Nostalgic Madison

In a Capitol-centric model of Dane County, Madison is like the inner solar system. The Capitol itself is like the Sun. Remember, though, that Kepler showed that the planets follow elliptical paths. Ellipses, as you recall from high-school math, have two foci. In my model of Madison, one of these foci must be Mickies Dairy Bar. (The other must be somewhere on the east side. Possibly the Crystal Corner Bar? Or, maybe Mickey’s Tavern? The subject for another post.)

Mickies Dairy Bar, Madison, Wisconsin (2016)

I’ve felt the gravitational pull of Mickies Dairy Bar for about 50 years. I remember stopping there with my parents to pick up milk and other items back when it doubled as a diner and grocery store. The grocery items were located on one side of the store, either in a cooler or on a few shelves.

When I was older, I could walk to Mickies along the train tracks that passed near our house on Commonwealth Avenue. If a train overtook me, or approached around the bend, I would hide in the weedy bushes a few feet from the tracks. It never occurred to me to walk on a sidewalk! Arriving safely after this adventure, I would buy some snacks, then take them across the street to be consumed in the “nose-bleed” seats of the University of Wisconsin Field House. In those days, the basketball Badgers had no shot at the Final Four, or even a Big Ten title, but a kid could just stroll up through the snow of a late winter evening and get himself a ticket at the house that Walter Meanwell built.

Later, as a University of Wisconsin student, I looked forward to a weekly repast, alternating between meatloaf, gravy and “Yanks” and a dish of liver and onions. Whatever I ordered, I always followed it with a vanilla milkshake.

On July 5, 2016, as Rita and I returned from some errands, we stopped at Mickies one last time, where we enjoyed grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches, Yanks, and, of course, shared a final milkshake.

Mickies no longer sells groceries, and on football game day it’s as difficult to find a seat there as in the overflowing Camp Randall across the street. The milkshakes, the food and the atmosphere haven’t changed a bit, though. If you ever find yourself in a Madison orbit, make sure you schedule a landing on planet Mickies.

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