From Book Editor to Lawyer, a Gamble Pays Off
Judith McCarthy graduates from Rutgers School of Law-Newark with a position at a national firm....
Rutgers Study Shows Depleted Fish Stocks Can Come Back from the Brink
Fish stocks that have been depleted for decades can find their own way back to healthy levels if timely limits are put on their catch, Rutgers scientists say.
- University News
Memories on Tap for Rutgers–Camden Reunion When Local Bar Gets New Life
CAMDEN – College reunions usually conjure a tale or two about the local bar. So why not make the bar the reunion’s guest of honor? That’s the plan for Rutgers–Camden’s reunion on May 16, when the campus’ once favorite hangout is recreated for a night.
Inspired by the Cheers theme song, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” the Rutgers–Camden Reunion on the River will offer attendees a chance to pay tribute to the Grille, which opened in 1931 and was razed six years ago to make way for the LEAP Academy University High School at Sixth and Penn Streets in Camden.
The soul of the Grille, its bar top, was salvaged during the demolition by Rutgers–Camden Alumni Relations Director Chuck Mannella, a former Grille bartender, and eventually, part-owner in the 1970s. “I spent so much time there, I bought it,” says Mannella, who owned the bar from 1973-78 with fellow Rutgers–Camden alumni Robert Lara, Bob Braunworth, and Kathy Lynch.
A few weeks before the Grille’s demolition, Mannella secured the bar and back bar in the hopes of restoring the tavern for other ventures. That dream hasn’t been realized just yet, as his piece of Camden history had sat sheltered in his garage, until now.
Thanks to cabinetmaker David Ramsay, a 1979 Rutgers–Camden alumnus, the Grille’s countertop and back bar will be proudly restored for its big reveal at reunion.
“The countertop – the most visible part of the bar - will be cleaned up and refurbished for reunion,” says Ramsay, an art history major who began woodworking soon after his graduation from Rutgers–Camden. Ramsay, who frequented the Grille regularly with his fellow Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity brothers, says refinishing the bar top has brought back many good memories.
“It’s a lot of flashback stuff. We all spent a fair amount of free time there. For the people who lived on campus, the Grille was the place to go,” adds Ramsay, who has owned David Ramsay Cabinetmakers in Moorestown since 1980.
Not only will the Rutgers–Camden reunion include the refurbished Grille bar, but it will recast the mood of its heyday with nostalgic items on display like Pong, a jukebox loaded with music spanning the decades of the bar’s operation, and a case of Grille pint glasses found during the site’s demolition. Bartenders of years past will take turns preparing favorite drinks, including first chairperson of the new Rutgers University Alumni Association Jim Rhodes (1994), who tended bar in the 1980s.
Order up a bottle of bubbly for John and Barbara “Ted” (Hoff) Piotrowski, whose return to the Grille will be a chance to relive the night they met 35 years ago.
“It was the first day of the annual Greek Week celebrations at Rutgers,” says Piotrowski, former president of the Kazoo fraternity. “Someone introduced us at the Grille later that afternoon and we spent the rest of Greek Week together.”
According to Mannella, many more Rutgers–Camden alumni have their own stories to tell about the Grille. That’s why an effort to completely preserve the Grille’s bar as a permanent gathering space at Rutgers–Camden has begun to gather support. And Ramsay is quick to note that the physical bar would be up for that challenge.
“There are some molding pieces missing, glue-joint failure, and cracking in the wood,” Ramsay adds. “But essentially the bar is solid. It’s got good bones; the shape is definitely still there.”
The Rutgers–Camden Reunion on the River will also provide various alumni musical performances, art exhibits, lectures, dancing, tours, and more. For a full schedule of events, visit http://alumni.camden.rutgers.edu/Reunion_09/index.htm.
Media Contact: Cathy K. Donovan