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Heads Up! Andresen’s a living example of a 1940’s bar

Part Three of the Argus-Courier’s ‘Historic Old Bars of Petaluma’ series|

If only they could talk - those thirty animal heads mounted on the walls of Andresen’s Tavern - what tales they could tell. For going on 80 years, they have witnessed all sorts of things. Like the time someone brought a horse into the bar, one of Petaluma’s two oldest drinking establishments, founded in the early 1940s by Hans Andresen.

There’s a photo to prove it.

Or the time a young camel was brought in.

Or the time Helga, the bartender for three decades, subdued a young man attempting to rob the place. Or the day members of the WCTU, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, swarmed the bar to protest the evils of alcohol.

“The ladies were all in their 80s,” Kathy Andresen, third-generation owner of the tavern, recalls. The 1979 San Francisco Chronicle headline read, “WCTU pray in a Petaluma tavern.”

The past is definitely alive at Andresen’s.

The single long, narrow room is dim but not dark. The bar runs the length of the room. There is no pool table.

“My grandfather always said, no pool table,” Andresen said.

The bar was used for a scene in the 1991 remake of Hitchcock’s 1943 classic Shadow of a Doubt.

“Some films should not be remade,” Andresen noted with a smile.

The floor is open in a way that feels old-fashioned. This is a clean empty space for drinking. No food is served. But you can buy a bottle to go, a singular feature of Andresen’s. An open cupboard displays the inventory and prices (a fifth of Jack Daniels, $29).

“I’ve had lots of offers to buy that retail license,” Andresen said.

There is a contrast between the uncluttered space that greets you and the crowded walls. The trophies - bison, lion, moose, elk, wild goat, antelope, lynx, boar, deer - come from the hunters in the Andresen family.

“We have names for all them,” Andresen said. The two huge Bavarian elk heads are gifts from friends in Germany. “They must be about a hundred years old,” she said.

The tavern is very clean, despite what Andresen terms constant dust of endless construction, thanks to her hard work.

“I clean all the heads,” she said. “I’ve got it down pretty good. You start at the top and work your way down.”

She climbs a ladder to vacuum the fur and oil the horns.

“And don’t forget the eyes,” she said.

The walls also contain a veritable arsenal, not just hunting tools but handguns, handcuffs and instruments perhaps better left unexplained.

The floor has its own story, too.

A sign in the corner explains that it came from the Lurline, a luxury ship that once sailed between Honolulu and San Francisco. The rubber tiles are a quarter-inch thick. Oddly, a family member once danced on the floor at sea, while both Hans and his son Hank walked on it during the war when the Lurline served as troop transport.

“You can still see a few marks from the high heels the woman wore on the ship’s dance floor,” Andresen pointed out.

An old sign on the bar harkens back to Petaluma’s poultry-producing past.

“Member

Poultry Producers

of Central California.

$250 reward

for commission of felony by

Chicken Thieves

stealing from this ranch.”

There are vintage posters here and there, another tell-tale sign of the tavern’s past.

A black-and-white poster from the “The African Queen,” shows Bogart opening a crate, and having discovered it filled with bottles of gin, he smiles one of those rare Bogey smiles.

Another old poster announces, “Young men are wanted for U.S. Navy.”

Amidst the clutter of the bar, Patty Hearst, as “Tania,” glares at patrons from an FBI wanted poster.

“Jim Casey, the man who arrested Patty, was a regular here,” Andresen said.

What would a bar be without a thought-for-the-day? Posted on the bar is this reminder that we get the leaders we deserve.

“There they go!

I must hasten

after them

for I am their leader-”

Though some historic drinking holes in the area have made concessions to the present, advertising wifi or adding popular craft beers, Andresen’s has remained stubbornly the same.

That’s just the way Andresen likes it.

“Nothing has changed here,” she said. “Why would you change it? If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Andresen’s Tavern is at 19 Western Ave. Opens at 4 p.m. (usually) Tuesday–Saturday

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