Tuesday, October 10, 2006

RIP mitzi 1908 - 2006

mitzi's was/is one of them old time bars that resist change, i can appreciate that.

about five years ago i stopped in there on my bike and i had a shaved head at the time, i think this was the first time she seen my head shaved. mitzi said you must have been a good boy growing-up, "i can tell from all the scars on your head". i thought that was funny but when she added that "you must of also had a sad childhood by the look of my eyes" which made me a little uneasy. anyone else i would replied with something mean or gave them a dirty look but with mitzi, i just smiled.

i, like many others will miss this wonderful woman.

St. Clair Avenue's friendliest bartender dies at 92

Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Michael O'Malley
PD Reporter

The old beer joint will never be the same without the elegant lady in the housedress and clip-on earrings who called each customer "honey."

For generations she poured whiskey for the blue-collar boilermaker crowds that lined the wooden bar in one of Cleveland's oldest neighborhood saloons -- Mitzi Jerman's, named after the elegant lady herself.

Mary "Mitzi" Jerman, who was born in the apartment above the bar on St. Clair Avenue 92 years ago, died on Sunday in a nursing home where she had been cared for since April.

Before going to the nursing home, she still lived above the bar, helping her daughter and son-in-law when the place got busy. Sometimes she'd shuffle in wearing slippers, but always in a housedress and earrings, and always smiling. No one called her Mrs. Jerman. She was always Mitzi.

"The amazing Mitzi," Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman said. "She was the great innkeeper. She always made you feel warm and welcome."

Mitzi entertained her honeys with stories about her old bootlegging days and the characters who used to come into the bar -- politicians and reporters mingling with working-class Democrats. The late Frank Lausche, a Cleveland mayor who went on to be governor and U.S. senator, regularly left the place forgetting his hat.

And Mitzi remembered him having holes in his shoes.

Though the place will never be the same without those colorful stories, it was business as usual Monday at the bar. "My mother would have a fit if I closed," said Mary Therese "Susie" Myers, whose grandparents, immigrants from Slovenia, started the business 98 years ago.

John Jerman came to America and worked in the Pennsylvania coal mines before settling in Cleveland, where he met his wife Frances, a governess. In 1906, he borrowed $1,000 to buy a house at 3840 St. Clair Ave. Two years later, he opened a bar on the first floor.

When Prohibition came, the Jermans worked in the shadows to keep the business going, trying to avoid snooping G-men.

Mitzi's brother Eddie smuggled whiskey from Canadian boats, and when the Feds got too close, the Jermans would pass bottles out an upstairs window into a window of a next-door neighbor whose house stood only a few feet away.

"My grandmother used to tell my mother, 'Look out for those guys wearing the black boots and white socks. Those are the Feds. Those are the bad guys,' " Myers said.

In the old days, Mitzi cooked chili and hamburgers for the neighborhood's hungry factory workers and truck drivers. "She made the best hamburgers," said Karla Golub, 62, who grew up in the near East Side Slovenian neighborhood.

"My parents would give us kids money, and we'd walk from St. Paul's to Mitzi's for hamburgers. We would swivel on the stools and watch the factory workers crack eggs in their beers."

Golub owns Golub Funeral Home on Superior Avenue, where Mitzi's wake will be on Wednesday. The place used to be a boardinghouse where Mitzi, as a girl, took piano lessons. The old piano in the bar is dusty and out of tune.

Myers said her mother remained alert to the end. She said Mitzi asked every day about the business and her dog Rosco, an uptight mutt who sleeps in the front window and barks at the regulars coming through the door.

"Every day she said, 'Tell the customers I said hello and make sure you buy them a drink,' " Myers said.

Services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Paul Croatian Catholic Church, 1369 East 40th St.


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