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The Horse & Cow (another Kappa Phi Delta tale)

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The Horse & Cow Ballroom


     The ancient Greeks were a polytheistic society.  As such, they worshiped - or acknowledged, at least - the existence of twelve gods and goddesses, each of whom was responsible for and ruled over some aspect of their world. 


     Now, many of these residents of Mount Olympus had their favorite, sacred animals.  These ranged from the ram, a variety of serpents, winged creatures, beasts of burden, and so forth. 


     One of the most powerful of these deities was Poseidon, brother of and second only to Zeus himself.  As such, Poseidon ruled and controlled the seas and oceans of the Earth.

And, as with his cloud-riding colleagues, he too had his favored "pets."  To wit, the mighty god of the deep favored the dolphinfish (sometimes called "mahi-mahi," or just plain "dolphin," not to be confused with the mammal of the same name). 


     He also is associated with a Horse, and a Bull.  Someday, the Dolphin would be adopted as a symbol of the submarine service.  And the Bull and Horse...


     Now, let's jump ahead a couple of millenia, to a weeknight in the spring of 1972 AD:


     "Rocko!  You shoulda been there!" said Bill as he walked into the Kappa Phi Delta kitchen, startling me as I rooted about the Kelvinator in search of a snack.


     "Huh?  Shoulda been where?" I asked, withdrawing from the refrigerator with a chicken leg firmly grasped in my hand, which I quickly dispatched.


     "Oh, Man!  So I went with Hank to Bernal Heights to pick up something from a guy he works with, and we were on our way home, driving down Mission Street headed toward Army.  Then I looked up and said 'Hank!  Lookit THAT!'"


     "Okay... so wha'd ya look at?"


     "You'll NEVER guess what we saw on top of a building!"


     "Okay.  I give up... so wha'd y'all see on top of some building?"


     "It was a SUBMARINE!"




     "Wha-a-at....?  What're you talking about - a submarine on the roof?"


     About then, Hank hisself walked in.


     "Rocko!  You shoulda been there!  Did Bill tell you?  He spotted it first - a damned SUBMARINE on the roof!"


     "Okay.  So what was that about?"  I asked.


     "You ain't gonna believe this - we parked and went to check it out, and it was a BAR!  And check this out... it's a bar that caters to submarine sailors from Hunter's Point!"


     Hunter's Point Shipyards - a U. S. Navy base that repaired ships, including submarines.  And there was a bar for the submariners?  Huh!  Now, that was plumb cool!


     "Yup.  You have GOT to see this place!"


     "So what does this place call itself?"


     "Why... it's called The Horse and Cow Ballroom!"


     Well, it took a few weeks for me to get around to visiting the place; one Friday night, Hank and I had just left the old Sears store in the Mission District, when he suggested "Hey!  Let's go check out the Horse & Cow!"


     We did.


     As we parked, I looked incredulously at what indeed was a miniature (maybe 20 feet long) steel replica of a World War II diesel submarine incongruously perched atop a building on Mission Street.  Oh wow.


     We walked up to a dilapidated set of doors, pushed our way in... and there we were.  I froze in amazement, rooted in place until Hank nudged me deeper into the main room.  Slowly, I gazed about.  I'm sure I looked like a number of people I observed over the years upon their first exposure to "the H & C," staring about in disbelief. 


     First, disregarding a dozen and a half or so sailors (all in civvies, but sailors nonetheless), the sights were incredible.  Just about any conceivable artifact that would be found on a submarine was represented.  There were depth gauges.  Pipes with valves and wheels.  Plaques from ship's messes and wardrooms.  Compasses.  Horns.  Mockup of a torpedo.  Behind the bar, elevated in a position of honor, was a crapper from some sub - hopefully salvaged when the boat was decommissioned, and not purloined from an active vessel.  This fixture was evident only because of its size; anything smaller would have been lost in the collection of tools, machinery parts, and souvenirs.


     The bar itself bore the scars of many knives, ranging from simple, crude initials to elaborate scrimshaw-quality carvings.  Oh... and at least one or two bullet holes.  Hanging high on the wall past the end of the bar was an electric, neon-green Belfast clock, still dutifully and accurately displaying the time, in spite of two band-aid-patched bullet holes.        


     And behind the bar were the proprietors - later known to us as Bill and Jim Looby.  Jimmy, the younger of the two, was scrambling about, almost frantically serving mixed drinks and bottles of beer. 


     But it was Bill who caught my eye.


     Much older than his brother, he was likely approaching fifty.  Heck... might have even passed that mark by then.  But Bill's attire was noteworthy - work boots, a clean, white T-shirt, bib overalls, and... stuck to the top of his head, a toilet plunger suctioned to his bald head.  He was easy to track - just look for his mainmast making way above the heads of the constituency.  And once in a while, some sailor would hail Bill, who would pluck the plunger from his pate, mix a drink in it, trade for a handful of dollars with said sailor, who would quaff greedily.  When the plunger "goblet" was emptied, ker-shloop! back onto Bill's head it went.


     And then there was the klaxon!  Jimmy walked over to a vertical brass cylinder with a "T" handled plunger.  He would pump, sending compressed air to a horn mounted above the bar:


     Ah-OOOO-gah... Ah-OOOO-gah! 


     "DIVE!  DIVE!  DIVE!" the sailors would shout in unison, then drink.  This would be repeated randomly throughout the evening, usually followed by a shouted chorus of "We go up!  We go down!  We don't EVEN *Bleep!* around!"


     Oh, a rollicking good time was had by all!


     For the next two years the H & C became a regular stop for a few of us, primarily Hank and occasionally me and a couple other frat guys; we were on a first-name basis with the Looby's and hired bartenders.  Also, a handful of Hank's co-workers from Allen's Meats became regulars - and it was amazing to see how well the personalities of submariners, slaughter-house butchers, and frat men meshed.  A good time was almost guaranteed!


     But, as has been often said, all good things come to an end.


     The United States Navy, in their infinite wisdom, finally realized that the facility so critical during World War II, the Korean conflict, and even the Viet Nam war and the "Cold War" just wasn't needed anymore.  Operations were shut down.  Which meant no more submarines, which meant no more submariners, and the Horse & Cow Ballroom could not be sustained by a handful of butchers and Kappa Phi Delta kids.  Mind you, we tried.  We tried HARD.  Alas, the H&C was shuttered.


     But not to despair!


     The Looby boys were nothing if not wise to the ways of sailors - 'specially "Bubbleheads."  (Incidentally, the surface ship personnel were called "Skimmers.")     


     The Mission Street facility was closed, but in short order re-opened, right off Highway I-80 in Vallejo.  Even the steel submarine from the roof was removed with a crane and re-installed at the new site. 


     Vallejo... home and host of Mare Island Shipyard - an old and established submarine base and repair facility.  Maybe a ten-minute drive from Mare Island's main gate to the bar, and maybe forty-five minutes from San Francisco.  And the trip was made often over the years.


     I recall one evening when Bill and I drove to Vallejo to visit ol' Bob Stewart, who had married and moved to Vallejo.  When we arrived, we discovered that Bob's wife, Melissa, had a couple of friends there too.  They announced that they were gathered for a "girls night out," would see us all later, and off they went. 


     "Well, Hell, fellas... let's go find some libations of our own!" and off we went too - right to the Horse & Cow.


     An observation of ours was that the place was if anything even wilder than it had been in San Francisco.  No matter... Jimmy welcomed us, and we had a few drinks, visited with a handful of sailors we knew and admired the scattering of "WestPac Widows," wives and girlfriends whose men were someplace in the Pacific aboard a collection of subs.


     Well, we made it back to Bob's house just before Melissa and her two friends (one of whom was the Future Missus Hardpan).  They walked in and, as soon as they saw us, declared that "you guys should have gone out too!"


     "Oh... we did!"


     "You did?  Where'd you go?"


     When we told them, they were all stunned.  Shocked, even!


     "YOU WENT TO THE HORSE AND COW??  OMIGAWD!  That place sends us lots of business!  How in Hell did you guys ever even HEAR about the place???"


     I hadn't mentioned - the ladies were all emergency room nurses at the local hospital.


     And their shock was enhanced when they learned that not only had we been patrons for years, but we knew the owners. 


     There were many, many stories from the H&C, but in one in particular bears telling at this time.


     A few years after the move, Hank was at the "Ballroom" one rip-roaring Saturday night, when the place was filled with boisterous sailors, many on their first liberty after making port.


     At some point near midnight, Hank decided to wander out to the parking lot for a cigarette - he wanted to enjoy his smoke without competing with the thick, smoky pall inside.


     When he stepped out the back door, he immediately noticed something out-of-place.  Toward the back of the parking area was a sailor he knew, being held up by two civilian ruffians.  The local thugs were armed with a sawed-off baseball bat and a short but heavy chain.


     "Hey!" he shouted.  "What the hell's going on here?"


     One of the thugs turned to Hank and snarled, "Get back inside.  This ain't none of your concern."


     "Well, I'm making it my concern!" he responded.


     The two thugs both turned toward him in a threatening fashion.  One of 'em said, "We told you to get outta here, or you're next!"


     He slowly grinned at 'em.  They stared back, trying to understand this character, when, with an even wider grin, he reached under his vest and casually withdrew a rather menacing and large-looking revolver.  Which, with equal casualness, he pointed at them.


     "Now fellas, I think it's time that your fun ended.  Tim, c'mon over here," he said to the sailor. 


     One of the thugs said, "Now mister, we're just funnin' around!  We don't really mean anything... honest!"


     Hank maintained his grin, and said "So fellas, pull out your wallets and toss 'em over here."


     When they hesitated, he snarled, "Now!"


     They complied.


     "Tim, pull out their driver's licenses, then toss their wallets back."


     Tim did; Hank glanced at the ID's, then addressed the thugs by their names.


     "Now, here's the deal," he continued.  "Within two minutes of your leaving, every sailor in this place is going to know your names and where you live.  Oh... and a few slaughterhouse butchers. 


     "Over the past few weeks there have been several sailors rolled out here.  So the deal is, if we ever, EVER, hear of a single other sailor being robbed, we're coming for you.  And if we can't find you, well... we can find your sisters.  Your mothers.  And eventually, YOU.


     "Now, in your own words, GIT!"


     They got.  Quickly.  Without their drivers licenses.


     And for quite some time after, the H&C was remarkably safe.  Robbing sailors ceased.  Hank later said, "those assholes probably started regular patrols just to keep any other bad guys away!"


     Now jump ahead a few years.  My young cousin, Chuck, had finished high school early and decided to join the Navy, and in due order, was off to boot camp in San Diego.


     Needless to say, boot camp was not all that enjoyable an experience.  But Chuck endured, knowing that it wouldn't last forever.


     A few weeks into his training, during a short break one day he found himself standing next to a Chief Petty Officer (CPO).  Noticing the dolphins pinned to the Chief's shirt, Chuck casually said, "So Chief - you're a submariner!  By chance have you ever heard of the Horse & Cow?"


     Chuck said that the Chief turned to him and demanded, "Sailor, how in Hell would YOU know about the Horse & Cow?"


     Kinda surprised at the Chief's reaction, Chuck went on to explain that his cousin and friend were regulars.


     With a squint, he asked, "so who are your cousin and friend?"


     So Chuck told him.  Obviously, the Chief would have no idea who I was.  But when he mentioned Hank...


     "Hank B.??  You know Hank??  That man saved my life one night when two thugs were gonna brain me with a bat and a chain!"


     Chuck reported that the rest of boot camp was not bad at all.






When is it time to hang up the helmet? - Page 14 - General Dirt Bike  Discussion - ThumperTalk

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Now I'm gonna have to read Pig Boats again!

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Well done. 

Wives and girlfriends in a bar full of sailors while their men were on a cruise? What could go wrong? 

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I recall years back seeing the place in Vallejo with the submarine on the roof and later wondering whatever happened to it.  Google shows that there is still a Horse and Cow bar in Bremerton WA and I believe there was one in San Diego fir a while. Be interesting to find out what happened to the sub. 


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Posted (edited)
25 minutes ago, Seamus McGillicuddy said:

I recall years back seeing the place in Vallejo with the submarine on the roof and later wondering whatever happened to it.  Google shows that there is still a Horse and Cow bar in Bremerton WA and I believe there was one in San Diego fir a while. Be interesting to find out what happened to the sub. 



Har!  Check this out, Seamus~!  ^_^


Edit:  In the link below the fella is off on the year the sub was first "acquired;"  it was actually a few years earlier as noted in the story.  :rolleyes:






Info from April 2001 local paper:


Dina and Lee Vigil recently bought a house on Humboldt street and found a 23 foot submarine in the backyard.

It turned out to be a rooftop decoration from the nearby rambunctious Navy bar called the Horse and Cow... 





Edited by Hardpan Curmudgeon SASS #8967
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My experience is being a brother of Delta Kappa Epsilon and Kappa Beta Phi. 

I owned and drove the black car in Animal House. 

Talk about fun and glorious memories!!!


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5 hours ago, Subdeacon Joe said:

Hardpan, may I have your permission to copy this story and post it in a closed FB group that is heavy on US Navy types?  In fact it is dedicated to Capt. Carroll "Lex" LeFonEnded up out of gas, out of time, out of luck.  


LOL... Go for it, Joe~!  :lol:



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Spent time there while going to 'C' School at Mare Island back in the mid 70's and early 80's. It was definitely a rowdy place.

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Posted (edited)
On 4/1/2022 at 8:55 PM, The Blarney Kid said:

Spent time there while going to 'C' School at Mare Island back in the mid 70's and early 80's. It was definitely a rowdy place.


Look familiar, Blarney...?   :rolleyes:   


San Diego, where they moved after Mare Island in Vallejo shut down.  Same atmosphere ~ although, I think this one looks a mite substantially tidier.  ^_^





Edited by Hardpan Curmudgeon SASS #8967
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