On Saturday night, Mrs. Pribble and I walked into the Old San Francisco Steak House, her for the first time and both of us for the last. The Old San Francisco Steak House (OSF) had been bought and would close its doors forever on Sunday, after 25 years in business. Remarkably, except for some very small details, everything was as I had left it. The décor was exactly the same, down to the period artifacts and artwork, dominated by the huge portrait of Gussie Lee (the legendary inspiration for the restaurant), all designed to evoke the Gay Nineties. The creaking of the brass-handled front doors, first the outer and then the inner, reminded me of a time when those sounds would cue my service to new dinner guests.
Our own fellow dinner guest and OSF alumnus, Mat Farabee, hadn’t arrived yet, so we stood back and watched the manager at the helm of the slowly sinking ship. As happens so often in these sad situations, formality had broken-down and the employees joined the customers as bystanders to an event outside of their control. The manager, who wasn’t wearing any kind of uniform whatsoever (a far cry from the days when my boss and I would man the reservation desk in tuxedos), openly commiserated with the guests waiting in the lobby. She had moved from Dallas for the job just a year before and couldn’t help the frustration creep into her voice when talking about uprooting herself for what was probably then an already doomed business. The end came so quickly and without warning, that our waiter had been hired only three weeks before. I was also startled to hear the manager explain the fate of the other OSF locations. I had just been to the OSF website and it still showed three locations and another coming soon. I figured the Austin location closing was a unique case, but I was wrong. The Houston location closed a year ago to make way for a Super Target, the Dallas location closed early this year to become a strip club, and the Austin and San Antonio locations would be closing on the same day. OSF really was over. If Mat didn’t hurry, our dinner plans would be over, too. Every few minutes, somebody would come from the kitchen and announce what food they had run out of and the manager would add it to the long list on a whiteboard they had set up in the lobby. Cuts of meat were starting to show up on the list – surely a bad sign.
While we were waiting, in swished Bernice, the only employee who had been at the Austin location since day one and only one of two remaining employees from my days back in the eighties. Bernice was in her hostess outfit, a long black satin dress and white feather boa, looking like an older Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke. She had let her red hair go pure white, but otherwise looked exactly the same. We greeted each other and promised to catch-up later in the evening. Mat finally arrived and we were seated.
The main dining room (or “red room” as we used to call it) and the green room also looked almost exactly as I remembered. The red room is two stories tall and the walls covered floor to ceiling with kitschy period advertisements, signs, and other memorabilia, with a bison head and two or three steer heads mounted for good measure. The room is otherwise dominated by a full-length bar across the front of the room, on which is a piano (there used to be two) and hanging above it all – the red velvet swing. Every hour or so, a “swinger” dressed in a burlesque-style little red dress, fishnet stockings, and garter belt, would entertain guests by swinging higher and higher to the piano accompaniment of ragtime music, until she reached the top of her two story arc, the music would crescendo, and she would kick a cowbell mounted to the ceiling to the delight of all. I scoffed at the red velvet swing now being equipped with a seatbelt, but both swingers of the evening performed well, even to the mostly empty room.
We had an 8 o’clock reservation and were sat around 8:30. Our waiter informed us that they were out of T-bones. I told him that he should consult the list in the lobby, because they were out of much more than that. He scurried off to catch-up on the latest bad news, while I wondered how long OSF had been using waiters. In my day, despite the illegality of it, the OSF only hired waitresses. That was why waiting tables at OSF was the one job that I hadn’t done. I had been a busboy, food expo guy, dishwasher, valet, line-cook, salad/dessert prep cook, flambé cook, bartender, and host. I even mowed the grass a few times and one time another busboy and I spent our day stealing huge chunks of limestone from a construction site to use for the OSF landscaping. But I never waited on a table. Speaking of waitresses, I also noticed that the uniforms had changed. The waitresses used to wear basically the same outfit as a swinger: low-cut little black dresses, fishnet stockings, black shoes and a garter belt. At some point (perhaps with the arrival of waiters), this had been replaced with black pants, white shirt and a vest. Sigh. I understand, I really do. But you must understand that to a 15 year old boy, watching waitresses (mostly college girls) in those uniforms made working at OSF one of the best jobs I… er, I mean he could ever have. Mat seconded this notion adding that standing at his station at the end of the bar, watching the pretty swingers twirl over his head and waiting for a flambé order so that he could go and set stuff on fire, really was the best.
A busboy delivered the traditional block of Swiss cheese and a small loaf of bread. The block of cheese was smallish, but that was sometimes the case even back in my day, and considering their diminishing food supply, I actually expected worse. What was more interesting was the fact that the block didn’t come on a cutting board, but sat directly on part of the thick red wax covering that hadn’t been cut away from the cheese. Swiss cheese doesn’t have a rind and therefore, isn’t generally packaged in a wax covering, but rather vacuum sealed in plastic. Specifically, the Swiss cheese that we served in the past came in huge blocks (100 lbs.?), vacuum sealed in plastic, that we then cut down to six blocks (almost a foot on each side) to serve to customers. So, it appeared that we were being served a different cheese, or at least a cheese from a different supplier. I piled paper-thin slices of the Swiss on my bread plate and was soon relieved to find that it tasted exactly the same as I remembered. It was delicious!
We told the waiter that we would like to place our dinner order quickly in the hopes that we would be able to get what we wanted. He said there shouldn’t be a problem, because they had just closed the restaurant and wouldn’t have any more customers that night. It wasn’t even 9 o’clock. They would normally be open until 11pm. In fact, by the time the 9 o’clock swing finished, there were maybe only four other tables in the restaurant, so there was really nobody left to deplete any more food. Sure enough, everything that we wanted to order was available.
Our house salads arrived. The chilled fork presentation was a nice new touch, but the salads were smaller than the hearty servings I used to prepare and the house dressing, a creamy Italian with grated Swiss cheese, was quite a disappointment. In the past, finely grated Swiss cheese was mixed into the dressing, properly infusing the dressing with the Swiss flavor. This appeared to be regular creamy Italian dressing poured over Swiss cheese that had been coarsely grated over the salad. Worse, the dressing itself was not very good and overall the salad was a watery, goopy mess.
The poor salad was immediately forgotten, as soon as our steaks arrived. Except for being plated with the fat side out towards the customer (a presentation no-no), my 16 oz. prime rib was perfect. It was big, bloody, and beautiful. In the 20+ years since I have worked at the OSF, I have found myself constantly disappointed when ordering prime rib (always rare to medium-rare) from other restaurants and having a grilled steak served to me. This is an excerpt from a wonderfully impassioned letter written by Mick Vann, contributor to the Food section of the Austin Chronicle. His description of how prime rib should be cooked is exactly how OSF did it. His disappointment in how “prime rib” is now cooked and served is exactly what I have found, as well:
The steak was served with a baked potato, a ramekin each of au jus and horseradish sauce, and two sprigs of broccoli that were really more of a Texas-sized garnish than a side of veggies. I noted that the potato was no longer rosin baked, which was a method of cooking the potatoes by dunking them in a boiling vat of rosin, a thick, syrupy substance made from pine sap. The potatoes would be pulled from the vat, immediately wrapped in brown paper and served. The idea was that this method of cooking prevented the moisture loss from oven baking. I have also heard it said that the process imparts a unique flavor to the potato, though I have never thought so. While it was sad to see another unique aspect of the OSF gone, the truth is that I never preferred potatoes cooked that way because the process rendered the potato skin inedible. My baked potato was good, but the waiter didn’t mix the butter and sour cream into it enough and it all melted out onto my plate in a buttery, goopy mess.
But I couldn’t be bothered with the state of my salad or baked potato. I was there for the memories and for the steak. My prime rib was all that I had dreamt it would be. It was tender, juicy, and delicious. Mrs. Pribble agreed that her prime rib was good as well and also gave high marks to the garlic mashed potatoes. This is what Mat had to say about his meal:
I’m sorry that Mat didn’t enjoy his meal as much as Mrs. Pribble or myself, but he didn’t make a fuss. This was probably because there wasn’t time to complain between the recounting of story after story of our time working at OSF. Some were well worn and often told stories, but some were new memories helped along by just being there. Pam, the other employee who had been there since the beginning, also helped out by sharing with us her memories, starting with our drinks. Mat and I knew that we wanted a souvenir glass to take away with us. In our day, to get a souvenir glass, you had to order the house special, which was some flaming frou-frou drink. The menu now showed a dozen different drinks that qualified for the souvenir glass, but none of them sounded like the old special and none of them seemed to involve fire. I caught-up with Pam at the bar and she reminded me that the drink was called “The Swinger” (duh, Jimmy) and though it was no longer on the menu, they could whip up a couple, no problem. No longer on the menu? How could that be? When the waiter arrived with the drinks, he offered a clue while lighting the drinks, “Now I have been told that if you let these burn too long, the glass could shatter.” So that was it. Like the seatbelt on the swing, the end of rosin baked potatoes (later confirmed to be at the hand of the fire marshal), and the removal of the house specialty drink from the menu, OSF had eroded the essence of their unique personality, of their very character, just to keep glasses of flaming alcohol from exploding in a few faces. That’s just sad.
Speaking of sad, by the 10 o’clock swing, there were maybe three tables, including ours. I took photos of the last swing performance in Austin and we did our best to cheer her on. Part of me wished that the restaurant would have been packed to the rafters for its last Saturday night. I mean, I had seen Saturday nights with 800-900 covers! I had seen the lobby and bar packed for hours with people waiting for a table. I had seen the valets double-park the whole lot and then park cars down the street. But those days were long, long ago and instead, it all ended quietly. Bernice, Pam and a few of the other employees got up on the bar for group photos. One of the swingers asked me to photograph her on the swing.
We realized that the piano player was also the flambé cook, so we rushed to order our dessert before he was cut loose. Tableside flambé service had long ago been done away with (again, in the interest of safety) and a permanent flambé station had been built. I was told they didn’t have the Cherries Jubilee, so Mrs. Pribble and I shared an order of Strawberries Flambé and Mat ordered the Bananas Foster. One of the downsides of having these desserts prepared away from the table is that they can still only be prepared one at a time, yet the waiter is likely to want to serve the whole table at once. So, our Strawberries Flambé was cooked first and by the time it got to us, it had mostly melted into a creamy, goopy mess. Sigh. Still, it was tasty. Mat, who had chatted it up with the piano player while the flambés were being cooked, shared with me the recipe changes that had occurred since when we had learned to flambé. I can’t say that I agreed with any of them. Since when does orange liqueur take the place of fresh juice squeezed from an orange?
After dessert, I had a chance to visit and reminisce with Bernice and Pam. The names and memories poured out of us: Bob Van Hattum, Tim, Les, Clint (the Vans-wearing bartender who went off to stunt man school in Hollywood and was killed in an airplane accident), Larry the mumbler, Irene and her sister, Becky and her sister, big Becky (Ford EXP), Rebecca (Boo) and Quita, Lynn, Blue, Simon and Jeff (the stoner busboys), Jeff Rasmussen, Jeff Holden, Lori (Planet X), Laurie, Brenda and Tony, Cathi Ball, Judith, Misty, the expo guy on speed, Carlos, the white busboys, the breakdancing busboys, the Mexican busboys, Edwardo, Ed Mancuso, the Anderson twins, John Anderson, and my close friends – Mat Farabee, Charles Braden, Wes Mau, and Rob Booth. These names were still only scratching the surface. Besides, every name unpacks even more memories of not only things we did at the steak house, but things we did outside the steak house as well. Somehow, I feel like I packed a lifetime of memories into barely four years. I’ll have to talk more about those some other time.
Bernice and Pam also knew where a lot of people were and how they were doing. They said a lot of folks had come back when they heard the OSF was going to close. A lot of swingers came back to swing one last time. That was comforting to hear. Even better was hearing about all of the couples who met at the OSF and were still together: Jim and Cheri, Kevin and Sherrie, Rob and Michelle, and several others. Somehow, between all the sex, drugs, and rock & roll (and there was a lot of that), there was true, lasting romance to be found there. Pam said the best thing to me, though. After we had talked for a long time, she said, “I have been here all along, so I can tell you that you’re not mistaken – those were the good old days. It has never been better.”
We had been the only table for a couple of hours. It was almost one o’clock in the morning. The piano player was gone and canned music played through the PA. Our waiter had long since gone home, but Pam kept our water glasses full and they left the lights down for us. Usually, they gave customers a brand new souvenir glass, but they had run out and so our actual glasses were boxed up, sugar still on the rims. Pam offered us a beautiful chocolate cake, but we were full. Then she gave us copies of a book, The Legend of Gussie Lee, which had been published in 2000. The few staff remaining were quietly closing out tickets and counting their cash. I felt myself unwilling to stand up from the table. I was looking for any way to stall. But finally, there was nothing else and with a deep sigh, I stood. My wife wanted me to blow out the candle on the table, but it was too Tennessee Williams for me and I would have none of it. I hugged Pam one last time and we walked out under the Hurry Slowly sign over the front door. The doors creaked, first the inner, then the outer.
Please pin, tweet, and share! Most importantly, let me know what you think in the comments below, especially if you have ever worked at the OSF at any time and in any location! I want to hear about your memories! If you have pictures of the OSF from the 80’s, please send them to me!
A brilliantly written story that has captured valuable time from my work day, but even exceedingly more valuable time from my past. I too worked at OSF, but in Dallas. I loved every minute of it: I was gagged and thrown into the laundry bin as a prank, but “forgotten” due to the sudden “rush”; I stole a new bottle of Black Label JD and a 100lb block of cheese to spite the new security cameras (never got caught), my tips increased in relation to the height of my flambÃ© cooking; I witnessed major fights after Dallas Cowboy games which introduced a new use for the cheese board; I witnessed mafia deals go down before and after the doors opened; I saw a choking fat man expel a large bite of steak 20 yards a mock speed after being Heimliched by a â€œdoctor in the houseâ€. So many more memories to occupy my day and most not fit for print.
Thank you, Mr. Pribble, for stirring the memories with a brilliantly written farewell to OSF and adding more color to an oldie but goodie chapter of my life. I can almost taste the banana foster and smell the burning liquor. Ahhhhh. ~kk
Dear Jimmy, I too enjoyed remembering OSF through your eyes. I was one of those “college waitresses” 25 years ago! I still had my uniform up until recently. My daughter (now 12 yrs) use to dress up in it. While working at OSF I met one of my very best friends… even to this day! Our stations were side by side every night and we used the same side bar for our potato condiments, water, tea pitchers, etc. We liked it upstairs because we could go home as soon as the lobby cleared out. That was usually around 10:00. Anyone who came in after 10:00 was seated down stairs. Yes, the girls downstairs made more money but, $100 a night was enough money for me back then! We both eventually left that job but, because of her I met my husband. So, I guess I could say OSF impacted my life in a very profound way!
Thank you, Mr. Pribble, for taking me down memory road. I can still feel the fish-net stockings on my legs and visualize the impressions they left on the botton of my feet after standing on them for so many hours. ~km
The man who was responsible for the demise of OSF was Barry Cohen. He began as GM (circa 1990) for the San Antonio operation, which was the original OSF location built by Henry Reed in 1968. Mr. Reed gained trust in the new charmer, and later Cohen was promoted Operations Director of the four restaurants. Henry Reed remained Chairman of the Board but gave Cohen the title of CEO — and that’s when Cohen further asserted himself and discovered more creative ways to pilfer from OSF and Mr. Reed. In the decade since Cohen’s arrival, the restaurants saw a cheapening of quality and quantity, all while he filled his fat, greedy fingers with other people’s hard-earned money. Cohen was a piece of work! He was the quintessential wolf in sheep’s clothing. He apparently had no respect for the backbone of the restaurant — its people. He repeatedly violated the OSF lifeblood mentally, physically, and monetarily. It was truly sad to watch.
I saw it every day. I grew up with OSF as a major part of my life. I worked at the locations in Dallas and San Antonio. I was there pre-Cohen, during Cohen, and post-Cohen. It was sad to watch the mighty OSF fall. One evening in the late â€˜90s, Cohen directed me into the walk-in freezer for another one of our “freezer talks,” where he strangled me, threatened me, and let me know he meant business: do not get in his way, ever again. Shortly thereafter I left the restaurant I loved so much. That is when I could no longer convince Henry Reed of Cohen’s filthy nature. Mr. Reed had been charmed by a real confidence artist — Barry Cohen.
I am pleased to see Mr. Pribble’s article, though. It proves that there was still some love left in OSF lifeblood, even after the Cohen Empire. I do appreciate your article, Mr. Pribble. It reminds me of the good times there. It has been difficult for me to see OSF in that good light since Mr. Reed passed away. I suppose my message is twofold: I thank all the people of OSF for their love and strength, and I want the world to know that my father was not the one responsible for the OSF downfall. My father, Henry A. Reed, would be proud of your dedication and lifeblood, Mr. Pribble.
(Formerly, Nathan A. Reed)
Great writing! I too was a kid in the late 70’s, bussing tables, tray-toting, slicing the cheese blocks, etc. I still distincly remember Luke Postolos giving orders and those orders being followed. Even as a kid of 15-16 I remember admiring Mr. Postolos in his fairness, good business judgement, and ability to stay calm and collected. I remember being given the recipe for the Evelyn Cake, I believe that was the name. That dessert was a chocolate concoction made with chocolota, whipped topping, and walnuts. Somehow throught the years I misplaced that recipe and always regretted not having it.
The OSF was a big part of my early years: it seems like a great place for a kid to learn about people, learn about business, and make a really great group of friends, though fleeting.
Great Job! Too bad the Old Lady has left the stage.
A lovely, touching piece of writing. I was a Swing girl for about 4 years beginning in 1999 at the height of the Cohen reign. We still had a 2 hour wait for a table on weekend nights back then and I would sit on the piano and sing old timey jazz standards before each performance on the Swing. It was the greatest job ever! It broke my heart to watch the life bleed out of the OSF during those last years and I walked out one night shortly after it was bought out by a corporate restaurant management company. A few short years later, OSF closed for good. I did get to say a proper goodbye to my Swing though (every Swinger thought of the swing as “hers”) The last manager got a hold of me and offered me food coupons if I’d come and swing for Thanksgiving since they didn’t have any girls that could really do the tricks anymore. It was nice to be able to say goodbye. It’s a Chinese Buffet now and though I love Chinese food, I have never been in. It would just be too sad. I’ve begun writing a series of articles for dogcanyon.org called Memoirs of a Girl On The Red Velvet Swing.
OMG!!! How it brings back memories. I used to be a waitress there at OSF in Houston Texas back in 1991-1993.. I have a lot of fond memories there.. I remember Jessie was the manager there at the time. I remember his wife and daughter both worked there also. I used to be pretty thin back then wearing my red skirt outfit with fishnet hose and a black chocker…. We looked pretty hot back then I thought!!!!! lol
So nice to read your story. Mr. Reed hired me in 1990 and I loved the place. I quit waiting tables there shortly before his death. It is one of my favorite places on earth. I enjoyed working there it was like show time. Best reguards.
It was fun reading Jimmy’s story above. I worked at the Dallas OSF for 5 years starting in the mid 70’s. My wife, Colleen, worked there for 13 years until our son was born. I also have a twin brother, Wayne, who worked there. I started as a busboy, parked cars, and bartended. We worked there while Paul Sermas was managing. We still talk about how he trained his wait staff and compare it to the staff at restaurants today. My wife and I have been together for 33 years now. We live in Colorado and would stop in and see Sermas at his other restaurant for several years after moving.
We to had a lot of fun working at OSF. We would have parties after work and would rather have an OSF reunion instead of a high school reunion. My brother and I took girls from work to our prom. There was a lot of longivity there because of the money the girls could make. We had several career waitresses. The college girls were hot and made enough money to pay for school. The best nights were Texas/OU weekend and New Year’s Eve. We would be pumped just like the customers. We were sad to here the restaurant closed, but we were there during it’s hayday. I guess the growth in Dallas just passed it by. Back then that area was called restaurant row. OSF was the first restaurant at that location initially. My brother and I started working there just after it opened. All in all, we learned a lot and have fond memories of OSF. It would be fun to reconnect with some of the people we worked with.
I was so amazed to read all your description, thankyou very much Ive just visited that place justtwo times the first one when I got married, my husband wnated me to know all his favorite places in austin, we were there again sitting in that red room you talked about Berenice as sonn as she saw my husband she gave him a big hug, and they start talking about all those great memories you talk about…they talk about e great new years eve parties and all the food that they took to their houses..lol….he was so entusiastic about showing me the parking lot were they use to play in thesnow with his falcon 68 and from that point he point on the window in those apartments back of the restaurant were he used to live….was so exciting for me to be there, he remember every person every personalitty of everyone that truly make a beautiful memories in hus life…they showed him a way to work, excellence, he couldnt speak better of Jeff cause he couldnt find any more words, he even came to our wedding in mexico, wow…was incredible to meet all those who make part of his life so special. My husband was Eugenio Arevalo his young brother was Eduardo , and my loved husband passed away almost 4 years ago on an accident but he print my life forever with this old sn francisco steak house culture eventhough I was there just twice…..Thanks for sharing this beautiful memories Jimmy…..Cyndi Arevalo
I and my big brother worked at the Dallas location along with Scott & Wayne Wiggins above, Ed, Barney, Howard, Cothes, Horsey, et el. I haven’t found another restaurant like it. Those were magical years as a kid bussing tables and winding up in the kitchen cooking.
Scott I agree…Forget the high school reunions, we need an OSF reunion!
Ed, Barney, Howard and I have made contact about six months ago after a 25 year break. I’m in Houston now but will be traveling up to Dallas soon to see them.
It was a great place to work then.
I also worked at the Dallas location 1980-1981…. as a manager-in-training… prior to the huge, planned expansion “Everywhere Southwest Airlines flies”… NM, TX, LA… Paul was my mentor, and I’ve always reflected back on his pursuit of excellence, as I continue with my life after OSF. I’m trying to remember the names of the swingers back then… and am drawing blanks.. I’ve never worked as hard… or had so much fun. I understand Paul is still in Dallas, tending his garden…
My wife and I visited OSF on many occasions in the 90’s and 00’s. We really miss the atmosphere, food, swinging girls. Both of our daughters loved going there when they were children.
Do You or anyone know who made the Swiss cheese or who the distributor was?
I know that it was authentic Wisconsin cheese, but I don’t know the vendor. I’ll ask some of the old hands and see if they remember anything. The San Antonio operation is still in business, so maybe give them a shout. Even if they have changed sources, they should know the original. Thanks for reading!
All I can say is WOW! Someone just asked me what they could do with angel food cake and I thought of the OSF house dessert, Candy Crunch Cake, though it took a further Google search to bring up the name. But the first hit was this blog and my life went into fast rewind. I saw the name Pribble and it didn’t immediately ring any bells, ha ha, but as I read on you were naming names I knew and when I saw your pic I could see you as you were way back 28-ish years ago when I too worked in Austin, one of those college girls. Bob hired me and Pam trained me. Didn’t Berniece have the station right in the middle of the floor? And the gal that had the station right next to her, can see her face but the name is missing just yet. I keep looking over your list of names and BOOM the faces hit me, suddenly Simon and Jeff appeared in my minds eye. I used to ride along with Irene so she could practice driving to pass her test. Remember Bruce the bartender and that waitress/hostess (Sarah?) that finally tamed him? Didn’t Jeff Holden have a party and something scandalous happened? I was there but don’t recall details. My best gal pal waitresses in crime were crazy Lori ( is that who you refer to as Planet X I wonder) April, Tina, Darie. Pam used to listen to all our outside of work escapades and shake her head. We actually got her and a few others, including Bob, to go down to 6th street and then after hours dancing at Halls. More head shaking followed. So nice to hear the romances that stuck. I recall the day Cheri told the girls she had a boyfriend, can still see her blushing and smiling. Who, we asked over and over. Finally Jim came over and gave her a kiss. All our mouths dropped to the floor. Seems they kept it under wraps for a good while so we were quite shocked. I moved to Dallas and worked at OSF there too for several years and also remember many of the names mentioned by former OSF-ers. Austin was better and Pam was right, those were the good old days. Thank-You for the memories of a fun and carefree time. What a blast remembering!
Hi, Pamela! Thank you so much for the memories! We were clearly there at the same time, because I remember all of those things and all of those people. Yes, Lori was “Planet X” and yes, I left a lot of stuff out. Now that you mention it, Lori took me dancing when that club was called Halls. It became Planet X later. I should correct the post. Anyway, I know for sure I would remember you! If you are on Facebook, there is an invite-only group for the alumni of OSF. We have had quite a bit of fun over the years sharing stories and even photos of those good times. If you want, find me on Facebook and I will send you an invite. There is a reunion being planned for this Summer at the OSF in San Antonio. Even if you don’t want to do either of those things, I would love to either talk or correspond with you, because most of the people I know from the OSF days came a little later, but you are clearly from that sweet spot, where all of the outrageous things happened and I want to see what we can remember together. Hell, I wonder if we could find Lori.
I grew up in san Antonio and the old san francisco steak house was an awesome place. I grew up n oak hills near mr. Reed’s home on a hill. It was at osf that i saw my first lady in fishnets…wow. The girls in the swings were fantastic too
I was the first bookkeeper for the OSF in Houston. Seven Years (I think) The manager was Mr. Meloni, I’ll never forget those years.
Was Cookie Geiselmsn a co- owner at some point? I was in a band w/ her husband in 1980-
Cool blog entry Jimmy. Fun to read through. My brother Scot and I worked with the Wggins boys in Dallas and was thrilled to see the update on him and Colleen. I started in San Antonio where we were hired by Luke Postolos. Our family moved to Dallas and pretty quickly were hired by Paul Sermas (we already had the uniforms!). Really two pretty good managers. I bused, bar tended, and the flaming desserts. Scott, Wayne, Lori, Colleen (and her dog Pups!) were some that I remember the names of in Dallas, many more I don’t, but it was a great place to work. I did go back on business to Dallas several times and did stop in to see Paul at the Porterhouse across the street. He acted like he remembered me, and I knew he didn’t, but it was nice that he let me think it. He did tell me that Scott and Colleen were still married, and that was cool.
I used to send a few very stiff rum and cokes down stairs late in evenings, and I soon a couple lobster tails came back. I lived well for a college kid!
Thanks Jimmy – enjoyed living in the past for a few minutes.
Memories. When my wife and I returned from our honeymoon (1986) we went to OSF in Houston with her family. After that we made it a tradition to go to OSF on our wedding anniversary. Most of those were at the Austin OSF. I was feeling nostalgic and googled OSF and found your blog. Our 30th anniversary is just a few weeks away. I find myself wishing that OSF was still going strong. It would be a nice way to celebrate 30 years together.
Out of sheer chance I happened to come across this article, and it brought back many memories, all of the warm and fuzzy variety. I played piano at the OSF from early 1976 to March, 1984,when I moved to Boston. Gary MacDaniel was a former pianist there, and when we met, and he found out I played piano, asked if I felt comfortable enough to play at the restaurant. I said well, and why not…..and the next 8 years of my evening life was set. Little by little, I worked from playing a night or two a week to six nights. I was working full time for Southwestern Bell, and as promotions and raises began happening, I cut back on the schedule. When I left in March, 1984, I was down to three nights.
I knew the pianists better than I knew the rest of the staff, but the years have dimmed some names – Gary of course – Mona, Charles Burleson, David Pierce – one whose name I have long forgotten, but his wife’s name was Rojean and she waitressed there. And of course the swingers – Gwen, Pam, Lynn Steller, Lori Bowen (famous as one of the first women to enter the bodybuilding arena!).
In those days, there were two baby grand pianos, back to back. The two pianists would alternate 45 minute sets, overlap with some four hand two piano music, and play together while the swinger flew back and forth above our heads, every hour on the half hour, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
One of your contributors has said she would prefer an OSF reunion to any class reunion and I totally agree..
I ate in SAN ANTONIO THE NIGHT BEFORE THEY CLOSED DOWN AND IT WAS STILL AWESOME. THE FOOD WAS FANTASTIC AND THE PIANO PLAYER WAS GREAT. I COULD NOT BELIEVE THEY WERE CLOSING THEIR DOORS NOR COULD ANYONE ELSE.
I worked at the one in Houston as a swinger from 84-95. It’s a shame it got destroyed.
Here’s to memories
Hi Jimmy, I hate to admit this, but those stupid seat belts were my design. I worked the warehouse in San Antonio for a couple of years, and was there when the insurance people mandated them. Mr. Reed wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, so I suggested the belts with carabiners attached with rope to the swings so the girls could clip in and out quickly. He liked the idea so he had me run with it. It was a fun job back in the day, and one of the easiest jobs I ever had. Mr. Reed would regularly come pick me up and have me assist him running various errands, so I got to know him rather well. I was there in 1985 and 1986, and probably would have stayed much longer, but another friend and mentor offered me a position at Mercedes Benz I couldn’t pass up. I just learned tonight what had happened to the whole chain, so sad. I left Dan Antonio in 1989 for a Nuclear Engineering job with the Navy, and I’m still doing it. The only other employee I can remember off the top of my head was Melanie Inman, she was a swing girl in SA, we lived on tbe same street and went to high school together. Stephen (Nathan), I doubt you remember me (you were in your pre-teens I’m guessing, when I worked for your dad), but I remember you. I used to come to your house on the weekends and detail your dads cars for extra money, and after I left I worked on his Mercedes 1000 SEL a few times at German Motor Imports. He was a good man.
Thanks for the memories, Jimmy. I was doing research for my memoirs when I came across your beautifully written account with many similar details to my vignette on OSF. I was a skinny little 14 year old in 1975 when Dale Hendry hired me to play piano at the Houston location Friday and Saturday nights. Only months later, I remember some kind of mafia trouble forced the place to shut down for awhile, and my parents never let me go back. I didn’t even know what the mafia was. That experience kickstarted my life as a concert pianist, and I will be forever grateful. Sad to hear of its demise.
Ha!! It’s been a long time since I enjoyed reading something that was a big part of my life. Actually the OSF in Austin played a huge role in my life, well actually, in my family’s life. I am among one of the couples mentioned that met their spouse there. I will never forget when I first laid my eyes on her. I came to work, and as I entered the front doors…there she was… standing there…. a beautiful blonde Florida girl on her summer break from the University of Florida. We had some very nice memories that summer. I was a senior in high school hoping she would come back down for Christmas break, and she did, only to take my heart back to Florida until the following summer break. How happy I was when she transferred to UT!
We’re so very familiar with many of those you mentioned Jimmy. It is really hard to describe to anyone the unique camaraderie we all had back then and the ambience was such a unique backdrop that made it special.
The once Florida girl went on to be a fantastic swinger for many years then went into management. Yes, the OSF has a special place in our lives. Married in 1985 and still very much in love!
We still have a few pieces of memorabilia from OSF. However the most valuable one in particular is our now 31 year old daughter. While she was sad that she never could muster up enough momentum to hit the bell before it closed, she can say she hit it at the same time with her mother for about 6 months. That must be why she loves swinging so much!
Ha!! OSF…. they made more than great steaks!
Thanks for the memories Jimmy, that was very nice of you.
Kevin & Sherrie