Our sports columnists venture out of the realm for a look at a Fayettevile icon.
Maxine Miller: Legend
Last week Maxine Miller died.
Her Tap Room was a small bar built in the way bars ought to be built, but no longer are. You entered through an old heavy door and stared down the long, narrow, smoke-filled room. Booths hugged one wall and the bar hugged the other. It had an old school bowling game and a Galaga arcade machine, arguably the best arcade game ever invented. And that juke box. There was a television too, only one, and it wasn’t a flat screen. We’re not sure it had anything more than basic cable.
This bar was simple. It was simple to the point that if you wanted a Tanqueray and tonic or a Jack and Coke, you’d better go somewhere else. Beer was all that Maxine was serving (before the invention of the bottled cocktail, that is). You could even get it to go.
It our later years in Fayetteville, amidst the cheese-out that was becoming Dickson Street, the Tap Room was the only place in town where you could sit with a group of friends, drink a beer, listen to a great jukebox and not feel like the bar was letting you down.
That’s because you knew what you were getting at Maxine’s. The beer was cheap and cold and flowed, uninterrupted, for as long as Maxine would allow. “Simplicity is the nature of great souls,” someone once said. We are certain that applied to Maxine. And so, we were saddened last week when Maxine died.
News of Maxine’s death swept quickly through the state. There were reports in many Arkansas newspapers and this paper even had a link from its blog. Prominent people from all across Arkansas were quoted about their own memories of the Tap Room and of Maxine.
That kind of attention, usually afforded to public figures, was only natural for the owner of the best bar in Fayetteville.
At a time when commercial bars were popping up all along Dickson Street offering ninety-two different ways to make a martini, Maxine stayed true to her roots.
We’re certain she knew that an expanded bar full of top shelf liquors and techno music might have made her more money, but she didn’t waiver. Instead, she applauded the great bluegrass music of local musicians like Jed Clampit and they regularly jammed in the Tap Room, even on empty nights.
There was just something about the place.
After many trips to the Tap Room, we finally worked up the courage to take a seat next to Maxine. In our time, Maxine had long retired from behind the bar, which she now entrusted to young people who constantly re-charged her coffee and replenished her cigarettes.
The conversation was short – we did most of the talking. Maxine gave us her coy nod of the head and smiled. We determined that she’d never again remember us. We were wrong.
Several weeks passed before our next trip to the Tap Room and as we stood at the bar we heard, “where have you been?” Not only did Maxine remember us, she had investigated who we were and why were in Fayetteville. She expected to see more us.
And we did not disappoint. For the next several years we went to the Tap Room: on cold winter nights when the wind ricocheted off Mount Sequoia and on warm summer evenings when nothing helped us cool off more than a cold one right from the tap.
The Tap Room, we are told, will remain open. While Maxine won’t be on her stool, sipping coffee, smoking cigarettes and offering her signature “you have 10 minutes to drink up and get the hell out,” it will always be a great place to spend some time.
We often wonder whether other cities in America have a place like the Tap Room. And we wonder whether other cities in America have a personality like Maxine Miller.
We hope so.
J.R. and Henry's column appears on this blog twice a week.