Terry “Spike” McKinsey – Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter


“I met Terry ‘Spike’ McKinsey in 1966.  The country was chaotic and would get worse.  But for Terry, the choices were always clear.  He was guided by his love of God, family, good friends, and country.   He didn’t have to tell you about it, he lived it!”

(Larry Walters, classmate from the Class of 1970 at the United States Naval Academy and long-time friend.)

(Welcome to Thebeerchaser blog.  If you are seeing this on your mobile phone, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link which is embedded in the title above.)

On a cloudy afternoon in January earlier this year, the three-volley rifle salute of the full military honor guard echoed at Willamette National Cemetery and a Marine Corps officer handed Anna McKinsey a flag which had draped the casket of her husband, Colonel Terry (Spike) McKinsey USMC (Retired).   With a sudden roar, multiple fighter jets from the Portland Air Base flew over those of us gathered for our final farewell to this remarkable man.

The service at the cemetery followed a wonderful memorial mass at The Madeline Parish in NE Portland.  It  was filled with family and friends, including United States Naval Academy classmates who had traveled from all over the county to be there, members of the Oregon Air National Guard who served with him, pilots from Horizon Airlines where Terry served as Assistant Chief Pilot and just a slew of friends, who treasured their relationships with this family man born in Oregon City on September 11, 1946.

The gathering reflected the impact Spike had on all he met whether through family relationships, the Naval Academy, his professional life or the charitable work he avidly pursued in retirement.

The latter included work for Habitat for Humanity, Medical Teams International and serving as Vice President of Operation Healing – a non-profit that provides wounded veterans with outdoor experiences to aid in their rehabilitation.  He also counseled troubled veterans in the Oregon State Prison system.

Midshipman Terry McKinsey

Midshipman Larry Walters

I first met Terry and his long-time friend and class-mate, Larry Walters,  when we were on a 3/c mid-shipman (in Academy lingo “youngster”) cruise in the summer of 1967 between my freshman and sophomore year.   Terry and Larry were also shipmates on their first-class midshipman cruise in the Mediterranean Sea on the USS Allagash -AO 97.

Larry flew out from South Carolina and was a pall bearer at the memorial service.

USS John R. Craig (DD-885)

They were midshipmen from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, while I was in the Naval ROTC program at Oregon State and we were on the same Navy destroyer – the USS John R. Craig (DD 885) a WW II vintage “tin can.”

Thirty midshipman spent about eight weeks as the lowest status crew members, wearing our sailor dixie-cups with a blue band around them – swabbing decks, sweating on midnight watches in the boiler and engine rooms, standing watch as lookouts on the ship’s bridge and to the amusement of the crew, learning naval terminology – the walls are “bulkheads” and the stairs between deck levels are “ladders” which take you “topside” or “down below.”

We quickly discovered that Terry and I graduated from cross-town high school rivals – he West Linn High School and me Oregon City High School.  Although he was two years older, I knew of Terry based on his athletic accomplishments at WLHS where he was an outstanding catcher on the baseball team.

WLHS Graduation Photo

He earned multiple letters by serving as the catcher for his cousin, Ed Danill, one of the best young pitchers in Oregon and known for his knuckleball which was not only incredibly difficult to hit, but also to catch.

According to his son, Mike, when Terry would periodically signal for a fast ball, Ed would “mess with his head” by throwing a wicked knuckleball, laughing as Terry struggled to contain it. Terry also played varsity baseball at the Academy.

As a result of that connection, we bonded, and the three of us and another midshipman from the University of Kansas named Ken Guest, hung out when we had liberty in San Diego – our home port – in Hawaii while docked at Pearl Harbor and in San Francisco while making a three-day port call.

Before continuing with Spike’s story, I should let you know why he garnered the title – Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.   Besides visiting and reviewing bars, pubs and breweries, each quarter on this blog, I “honor” an individual who may or may not have anything to do with bars or beers.

Past recipients- almost all of whom I have known personally –  have included authors, athletes, media personalities, academicians and military veterans.  They all have interesting stories, have notable achievements in their careers and deserve recognition for their contributions to make it a better world.

2nd Lt. Jud Blakely

Four in the last category, who like Terry, distinguished themselves in their military service, include George GM “Jud” Blakely, my SAE fraternity brother at Oregon State who was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, while serving as a USMC 2nd Lt. platoon commander in Viet Nam in 1966-7.

Doug Bomarito as Lt. j.g.)

Ensign Doug Bomarito, who like Spike, graduated from the Naval Academy although earlier in the class of 1968, received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart while serving as patrol officer attached to Patrol Boats River (PBR) of a River Division near the Cambodian border in 1970.

Lt. Steve Lawrence

Steve Lawrence, who while serving as an Army Second Lt. in Viet Nam received both a Silver Star (1968) and Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster in 1969.

And finally, my youngest brother, Retired Captain Rick Williams USN, who, after commissioning as an ensign, first served as a Navy hard-hat diver and concluded his twenty-five year career as  skipper of the nuclear sub USS Spadefish (SSN-668).

Captain Rick Williams

The links embedded in their names above, will take you to their stories as related on Thebeerchaser.com.

But now back to Spike McKinsey with an important note before you read the remainder of this account – admittedly long, but required to adequately reflect the venerable life of this native Oregonian.

Note:  At the end of this post, are two narratives – the first entitled “The Steamroller Escapade,” written by high school classmates and lifelong friends, Dave Lofgren and Mike Martindale in February 2019 to memorialize this incredible story when Terry was home on summer leave from Annapolis.

Regardless of whether you knew Spike personally, you will want to read the adventure involving the hi-jacked steamroller.  It lends insightful credence to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s assertion:  “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them!”

The other is a heartfelt tribute written by close friend and fellow aviator, Lyle Cabe, describing Terry’s background and leadership as a fighter pilot when they flew together in the Air National Guard.  Both narratives are superbly written and I hope you read them to get more insight into why Spike McKinsey is held in such high esteem by all who knew him.  I guarantee that you will enjoy them.

Newly minted pilot McKinsey – before he earned the name, “Spike.”

Terry and Larry both graduated from the USNA in 1970 and both took the Marine Corps option – Larry become a Marine infantry officer and Terry a Marine jet pilot after completing flight school in Pensacola.

After the 1967 cruise, I reconnected two years later when I visited both of them at the Academy while I was on a trip to Washington DC for the Reserve Officers’ Association National Convention my senior year in college.

USNA Campus at Annapolis, Maryland

Prepped for the Midshipman Ball at the St. Francis Hotel – Ken Guest is on the right

We laughed on that visit as we recounted stories from the 3/c cruise, most notably, the illustrious, but misguided adventures we had in San Francisco.

After the formal Midshipman Ball at the St. Francis Hotel which we attended in dress whites, we changed into civilian clothes and rented a room in a cheap, high-rise hotel right in the heart of the City.

Since Terry was almost 21 and looked older because of his formidable physique, he bought the beverages which “nourished” us that evening and resulted in massive hangovers the next day – most notably for me since I had a morning watch and had to take a taxi back to the ship at the crack of dawn while the other three recovered until the noon checkout time.

Terry and Larry also chuckled at my naiveté for signing for the room at check-in and providing my VISA card.  (I still can’t figure out why the hotel didn’t subsequently bill me for the desk lamp that we broke when one of us – I think Larry – stumbled into the table and it crashed to the floor.)

Spike McKinsey flying in formation of A-4’s.  He’s  No. 303 – Notice the handwritten note – at the upper left corner – to his friend, Dave Lofgren.

Anna and Terry at USNA graduation

After his USMC service, in which Terry distinguished himself as a fighter pilot ( he earned the nickname “Spike” from his reputation for “hard” runway landings) he returned to Oregon in 1978 with his sweetheart, and now wife, Anna Kucynda, who he married right after graduation in the USNA Chapel.

He flew for the Oregon Air National Guard and as a result of his charismatic leadership skills, became the Base Commander from 1989 to 1985.  (See Lyle’s commentary for a detailed description of that service.)

Flash forward to 1985 – almost twenty years since our summer on the John R. Craig.  The four cruise buddies, after military service and being immersed in separate careers, had lost touch (except Larry who regularly visited with Terry and his family).

Larry Walters – friend for over fifty years

Larry served his six-year obligation in the Marine Corps.  Two years after that, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve and also went on to retire as a colonel and served in Desert Storm.

It is easy to see how Larry and Terry’s friendship was so strong and lasted more than fifty years.  They epitomized “The Few and the Proud.”  Larry Walters has the same solid and outstanding character that personified his Academy classmate and friend.

Classmates and shipmates on first-class midshipman cruise in the Med

I was working as the Business Manager at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm in downtown Portland.   We were hiring an executive assistant and one of the applicants was a young man who worked in an administrative capacity at the Air Base.

One of his references was a Colonel Terry McKinsey and in the interview, I asked him if his commanding officer was a tall, blond guy who had flown fighters for the Marine Corps.   He responded in the affirmative.  I called the Air Base and asked the receptionist to connect me with Colonel McKinsey.

I identified myself only as Mr. Williams, but told Spike that I was checking references on one of his employees – we’ll call him John Doe, who had applied for a job at the law firm.   Terry said he would be glad to respond and that John was a very good employee.  The conversation then went like this:

Williams:   “Colonel, while one of the reasons for this call is to check a reference on John Doe, I have concerns about using the information you provide based on lingering concerns about questionable activities during your 3/c midshipman cruise while on liberty in San Francisco. 

Isn’t it true that you purchased hard liquor while you were still a minor and that you and your shipmates broke a hotel room lamp, left the room in a mess when you left, and didn’t even leave the maid a tip for cleaning it up?

Thirty seconds of silence followed.

McKinsey:  “Don Williams, you SOB!  How have you been after all these years?   When are we going to get together?”

Spike in front of an F-15 at Kingsley Field

Well, we did get together for a subsequent lunch which was incredibly meaningful for all of us there.   As background, Terry after graduating from West Linn HS, enlisted in the Army but had the dream of attending one of the military academies.   He ended up receiving appointments from Congressman Wendell Wyatt to both West Point and Annapolis, but chose the latter.

The late Congressman Wendell Wyatt – an outstanding Representative and attorney

He had never met the Congressman, who became a named partner at the law firm after he retired from Congress.

Larry Paulson and I asked Wendell if he would join us for lunch with his former Academy appointee.   Larry, another partner in the law firm who was a Brigadier General and the Chief of Staff for the Air National Guard, worked with Terry in the Guard before retiring.  Before being promoted to General, he was the lead Staff Judge Advocate.   After Schwabe, he became the Executive Director of the Port of Vancouver before retiring in 2012.

General Paulson – another Spike McKinsey fan and colleague.

We had a wonderful lunch and it was memorable hearing Terry express his appreciation to the Congressman and Wendell reciprocating by telling Spike how his outstanding service and patriotism had totally affirmed Wyatt’s decision to make the appointment in 1965.  The conversation  was particularly poignant since Wendell was also a fighter pilot – in the South Pacific during WW II.

It would be easy to go on – and I will with two final examples which help convey Terry’s personality, his zest for life and his impact on all he met.  But perhaps this excerpt from his obituary sums it up the most eloquently:

“During his 72 years, Spike’s undeniable strength, unconditional kindness, and unquestionable integrity made a lasting impact on his friends, colleagues, and family….. Spike lived a life true to his values. He stood for what is right and didn’t hesitate to step in when he saw injustice in action. He loved fishing, baseball, ice cream, 1950s pop music, and the country he served with all his heart.”

My wife and I recently returned from a week in Phoenix and sat behind an off-duty Horizon Airlines pilot who was flying back to Portland with his family. Terry had served as Assistant Chief Pilot and voluntarily retired in 2010 to prevent a young pilot from losing his job due to budget cuts.

Since the pilot in front of us was about my vintage, I asked him if he knew Terry McKinsey.   His immediate reply:  “I along with all the other pilots, loved Spike McKinsey and I was terribly saddened that I could not attend his memorial service because I was flying.”

Classmates from the USNA who flew in from all parts of the country. This picture is at the evening reception and celebration of life. Larry Walters is second from the right.

And finally, the story I referenced earlier as eloquently written by Terry’s close high school friends, Dave Lofgren and Mike Martindale, entitled “The Steamroller Escapade.”  The caper involved Terry, Dave and Mike – all former WLHS classmates.  I remember hearing Spike relate it on our summer cruise and every time I now read it, I can’t help but laugh again at the multiple images it evokes.

(By the way, Dave could not remember the name of the Police Chief who made the decision you will read about below in 1968, but thanks to Cheryl at the West Linn Library Research Desk, I learned that it was the late Chief John Stephens.  He deserves credit for his judgment and common sense which could have otherwise jeopardized Terry’s graduation from USNA and a stellar career in the military afterwards.)

Anna and Spike

Terry passed away after a short illness which he handled with the grace and courage that characterized his life.  Spike’s surviving family includes Anna and his sister, Julie.

———–

Spike with daughter Krista

Also his daughter and son, who are a wonderful credit to the family life and the values he and Anna instilled – Krista (husband Mike) and Michael.  Terry and Anna’s three grandsons, Ezra, Eli and Leo also participated in the Mass of Christian Burial at The Madeline Parish.

You can honor Spike’s memory with a gift to the Coastal Conservation Association of Washington to support salmon conservation work.

 

 

 

And as aside, the moving service and celebration of Spike’s life reminded me not to procrastinate when things seem busy and to make past, but cherished relationships, a priority.  I had skimmed over Spike’s number in my i-Phone multiple times during the last few years with the intention to call him and schedule another lunch or a beer.   That opportunity was lost when Larry called and told me that he was flying out for our friend’s memorial service.

And as a result, after some on-line research and a number of phone calls, reconnected with Ken Guest – the fourth midshipman who none of us had seen or talked to since disembarking from the John R. Craig for the last time at the end of the summer in 1967.

Ken Guest during his active naval service

Ken, served four years active duty as a naval surface line officer and had a successful thirty-five year career as a dentist in Salina, Kansas before retiring.

Besides a long phone call I had with him, we reconnected with Larry by e-mails and relived old memories, all of them involving Terry McKinsey.

We also lamented the fact that our first ship was decommissioned on 27 July 1979 and the John R. Craig was ignominiously sunk as a target in naval war exercises off the coast of California on 6 June 1980.  And by the way, neither Ken nor Larry admitted to being the one responsible for the broken lamp……!

The Steamroller Escapade

(By Dave Lofgren and Mike Martindale – February 2019)

West Linn High School – site of the steam roller

Terry McKinsey had come home to Gladstone, Oregon following his plebe year at the United States Naval Academy. It was summer and Terry (who had not yet been christened “Spike”), our friend  Mike Martindale and I went into Portland on Friday night to hit a few night clubs and bars.

We drove past our alma mater, West Linn High School, on the way and we noticed a steamroller parked in a gravel lot near the school.

The steamroller reminded us of the time our friend Billy Wrigglesworth’s older brother Jim had gotten drunk and stolen an army tank from the Lake Oswego Oregon National Guard Armory. He drove the tank three miles to the Marylhurst University campus and pointed the tank gun at the administrative building before being arrested and thrown in jail. The story of the stolen tank became a legend known to young and old as the most incredibly brazen and stupid stunt anyone had ever heard of.

Marylhurst Administration Building surrenders to inebriated tank commander……..

Marylhurst University was a few miles past the high school and when we drove by we couldn’t stop laughing about someone stealing a tank. By the time we got to Portland our minds were fully consumed with the tank and Billy’s brother’s heroics and we began thinking…

…..Bolstered by a few beers, but intoxicated with the vision of the tank legend and feeling very brazen and stupid ourselves, we decided to create our own legend. We left Portland and headed for the steamroller.

When we got to the high school the steamroller was still sitting there. It was a big, diesel-powered compaction roller with a huge front drum and giant rear wheels beckoning us to jump on and start it up. Mike Martindale had a gorgeous cousin named “Teri” who lived up the hill behind the school and we decided the only proper course of action at that point was to steal the steamroller and drive it up the hill to Teri’s house.

“Damn the Torpedoes!”

We parked our car near the steamroller and climbed up into the cab and discovered to our great (mis)fortune a key in the ignition. We turned the key to “on” and “VARROOOM” the big diesel-powered beast started up!  It was about 1:30 in the morning and as dark and quiet as night in the suburbs should be when we jammed it into gear.

Admiral Farragut – Spike’s mentor….

McKinsey, in the best naval tradition of Admiral David Farragut at the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864, shouted, “DAMN THE  TORPEDOES – FULL SPEED AHEAD!” and the big machine started lurching across the parking lot with a loud “CHUG-CHUG, CRUNCH-CRUNCH, RUMBLE-RUMBLE, GRIND-GRIND” sound that must have been heard several blocks away.

We got to the road in a couple minutes and when we tried to turn the machine onto the road and up the hill toward Teri’s it just kept crawling straight ahead, across the road and into someone’s back yard.

We were hollering and whooping it up and headed straight for a tall hedge when suddenly flashing lights appeared from the road below the high school. Martindale saw the lights first and yelled “SHIT! – COPS!” and we killed the engine and bailed out of the cab onto the neighbor’s yard. We all ran off in different directions and hid behind bushes but it didn’t take long to get caught.

The officer parked his patrol car next to ours and then sat there and waited us out, knowing we eventually had to come back to our car. We tried sneaking back to the car one at a time but the officer spotted us easily and invited us to join him in the back of his car. It was very late and the officer was very pissed off. He gave us a lecture about waking up the entire neighborhood on a joyride with a steamroller that didn’t belong to us and told us we were in deep shit.

He told us he should take us to jail but since it was the middle of the night he would let us go on our own recognizance if we promised to appear in front of the West Linn Police Chief at 8:00 AM the next morning. This was, of course, promised.

We got home about 3:00 AM. At 7:00 AM the next morning we told our parents we were going to play tennis. They knew that was BS from our obvious hangovers and the fact that casual slacks and button-down shirts weren’t exactly tennis attire but that was our story when we left with tennis rackets in hand for the West Linn Police Department.

When we arrived at the police department, a not-so-friendly female officer told us the police chief would see us in a few minutes. The chief let us sit there for a good fifteen or twenty minutes wondering what our punishment would be. Then he summoned us into his office.

The chief told us to sit down. He asked us a few questions about driving a steam roller that didn’t belong to us in the middle of the night in a quiet neighborhood and “read us the riot act” for our behavior. He said the resident who called the police on us and whose yard we had driven onto wasn’t going to press charges because we hadn’t destroyed his hedge or done major damage to his yard.

The chief was looking at the report the officer who captured us had filed and seemed to be trying to decide what kind of punishment would be appropriate when he suddenly asked, “Which one of you is from the U. S. Naval Academy?” Terry was sitting between Mike and me and he jumped to his feet and shouted, “Me Sir!”

The chief told Terry to approach his desk and Terry snapped to attention in front of him. He asked Terry a few questions about the Naval Academy to which Terry barked out replies and then the chief said, “Mr. McKinsey do you think taking a steam roller for a drunken joy ride onto someone’s yard in the middle of the night would be looked upon favorably by your commanding officer at the Academy?”  Terry was standing stiff as a stone statue and loudly replied “No sir! He would not, sir!” to the chief’s question.

After a few more questions that elicited similar sharp responses from Terry the chief told him he could sit back down. He asked Mike and me a few perfunctory questions about our joy ride. Then he informed us in his most authoritative manner that he admired Mr. McKinsey’s patriotism and desire to become a naval officer.

A retroactive thanks to Chief Stephens and the “arresting” officer….

He said he did not want to jeopardize Terry’s future as an officer and he would not be pressing charges against us or informing the Naval Academy of Mr. McKinsey’s behavior.

He told us that Mr. McKinsey had saved our asses and we had him and ONLY him to thank for not receiving punishments. Then he told us we were free to go but if he ever saw us in his office again he would “throw the book at us”.

That, as Mike Martindale and I recall, was the “The Steamroller Escapade”. We never did see Mike’s cousin Teri which in hindsight was probably a good thing. We did manage to play tennis later that morning with splitting headaches.

Mike and I still owe our pal Terry (“Spike”) McKinsey a beer for saving our asses that day and I can still see the flashing lights coming over the hill and hear the “chug-chug, crunch-crunch, rumble-rumble, grind-grind” of the steamroller as it traveled across the gravel parking lot.

I’ll bet Terry can still hear it, too.

Cheers, Spike!

Dave Lofgren

Mike Martindale

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tribute to Spike McKinsey

by Lyle Cabe

Forty years of being friends and comrades in arms provides many stories and characterizations to draw from to describe Terry “Spike” McKinsey.  Spike [the flying call-sign for how he landed airplanes], was unique in many ways, one of which is that he served in all four branches of the service – Army, Navy, Marines and he finished his military career flying F-15 Eagles for the Air Force.

Climbing aboard a trainer jet – the T45 Goshhawk

Spike’s character and integrity are what really sets him apart.  I have described him as John Wayne, Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger all wrapped up into one fine gentleman.  There are stories to support each personification, but not enough room in this writing to describe each.  

I first got to know Spike in the late 1970s as he segued from flying A4s and F4s in the Marines to, where he was an easy fit, to flying F-101B Voodoos in the Oregon Air National Guard. 

A few years later, as the 142d Fighter Wing transitioned to the F4 Phantom, because of Spike’s Marine F4 experience, he was made an Instructor Pilot.  This began his supervisory role in the unit which led him all the way to a seven-year stint as the Commander of the Wing.

Spike with crewmates from Air National Guard. Back row L-R: Bill DeJager, Steve Allison [deceased], Dick Peterson [deceased], Spike [deceased], Carl Hellis. Kneeling: Ron Moore, Larry Kemp [deceased], Ray Pilcher, Scott Powell and Dennis Anderson.

Throughout the years of our friendship, we learned that we both loved beer.  I am a self-proclaimed IPA snob; however, Spike had a propensity towards German Lager.  This is most likely because in the mid-1980s he was selected to be the Flying Operations supervisor for the first ever Air National Guard, Air Sovereignty Alert in Western Germany. 

The Air Force unit was upgrading to a newer jet and the ANG was tasked to set up, train and execute Alert for six months on the East/West border of Germany.  This was the tip of the sword and if it wasn’t done right it was an international incident.  Spike was tasked with ensuring that aircrew on alert were trained and up to the task.  The day came for the ANG to start alert and Spike was the flight lead for the armed F4 alert aircraft that were to ensure the sovereignty of West Germany air space. 

Spike with fellow German and Air National Guard F-4 pilots after successful Air Sovereignty Alert in Germany

Within a couple hours of starting the alert, the Scramble Klaxon went off with the warning that MIGs were heading toward them.  The F4s scrambled flawlessly and the MIGs were turned around, returning to their base.  They were testing the changeover of Alert responsibility — Spike and the Air National Guard stood tall in the big spot light.

Spike and Anna in front of an A-4.

I think Spike loved fishing more than flying as we have spent many a day together, wetting lines.  We’ve had days where we have caught fish and we’ve had days when we were blanked, yet the fellowship of being together was always the high point of the day.

We always toasted each other, at the end of the day, with a victory or defeat beer.  The toast was always, clinking our beers together, “to a gentleman and a scholar” to which Spike would always retort “and damn few of us left”.  Well there are even fewer now that he is gone.

A Mug of German Bitburger Lager – Cheers to Spike!

 (Lyle Cabe, after Basic Training, was first an Admin. Specialist in the 123d Fighter Squadron, received a direct commission, went to pilot training and retired as the Commander of the 142d Fighter Wing where he flew with Spike.  His last temporary duty assignment was commanding 400 OreANG members in Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia – flying combat missions into Iraq.) 

Lyle Cabe in Fall 2000 at Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia during Southern Comfort protecting Iraq South of 34th parallel from Saddam Hussein forces.

 

You’re Overdue! (For a Visit to the Multnomah Whiskey Library)

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Followers of this blog know that the title – Thebeerchaser – is a misnomer of sorts.  While it mentions good lagers we taste at various watering holes, the focus is on the bars as an institution – the history, the character, the regulars and the staff.   That said, of the eighty-three Portland bars, taverns and breweries visited and reviewed since August, 2011, only one – the Pope Bourbon House – has focused on hard liquor or distilled spirits.

That is until the first Beerchasing event in 2017 – the Multnomah Whiskey Library (hereafter MWL), which Beerchasing regulars, Dan Eller, Michael Jones and I visited on January 4th (more about those two fellows below).

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Eller and Jones

In the three + years since opened by owners, Greg Goodman and Alan Davis, this unique gathering place has taken Portland by a storm and received national attention.  For example, Thrilllist includes it in its 2014 list of the “Twenty-one Best Whiskey Bars in America.”  (“MWL ia about as close as you can get feeling like part of the 1% without going broke.”)

The MWL on its website lists forty-five links to newspaper and magazine articles ranging from the New York Times to the United Airlines Hemisphere to Travel and Leisure to Portland Monthly.  (Click on the links to see the articles)  An article in Paste Magazine was entitled “This May Be the Greatest Whiskey Bar in the World “ https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/07/this-might-be-the-greatest-whiskey-bar-in-the-worl.html

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Inconspicuous entrance

And while the reviews (including this one) have been overwhelmingly positive, there are some who feel it is not consistent with Portland values and culture:  “…..The pretentious vibe, however, was a bit much…” (Yelp 12/3/16).   Most of the negative comments relate to the doorman and staff at the vestibule – they check-in every person entering the bar – it’s in an old building (formerly a piano warehouse) on SW Alder Street.  You’ll have to look for a small sign above the door, overshadowed by the sign for Chizu – a sushi bar for cheese in the space next door.

There is a sound rationale for the check-in staff and procedure set forth below based on the MWL business model.  Those who simply drop in can expect to wait from forty-five minutes to two hours or more (on weekends) in the Green Room – the smaller bar on the ground floor, before being ushered up to the spacious and ornate lounge above.

The Green Room downstairs

The Green Room downstairs

Because many don’t want to hear the hostesses’ message or resent having to wait, the recipients of their ire are the ones who convey the message.  For example:

“The hostess at the front repeats an automated, pretentious, stone-cold response to stomp the hopes out of every potential patron…..”  (Yelp 11/7/16)

“The waitress (in the Green Room) was standing behind the bar ignoring us. She was rude and hostile the entire time.” (Yelp 9/28/16)

“My guest and I were greeted by a pretentious lackey masquerading as a        maître d’…with the ferociousness of an angry kitty, this bow-tied fella who I suspect was the victim of bullying as a child has embraced his role as a table Nazi by taking tremendous pleasure in turning people away…..”  (Yelp 5/6/15)

photo-jan-04-6-46-30-pm-2You see, the MWL is primarily a member-based bar with 600 of Portland’s power-crowd paying the $600 annual fee which allows them unfettered access during normal  operating hours and preferred reservations to special and educational events – and don’t forget a “Set of the Library’s custom tasting glassware”!?!.   Although that same amount could buy you 400 Happy-hour draft PBRs at the Yamhill Pub, there are more than 600 people on the waiting list. 

So maybe it was appropriate that my companions were Eller and Jones, since Dan is a tax and estate-planning lawyer at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt and Jones is an investment counselor/financial adviser with Merrill-Lynch.   Given the increased scrutiny the IRS gives to meals and entertainment expenses, Eller would be able to advise to ensure maximum deductibility and Jones could develop a financial strategy so you could experience at least most of the 1,500 different labels (a total inventory of 1,900 bottles) well into retirement.

Eller on Cycle Oregon trip

Eller on Cycle Oregon ride

These two gents have accompanied me on two other Beerchasing events – the Oregon Public House, the Pope Bourbon House.  Both fit the profile of successful young, civically- involved Portlanders the MWL would want on its roster.  Eller, besides his Masters in Finance at Portland State and law degree, has an LLM (Masters in Taxation) from the University of Washington.  He’s is on the board of Cycle Oregon and past chair of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society besides being an adjunct professor at both Northwestern Law School at Lewis and Clark and Portland State in his spare time….                                  

Jones in his favorite non-bar environment

Jones in his favorite non-bar environment

Jones after his undergraduate degree at Marylhurst University earned his MBA, is a US Army veteran, and worked in management positions in Japan before returning to the states.   He has been on the City Club of Portland Board and chairs the annual Alzheimer Walk for the Oregon Alzheimer Association.  Mike is a skilled woodworker as well as an avid hunter and outdoorsman as you might deduce from this picture.  Both of these gents are also great family men.

Dan made sure that our group had a “Hall Pass,” so we did not have to wait to get in.  This entry fee for non-members at the MWL costs $25 per person.  The fee seemed inordinate since my only other experience with a hall pass was in grade school.  Then you could secure one at no cost by just raising your hand and looking at the teacher with an imploring and strained look on your face.  But in both instances, it’s a great way to avoid a wait.

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Antibiotic and janitorial resistant……

Upon entering, I was struck by the stark contrast with the one “grunge bar” visited on my Beerchasing journey (three times…) – the Yamhill Pub where one almost expected an inspection by the Oregon Health Division in order to get out of this bar – the toilets may be a breeding ground for hostile invasive species in all likelihood immune to antibiotics.

The stairs at the Whiskey Library lead up to a spacious dimly-lit room with what was described by one Trip Advisor reviewer as “an absolutely dazzling selection” (8/16) and the MWL website proudly asserts is “…an exhaustive collection representing all major and lesser styles of distilled spirits known to the modern world.”  

There are a number of twelve-foot ladders which the staff use to retrieve many of the bottles – “organized categorically by region, ingredient and distilleries’ production practices. In short, this is a whiskey lover’s paradise.”  (PDX Eater  6/4/14)

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Fear of heights might be a problem when dusting the bottles

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Indeed, the collection is so extensive that the new employees each take part in the ongoing cycle of “dusting” the bottles.  Our server, Jason, confirmed this informing us that the dusting shifts for new employees also help them learn the names of the brands served.

The ornate framed portraits lining the walls stand out.  These are “the most important people in whiskey, all done by local artists. They include Jack Daniels, Mary the Jewess (‘the first true alchemist of the Western world’), George Washington, and Shinjiro Torii (the founder of Suntory whiskey).  (Munchies Magazine 5/7/15)  

Portraits of Whiskey Icons

Portraits of Whiskey Icons

And one’s initial exposure to the stained-glass skylights, the dark wood tables and long wrap-around bar, leather chairs and over-stuffed couches, exposed brick, twenty-foot ceilings, chandeliers and the hushed efficiency of the vested and tie-wearing servers, may be responsible for multiple ethereal references:

“I feel that this is what man heaven must be like.” (Yelp 5/4/16)

“(I thought) I died and went to whiskey heaven.” (Yelp 8/24/16)

“The host checking people in…pretends to be the gatekeeper to heaven.” (  5/29/16)

The scope of this review doesn’t provide space to amplify on the Green Room, but it also reeks of class and evidently has a nice selection of spirits.  Similarly, I will not address the food served at the MWL which has been described as good and reasonably priced.

And lest you think that the sophisticated ambiance and upscale trappings mean a stuffy or staid group of patrons, there was a nice energy in both bars and the crowd was diverse in demographics as one reviewer described it:

“(The crowd was) also classy, buzzing with conversation.  It feels like people here are talking about culture and worldly experiences vs. whose sports team is better or the Kardashians.”  (Yelp 12/23/16)  (not that the latter should be a standard…..)

Jason, our personal bartender

Jason, our personal bartender

Jason, our bartender/server, as reflected in most of the reviews on the staff, was knowledgeable, very helpful and a nice person.  Having worked there for eighteen months, he loves his job and answered our ongoing stream of questions about the bar and the selection of whiskeys as he prepared our cocktails at his rolling cart by our table.

Notwithstanding some stories about the extravagant tabs run up by some high-rollers (one rumored at $15,000 over two nights), the prices are pretty reasonable and we sampled a broad range of libations without requiring bank financing.  For example, I had an Old Fashioned, their “go to” drink,  while Eller had a Manhattan and Jones a Cadet (40 creek barrel select, fundador, nocino, house spirits coffee) and the round cost under $30 without tip.  They also have three beers on tap as well as a number of bottled beers for those with a myopic perspective.

The Room

The Private Tasting Room

I had a friend who went there on business who told me that he shared the most expensive bottle of scotch he’d ever drunk costing $350 (bought by the other party…) and MWL’s most expensive offering is a single-malt Macallan Royal Marriage, with a price tag of $1,785 a shot. according to Munchies Magazine.  You have to shell out $1,250 to procure your own “spirit locker.”

Our visit was a great experience and I don’t expect to visit another bar where the head bartender has the title of “Librarian” or “Curator” and where “Membership cards are personalized with your name laser etched into cherry wood…. making them, quite possibly, the coolest library card in the word.” (Montecristo Mag 9/30/14).  My only comparable experience was in my junior year at Oregon State when NROTC midshipmen Mulvey, Riley and I sneaked a pint of Wild Turkey into the William Jasper Kerr Library to help us study for a final exam in our navigation course.

While one can sympathize to a certain extent with those who encounter an unexpected and very long wait, it’s only requires a modicum of common sense to do a little research before going to a high-profile bar of this type rather than just dropping in.  A hall pass can eliminate the wait and is well worth the price.  The Multnomah Whiskey Library fills a good niche in the Portland food and beverage sector.

The Multnomah Whiskey Library         1124 SW Alder Street

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Two high rollers and Thebeerchaser…..

 

Retired Navy Captain Rick Williams — Beerchaser-of-the Quarter

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Each quarter Thebeerchaser recognizes an individual or group that in his opinion has made a contribution to humanity.  Said “honoree” may or may not have anything to do with beer or bars other than enjoying an occasional microbrew (or PBR) in a favorite watering hole.

Captain Jud Blakely, USMC

Captain Jud Blakely, USMC

Several of the past recipients have been selected, so to speak, for their distinguished military accomplishments – Jud Blakely – USMC – and Doug Bomarito – US Navy — and Steve Lawrence (now Mayor of The Dalles, Oregon) – US Army – all recipients of the Bronze Star with Combat V for service in Viet Nam.  In fact, Lawrence received both a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for heroism in combat. (Click on the links above to see the posts.)

Bronze Stars awarded to Steve Lawrence

Bronze and Silver Stars awarded to Steve Lawrence

The new Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, had a diverse and distinguished Navy career, before retiring in 2000 and “homesteading” in Redland, Oregon.  He also happens to be Thebeerchaser’s youngest brother.  The narrative below is his story:

Rick as a naïve and idealist 4th class or freshman midshipman

Rick as a naïve and idealistic 4th class or freshman midshipman

Captain Rick Williams stood on the bridge of the Third Fleet Command Ship USS CORONADO on a sunny day in June, 1997, as she steamed up the Willamette with four other Navy ships for the Portland Rose Festival. Rick thought about his time spent in Corvallis as a Class of 1974 OSU NROTC Midshipman – where he graduated with a degree in Construction Engineering Management in June 1975 – and the mentors who had guided him along the way.  OSU was where he was commissioned by Captain Chuck Dimon, his Professor of Naval Science, and sent to his first sea tour.

200_ Change of Command Ceremony in San Diego

With family receiving his first Legion of Merit Award from Vice Admiral Herb Brown, Commander of the US Navy Third Fleet in 1997

 

Fast forward to July 2000 — Rick was at his change of command and retirement ceremony at Submarine Base – Point Loma, where the same Captain Chuck Dimon granted him permission to come ashore after 25 years, including 21 years of continuous sea duty and 17 cross-country moves.

Although an additional tour at the Pentagon carried the potential of Flag rank, he and his wife, Mary Jean, agreed that their two young boys deserved some stability rather than being uprooted every few years.  So Rick retired and his family took root on several acres in rural Redland, near Oregon City where he graduated from high school.

Since retirement, Rick has worked at Tektronix for three years, and now Leidos, a defense contractor for over 12 years. He consulted as Chief Technology Officer of Oregon Iron Works, helped industry and Oregon State University develop wave energy and continues to work with the military on wave energy test centers.  In 2014, the Oregon Wave Energy Trust renamed its annual Ocean Energy Leadership Award in his honor. He was the inaugural recipient of the award in 2012.

Brothers Garry and Don Williams

Brothers Garry and Don Williams

Rick’s NROTC scholarship and future Navy career may have been preordained because of the family military roots of his two older brothers.

Don, in the OSU Class of 1970, received his commission as a surface line officer, while his brother Garry, US Military Academy at West Point Class of 1972, served as an Armored Cavalry officer.

His brother-in-law, Dave Booher, also served as a sonarman on two Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines for five nuclear deterrent patrols and was aboard the diesel boat USS Dogfish (which is older than the Beerchaser, having been launched in 1944) before he left the Navy.  Dave’s naval service was not significant except by his own admission, “I saved Democracy from the USSR during the Cold War…..”  It should be noted that he also redefined the meaning of the term, “Lost the Bubble,” while serving on those patrols.

Don (2nd from left) his senior year with then Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird in Wash. DC

Don (2nd from left) his senior year with then Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird in Wash. DC

Garry (3rd from left) and the West Point Glees Club at the White House with President Nixon in 1971

Garry (3rd from left) and the West Point Glee Club at the White House with President Nixon in 1971

Indeed, Thanksgiving holidays at the Williams’ household would see the loser of the Army vs. Navy game bet make payment on the outcome.

Hard hat

“Hard hat” Diver

Rick’s career would be viewed by most Navy detailers as an anomaly, or… ”No, you can’t do that…!”  His motivation evolved from his 2nd Class (sophomore) Midshipman tour of Submarine Base – Point Loma in 1972, where he learned of the Navy’s Sea Lab and Deep Submergence Systems Project.

That inspired a year’s leave of absence from NROTC to study ocean engineering at OSU in 1973, Navy scuba diver qualification as a 1st Class Midshipman and summer cruise on a salvage ship in 1974.

Note:  While Rick was a whiz at math and science, his comprehension of world geography was lacking.  While on this 1/C cruise and in port in Singapore, he awoke me with a phone call at 3 AM.

He wanted to borrow $50 for what he characterized as “an investment in the future” – to buy a watch.  Although he maintains that he paid it back (…and he did give me the watch as a gift), it is still carried as an Accounts Receivable on Thebeerchaser’s personal balance sheet (… just to keep messing with him for the 3am phone call).

After graduation and commissioning in 1975, he was off to Naval School Diving and Salvage as a “hardhat” diver, followed by Surface Warfare School.

Note:  Rick maintains that he can still swim 500 yards in 12.5 minutes (using only combat side-stroke or breast-stroke), do 50 push-ups in two minutes, 50 sit-ups in two minutes, six pull-ups in two minutes and then a 1.5 mile run in 12.5 minutes (after a ten-minute rest period) – required to qualify as a diver.  No bet has been placed……

Underwater dives during ____

Underwater dives from the SEA CLIFF

In his first sea tour on the Navy’s newest ocean engineering platform, submarine rescue ship USS PIGEON (ASR 21), he served as Communications Officer, Damage Control Assistant, Acting Engineer, and Operations Officer, and qualified as a Deep Sea (HeO2) Diving Officer and Surface Warfare Officer .

During this tour, he attended Naval School Deep Diving Systems for saturation diving training as a Navy Aquanaut.   At the graduation, where he was elected class honor man, he met Submarine Development Group One Commodore Chuck Larson, who became a four-star Admiral as Commander-in-Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC) and then Commandant of the Naval Academy. Larson urged him to go into submarines.

He had to volunteer for nuclear power to get to submarines, however, Rick wanted to become a Navy Hydronaut and command a deep submergence vehicle. So, the Commodore’s plan was for Rick to “flunk” the interview with Admiral Hyman Rickover, go to sub school, and stay in SubDevGru One.

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USS SEAWOLF

But, after an unusual interview and an unplanned outcome (the Admiral selected him), it was off to Nuclear Power School in Orlando where he was again class honor man, then Nuclear Prototype Training in Idaho and Submarine Warfare School in Groton.

He served two deployments on the USS SEAWOLF (SSN 575) – the oldest operational fast-attack sub in the world. Rick qualified in Submarines and as a Nuclear Propulsion Engineer.

After this five-year detour, he took command of the Deep Submergence Vehicle SEA CLIFF (DSV 4), an “inner space ship” built for deep ocean recovery with a crew of fourteen special projects submariners including three officers.   Rick served almost 3 years during the SEA CLIFF’s conversion from a 6,500 feet steel-sphere and aluminum frame vehicle, to titanium rated for 20,000 feet – an extraordinary and accelerated nine-month project – and the deep ocean operations that followed.

USS Sea Cliff Operations in the Pacific

USS Sea Cliff surfacing after operations in the Pacific

He then served as Engineer on the newest Trident Ballistic Missile Submarine USS ALABAMA (SSBN 731 Gold Crew) during four strategic deterrent patrols, as Executive Officer on the USS CAVALLA (SSN 684) and on the USS OLYMPIA (SSN 717).

After graduation from the Command Course, Rick became CO or skipper of the USS SPADEFISH (SSN 668)Note: Knowing what I knew about my youngest brother’s college escapades, this promotion made me acutely aware that this same kid now had responsibility for a nuclear reactor.    2015-09-22 19.53.04

His final fleet billet was Third Fleet Submarine Warfare Officer, embarked on the USS CORONADO in San Diego.  So what were the highlights of this amazing military career?

Rickover Interview in ‘79 – While Rick would not describe it as a “highlight,” one of the most memorable incidents was his interview with the irascible Admiral Hyman Rickover, known as the Father of the Nuclear Navy, who served for 63 years.

Admiral Rickover - Father of the Nuclear Navy.

Admiral Hyman Rickover – Father of the Nuclear Navy.

“The Admiral sat behind a large gray, dented, desk (“LGDD” in Navy terms). He   started by berating me for being an athlete in college (Rick was Captain of the OSU Ski Racing Team) and then castigated me for dropping a typing class at OSU.  He was critical of my Navy career path and did not want “late” entries to his Program.

He told me several things about my service history that were… well, just wrong. So, after several unsuccessful attempts at correcting the record (and given that I was supposed to flunk the interview anyway), I told him ‘Your paperwork is wrong, Sir.’”

The 5-minute interview ended with the Admiral screaming at his Executive Assistant and yelling at Rick, “Get out of here!”   Rick was extremely surprised that Rickover selected him for the Program.   Note:  Thebeerchaser thinks that most men would be crotchety if they had to go through life with the first name “Hyman.”  He was probably making up for the abuse he took from schoolmates on the playground…..

DSV SEA CLIFF Dives in ’84-85 – After post-conversion sea trials to 15,000 feet, SEA CLIFF successfully recovered the downed CH-53E helicopter — a crash that had the Rapid Deployment Force grounded around the globe — in a six-month effort off the Pacific Coast. Rick and his crew then completed other deep ocean operations and SEA CLIFF’s initial dive to 20,000 feet in the Middle American Trench off Guatemala.

Underwater shot of the Sea Cliff

Underwater shot of the Sea Cliff

Problems with this cup if you order a Starbucks Tall Coffee

Problems with this cup if you order a Starbucks Tall Coffee

The “squashed cup” you see in the picture was a full size coffee cup tied to a line outside the vehicle and shows the effects of the pressure at 20K.

Press coverage of record dive.

Press coverage of record dive.

One thought-provoking moment occurred at 19,700 feet under water when the SEA CLIFF’s high pressure air gauge, which was supposed to register 3,000 psi, pegged off-scale.

USS Sea Cliff

USS Sea Cliff

In spite of the “sea water intrusion event” (or flooding of the high pressure air system) and after verifying depth control, the crew successfully completed the test dive.

As a result of the 20K dive, SEA CLIFF was designated by the Secretary of the Navy as America’s Flagship for America’s Year of the Ocean and Rick was elected as a Fellow in the prestigious Explorers Club, the international society which is headquartered in New York City. 

USS SPADEFISH Adventures in ’92-93 – Rick led two under-ice expeditions to the North Pole during his command of SPADEFISH. She surfaced through the ice “about a dozen times” and visited Tromso, Norway.

Sequence of pictures surfacing at the North Pole in the Spadefish

Sequence of pictures surfacing at the North Pole in the SPADEFISH

The trips were also “Freedom of Navigation Exercises” to assert US rights of passage in international waters — as the Russians were trying to assert territorial rights in the Arctic Ocean – a situation which is still a critical defense issue today.

USS Spadefish Battle Flag

Original USS SPADEFISH Battle Flag in WW II

SPADEFISH was the Squadron Six Tactical Top Performer in 1994.

USS SPADEWISH

USS SPADEFISH

 

 

Third Fleet in ’94-98 – While on sea duty, Rick earned his MBA at San Diego State.  His thesis project led to the reorganization of Third Fleet as a Sea Based Joint Task Force and he became Assistant Chief of Staff for Command and Control.

He was led the design team and was the Fleet Manager for the conversion of the flagship into the prototype Joint Command Ship of the Future and created the Sea Based Battle Laboratory to accelerate capabilities into the Fleet.  This led to one of his Legion of Merit awards.

Certificate for CORONADO after the conversion

Certificate for CORONADO after the conversion

The USS CORONADO in Seattle Harbor

The USS CORONADO in Seattle Harbor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick was selected as an Acquisition Professional.  His next tour was at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command as Deputy Director, Advanced Concepts, working on Fleet Battle Experiments.

From a naïve 4th Class Midshipman taking naval history courses in the NROTC Quonset hut and participating in weekly drills, Rick Williams fully utilized the knowledge and skills he acquired at OSU and in numerous Navy schools.   He rose through the ranks to Captain with two Legions of Merit in a diverse Navy career and post retirement work as a consultant.  he still wonders, however, why Admiral Rickover chewed him out over dropping a typing class…!

Rick's Wedding in 1986 - Three Navy Guys (Dave, Rick and Don), a minister and an Army Guy (Garry)

Rick’s Wedding in 1987 – Three Navy Guys (Dave, Rick and Don), a minister and an Army Guy (Garry)

The Williams clan in the '60's including sister, Lynne, Duane and Frannie

The Williams clan in the ’60’s including sister, Lynne, Duane and Frannie