Time's are a changin' here in SouthWest Florida. I don't know if our long held secret has finally been discovered or isit just all the retired baby-boomers have finally taken over this wonderful area called Bonita Springs. Though I've never seen any beautiful springs as the name denotes, I do remember the Walzing Waters attraction, The Dog track, Wonder Gardens, and those funky colored lights dancing to music were the only real tourist traps since I can remember 40 years ago.
Surely there are "Bonitians" who could go on about our old town of "Survey" as it was called in the early days. Back when beach front property was still sold by the acre, not by the square foot. The beach at Bonita usta have lots more parking spaces and real sand. It was free to park under some big pines but take your chances on getting out when you wanted and whether or not someone parked 2" on either side of your car. Chuck's PoorHouse had a big fight with the county over that deal - the county won. We got bathrooms and nice showers now, though. Gated communities in this area meant keeping your livestock from wanderin' into U.S. 41. Now lotsa folks with excess discretionary capital (rich folks) will plop down hundreds of thousands for lil' piece of paradise. Yeah, some folks ain't happy bout' the changes but I reckon they ought not stand in the way of "progress".
Though you don't hear folks in the building and real estate trade complainin'. It is causin' the workin' man a tough time findin' a cheap place to live though. All the Mom & Pop stores sold out or got pushed out. It used to be great to go to Nelson's hardware to buy some nuts, bolts, screws or nails and shoot the bull with Ben for a while. Now you go to the hardware and you might come home with a lawn chair, microwave and a jug a' milk. The Corner Store is still here after at least 30 years. It was the only grocery store there was east of 41. There usta be a Post Office across the street in a 2-story building ran by the same fella I believe that had the Bamboo Lounge. There also was a sawmill, believe it or not, on Old 41 located on the Oak Creek. They would bring lumber in on barges. The creek was more like river then.
Bonita was like a cowboy town 40 years ago. Yes, even I wore a straw cowboy hat then. Now, some folks are callin' the locals "rednecks". This comment, I believe, refers to what farmers get from driving a tractor all day with no SPF 30 on. These locals I'd rather call good ole' boys because for the most part they are. They just ain't used ta taking a lot a B.S. As far as the redneck part, I don't think you can get a redneck from gigging frogs, netting fish, shootin hogs, and poachin' gator at 3 o'clock in the morning. Things happened back in the woods you don't wanna know about. Like in Everglades City if your a mean ole cuss the town just gets together and feeds you to the gators. Yep, cruisin the back bays was different 40 years ago. Now a days comin around a corner you might see a 3 story 3 million dollar single-family home (single-family - yeah right). Even the celebrities have found us; musicians, pro-athletes, actors, and mob bosses. No names, you know who you are.
Take a gander at our wall of fame for those who gave us their autographed photo. It's no secret we love our Buffalo Bill's Football Team and our NFC favorites, the Green Bay Packer's. There are many autographed photos about from those teams. Don't forget about "Buffy" our real stuffed mascot buffalo hanging over the front entrance way. Find a chair to stand on to get a great photo of you and Buffy. Well, it's not really the competition that bugs me when all these chains and franchises pop up overnight, it's the fact that they're here because some corporate marketing guru decided it fits in with their clustering growth plan in their portfolio. 40 years ago it seemed like you opened a place because the community needed it and it provided work for you and yours.
A good night on the town usta be going to The Bamboo Lounge next to Benson's grocery (which usta be Longhorn's) or maybe having a couple cold ones at the The Dome. It was at the corner of Terry and Old 41 rd ( 7-11 store now) built of rocks, mortar and shake roof. Even up until 1980 a sign hung on the back door reading "Mexican Entrance". They had their own room in the back. O.K. it was segregation but it worked, hardly anyone got shot.That reminds me of the other sign which read "Check your guns at the bar". Most city folks thought it was a joke - it wasn't. It is rumored that during the 4th of July Parade some of the excrement from the horses was thrown inside of the Dome. Al Greenwood was seen in the area. Now The Whale's Tail on the corner of Beach rd. and Old 41 was my favorite. Live music and dancing in a real rustic setting, mostly 4x4's and a plywood bar.It made Buffalo Chip's look like the Taj Mahal. I think it closed because of tax problems or it just fell apart. It stood for a couple years before they tore it down. It was not uncommon to see a horse or two hitched to one of these relic taverns. It's been a while since Buffalo Chip's had a horse in our parking lot.
Probably because something strange always happens, like a motorcycle spookin' a horse or a horse putting his hoof right thru a picnic bench. Now when my father, Al Greenwood Sr., came down in 1982. There wasn't a Buffalo Chip's just The Empire Court Motel run by some nice ole' folks the Warfield's from New York. There were more tomato farms than golf courses. Buffalo Chip's was a little apartment that Pop and I knocked the walls out of. He did have more help than me. I think the total is a least a dozen people who have claimed to of built this place. It had a bar custom made from a kitchen counter with a pass thru window from the kitchen less than 2 feet wide. Matt, our infamous old bartender, loves to tell about sweatin' it out back there in a four foot square area with 2 other employees pouring beer, bagging wings and taking orders. The only prerequisite Pop had to employment was you had to fit behind the bar with Fat Matt and it was preferred that your top was bigger than your bottom. That reminds of the rather buxom German girl Dad hired immediately after he saw her, only to find she didn't speak a word of English. She usta just hand the customer her pad and let them write down their order.We had a real nice English girl named Julie who worked for us. We all got a big laugh one time when the guys were watching hockey on T.V. and a huge fight broke out on the ice . Julie, who obviously had never seen a hockey game, asked us if anybody had phoned the police.
We now have a big screen T.V. where the driveway was for our take-out window, Draft beer was 75 cents and wings were 15 cents each. Of course those were the days when people actually threw out chicken wings !! ( terrible tragedy). Another thing on the list of terrible things mankind used to do that we can never forgive ourselves for. Thank God for Frank and Teressa's Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y. where Buffalo Wings were discovered. I took my wife there to show her my old stompin' grounds, trying to impress her with the wings, she merely said they taste just like your Dad's. Now I get a kick out people asking me for the recipe. I usually will be glad to tell them, explaining at first that I will have to kill them directly after. ( just kidding!). I have had actual people from Buffalo ask me how to make Buffalo Wings. I will ask for some I.D. from these folks because if you are a Buffalonian and you don't know how to make Buffalo wings you are obviously some Russian spy trying to infiltrate our American culture. Now, I have heard two stories concerning the discovery of Buffalo Wings.Teressa's story is she wanted to feed her son and some friends something one night late after they were out carousing but she had no food. Finding only chicken wings, butter and hot sauce, she made history. Now the version I heard from an old employee of The Anchor Bar is very believable. Employed at The Anchor Bar in the late 60's was an ole Afro- Asian man (you know a black guy) who as a cook could eat any of the scraps (wings) he wanted for free. So he deep-fried some wings and dipped them in hot sauce - Buffalo "soul-food" ? Whatever it was; it made us famous too !!
Well I've talked a little about about the places that changed but the thing that brings back the best memories is the different people that have come and gone. When I say different, I mean different! Old Apple Jack or Pecan Jack who usta come down every Winter with a camper on his pick-up full of pecans (pronounced pacons - not peecans). He'd sell em' all season to pay for his vacation and fill it back up with tomatoes for the trip home to South Carolina. I can't list all the stories he'd tell, though they have to be true, cause no one could make up that stuff. I remember one time he had to shoot a lil' Mexican fella' with his 38 who broke in his camper while he was sleepin' in there. I could never figure out what that dude was thinkin'. He musta' really liked pecans. You probably know by now if your a real local you have to have a modifier attached to your name like Cadillac Rick , Crippled Lou or Drunken Steve. Either that or have a animal nick-name like Griz, Buck, Gator, Rug-Slug, Rabbit, Pig-Dog or Coon-Ass ( real names by the way). I suppose they don't want to use thier last names because of any outstanding warrants or something ? I you ask em' for I.D. they will show you their belt buckle. If a local gets pulled over by a cop and he asks for their license, he may tell em' to look on the bumper on the back of their car.
The local's and tourists all seem to enjoy Buffalo Chip's because I think it's more than just a restaurant or bar, it's a place to come, relax and talk to all kinds of people about anything. We have solved all the world's problems here at least 4 times over in our daily meetings at the bar. The people that come to Buffalo Chip's make it a great place. You never know who will be here on any given day. They could be famous, a hard-working blue collar guy, some wealthy folks, a nice Mexican family or some guy looking for 5 bucks to borrow. They all seem to get along together and have a good time. It is not uncommon to see Nolan Henke's Hummer, a Dodge Viper, Erik's Ferrari, a rusty 72' Ford F-150, Hans's Mercedes, 4 Harleys, a sleeping Mexican, George's Vette or Steve Smith's 1947 Lincoln convertible and 2 or 3 bicycles in our parking lot. We have had many wing contests over the years. Randy Fiscus was a multiple champ starting back in 1982. He ate over 90 wings. He is dead now. Our famous eating Champ, Chip Simpson, ate over 50 wings in 12 minutes in 2012. He is a IFOCE (International Federation of Competeitve Eating) Champ. I have started a great new event called "Wing Fest" which is held at Riverside Park every with our FL State Wing Eating Championship. Sign up now !
Buffalo Chip's has sponsored a lot of teams in the past. The old Buffalo Chip's softball team was a classic. The were not very good but they always had more fun than the opposing team. The problem was they always celebrated their game with a keg of beer during the game. Coach Greenwood quickly figured out the answer to their losing record. He shared his beer with the opposing team and they quickly found themselves at a disadvantage over the more experienced Buffalo Chip's players. I got the honor to play on the Buffalo Chip's Soccer Team for a couple of . seasons. I scored a goal in game once but it was on our own team when I was playing goalie. Coach Tony and Hans were quick to tell me after the game how much they appreciated my skill at handing out water to the players. It is no secret our love for the German people and our annual soccer game between the Rot-Weiss Soccer Club and our team shows that fact. We consider Grundstadt to be our sister city but also get many German's from the Munich area too. As far as who wins these games between the American's and the German's is not important because it's the friendships made and how much beer we drink after the games. The outcome of these contests is really not important to the Americans because we lose every year ! They also can drink beer better than us. Buffalo Chip's sponsored the Over 60 Citrus Park Softball Team with great pleasure With the help of Lee Herbert, the star hitter, they won a national title. It's hard to mention all the teams we've helped. Check out our trophys at your convenience. I take great pride in our 2000 Ice Hockey Team. We took the championship trophy for our division. It's on display at the Teco Arena. We had a stacked team of golf pro's and one ex-NHL player/coach Ken Shinckel and me. If you gotta slapshot and can skate backwards, we are always drafting for the next team !
Lotsa folks have come and gone over the years, leaving their own little legacy with us.We are so glad to have our faithful customers (friends) which have been coming for years. The great Mexican people and the locals keep us going over the summer until snowbirds come back. Most of them say that their first stop after getting off the plane or pulling into Bonita, before they even see Aunt Ethel, is the world famous Buffalo Chip's Restaurant. Thank You!!