SW Sixth Avenue


Beerchaser of the Quarter – John Terry – Historian and Columnist

A Portland Treasure – Historian John Terry

The intent of this blog is to periodically recognize individuals who facilitate this tour of Portland pubs.  It has been too long since one has been recognized and former Oregonian columnist, John Terry is belatedly recognized for the first quarter of 2012

John authored a column for many years on Oregon History in The OregonianTo the consternation of many, including thebeerchaser, earlier this year, the paper decided to discontinue what had become a weekly Sunday feature.  After sending John an e-mail lauding his contribution over the years, he agreed to meet me for lunch where I quizzed him about the history of Portland taverns and pubs.  He was a fascinating and comprehensive resource for thebeerchaser tour.

Jim Westwood – Another John Terry and George Washington Admirer

To give one an idea of the consternation of many of Terry’s fans, see the Oregon Live excerpt below from another Portland amateur historian and celebrity, of sorts – Portland lawyer and former Captain of the Portland State GE College Bowl team in 1965.

Jim Westwood, reflecting the eloquence which has made him one of Oregon’s leading appellate lawyers expressed righteous indignation to the publisher:

“When The Sunday Oregonian discontinued John Terry’s weekly articles on Oregon history, I sighed and told myself I’d get used to turning to something else first thing every Sunday morning. How wrong I was. How long has it been now, a couple of months? It’s an eternity. I miss John Terry’s lively, superbly researched articles.

I miss them desperately. I’m frustrated and angry that The Oregonian could have taken them away without considering making them at least a monthly feature. Sunday will never be the same, and it hit me again this morning. In this season of rebirth, I hope The Oregonian will resurrect John Terry and his wonderful works on the history of our state and its people.”

John regaled me with brief stories of many of the taverns with historic roots in Portland that are still operating:

The White Eagle Saloon    The Slammer    Horse Brass Pub    Kells’    Claudias’

Still Open for a Brewski!

He also told me about the once world-famous, Erickson’s Saloon, founded in 1895, which occupied two stories of an entire block between 3rd and 4th on Burnside and was reputed to have the largest bar in the world (400 feet long…).  Indeed, evidence of the saloon can still be found as the photo below shows: 

The Stories Behind this Wall….

And Bertie’s Montgomery Crystal Gardens near Portland State, which had nickel beers on Tuesday nights and Jan’s Streets of Paris near Hawthorne and Division on the East Side that had a New Orleans theme and ………..

One can still learn a lot about historic Oregon by doing a search on Oregon Live.  For example, John Terry’s column from August 2011, on the Portland Hotel, opened in the 1890’s on what is now Pioneer Courthouse Square:

“The finished product (costing $1 million) boasted 326 sleeping rooms, steam heat, gas and electric lights, restaurant, ballroom, bar, sitting rooms, dining rooms, sewing rooms, reception room, ladies parlors, public restrooms, public telephones, news and cigar stand, Western Union office, elevators, offices and quarters for live-in staff.

Eleven U.S. presidents were among its guests, starting with Benjamin Harrison in 1891. Virtually every luminary – actor, musician, politician, writer, tycoon – who blew through town put up there.”              

Demolished in 1951 for a Parking Lot….

So join thebeerchaser in a toast to John Terry…or better yet, echo Jim Westwood’s complaint to the Editor of The Oregonian about the paper’s error in discontinuing John Terry’s excellent column.

A Toast to Columnist John Terry!