Time for another installation of memories of growing up in the Newburgh/New Windsor area. Today, I am talking about the Tom Cat. The Tom Cat was this little bar on the corner of Route 32 and Willow Lane in New Windsor. And it may have been the Tom Kat with a K, but I can’t really remember.

Back then the drinking age was 18, and you could pretty much get into the Tom Cat if you were 15 or over. I went there when I was 15 and I looked about 12. I remember when I went there for the first time I was so surprised that I got in, and even more surprised when they served me a drink. What was my drink of choice? It was a tequila sunrise. It was the only drink I really knew, and that’s because of the song of the same name by The Eagles. And everyone smoked cigarettes. Inside of the bar.

For a couple of years that’s what my friends and I did every Friday night. We’d have a parent drop us off at a friend’s house, or at Carrol’s, a burger place that became Burger King. Then we’d walk to the Tom Cat. We’d always get a driving (but probably shouldn’t be) friend to take us home. And the night would end in the bathroom at home with my head in the bowl. And we actually considered that a great night.

We’ve come a long way from those days. The Tom Cat no longer exists, the drinking age is 21, and you’d better be 21 and able to prove it. And most people know better than to drink and drive. Was it fun? It sure was. Would I want my kid growing up in those days? No way!

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