December 11, 1936 is the day Henry Gunselman took over The Pastime Cafe and began the legacy of Gunselman's Tavern. This great old tavern has been the central public house of the community for more than 80 years.
Gunselman's Tavern History (as much as we know) to be constantly updated as the stories roll in:
Henry J. Gunselman took over The Pastime Cafe on Friday, December 11th 1936. To this point, we have no records or history of the Pastime owners or anything else about it for that matter.
One story we have heard is that Henry was a whiskey salesman for the Weideman Company and he went to the Pastime to collect a bill. They couldn't pay, he took the bar. That story could not be verified by anyone in the Gunselman family.
Wayne Gunselman, Henry's grandson, told us that his grandfather said when he took over the bar there was a buzzer at the door that rang in the back where the liquor was stored and every door had a steel brace across it which was a common set up for a speakeasy selling bootlegger liquor during prohibition (1920 to 1933).
The Gunselman family moved into the upstairs apartment in the late 30's. Henry's wife Meta would do the cooking and take the early shift and Henry would take over and work the bar when the kids came home from school. The Gunselman family owned most of the land from West 215th Street east to West 214th Street and north to Clifford Ave.
Henry owned the bar from 1936 until he sold it to local Fairview hotel owner Louie Miller in 1959. During its time, this quintessential neighborhood bar was a meeting place for all broadcasted sporting events! First on the radio then on the first public TV this side of the Rocky River. It was the carry out spot in town for beer, wine and food. Weekend nights saw everything from a neighborhood fish fry to live jazz set up in the banquet room.
Gunselman was one tough cookie. He was robbed at gunpoint by three masked men who got $149 from the register, $38 from customers, $26 from the cigarette machine and pistol whipped Henry when he wouldn't open the safe. The German mafia in the late 30's tried to strong arm him into protection payments and he threw them out.
The bar caught fire in the 1950's causing $11,000 damage when Henry's son Reed spilled gas in the basement while working on a motorcycle. No one was hurt but Fairview Park Police Chief, Henry Lloyd Walton died of a heart attack while directing traffic on the scene. Henry was regarded in the Cleveland Press as a sports expert. He was a horseshoe champion of Ohio. He and his wife were avid bowlers and Gunselman's backed decades worth of bowling, baseball and basketball teams.
The Gunselman family has been very gracious and helpful with piecing together the Henry Gunselman era history of the bar. We have digitized their family photo album of the people and events that happened over the years and have shared in our Gallery_History.
There are of course more stories and owners pre 1936 and post 1959 (most notably the Red Martin era which spanned the 1960's into the 1990's) but that is another story altogether that we will tell after the whole Gunselman story is told.