It was Jack’s Place that onlookers mourned on May 22, 2019, as the demolition crew tore down the building, but the corner of 36th Street and Ocean Drive has been the site of many a last call.
A prior generation grieved the passing of Gallagher’s Pub, and an even earlier clientele mourned the Black Eagle.
That corner on Ocean Drive has had a long history of housing one of Avalon’s hottest night spots, providing excellent food, the latest entertainment, and a welcoming atmosphere.
The Black Eagle Café is said to have been the first Avalon business issued a liquor license by the Borough of Avalon. Over the years, it grew in popularity and size - eventually becoming known to locals as the “Dirty Bird.”
The interior of the Black Eagle.
Advertisements and promotional products used by the Black Eagle - including some that were a tad risqué.
Ownership changed hands several times during the 1940s and 50s, but the Dirty Bird maintained its mayoral connection. Mayor Edith Greenan hosted her infamous “Election Day suppers” at the Black Eagle - a fact which contributed to her downfall after she was accused of busing in non-residents to vote for her. Their alleged reward was a meal at the Black Eagle.
Joe and Mary Ferrigno posing in the parking lot behind the Black Eagle (left); Mayor Edith Greenan (center); Mayor Green posing with participants at an unidentified event (right).
The 1960s saw the Black Eagle come under the ownership of Marie Gallagher, who moved to Avalon in the mid-1940s with her husband Bernie. Together, they also opened Gallagher’s Liquor Store (now Fred’s Avalon Liquor Store).
A few years after Bernie’s passing, Marie opened "Gallagher’s Pub" with the help of her two nephews, John Honor and Jack Erkert. John had worked at the Black Eagle, and Jack was hired to manage the business.
A print ad for Gallagher's Pub.
Marie and her three sisters – Martha Erkert, Margaret Honer, and Helen Lyons - ran the restaurant part of the pub, where their delicious homemade soups and sandwiches had quite a following.
In the early 1970s, Jack Erkert and his wife Joanne approached Marie Gallagher with a plan to buy and run the bar themselves. After she agreed, the Erkert’s first change was renaming it to "Jack’s Place."
The Erkerts had very specific ideas about the kind of bar they wanted and quickly put their plans into action by getting Ocean City DJ Bob Eberland to talk up Jack’s Place on his radio show and broadcast live from the bar.
A menu from Jack's Place.
In 1974, the Erkerts brought the whole Stanley Cup-winning Flyers team to Avalon to participate in a charity softball game. From that point, Avalon had its very own sports bar. Over the years, the Jack’s Place softball team played charity matches against Philadelphia Flyers and Eagles players, drawing hundreds of spectators and raising funds for the Helen L. Diller Vacation Home for the Blind.
Working with Avalon’s business community, local figures, and Philadelphia sports personalities, Jack's Place would regularly host events benefitting local and national charities – even after the Erkerts moved on.
Top: A streetview of Jack's place (left); Jack and Joanne Erkert (center); the Jack's Place softball team (right). Bottom: A jacket worn by staff at Jack's Place.
A 1981 ticket to a charity softball game between Jack's Place and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Regular sporting events, celebrity appearances, and Jack’s unfailing commitment to his customers and community kept loyal patrons coming back. Yet, the Borough was evolving; the summer season was shortening and attitudes were shifting with regard to the late-night party scene. The Erkerts soon realized it was time for a new generation at Jack’s Place.
In the early 1990s, Jack’s Place was sold to the Voellm family. The new owners kept the bar's name and the tradition of summer sporting events, and the popularity of Jack's Place continued until May 20, 2017, when they “broke the seal” for the last time. Demolition day was May 22, 2019.
The sign at Jack's Place shortly before demolition day.