THE OLD JOKES ARE THE BEST: Couple of termites are gnawing merrily on the timeworn counter of Joe Jost's. The door swings open and an out-of-town termite is standing there with his little hobo bindle slung over his shoulder and an old stogie stuck in the corner of his mouth. The new termite sez to the others, "Hey, fellas, is the bartender here?"
Is he ever! Long Beach's most venerable beer hall, Joe Jost's, will be crawling with bartenders on Saturday, and they all have a bit of history in common: Each one has "Bartender: Joe Jost's" on his resume.
Most will be there as customers, though, when 40 to 50 behind-the-bar alumni of this town's oldest bar show up between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday to chat about the happy past, reacquaint themselves with old co-workers and loyal customers and maybe share some bar jokes that are a lot better than the one we just sprung on you.
"We put out the word that we were having a bartender reunion a few weeks ago, and word got around, and now we have about 40 who will be showing up on Saturday," says Jost's owner Ken Buck.
The crowd of former nectar directors will range in age from the early 20s to over 80 - the eldest is George Gorman, the father-in-law of former ballplayer Jeff Burroughs - and they'll be coming from as far away as Virginia and Texas.
"They've all been great people," says Buck. Most, he says, weren't bartenders before or after working at Jost's; they just spent a bit of time there making money to see them through school before moving on to careers in fields outside the arena of keg-tapping.
"We have a couple of guys who were here in the 1960s, about a half-dozen from the '70s and the rest from the '80s, '90s and beyond," says Buck.
A couple might take a turn on the working side of the bar, says the boss, but most, he says, haven't done it for a while, and they're just going to be enjoying a couple of Pabsts, a few pickled eggs and a "special" sandwich or two.
Buck has also commissioned commemorative T-shirts for the event and will be giving engraved schooners to the returning heroes.
All the day's proceeds - and half of the current bartenders' tips - will be donated to Cal State Long Beach's athletics programs.