One of many Larry Nicholson birthday celebrations at Johnny's

One of many Larry Nicholson birthday celebrations at Johnny’s

When I purchased Johnny’s twenty years ago Larry Nicholson was one of my first regular customers. He and Bob Yant, who we lost in February of 2012, met for lunch at 11:00 a.m. on the dot Monday through Saturday. Lar Bear, as I affectionately called him, would return at 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday to join a great group of about five or six guys for happy hour cocktails. John O’Brien, another beloved customer who is no longer with us, pretty much led the clan that included good friends Tom Ament, Tom Kwasniak, Jokey Williams, Kenny Bettencourt, Don Winn and Tom King to name a few. They shook dice for drinks and generally enjoyed each other’s company. It was a tradition these guys had carried on for years and they shared a plethora of Johnny’s history with me.

Eventually business grew and we added Monday and Tuesday night in-house dart leagues to our roster. It became too loud for our beloved old-timers and they gathered together at Johnny’s less and less. When John O’Brien passed in 2008 the Monday-through-Friday tradition became an occasional get together. They still gather once a year for a prime rib dinner that we lovingly prepare for them. These fabulous guys that helped us to thrive in the early years will always have a special place in our hearts.

I loved his infectious laugh.

I loved his infectious laugh.

Larry Nicholson was a wonderful friend and he will be missed more than I can say. His infectious laugh lit up the room. Even when he told a joke that wasn’t particularly funny I would laugh because he was laughing so hard you just had to join in. And he loved telling jokes. He had some good ones too. If I could pull one from the crevasses of my mind I’d share it with you. Sadly I can’t think of one right now. I’m still in shock because he was one of the healthiest people I know. He would have been 79 on his birthday but he didn’t look or act a day over 60, except when he got crotchety about my discontinuing the delivery of the San Jose Mercury.

Larry came in on a Monday morning awhile back and I just happened to be tending bar. He wanted to know where the paper was and I went into a long dissertation about why I had canceled my subscription. I had called the paper no less than fifty times over the years to complain about the delivery, I told him. It was either missing or in the wrong place, behind the dumpster, on top of the awning, in a puddle outside of the gate, and I’d had it. The customer service representatives I spoke to in India always assured me that the problem would be taken care of. It just never happened. Larry nodded his head and said, “Oh, I see.”

So imagine my surprise when Lar Bear came into the bar specifically to ream me for not carrying his paper. I was in my office working on my computer when my bartender informed me that Larry was there to see me. I told her to tell him I’d be there in a moment so that I could finish the transaction on my computer. When I got downstairs he was gone. “Where did Larry go,” I asked? Cheryle informed me that he left angry. She said she asked him if he was there to get on my case about the lack of a paper and he told her, yes he was.

I love my Lar Bear and I was very disturbed that he left without speaking to me. I called his office at Mark Nicholson Inc. and asked Wilma, his lovely secretary of 48 years, if she could give him a message for me. She gave me the number to his place above the Mark Nicholson Inc. building so that I could personally leave him a message. When the recorder picked up I heard Larry’s voice saying, “Greetings, you have reached Larry’s mini penthouse in Hollister. When you hear the beep leave a message, go for it.” I left a message telling him that he was getting impatient in his old age. I left my number and told him that he should call me. He didn’t call me but the next time I saw him at Johnny’s he informed me that he would not be eating there anymore if I didn’t have his paper. The jovial Larry had left the building and there was this cranky old man in his place.

Like I said, I love my Lar Bear. I called the San Jose Mercury and told them that I would give them another chance, not because I wanted to, but because I had a very important customer that was upset about not having it. The first day the paper arrived I called the penthouse and listened to that hilarious recording and told Lar that he better get his butt back to Johnny’s because his paper was there.

Larry did come back and he enjoyed his breakfast and his paper whenever he was in town. He’d begun spending a lot of time at his place in Shaver Lake and was not the regular that he had once been. I missed him and was always thrilled to see him sitting at the bar. I can hardly believe that I will never see that smiling face or hear one of his corny jokes again. Larry Nicholson, my wonderful friend, we will miss you more than I can say.

Larry would have been 79 on July 14th and I cordially invite all who knew him to join us at Johnny’s to celebrate his life. The party will begin at 5:00 sharp in honor of the old happy hour gathering that he very seldom missed. We’ll have appetizers, and anyone that would like to bring a munchie is welcome to. It will be greatly appreciated. If you know some of his great jokes, be sure to bring them along too. We’ll toast Larry, laugh, and have a party that would make him proud.

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Contact Information

Johnny’s Bar & Grill
526 San Benito Street
Hollister, CA 95023

Phone: (831) 637-3683
Email Us HERE

Johnny’s Hours

Mon to Sat   11 am – 9 pm
Sunday  Brunch 9 am
Sunday  Bar-B-Que 1 pm

Mon – Fri  11 am – 2 am
Sat  & Sun  9 am – 2 am

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