Keeping alumni and friends connected to U-M

A vintage Pretzel Bell postcard.
A vintage postcard. (Image: Wystan Stevens, Flickr.)

You can ring my (Pretzel) Bell

By James Tobin
.

Do you remember the Bell?

A vintage Pretzel Bell matchbook.

(Image: eBay.)

A treasured hangout is coming back to downtown Ann Arbor after an absence of 30 years — the Pretzel Bell.

In early January a band of investors announced plans to open a new restaurant under the old name at the northwest corner of Main and Liberty, just a short block from the original, in the property long occupied by the Parthenon restaurant, more recently by a short-lived Latin-American place called Lena & Habana.

How much will it be like the old Bell? The proprietors — a group comprising Michigan alumni and restaurateurs — aren’t saying yet. In any case, they’ll be working with or against a powerful current of nostalgia.

Like any city, Ann Arbor has had its share of favorite haunts that rose and fell with the times —Hangsterfer’s, Joe Parker’s, the Orient, the Wolverine Den, Drake’s, the Village Bell, Bicycle Jim’s. But the joint with the longest legend was the Pretzel Bell.

Closest to campus

The doors opened on the night of May 24, 1934, just five months after the end of Prohibition. The site was 120 East Liberty, in the block between Main and Fourth, in the space long occupied by an old grocery. It was a healthy walk from campus, but it couldn’t be much closer, since Ann Arbor remained “dry” east of Division Street. The proprietors, John and Ralph Neelands, said they opened the place “so the boys might have a place to sit down and have a glass of beer.” Boys and girls alike were happy to make the walk.


The best stories about the Pretzel Bell are stored in your memories. Tell us yours! We’ll follow up for details about the best ones we hear. 
The brothers left the grocery’s tin ceiling in place and brought in fixtures from pre-Prohibition days. From Joe Parker’s Saloon on Main they got a lovely old bar. From the Oriental Bar came stout oak tables carved with the initials of generations of U-M students. (The decorating, intentionally or not, brought back the words of an old song often sung by students of the 1930s: “I want to go back to Michigan, to dear Ann Arbor town; back to Joe’s and the Orient, back to some of the money I spent…”).

From the ceiling the Neelands brothers hung an old bell that was said — not with rock-solid documentation — to have come from a farm southwest of town that dated at least to the Civil War. It was supposed to have come into the hands of the great Michigan football coach Fielding H. Yost, who rang it at Ferry Field before giving it to the owners of the new tavern. The name of the place was said to derive from two signals of hospitality in the beer gardens of German university towns — a basket of pretzels and a bell to call in neighbors to hear important news of the day.

Mail call with mom

Big crowd at the P-Bell. Vintage.

A wild night at the Bell. (Image: Wystan Stevens, Flickr.)

The Neelands brothers got the jump on post-Prohibition competitors, and the Pretzel Bell became thewatering hole for thirsty U-M students. In no time it became known simply as “the P-Bell” or “the Bell.” It became the favorite of athletes, musicians, and the staff of The Michigan Daily,who helped to pass the word in print.

In fact, Tom Kleene, The Daily’seditor in 1936, refreshed himself so often at the Bell that he started to get his mail there — a fact that John Neelands made plain one night by delivering a stack of letters to Kleene’s table just as he was sitting down for dinner with his mother.

On weekend nights the hubbub was uproarious. The bell was rung to announce: “There’s a telephone call for….” One night legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski, fresh from the May Festival at Hill Auditorium, took a seat among cheering students and demanded to hear some college songs. He wound up standing on his chair and conducting the crowd in “Varsity” and “The Victors.” Coach Yost, dropping in for lunch, would call for 11 salt shakers and 11 pepper shakers to diagram Wolverine plays.

Tiffany shades and RFD Boys

Three girls posed in P-Bell window, ca 1960.

For a Halloween lark in 1960, Mary Lou Elliott, Shirley Staib, and Elvie Sizer dressed up like football players and posed in the Bell’s window. (Image: “Old News,” Ann Arbor News.)

In 1944, new owners, Clint and Helen Castor, took over. In their time a second and larger bell was hung from the ceiling, this one a gift from the men of Alpha Delta Phi. A ritual began that would continue for decades. It was known as the “Bell Party,” which reached its high point when a student, on the day of his or her majority, climbed onto a table and downed a prescribed quantity of lager while the bell rang overhead. By the mid-1970s, the Castor family would estimate the total number of Bell Parties at 30,000.

Signed photographs began to accumulate on the brick walls — Tom Harmon; Harmon’s blocker, Forest Evashevski; a young Bob Ufer in track duds; Robert Allen Wahl, captain of the 1950 football team; Gerald Smith, captain of the 1960 team. (One astonishing group photo hanging at the Bell would be signed by five Michigan football coaches — Harry Kipke, Fritz Crisler, Bennie Oosterbaan, Bump Elliott, and Bo Schembechler.)

One day in the late ’50s, a patron dropped in with a Tiffany-style hanging glass lamp shade. The Castors liked it so much they acquired dozens more to hang from the ceiling, giving the place the distinctive look of its modern era.

On it went into the 1960s, with beats and hippies jostling for tables among aging alums and townie business types. But in 1969, a fire started in the furniture store next door. When the flames were extinguished, the Bell’s ceiling had collapsed, destroying lamps and priceless memorabilia.

But the Castors’ heir, Clint Jr., remodeled and even expanded to the adjacent storefronts. When the Bell’s doors reopened, loyalists returned in droves. With bluegrass suddenly hip in the 1970s, the place gained a certain new-old chic by giving a regular gig to the RFD Boys, a local group that gained national renown.

Joy and laughter

 In 1971, a creative type in the Law School recorded his gratitude for the Bell in a poem titled simply: “Pretzel Bell.” It read in part:

One dark night with red eyes blinking,
And my head in need of shrinking,
With my life entombed in thinking,
My emotions all a’swell,
On the brink of sheer disaster,
Came a vision of Clint Castor
And the joy and the laughter
Of his Bell.
Yes his Bell, Bell, Bell—
Pretzel Bell.

An extra helping of nostalgia

Crowd lines up for P-Bell auction.

Despite the morning drizzle, fans lined up for an auction of Bell memorabilia when the doors closed for good in April 1985. (Image: “Old News,” Ann Arbor News.)

But by the late 1970s, Castor filswas laboring against heavy competition in the blocks close to campus, and he was apparently not the business manager his parents had been. Health violations closed the place for a time. Then the IRS came calling, asking Castor for more than $100,000 in employees’ withholding taxes. On a rainy day in April 1985, the taxmen auctioned off the furnishings for a total of $208,000.

“Students nowadays look on it as quaint but dull,” said the presiding IRS agent. “It simply got passed by time.”

Maybe so. And yet, in the 30 years since, nostalgia for the Pretzel Bell has enjoyed a peculiar longevity even as other memories faded. Jim Carty, a sports columnist for The Ann Arbor News,said as much in 2009.

“Never has such a long-shuttered restaurant evoked such long-time mourning,” Carty wrote. “To me, who moved to A2 in 2001, mourning the Pretzel Bell is part of what makes Ann Arbor, well, Ann Arbor. If you’re of a certain age, you seem to mourn the Pretzel Bell. I like that.”

(Top image: Wystan Stevens, Flickr.)

James Tobin

James Tobin

JAMES TOBIN is an author and historian. His latest book, The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency,was published by Simon & Schuster in November 2013. He contributes regularly to the U-M Heritage website, an online repository of historical stories and images about the University.

COMMENTS

  • Meredith Tigel Saltzman - 1956

    The biggest disappointment of my years at Michigan was that I didn’t turn 21 in time to celebrate at the P-Bell — I was already in Cambridge, MA, at a women’s program at the Harvard Business School when that momentous event occurred. If I ever return to Ann Arbor, I’ll let my husband buy me a beer at the new P-Bell.

    Reply

  • Dan Murphy - 1969, and 1970(Masters)

    My wife and I visit Ann Arbor once or twice a year and I always talk about the Pretzel Bell and the many fond memories I have of going there. I would return if it reopens.

    Reply

    • Dan Mancuso - 1969, and 1970 (Masters)

      Lots of fun there and at the V-Bell. I was very sad when it closed. Spent many fun nights with my classmates, especially Dan Murphy. I look forward to returning to a most memorable watering spot.

      Reply

      • Dan Mancuso - 1969, and 1970 (Masters)

        Lots of fun there and at the V-Bell. Spent many fun night there. I look forward to it’s reopening.

        Reply

  • Gregg Thomas - 1982

    I distinctly remember the PBell and for some reason the troughs in the mens room…. but when it came time to do my “bell” the pbell was closed and the tradition was taken up by the Village Bell or “vbell” as we called it on south u at Washtenaw……

    Reply

  • Ronald Paler - 1961

    When in my second year of dental school I turned 21 my Psi Omega frat brothers took me to the P Bell for the traditional birthday initiation of downing a large pitcher of beer on top of a large wooden table to the cheers of all the patrons.

    As the bell tolled each time I drank from the pitcher I was urged to drink faster and soon collapsed in the arms of my brothers. This was the last and only time I was totally drunk.

    Needless to say I missed classes the following day after waking up in the frat house a bathtub the following morning. Fond memories are made of this to this day.

    Reply

    • Leland DuBuc - '72 LSA/ '83 MSW

      10 years later a friend showed up at my door. remembering my birthday to my surprise, and excitedly dragging me down to the PBell. Part of the ritual was signing your name and date in a big book that went back years, everyone who had taken part in the birthday drinking ritual. I recall numerous great sports pictures on the walls including of Jerry Ford and his teams. He was already a legend then. The story was that even his name was signed in the huge book. A myth I guess. I wonder what happened to that book ?

      Reply

  • Cheri Rubin - 1975 BA, 1979 MBA

    I remember the Pretzel Bell. If it’s open by late May, I’ll swing by when I’m in town.

    Reply

  • Jane Miller - 1965

    Going through old pictures, just found one of my roommate and friend, Sharon, standing on a P-Bell table chugging HER requisite lager in May of 1964.

    Reply

  • Phil Kowalski - 1970

    I was devastated by the fire in 1969. It was my favourite place for a beer “in town”.

    Reply

  • Barbara Deegan - 1964, 1971

    When I went to the P-Bell as an undergrad in the very early ’60s, I was surprised and delighted to see my father in a photo of the U of M swim team of 1933 or so! I hadn’t known he was on it, or even that there was a swim team. When I heard that the Bell was closed, I wished I could have had that photo.

    Reply

  • Brigid Sullivan - '73 and '75

    I spent many a St. Paddy’s Day singing Irish songs and dancing at the Bell. Of course, the music was played by the RFD boys, which was quite fun to hear Irish music played by a bluegrass band. We heard a lot of “Who put the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder,” “O’Reilly is Dead and His Brother don’t Know It,” and other Americanized versions of Irish music.

    The laws were changed at some point during that time making it legal for 18-year-olds to drink. The push came from the Anti-War protests, if we are old enough to go to war, we are old enough to drink. So none of us had the opportunity, thank heavens, to drink under the ringing bell, because one day we were all legal.

    Reply

  • Kathryn Hollett - 1968

    We live in N. FL now, but but my parents, brother, sister-in-law, son, niece and 2 nephews all went to MICHIGAN as did my husband and I. It’s always been sad when we pass the spot where the old Pretzel Bell was located. I am one of thousands who celebrated her 21st birthday there by standing on a table chugging a mug of beer, not to mention visits there for Fathers’ Weekend, dinner (with the parents) and/or drinking with friends.

    Reply

  • DR. EDWIN RENNELL JR - 1960 DDS

    21st birthday at the Bell – June 6, 1957!

    Reply

  • Bruce Caswell - 1959, 1963, 1970.

    My favorite dinner at the Pretzel Bell was the boiled shrimp on weekends.

    Reply

    • Lynne Haley - 1966,BA History 1976, DDS

      Remember very well my 21st at the Pretzel Bell. Went there with older friends who gave me a great intro into official adulthood in Ann Arbor. Had been to the Bell for food and roaming the premises admiring those great photos! Some of my engineering friends showed me, a history major, just how the bubble chamber was invented (or inspired) right at those very tables. Every time I sat down I imagined myself in the former seat of a fine scholar, musician, athlete or a Nobel Prize holder. Hadn’t thought of that day until reading this story…great to hear of the resurrection.

      Reply

  • Lee Brandt - 1964

    What is the importance of the “H” letter on the guy’s sweater in the drawing? It would have been very purposely drawn.

    Reply

    • David Katz - 1962

      I think the “H” is a poorly drawn M. Compare with the “M” on the Michigan banner on the right side of the drawing.

      Reply

      • bill whetham - 1962

        I wonder if this is the David Katz who lived at the (Law Fraternity) 1212 Hill St. The David Katz who made us all chip in to hire a maid to come in once a month to clean the place up.

        Reply

    • Will Hathaway - 1983

      I think the artist intended it to be a block M, like the one on the pennant.

      Reply

  • Bryan Pack - 2001

    As the children of a Michigan alum, my three siblings and I grew up with stories of Ann Arbor and traditions of the University. As we got closer to college age my father would regale us with stories of he and his friends at “the P-Bell,” with reverence only second to the M in the Diag, and William D. Revelli. As Michigan alumni ourselves, I would liken similar nostalgia amongst us for modern day Pizza House. But nothing can truly seem to compare to the memories of the old Preztel Bell. I hope those who successfully resurrect the name understand the responsibility and importance of resurrecting the experience as well. Go Blue!

    Reply

  • Ted Berwald - 1955

    Being under 21 upon graduation I was never able to enter the halls of the P-Bell. One of my great laments while at the University. I did try once using Dave Rentschler’s (a football player) ID. Never got past the door. Might have to make a special trip back to AA just to complete the “bucket list”.

    Reply

  • Tish Lehman - 1984 (Ph.D.)

    The Pretzel Bell was the only thing I knew about Ann Arbor before we moved here in 1971 for my husband’s grad school. As a science-mad rural Nebraskan, I was enchanted by the story my teacher told me when I was the only girl in physics class in 1961, that a man had watched the bubbles when a friend put salt in his beer. Realizing he couldn’t see a salt grain, but could track their progress by the bubbles in its wake, he realized he could use bubbles to track invisible subatomic particles. When we got to Ann Arbor, I walked to the Pretzel Bell as soon as I had free time, and in its dark wood interior, I felt myself on holy ground as much as I did on the steps of the Union, where I soon learned President Kennedy had said “ask not.”

    I went to the auction when they dismantled that shrine to the human ability to make scientific discoveries in humble events, but couldn’t afford to buy any of the beat-up tables, chairs, or even glassware. Losing the Pretzel Bell was a great sorrow, even though I knew the cockroaches had already taken over the once-great place.

    Reply

    • Bill Klykylo - '70, '73, '75

      As I’m sure you know, that was Donald Glazer, who won a Nobel for the invention of the bubble chamber. The actual degree of inspiration from the beer is uncertain; Glazer later said that he was already thinking about bubbles. But he did use beer as an early medium!

      I too always pause on the steps of the Union.

      Reply

    • Jeremy Segal - 1977 (if I had finished)

      I thought that Kennedy’s speech was on the steps of the grad library, facing the diag. That’s where he proposed founding the Peace Corps. Ask not was in his inauguration address.

      Reply

      • Bob Parizek - 1961, 1962, 1965

        Kennedy’s speech was on the steps of the Union. I was standing on the wall on the north side of the steps very close to the building wall.

        Reply

        • Jim Clatworthy - 1960 Hist.,1961 MA.Hist., 1970 Ph.D. Comparative Educ.

          Kennedy’s speech was at the Union. I was out in a huge crowd in State St. protecting Doc Losch, our Favorite Astronomy Professor, and sometime holding her up so she could see.
          My 21st was in Dec. of 1956 and I had just come back from a summer serving in the U.S. Forest Service Smokejumpers and my Chi Psi brothers took good care of me.
          Glad to hear the P-Bell is coming back!!!!!!

          Reply

  • Gerri Carr (Mankowski) - 1955

    I associate the ringing of the bell with the announcing of one’s 21st birthday.

    Reply

    • Marion Matuszewski - 1955

      Gerri:

      I could not believe my eyes when I saw who sent this e-mail. You might
      remember me from FHS when you lived on Williamson. If you get a chance
      why don’t you give me a call. My phone number is still listed. I would love the opportunity to chat with you. Perhaps Norm and I could have lunch with you some day.

      Marion

      PS: I too miss the P-Bell.

      Reply

  • John Ogden - 1963 BSME; 1965 MBA

    Who would ever forget celebrating their 21st birthday at the P-Bell!!! It was a great tradition and the place to be.

    Reply

  • Monte Harold - 1958 1961

    I transferred to Michigan in 1957, Ed Locke, my roommate dated Carol Wray, a Kappa Delta, so I got to know her a bit. I graduated in 1958, but returned for my master’s. After I graduated I got a job traveling Michigan, Ohio and Indiana so I just keep my apartment in Ann Arbor. One week night in April 1960 several of my former classmates and I meet at the P-Bell to tip a few. Carol was traveling nationwide with Proctor & Gamble, was on a short spring work break and decided meet some of her KD friends at the P-Bell. I asked asked her for a date—we were married in October. We have greatly enjoyed 55 years—Thanks P-Bell and old Ann Arbor town.

    Reply

  • Edward Marks - 1956

    Bring back the hard boiled eggs and vinegar.

    Reply

    • Robert Allaben - 1952 BS (Zool.)

      I, also, remember the hard boiled eggs and vinegar just as well as September 26, 1951, my 21st birthday with my fellow Sigma Phi brothers.

      Reply

  • Glenn Watkins - 1948, 1949

    Came here in 1947-49 right out of the Army. Returned to the faculty in 1963, and saw the new Village Bell arise–more convenient for non-students but with a healthy dose of nostalgia. Give us a Village Bell on S. U. again, too–something to counter all of the other fly-by-night eateries there.

    Reply

    • Marc Schiller - 1974

      Ah, the venerable V-Bell, a true den of iniquity on South U, where a quick two dollar pitcher could ease the mind between the UGLI and the fraternity!
      I agree, Glenn, let’s encourage the P-Bell “investors” to go for a twofer, adding on a new V-Bell. That will assure a full Michigan experience. Just skip the carpet on the walls…. Go Blue!

      Reply

  • Valorie Baylis Rivero - 1988

    My beloved grandmother never went to college but she and my grandfather lived in A2 in the mid-30s and my Dad was born there. She never wanted to leave and missed Ann Arbor for the rest of her life. When I’d visit her in the summers of my youth, a trip down US-127 and I-94 was always on the agenda, and always included lunch at the P-bell. Thanks to this article, I now know that she was a patron from the very beginning. (Postscript: my sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, still did “Bells.” I had my drinks at Charlie’s.)

    Reply

  • Jon Pack

    This is where I celebrated my 19th birthday and my 21st! Yes, the age of majority was for a short while was 18. I would send money to help reopen the Bell. I miss the Village Bell as well that was on South U. Maybe the restorations of some of these traditions would assist the students now gaining some balance of history and unbridled dreams.

    Reply

  • John Hollett - 1967 (BSE). 1972 (MBA)

    Let’s get Jim Harbaugh’s pictures out and have him endorse its return.

    Reply

  • Daniel and Judy Kowler (Slutsky) - !969 (Ph.D, in Ch.E) and B.S.in Design

    Still married almost 48 years after meeting at the P Bell in February, 1967

    Reply

  • Marc Schiller - 1974

    Your story evokes many memories of the P-Bell, from when I was 12 and my sister was a Michigan senior, to my own Bell Party in 1973 (though it wasn’t quite the same with the drinking age at 18). A very specific item at the Bell, a framed recap of the 1905 successful Yost football squad, always amused and interested me. They outscored their opponents by something like 495 – 2. All blowouts/shutouts (the “point-a-minute” Yost phenomenon of the time) except for one safety in the last game; yet they finished the season 12-1, having lost to Chicago 2 – 0! I hope someone saved that piece, truly a part of Michigan and Bell lore.

    Reply

  • Matthew Zivich - 1960

    I had the bell rung for my 21st birthday at the Bell along with the free pitcher of beer, though I did not stand on a table to chug down a glass of beer as was the custom back then. (I still have an original P-Bell ashtray from those days to keep the memory alive.)

    Reply

  • Anne Owings Ford - 1985 BA (English Language and Literature)

    Born and raised in Ann Arbor, the Pretzel Bell was a fixture of all the phases of my life, from childhood through college. The roast beef and black bread were -and remain – the best I’ve ever had. I have missed the Pretzel Bell (and Drake’s, the Old German and Quality Bakery) for 30 years. I am so glad it’s coming back!

    Reply

  • Dale Beck - 1968

    I have fond memories of the “P Bell”. In fact the tradition I remember is that when a student, usually male, but not always, was supposed to drink 21 beers on his/her 21st birthday. They were what we called “shells”, probably about 7 ounces each. The glasses were poured from a pitcher which friends of the newly 21 year old purchased. We all sat around round oak tables. It was rowdy. Sometimes several newly 21 year olds were celebrating the same night.

    Then when the birthday student had consumed 20 glasses, he/she was required to stand in the middle of the table, usually supported by friends and chug the 21st beer. Of course that is when the bell rang.

    Thanks for the memories.

    Reply

    • JOHN TRIMMER HICKS - 1968

      Just want to echo Dale Beck’s note and nostalgia. I, too, stood on the table and chugged some beer for my 21st. Good memories. Forgot about the ringing of the bell…I probably forgot a lot after that much beer!!

      Reply

    • Doug Powell - 1971

      My experience was very much like Dale’s. On the night of my 21st birthday (December 6, 1970) my fraternity (Alpha Sigma Phi) brothers took me to the P Bell. I remember sitting around a big table and drinking those small glasses of beer, striving to reach that magical number of 21. Alas, I was only able to make it to 17, but it was still a most memorable night. I am glad to hear the P Bell may be resurrected.

      Reply

  • Rolla Baumgartner - 1958

    Went to the P-Bell on my 21st as, it seemed, everyone did. I had my beer and they rang the bell. At the time, I didn’t much care for beer, but learned to like it after four years in Germany. If it reopens, I’ll go back to relive my 21st, and will enjoy the beer!

    Reply

  • Richard White - 1969

    I was exmilitary so I was too old for the P Bell 21 when I attended U of Michigan celebration but attended many P Bells.The P Bell and the Del Rio were the two places in Ann Arbor I will never forget. Really happy to hear it is coming back

    Reply

  • Jim & Sharon Bryden - 1967

    The P-Bell still holds some great memories for both of us. We each
    managed to survive “Our P-Bell” as it was called for having drunk
    21 glasses of birthday beer,,,,the last few of which were done on
    top of the table being cheered on by friends.

    Sharon’s caused her to get quite sick as we walked back to campus
    and we slept it off in an apartment building under construction next to
    her soroity…where she had missed curve by a long shot.

    Jim’s story is still “one-to-tell” as in his drunken state, he managed to
    claim a souvenier. The tables had many carved names, etc. and he
    decided he wanted a piece of the table. Taking a table knife to pry off
    a piece….and with a jank…a piece came off…the entire length of the
    table. Not to be deterred, he slipped the wood under a long raincoat.
    The piece being 6′-0 long and he being 5′-8…it was necessary for his
    friends to lift him out the door to conceal the wood. From there, one
    of his frat friends offered him a ride back on his motorcycle.
    As they rode past the Union, and Jim screaming with spear in
    hand, his driver decided to do a “wheely” causing Jim to fall
    backwards and catching his feet under the armpits of his chauffeur,
    barely rubbing his head on the pavement. Now that was a memory
    to help calm down his adventurous self for years to come.

    Reply

  • Jack Rounick - 1956

    June 5, 1956 — I spent my 21st birthday celebrating and hosting the entire day with pitchers of green beer. Almost lethal. A day never to forget. I have not had a beer since that day.

    Reply

  • Steve Hazan - 1985

    I remember Sunday night all you can eat ribs. Glad to see the bell coming back

    Reply

  • Eleanor Latack - 1968

    They have to bring back the hot, steamed black rye bread and crocks of salty butter…they just have to! I’ve been dreaming about it for 30 years and will return to A2 just to have some.

    Reply

    • John Reilly - 1965

      I frequently remember the steaming black bread and butter as well! Tried to make it at home over the years but it never tastes the same. Can’t wait to hear when they plan to reopen. I’ll be in line!

      Reply

      • Don Ray - 1965

        John – When you come into AA to visit the New P bell, drop me a line
        and I’ll join you in line!

        Reply

  • Ken Calkin - 1962

    Celebrated my 21st at the Bell with all my friends around the table. Drank my 21st beer standing on the table. Still have the little cardboard bell signed by all with the record of each beer

    Reply

  • Karen Hertenstein - 1978 Nursing

    July 15th 1978 I met my future husband of 32 years at the Pretzel Bell–the late, great Richard “Dick” Dieterle–MC and fiddler of 42 years for The RFD Boys. We spent many a fabulous night with family, friends and fans at the P-Bell. We often referred to it as our living room away from home. Thanks for the glorious memories!

    Reply

    • Bill Klykylo - '70, '73, '75

      Greetings! We were among the many fans on more than a few nights. I respected Dick both as a doc and a musician.

      Reply

    • Ford Fegert - 1980

      I worked at the P-Bell from 1970-1978 and was the manager the last few years of that time frame before resuming pursuit of my degree. When a group of my Beta buddies and I began working there, it was all but dead. 1970 was not a great year for either tradition or nostalgia. However, the addition of music, particularly Bluegrass performed by The Honky-Tonk Angels and The RFD Boys, contributed greatly to its revival. No one individual contributed more to that revival than Dick Deterle. As he liked to note in his patented dead pan style, ‘”He stood on his record.” Of course, Karen and the other “regulars” and family members at the oval table directly in front of the stage were a built in laugh track, a sources of inspiration and a delight to those of us “on the job.” After their last set, all of the “Boys,” their family and friends made closing time far more enjoyable that it otherwise would have been. I am not sure if nostalgia is presently in vogue, but I treasure those memories, and so many others; if only the walls could talk…

      Reply

  • David Martin - 1983

    Bring it back. I have been in A2 every year for board meetings since 1987. I miss Bicycle Jims, The Bell and Lamplighter, Unos. Main street has a whole new vibe – which is great. Since Coach Harbaugh is back in town, lets bring back the Bell!

    Reply

  • Doug Cooper - 1966

    My mother, Helen Douglass (1938), spoke fondly of the Bell, a relationship that seemed to rival her love of The Daily, where she was the first Woman’s Editor. Now, I realize that the Bell and The Daily shared a common mission; to provide a forum in which students can explore, debate and discuss the issues of the day, while celebrating individual accomplishments, from turning 21 to the discovery of the polio vaccine.

    Reply

  • Camille Serre - 1968

    I have fond memories of celebrating my 21st birthday at the Bell as well as attending several P-Bell birthday parties of many friends. I even did a painting of the interior of the Bell from the bird’s eye perspective of being perched on top of one of the Tiffany shades. That painting hung in my Mother’s kitchen for years! I wonder whatever happened to it…

    Reply

  • Terry Oeming - 1970

    My twin sister and I were to celebrate our 21st birthday together at the Bell, but, alas, it burned down that day. I’m hailing her from Texas to come do a belated birthday at the new digs, albeit 47 years late. Maybe they’ll even throw us a Bell Party if we show them our ID?

    Reply

  • Cheryl Bledsoe-Kiesel - 1975

    Lucky enough to work on the Michigan Daily advertising staff 1973-75, and, as a senior, lucky enough to be eating free at the best places A2 offered, writing restaurant reviews that were part of an advertising package we promoted. I’ll never forget nights at the P-Bell. My then boyfriend’s (now husband) father was in several pictures on the wall, a backup QB on the legendary 1947 champion football team. The beer, The Bell, the Greeks and folksies and hippies and the parents, all obviously so delighted to be in this place. The RFD boys, plucking away on Thursday nights. The account for the P-Bell was a plum for the Daily sales rep who served them. Good people, great times. Thanks, Toby.

    Reply

  • Julia Nelson-Gal - 1980, 1983

    I was a bartender at PBell in the late 70s and spent many a Friday, or was it Saturday?, night listening to the RFD Boys and learning to carry 4 pitchers of beer at once. I still have my RFD Boys album I bought from them. I scrubbed that copper bar to a perfect shine at 2am each night. Loved the old photos, some my Dad could identify from when he was at UM, one included my husband’s grandfather, a football player, and another was of my roommate’s father, astronaut James McDivitt. I’d love to see old photos, but they won’t be the originals that ‘grew’ there, so whatever they choose, I’m just glad it’ll be back.

    Reply

  • Jil Gordon - 1974

    There is nothing that identifies a university more than its treasured and respected traditions. While we can boast a never-ending list that spans nearly two centuries, there are few that “ring” out. The P Bell is certainly one. Just reading the comments on this post only solidifies the heartwarming feelings that traditions give us. My fondest memories of the P Bell was that we always went to the P Bell for our sorority’s Father’s Weekend. Of course, the countless other times and having one’s “Bell” are cherished. TRADITION! I remember the waiting line out front and certainly expect the same when the doors open at The P Bell. What an incredible blend – P Bell and Jim Harbaugh! GO BLUE!

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  • Gary Buhrow - 1950

    One slow Thursday night, several of my fraternity brothers and I decided to go to the Bell for a beer. One who stayed behind said to save him a seat, as he would come later. After several beers, he had still not arrived, and someone had the inspired idea that we should take him the seat that we had saved. We pulled the car up to the door of the Bell, grabbed the chair and bolted for it. The crowning moment was when we walked into his room and said, “Here’s the chair that we saved for you!”

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  • John Hanson - 1969, 1974

    I went to school in Ann Arbor, all the way from elementary school through graduate school. I recall many nights (and dollars) spent in the P-Bell. One of the most memorable was the night I stopped with a few friends on the way home from Ann Arbor Airport, where I had been working on a WWII open cockpit airplane I had purchased. We happened to have the propeller with us, an 8′ long wooden prop. The RFD boys were playing at the Bell, and we were sitting close to them, of course with my prop. As the beer flowed, someone eventually got the idea that banging your hand on the prop would be a fun way to keep time with the band, and it was a short step from there to our taking turns joing the band and standing alongside them and drumming along with the prop. Bless the RFD boys for their musical tolerance that night. Or maybe they were just trying to ignore us…

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  • Mike Allen - 1964 BS, 1968 Med

    I was pleased to see that my Fraternity had donated the second Bell in 1944. My favorite memory was not my 21st when I did stand on the table and chug the beer but of my ADP brother Patrick O’Brian whose birthday is on March 17th. He dyed his blond hair green and went to the PBell for his 21st. When the bell rang and they announced the 21st birthday of Patrick O’Brian, he stood up on the table to chug and the St. Patricks Day crowd went absolutely NUTS!

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  • Susan Friedman Klarreich - 1950

    My Dad (M.D. Friedman, U of M, Med.1924) sang of Joe’s and the Orient. For me as a second generation alum the P Bell was the “in” place with its wooden tables and wonderful traditions. When my four daughters were at U of M, the RFD boys added to the tradition. When my granddaughter, representing the 4th generation alum at U of M, I regretted that the tradition was gone. I am delighted that it is returning!

    Reply

  • Kathleen Coughlin - 1976

    My mother partied here with my dad (Michigan law ) and I even worked there while in college. My parents were friends of the Castor’s. Many fine meals enjoyed there! I would love to see it open again!!

    Reply

  • Bill Klykylo - '70, '73, '75

    My 21st at the B-Bell was to have occurred shortly after the fire. It was necessarily deferred for several months, but they still rang the bell and gave us a free pitcher. We enjoyed the RFD Boys for many years, both their main oeuvre and the Baroque pieces that they would play at the end if intermissions!

    I wish the new folks well. One of the things that characterize Michigan is that, even though the physical environment and activities change over time, the nature of the experience endures. I look at a picture of students from 100 years ago and can appreciate what they are feeling. Essence versus appearances, I suppose.

    I trust that PB II will not be “quaint but dull,” and that it certainly will be different from the PB of the Neelands and the Castors. I also believe that its patrons will enjoy their experiences there as I did mine.

    Reply

  • John Dobbertin, Jr. - '64

    Many issues of Gargoyle were written in The Bell!

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  • Eric Zimny - 1967

    When I was a freshman in 1963, my Dad predicted that his brother (my uncle) would one day show up unannounced at West Quad and offer to take me out to dinner. My Dad clued me in on the fact that my uncle was a very nice man but also a long time “skinflint”. He encouraged me to pick the best and (more importantly) most costly place to go in Ann Arbor.

    We had a wonderful dinner at the Pretzel Bell and I have enjoyed retelling this story over the years.

    Reply

  • Ted Merriman - 1961

    One tradition of the Bell was the Stein Club. A member, appointed by his fraternity, had his name inscribed on a pewter mug, kept behind the bar. It was trotted out whenever the member arrived for a pint of golden goodness. Doubtless they became a molten puddle, but I would have loved to bid on mine at that final, sad auction, puddle or not.

    Reply

    • Mike Townsend - 1960 BA; 1964 MBA

      Stein Club officers were elected by means of chug races. I became vice president in the second race after the contestant who finished ahead of me vomited.

      Reply

  • Gurnee Bridgman - 1954

    I didn’t get a 21st at the PB, as I had run out of money and needed to year to ‘catch up and get back.’ I did carve my initials on one of those legendary oak tables. Took a fraternity brother to PB on his 21st, and then ‘gently’ took him back to the house, laid him in his bed, fully dressed, and then waited to see him arise in the morning somewhat worse for wear.

    But then those eggs in vinegar. And every so often one would be sneaked in and opened by tossing it up to the ceiling. It was ‘messy’ when it came down. I still have the same postcard that was shown in the article.

    Wonderful days of yore, Go Blue!!!!!

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  • Jeremy Segal - 1977 (if I had finished)

    My Mom used to tell the story about Stokowski, as she sang in the Choral Union in that May Festival and was at the P-Bell that night. And I spent many a Saturday night there with my friends listening to and hanging out with the RFD Boys. Good times!

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  • Gary Heinlein - MA '68

    It was the first place I ate and drank in Ann Arbor while finding an apartment for grad school. I spent my share of warmly-remembered evenings with friends there, at the Village Bell, at Bimbo’s and enjoying late-night jazz at the Golden Falcon. I also found time to study. Thanks to my former Detroit News colleague Jim Tobin for the memories and the history. I’ll check the new one on a football Saturday next fall.

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  • Will Hathaway - 1983

    The Pretzel Bell was a favorite for our family. My dad, John Hathaway went there often for lunch. I recall celebrating many special events at dinners there, including my 21st birthday. I know the new place won’t be the same, but it is a noble effort to resurrect the P-Bell. By the way, my uncle Wystan Stevens, who passed away last summer, would be pleased to see this use of some of the historic images he preserved and shared.

    Reply

  • Gary Salwin - 1970

    Our class “seminars” in the spring term of ’69 were held at the “P-Bell” every week. The best “seminars” ever !! We’ll never forget them to spite being in the ” 60′s”

    Reply

    • Janet Mitchell - 1961

      My good friends and I went the Bell at least once a week. One night when we were there we were sitting near a table of men. We recognized them as members of the Philadelphia orchestra. We had attended the concert the night befor and were soon invited to sit with them. It was a memorable night and I still enjoy the Philadelphia orchestra.

      Reply

  • Howard Cohen - 1968

    In the mid-60′s I worked one summer at the P-Bell as a busboy. I got to eat a lot of their black bread (delicious) and onion rings. When some couples would dine there and have a fight and leave early, I would take their full plates back to the kitchen and ask Green, the cook, to heat up the chops so I could eat them.

    One thing no one has mentioned in the comments above: most people could not chug a pitcher of beer successfully – a lot of it came right back out, like a fountain. Who cleaned up the puke? Me, the busboy. They didn’t pay me enough for that job!

    Reply

    • Jacqueline Payne - 1967

      When I stood on the table for my 21st birthday, June 2, 1967, an employee put an empty galvanized bucket nearby in case the beer came back up. I didn’t need it but realized right away that the P-Bell had had a lot experience with in-experienced drinkers. I lived at the Martha Cook Building and was expected, as all ‘Cookies were, to be an example of outstanding academic performance and proper ladylike behavior. I think I was more concerned about our house mother learning that I had been standing on a table at the P-Bell than any after effects of the beer. I hope the new restaurant can reproduce some of the artifacts of the original P-Bell, especially the carved table tops that were suspended from the ceiling. Great place; bring it back!

      Reply

  • Warren Wepman - BA 1950; JD 1951

    I have to admit that I was one of those who was able to enjoy the P Bell before my 21st birthday, thanks to the loaned ID of a fraternity brother (who didn’t look at all like me, I thought)
    I considered myself an ‘old’ customer when I did turn 21 and used my own ID to celebrate the birthday at the P Bell.
    I have many fond memories of AA, the Pretzel Bell, the Old German restaurant and my wonderful college days.
    I hope that the place reopens and will try to get there once more!

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  • Judith (Leemon) Holtz - 1966

    I’ve never been able to drink beer, but when I finally turned 21 in my senior year, I wanted to share in the ritual of standing on a table at the Pretzel Bell and chugging to the sound of that bell. So my parents brought me and a group of my friends to the Bell and they bought me champagne to drink. I did chug it and from then on it’s been my favorite drink.
    The atmosphere at the Pretzel Bell was also a fabulous part of the U of M college experience. The carved on tables, the lighting and the warmth made it a perfect place for memories to be born.

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  • Elizabeth McPherson Cregger - 1973

    I remember going to the Bell so many times as an undergraduate. So many meals after football games with family and the stories I heard from my father, (of carrying those oak tables post-prohibition) into the Bell. My husband, Dave, and I met as undergrads and one of our regrets is that living here in the Boston area, we just can’t get back to A2 often enough. Thrilled tp hear that the “Bell” may reopen. I just hope that in decor and that great dark rye bread, that it will live up to a grand old tradition.in creating a new one!

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  • Bob Merchant - 1968 and 1969

    My wife and I met at the P Bell at an “of age” party in ’67, a tipped partition knocking over the copper pots against the outside windows, a nervous coed with altered ID, a gallant junior reassuring her, and a promise of a follow-up date, now 49 years later, still together.

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  • Susan Ivory - 1960s

    My Dad, Mel Ivory, was a local photographer (and big Michigan football fan). One day in 1968, he received a call from the UM Athletic Director, Don Canham, to secretly photograph the new head football coach, a guy named Bo Schembechler. Canham wanted a nice photo of Bo to accompany the announcement of his being hired as coach.

    That’s the same photo used at the Pretzel Bell, greatly enlarged and nicely framed, which hung behind the buffet line along with the photos of previous football coaches. My Dad and I often had lunch at the P Bell, and he always got a kick out of seeing his “secret” photo of Bo hanging on the wall.

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  • Bart Foreman - 1965

    Of all the memories I have of those formative years, the P-Bell memories all have special meaning. That’s where friendships were made and other cemented for life. It was the spirit of the Michigan experience for many of us and a special place to celebrate a birthday. I certainly hope the new “Bell” comes to life and I promise to make the trip back to celebrate.

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  • Aaron Bulloff - 1971 Law

    I did not turn 21 until my second year of law school. Occasionally I managed to get in to the P-Bell with some of my classmates, depending on the laxity of the evening’s bouncer, but it was with great pleasure that I stood up on the table to start chugging in a legal capacity. I was halfway through the requisite number of beers when some smartass not in our law school group passed over a boilermaker in a beer glass. It looked like a beer; I chugged it down; it and the evening’s detritus came right back up to land squarely in the middle of the table to the crowd’s and my great amusement.
    Two of my classmates, Mike Gentry and Jim VandeBunte, ultimately took me to Del Rio’s to finish the evening. At end, they gently picked my head up off the table and then carried me back to my room at the Law Quad. I trust the room has finally stopped spinning.
    How glorious!

    Reply

    • Irene Smith - 1969, 1971

      Glorious indeed, Aaron. I can just imagine.

      Irene Smith

      Reply

  • Steven Slack, MD - 1976 Medical

    It was a medical school tradition for the senior class to meet at the Pretzel Bell on “Match Day” for the announcement of where each senior would do their internships after graduation. It was day you looked forward to from your first day of class at Michigan.

    I am surprised that the article failed to mention a P-Bell staple, peanuts! Served unshelled, the husks were simply brushed from the table on to the floor. This provided not only an air of devil-may-care attitude to the bar and a pleasant crunchiness under foot.

    Reply

    • Gary Youra - LSA 1975, Med 1979

      I, too, spent some wonderful times at the P Bell, listening to the RFD Boys. But as far as Match Day, I think you’re referring to Bimbo’s, with the peanut shells on the floor. At least, that’s where our Match Day occurred.

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  • bettyann seltzer-pober - 1966

    At this point I can barely recall the very young woman that turned 21 and stood on a table drinking beer. (Certainly didn’t finish the pitcher.) I had never had a fake ID, so my first encounter at the bell was quite a milestone. I do remember being really excited. Very few of my friends were 21, so the paper Bell that I received that night was signed by many students that I didn’t even know. When I think about the P-Bell it reminds me that in the heart of every 71-year-old there lurks the beatings of a 21-year-old………I do remember my date.

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  • John Mullally - 1969 D.D.S.

    We were celebrating the end of dental exams in April 1966 when I received a phone call that my wife was in a car wreck on her way home from her teaching job in Dexter. Fortunately, no injuries from being tail-ended, and she even joined us at the P Bell. The Pretzel Bell is mentioned along with Ann Arbor and Detroit in my distinguished alumni book, THE FIRST LADY SLEEPS. The First Lady is a Michigan Alumna!

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  • Fred Fletcher - MBA '79

    I worked at Climax Molybdenum in the mid- to late-70′s and a group of us would have lunch at the P-Bell pretty often. One winter Bo Schembechler came in and sat down at the next table. He was with a recruit from Utah or Idaho or somewhere out west, who Bo wanted to come to Michigan to be the team’s punter. Our group was unusually quiet that lunch, listening to the Master convince the young man why Ann Arbor was the ONLY place to go to college.

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  • Chris Campbell - 1971, 1975

    My Dad graduated in 1939; the Pretzel Bell was one of his principal memories of Ann Arbor. Grad school, law school, and a campus job kept me busy during my time there, but I had a visit from time to time. Best wishes for the new venture.

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  • Alisande Cutler - 1960

    Having dinner at the P-Bell in its later years, a manager saw me studying a photo of a Life magazine cover on the wall and asked if he could help me. I told him that my cousin was in a photo in the article, which was about campus traditions around the country–chugging his birthday pitcher of beer. He asked the year, and trotted out a huge book of birthday signatures, sure enough finding my cousin’s–very memorable! By the way, that great black bread was made up north at another restaurant the Castors owned. It was terrific.

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  • Diane Heidelmeyer-Meyer - heidemeyer37@yahoo.com

    I attended U of M for 4 years, and turned 21 just before I graduated. Most of my friends had their Bell parties and I could never attend. On my birthday they were all there. We overflowed three long tables and commandeered most of the chairs. I stood on a table and chugged my beer. My guy friends started to sing and we almost were thrown out by the bouncers. Singing was not allowed.

    Several years later, after I had moved to Pasadena, the Wolverines came to the Rose Bowl – and won. The victory party was held at the then Pasadena Biltmore Hotel ballroom and it was wall to wall bodies. I was there with my Dad and many friends when a large man approached me through the crowd and said, “I remember you. I was a bouncer at the P-Bell at your party.”

    I currently visit the Campus two or three times a year now, mentoring students and consulting with staff. The students especially enjoy hearing that story. When the Bell reopens I hope to share a table with some of them.

    I still have the menu from my Bell Party. A Deluxe hamburger with French fries and garnishes was $1.00. I want to give that menu to the new owners.

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  • Mark Bandyk - BS, 1975; MS, 1977; MPH, 1979

    The whole gang went to the P Bell one summer evening in 1974 to listen to bluegrass. I bought the first pitcher of beer. As I placed it on the table it split in half spilling beer everywhere! That was a sign of things to come. Great friends, conversation and beer, that was a night at the P Bell. We were thirsty and things were getting crazy. Rosie dropped her glass of beer on the floor, but tried to ignore that it happened. Well, it was time to go, so we piled into a car and headed out to Half Moon Lake for a swim. It was great being 20-something.

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  • pam sikes, seiffert - 1962 Nursing

    I, too, had my bell party attended by my medical school fiance and friends of us both. The doctors-to-be kept a running intake and output, unfortunately, during the evening. I still have the placement with all the medical notes. A nite to remember. Hope to get back to the new Pretzel Bell.

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  • John Scott - '61 AB '63 JD

    In the spring of 1960, on a warm afternoon my fraternity brother Mike Townsend and I repaired to the Bell for a cooling draught. As a new Stein Club initiate, I was drinking out of my stein. Midway through our drinks there was a crash and the transom over the front door collapsed over the door and blocked it. A ladder was procured and workmen set to fixing it. As far as Mike and I were concerned “our hands were tied.” We couldn’t get out, so we just had to stay there and drink. Much later it occurred to us that we could get out through the kitchen. I don’t recall that Clint provided us with drinks on the house even though (in our minds) we were trapped.

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  • Glen Witt - 1976/86

    So glad to here that returning to A2 this year, my daughter can experience our Wolverines winning and the Pbell-totally awesome dude!!

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  • Dr. Stacy L. Daniels - 1960, 1961, 1963, PhD(ChE) 1967

    I celebrated my “PhD” party at the P-Bell almost 50 years ago. In those days they would ring “the Bell” only for those reaching 21 years of age. We engineers had to resort to a subterfuge by having a friend call on the telephone and ask for Dr. so-and-so, who would then be paged on the intercom. The new “Doctor” would then stand on the table and all our friends would hoot and holler!

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  • Arnold "Bud" Johnson - MBA 1957

    The P-Bell brings back fun memories of wild and fun get to-gathers there.
    When it was closed, the feeling that caused was as if some stranger had torn
    down the favorite old church!

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  • Ruth Rosenfeld...née Donner - June, 1956

    I was married during my senior year….at the ripe old age of 20! I month later, I celebrated my 21st birthday. Since all of my friends were “locked away” in the sorority house, I went to the P-Bell with my husband and his law school buddies. There was an “older” gentleman sitting alone at the Bell…he asked about me…the young lady…definitely appearing like a newlywed….he sent over all of the cold champagne the Bell had….which turned out to be one bottle! Later, we found out he was an Employment Lawyer….which was my husband’s career path as well! Great memory which we still cherish. GOOD LUCK.

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  • Anne (Mills) Greashaber - BA '70, MA '76

    I had many connections with the Pretzel Bell. My father’s (DDS 1946) office was on Liberty and sometimes I would go to the Bell for lunch with him. We can fast forward to my Bell in October of 1969 right before the fire. At that point you got a free pitcher, women typically stood on the table and chugged a glass, men the entire pitcher. After I graduated, I worked at the Village Bell, which was one of the first restaurants to cross the dry island. It was a restaurant until 8:00 p.m. when it became a student bar. Needless to say, we had a great time working there. I’m looking forward to the reincarnation.

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  • Gary Ihas - 1970, 1971

    I remember one of the tables had a little brass plaque nailed to its top that commemorated Glazer’s inspiration for the bubble chamber. Not only was the huge chamber subsequently built at Brookhaven National Lab a big step forward for particle physics, but the compendium of properties of matter at low temperatures compiled in order to design and construct the liquid hydrogen chamber was crucial in advancing low temperature physics research and is still used today.

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    • Eric Arnold - 1961,1963

      Gary, do you recall the time or two when grad students in physics went there with physicist/mathematician Cornelius Lanczos? I am pleased to be reminded of that occasion. I was in Munich for my junior year and had come to enjoy German beer and found that I could taste the differences in the local beers brewed in each little town, and on returning just before my 21st birthday, found Metzger’s to be more inviting, where I would re-read my German lit before an exam, so the P-Bell was not a place I frequented regularly. Sadly, the last time I went there, not long before its demise, I experienced a severe case of food poisoning, and that memory has dominated the rest ever since. I hope that is not a feature which the new venture seeks to recreate! But perhaps it will help to reduce the noise level in the several brewpubs now operating in the area!

      Reply

    • Jim Tobin - 1978, 1986

      I wish the Glaser legend was true, but I’m afraid he denied that he glimpsed his Nobel epiphany in his beer at the Bell.

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  • David Burchfield - 1957 BS(ChE), 1958 MBA

    Loved the Pretzel Bell and chugged my 21st Birthday 61 years ago and was a member of the Stein Club. Still have my stein “BURCH”.

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  • Cris Mitchell - 1965

    I celebrated by obligatory 21 party at the P-Bell where I signed the huge wooden book and the Bell was rung— “The Pretzel Bell is happy to announce the 21st birthday of……” In 1966, along with a few friends, my new husband and I celebrated a post-reception gathering at the P-Bell where we signed the huge book and the Bell was rung— “…….the first wedding at the P-Bell.” That will be 50 years ago this June.

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  • Jim Duffield - MS 1972

    I had an apartment over the P Bell in 1970-71. I didn’t frequent the P Bell but did meet friends there off and on. My most vivid memory is of the time I met someone there and went home with them because it was too noisy to talk. LOL

    Reply

  • Irene (Kent) Smith - 1969, 1971

    The P Bell was always the place I took my father when he visited from New Jersey. The prime rib and the black bread were the best in town. I would be thrilled to have the P Bell back.

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  • Randy Eason - 1969

    When I turned 21, my fraternity brothers took me down to the P Bell for the traditional rite of passage. While chugging my third glass standing on a table, I moved off center and the table kicked out from under me. As I sat in a puddle of beer with my damaged pride, a waiter assured me not to feel bad because it happens often. I think he was lying.

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  • Dwight Flowers - 1962

    Celebrated my 21st birthday at the PBell in 1960 with my fraternity brothers…. very memorable. Must try to get back to the new location.

    Reply

  • Andrea Bostrom - 1971

    I worked at the Village Bell from December 1967 to December 1971 so both the V-Bell and the P-Bell were important to my college years. I remember the senior Castors quite fondly. It is interesting to get a little more history of the place.

    I remember my P-Bell when I turned 21 (a few months before the drinking age dropped to 18 for awhile). The people at the P-Bell were surprised that I was just then 21 because they had seen me with a drink or two before that.

    Fun memories.

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  • Greg Lipton - 1968, 1974

    Many students escaped dorm food when their parents or the parents of their friends came to Ann Arbor and took them to their favorite restaurant to relive their days at Michigan and enjoy good food – the p-Bell.

    Greg

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  • Milt "Seaweed" Eaton - 1949--56 MBA

    In ’49, as one of the kids among the WWII GI elders at Sigma Chi, I was never challenged at the Bell until I left to enlist in the navy in early ’52,
    I missed ringing my Bell being off Korea on the USS Boxer CV-21 in VF-44 uf ATG-1.
    However, my girl friend did write how hard it was walking her bike back to the sorority when she rang her bell.
    I did get checked once I returned in ’54 when I was called Uncle Milty by the new, much younger students. I saw the commemorative plaque when I visited Ann Arbor a couple of years ago. Hope to visit the reincarnation on my next visit.

    Reply

  • Mike Smith - 1969

    The bouncer officiating at the door on the night of my majority replied, upon checking my ID, “Well it’s about damn time!”. It’s written in my “Bell” book that I managed to complete a full forward somersault, landing on my feet, down the stairs to the men’s room shortly after accomplishing the requisite 21st drink standing on a table. I do not recall that event. It will be great to have the Bell back. Krazy Jim’s has been salvaged, now we need to work on Drake’s.

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  • John Goodreau - '66

    Reading the comments about the P-Bell brought a tear of joy and nostalgia. My “Bell” party was February, 1964. My future wife (1 month younger) was carded and the bouncer knew the girl on the ID. Consequently, Betsy (’66) didn’t attend the party. We celebrated her 21st at the P-Bell one month later. My Michigan, your Michigan is a tradition!

    Reply

  • Chuck Krugman - 1975 BGS, 1983 MSW

    This article brings back lots of memories of the P Bell and Ann Arbor. Worked and lived in A2 from early seventies until mid eighties when I moved to California but had many meals and drinks there. Thanks for all the comments.

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  • Doug McGregor McGregor

    I worked at the PBELL from 1960-1964 while attending the U of M. I was the lunchtime bartender, cashier and then became the night manager. The BELL was a good restaurant for both lunch and dinner until we stripped the tables at 9 PM and then the fun began. We always had a person sitting in the large chair at the door checking IDs–good luck with that process. Football game days were full of enthusiastic students, alumni and parents ready to eat and drink and (and do other challenging things). Good memories. I should have written a book about the adventures of the PRETZEL BELL. GO BLUE

    Reply

    • Caroline Balke

      I was in first grade in 61-62, and my daddy was doing post graduate work at U of M that year. We came from the small town of Huntsville, Texas, and we found Ann Arbor to be a magical place. We visited the Pretzel Bell often (before the evening festivities got underway), and probably met you and enjoyed your hospitality. The one thing I particularly remember is the cheesecake! It was quite an exotic dish for us at the time. Such good memories!!

      Reply

    • Caroline Balke

      I was in the first grade in 61-62, and my daddy was doing post graduate work at U of M that year. We came from the small town of Huntsville, Texas, and we found Ann Arbor to be a magical place. We visited the Pretzel Bell often (before the evening festivities got underway), and probably met you and enjoyed your hospitality. The one thing I particularly remember is the cheesecake! It was quite an exotic dish for us at the time. Such good memories!!

      Reply

  • Susan Fansler - 1974 BA, 1980, MA

    The PBell was my first restaurant experience during my Undergrad days and from then on after the games. I remember well, the cozy atmosphere, good food and terrific black bread that was always served warm. When I returned to A² for my Masters program, I was disappointed to learn the Bell no longer existed!

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  • avis gray - 1964--A and D

    Staring at mounds of snow out here in Colorado with several moose even walking down our village boardwalk, the chance to read about all of our “good, old days” at the Bell produces the warmest of memories Ring that bell and restore the chance for renewed memories!

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  • Bruce Flynn - LSA, 1972

    I lived in West Quad with Ford Fegert our freshman year. When I discovered him managing the P-Bell years later, I became a semi-regular for bluegrass nights (but mostly the beer). Somewhere among those old oak table tops is the one with my father’s initials carved along with BBA, ’49.

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  • BJ (STERNFELD) MOORE - 63, 67

    I was at the P-Bell in 1963 when this guy tried to pick me up: J.MICHAEL MOORE 60, 61, 64, 67. We have been married 52 years. So now we wonder, if we go there for Michael’s 80th birthday, will they let him stand on a table and drink a beer? See you there August 6, 2018.

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  • Steve Franklin - 1972, 1974

    Over several years I returned home reeking of cigarette smoke following late shifts at the V-Bell (remember Big George, the stained glass barrelled entrance and the arched carpeted ceiling and fireplace upstairs?) and P-Bell. One night I was tending bar at the P-Bell with the RFD Boys playing when on his way out someone stumbled through the glass door. While the docs dropped their instruments to give aid, I ran downstairs for towels and water. The guy’s buddies hauled him away and a short time later we all were back in business. I’m glad to hear of the P-Bell’s revival and look forward to seeing it.

    Reply

    • Andrea Bostrom - 1971

      How could anyone who worked at the v-bell during those early years forget Big Geaorge?

      Reply

  • Suzanne Weiss (ne Balaze) - BA 1960; LLB 1963

    I drank –chugged– only one stein of beer, standing on the table on my 21st birthday in November, 1959. But I cannot remember ever being as sick as I was that night after I got home. (P-Bell had the best dark German bread – I hope the new owners bring that back).

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  • Andrea Bostrom - 1971

    How could anyone who worked at the v-bell during those early years forget Big Geaorge?

    Reply

  • Paul Helman - 1966

    Of many memorable evenings the one I recall was Patty Bell’s twenty first birthday. Thus we celebrated P Bell’s P Bell.

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  • Will Greeley - 1982

    I was a waiter at the PB from ~1979-1982. Lots of memories. I remember the heavy (oak?) tables that were old and etched with initials, with a patina that only decades of use can bring. I think of the many pitchers of beer that graced those table, and the sides of pretzels dipped in blue cheese dressing. The RFD Boys played bluegrass on weekends. Pictures of UM athletes covered the walls. I’d point out Gerald Ford’s picture to curious patrons. I waited on a table of former footall players circa 1930 having a reunioin of sorts It struck me how average in height they appeared. One night Tom Harmon ate there and I got his autograph. And Anne B. Davis, the housemaid from the Brady Bunch, dined there. What a thrill that was. One night at closing time some duck hunters came in. We closed the restaurant while they cooked a duck dinner. There was a bell inside, like a schoolbell. I remember ringing it right after the USA beat the Russians at the 1980 Olympics. The game was viewed in the adjoining bar area, In that bar, after hours we played “liar’s poker” with the dollar bills we got as tips. On another occasion a manager probably saved the life of a choking patron. When it closed it surprised me, but the building was in old and may have had health code issues. The restaurant business is also very trendy and the PB was dark inside and maybe its menu was no longer fashionble. Most people like nostalgia but are also very particular about what they eat. Time marches on.

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