For many, it is often difficult to imagine gay gathering places in the decades before the Stonewall riots of the 1960s, and nearly impossible to think of such communities outside the nation's largest cities. Yet such places did exist, and their histories tell amazing stories of survival and the struggle for acceptance and self-respect. When Ricardo J. Brown died in 1999, he left a compelling memoir of his youth and experiences as a young gay man in St. Paul. After being discharged from the navy for revealing his sexual orientation to a commanding officer in 1945, Brown returned to his hometown with a new self-awareness and a desire to find a group of people like himself. He discovered such a place in Kirmser's.
A small neighborhood bar owned by a German immigrant couple in St. Paul's downtown, Kirmser's served working-class customers during daylight hours, but became an unofficial home to the gay men and lesbians who gathered there nightly in the years following World War II. The Evening Crowd at Kirmser's introduces us to often humorous but frequently tragic stories of those who would become the author's friends: Flaming Youth, a homely, sardonic man who carried the nickname from his younger years ironically into middle age; Bud York, the "All-American Boy," who seduced all with his wholesome good looks and confidence; Dickie Grant, a likable, gentle boy who is arrested for writing bad checks and is murdered while in prison; and Dale, the author's best friend, who suddenly loses his job of six years after an anonymous note informed his employer that he is gay.
A revealing look at the origins of gay culture in a mid-sized city and among working-class people, The Evening Crowd at Kirmser's is destined to become a rare and unique classic.