Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Punch Bowl - Boston


Steps away from Park Square, in Bay Village, gay patrons poured into Mario's, a restaurant with an upstairs bar; Jacques, a drag venue that still exists; Cavana's, a boisterous women's bar; and, in a former speakeasy space, the more formal Napoleon Club. Not far away, straddling the block between Providence and Boylston Streets, was a 24-hour Hayes Bickford Cafeteria known to its regulars as "the Gay Hayes."

A short distance from Mario's was the Punch Bowl, Boston's foremost gay bar from World War II to Stonewall. Joseph McGrath, Prescott Townsend's secretary during the '60s, remembers pub crawls that would begin near South Station, continue through Playland and Twelve Carver, and "always wind up at the Punch Bowl." The two-level operation had a dance floor in the basement. Like other pre-Stonewall nightspots, it was subject to police harassment, but whenever Boston's finest came through the front door, upstairs staff would flash a signal light warning dancers below to switch to partners of the opposite sex. The Punch Bowl's employees included a waitress known as "Tex," who became a den mother to Boston's gay male community, and Sidney Sushman, who later earned infamy as drag diva Sylvia Sidney. The bar figures prominently in reminiscences collected by Boston's GLBT History Project.



Anonymous said...

I went to The Punch Bowl every week end. I remember Tex and Sidney. I remember all the places mentioned in the post. The years were 1962 to 1966.Too many memories. I just woke up and I'm too grogy to type but I could write a book about gay life during that time.

cyril claeys said...

The punch bowl was the first gay bar I went in after moving from fl and coming out. I remember Jackie Renee a drag with a great voice singing at the piano. Wounderful years!! I worked at Kennedys clothing behind Fileand. Got off work a stop at playland onto punchbowl 12 carver ,marios,jaques and Napolian for last call a Galiano stinger Lets not forget dinner an the patio at Dante's next to 12 Carver. Oh if we could only go back in time. Sporters on Sat. Love them all Cyril