FOX San Antonio - The Valdes View
By: Michael Valdes
When Bob Scalise opened "The Fountain Room" in 1953, it was never his full-time job. Scalise would spend his career at Kelly Air Force Base.
"He kept long hours," says his daughter, Celeste Scalise Qubrosi. "He would come in early. He would come back late. And he was very particular about who he hired."
Sitting in her father's favorite spot, Celeste Scalise remembers how he didn't care much for fools or drunks. Something you find plenty of in a bar.
"He had a real low thresh hold for obscenity and profanity. People don't think about that considering it's a bar, but he would kick them out."
"Once in a while, we get a bad one. I just tell them, this is not that kind of bar," says Nora Noin, who has managed the bar for more than three decades. She considers her customers family and the walls are filled with their pictures. Pictures that are now proof of The Fountain Room's special place in San Antonio's political past and present. There are even pictures Julian and Joaquin Castro at a much younger age.
"Often times the discussions, both philosophical and political activist discussions would take place for hours here and the language would get a little looser as the evening progressed," says political professor Richard Gambitta. He first found "The Fountain Room" in the early seventies, alongside the late political activist Willie Velasquez. Willie's brother, George, recalls how the bar became a gathering spot for young Saint Mary's Law students and Kelly workers. And a rallying spot for working class people who were set on taking a stand for simple things like roads, drainage, better schools.
"They were basic. Just basic," says George Velasquez. "And the thing was, that no matter what barrio you came from. No matter what high school you came from. All the problems were the same. Not just in San Antonio, but all over Texas. So that made it very easy to organize."
"Not everybody that came here agreed politically," says Scalise. "we had Republicans, Democrats, far right wing people, far left wing people. But everybody's opinions were tolerated."
And that, Celeste says, ultimately goes back to the man who started it all and created a place where people were treated with respect and a community came together to stand up for it.
"I think I will miss the Fountain Room at some particular time because my father was just so much a part of it," says Scalise. "And a lot of the customers are just like family."
Noin agrees, "Maybe I can find some room at my house. They can all come drink at the house," she says with a laugh.
"The Fountain Room" shared the building with a US Post Office close to Saint Cloud and Bandera. That post office closed last month.
The building will come down to make room for a new Wal-Mart.
Wednesday, November 7 2012, 12:13 AM CST
The Valdes View Blog
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