Wednesday, September 29, 2010


"I DIDN'T MAKE A MILLION" is the title of a book written by WHITEY SMITH and published in Manila, Philippines, in 1961, by the Lawrence R. Doran Publishing.........It is one of my regrets that I did not at the time I had the opportunity, and also some others as well, to buy the book and have it autographed by Whitey Smith(which he was always perfectly willing to do for those who bought it)...... Whitey Smith ran one of the finest restaurants in Manila at the time I made his 'acquaintence' as did many others who frequented the place...of course, there were other restaurants in that section of the Ermita which I may discuss sometime or elsewhere...... The name of the restaurant was TOWN'S TAVERN and the last time I tried to go there, I found it had been turned into a bank....and soon after his retirement,etc. Whitey Smith passed away....... This restaurant also sort of set a group of standards for me that I often use to rate or judge other similar establishments.....in that you never had to ask for your glass of water to be refilled as waiters all quickly noticed such and responded even before you could glance around or try to indicate such....I never knew one to miss a refill... The tables all came with appetizers of a tray of peanuts and a tray of pickles.....and the walls were decorated in places with photos(black and white and often signed or autographed by notables, newspaper men, officials, movie stars, celebrities,etc.) of anyone who was someone who ate there and usually at times, more than once.....I never was asked to supply my own photo to hand there and perhaps this oversight was a great blessing.......so I'd never have had to explain why my physiog was hanging in the place.... Around the bar, overhead, if I recall, there was a working model train or railroad that was sometimes set in motion during the dining evenings and the bar was busy and elegant and Whitey always seemed to be behind it most of the time.....never under it...... With my friends, like Bill and Ron, or with some damsel I often ate there when in Manila and I had a few Thanksgiving and Christmas meals there also.....but can't recall if it was before or after the actual holidays........ Ron bought Whitey's book and it was one of those things that I always thought the book would be there as he had them on each table for sale at a steal...pesos not dollars....now they run for big bucks of some kind and are a rarity. What I found interesting in perusing Ron's copy was that Whitey had started out in Shanghai with his wife Helen,had led a band in the ASTOR HOUSE HOTEL and had done some boxing, about which I always intended to ask him, especially if he knew anything about 'Chinese Boxing' but,like the buying of his book, I never got around to doing this.Procrastination! The disease of tommorrow....the manana habit...bukas na! Whitey had been in Shanghai during the Japanese takeover and was able after the war to settle in Manila with his wife,etc. Well, the point is that TOWN'S TAVERN was a meeting place for Western journalists, 'diplomats' of lower echelons, operatives and agents and gatherers of information and researchers and just ordinary diners who wanted good food and drink....and there were others where such things went on......some rather obvious and others not so obvious....but all this will have to wait for another time if ever.....

1 comment:

  1. I was acquainted with Whitey when I was stationed across the bay at Sangley Point. As a young sailor in 1968, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to him by family of expat Americans. Al Doherty was a retired Marine Colonel living in Makati. He worked for American Motors. He and his wife had lived in Australia long enough for their two daughters, Michelle and Debbie Doherty to grow up with Australian accents.

    But I am getting of the subject. Town's Tavern was certainly a great restaurant. I remember the most tender, flavorful steaks of my life there. I think, after all of this time, the main reason I still eat red meat is to find another steak like that one.

    Besides the food and decor, the big attractions at Town's Tavern at the time were Jerry the piano player, Whitey's wife Helen, the interesting and sometimes unusual clientele and, of course Whitey himself.

    Jerry could not forget a song. Al Doherty told me that if you asked him to play a song for you once, he would remember it and play it for you when ever you came in. For lack of a better choice, I asked him to play "Some Enchanted Evening" and it stuck.

    Whitey's White-Russian wife Helen enjoyed sitting at the bar singing old Russian songs.

    The Town's Tavern was a stop for many locals and expat Americans traveling through the Far East. They mostly had interesting backgrounds and stories-- well, especially for a nineteen-year-old sailor.

    As for Whitey, he was always entertaining. He had just completed his second book, "Whitey of Shanghai" and he signed a copy for me.

    Whitey said that he never forgot a face and I believe it is true. I left the Philippines in January 1969. When I returned in May of 1970 when I was stationed aboard the USS Coral Sea, I dropped in to the Town's Tavern.

    Whitey was sitting at the bar and when he saw me come in, he stood up and came over and greeted me with his warm wide open smile and a handshake and said, "Your looking great! You've gained a little weight, but it looks good on you."

    We chatted awhile and I sat at the bar with him and ordered a drink. When Jerry came back from his break and sat at his grand piano with the ceramic smiling-Buddha statue sitting in the middle of it, the first song he played was "Some Enchanted Evening". For a few minutes, I felt at home.