The Cardalians: Antics at Otto’s Bar and the Bowl-a-Rama

The Cardalians is Ralph Horner’s third series of essays, recalling his days in the 1950s as a young man near Cleveland’s Glenville and Collinwood neighborhoods, and the large population of people who came to Cleveland from Cardale, Pennsylvania.

The Cardalian men were a jovial bunch who enjoyed social interactions with each other. Their most common group activities were drinking beer and fist fighting. On Saturday nights, after the beer had been flowing all day, they would sort of choose sides and have a big brawl.

There was always a little complaining from the team that didn't get Harry McCall on their side, but it worked out pretty well overall.

After the brawl was over, they would send out for chili dogs—the national dish of Cardale—and you could just feel the love and fellowship flowing between them, brought out by punching.

There was this kind of Cardalian philosophy that you could not truly love your fellow man until you had rearranged his face a little.

The Cardalians had other outlets for their excess energy, too. One of those outlets was bowling. They loved to bowl, but their brand of bowling was a little less refined than ordinary bowling.  They had many variations of that sport.

One variation was what they called “rainbow” bowling.  Bowl-o-Rama (It was hardly a “Rama” because it only had six lanes) was just down the street from their home away from home, Otto’s bar in Collinwood.

In rainbow bowling, the object was to throw the ball down the alley in a graceful arc about five feet high, have it come down and land in the same lane, and then proceed on its way to the pins.

It took a deft touch. If the ball was thrown too high, it would run out of steam and drop straight down to the alley and roll into the gutter. Thrown too softly, it wouldn't make the distance to the imaginary six-foot minimum and would be a foul and be disqualified. 

A foul also meant that the bowler who threw it would be subject to some blistering, derisive verbal abuse, such as: “Noodle armed, sissy-ass, sissy! Why in a hell don't you learn how to bowl?”

Another bowling variation was called “Bank Shot.” In this version, the ball was thrown very hard into the right gutter of the next alley and if the English on the ball was proper, it would carom back into the alley they were bowling in and knock down some pins.

When the Cardalians became bored with this, they would turn to another of their favorite brand of bowling which they called “shooting gallery.” —throwing the balls at the pin boy while he was resetting the pins.

After a few frames of this the pin boy got tired of ducking and held the balls instead of returning them.

So, they would simply use each other to “man bowl.” Two of them would take a third, one arm and one foot in each hand, and launch him down the alley, arms akimbo like in a swan dive. The Cardalians knew how to have fun!

Maxie, the owner of the bowling alley was not a Cardalian but was familiar with their Visigoth ways. Maxis would never complain, but when their antics reached near-riot proportions his face would get a very unhealthy shade of red, and he would puff furiously on his cigar.

Yes, the Cardalians truly knew how to entertain themselves and it was a bad idea to disrupt their fun.

Another person in this group was not a Cardalian, but he was also very good at verbal skills. The problem was that he used his own language. His name was Johnny McInytre, but he preferred to be called Mogintry—emphasizing the “mo” sound.

In any sentence, as many times as he felt were necessary, Johnny would emphasize this sound: “Mogintry mogoin' to the Ottomos bar to getmo me some beerimo” (“I am going to Otto's bar to have some beers”).

Or he might say, “Mogintry goin mohome to lookymo at dat lil' woomanmo Faithless da fine” (I am going home to see my pretty wife, Faith”).

Oddly enough, we generally knew what Mogintry was saying. Mogintry had one habit that, to me not being a Cardalian, seemed a little odd. That would be stripping to the waist and wearing this huge Native American headdress that he acquired somehow. He was extremely resplendent, but a little pale for the Apache that he pronounced himself to be.

He would go bananas if he found an Indian Head Penny, which was still possible in those days. He would pound on the penny with his finger and excitedly repeat, “Mogintry, Mogintry!” 

One night, Mogintry and I were walking home from Otto’s when a bug of some sort slithered out of the tree lawn and was skittering his way across the sidewalk in front of us. Mogintry stopped dead in his tracks, put his arm in front of me like a school crossing guard, and said to me, “Hode it!  Buggimos is got the right awaymo!” I couldn’t argue with that logic.

Mogintry called his wife Faith, naturally, “Faithless.” Not that she was faithless. Mogintry just liked the way it sounded. Nobody ever questioned Mogintry’s choice of words regarding the English language.

Faith was a sweet, stoic woman who said little about most things and didn't socialize with the Cardalians much. She wasn't a Cardalian, and I think she was a little overwhelmed by them. Anyway, she stayed home almost all of the time and did not begrudge Mogintry his time at Otto's, which was almost every night.

If she ever did decide to visit Otto's she would probably be looked down on because she was not a Cardalian, so they did not approve of her “alien” lineage. What if she accidentally offended Gertie McCall somehow? I shudder to think what would have happened if Gertie decided to put skinny little Faith McIntyre between her mighty bosoms and squeeze!

Ralph Horner
Ralph Horner

About the Author: Ralph Horner

Ralph Horner grew up in the 1950s and 1960s on Whittier Avenue in the Central and Hough neighborhoods. In the 1960s and 1970s, at the age of 19, he managed a French Shriner shoe store on Euclid Avenue, where he got to know many of the people who hung out on Short Vincent.  A self-proclaimed juvenile delinquent living in the inner city, Horner observed the characters who were regulars in the neighborhoods he lived and worked in. Now in his 70s, Horner shares the stories of some of his more memorable experiences on Short Vincent with the FreshWater series, Rascals and Rogues I Have Known.