Letter from High Chimneys: My first 30 days out of the Navy

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By Jack Rue
Special Correspondent for THE CHESAPEAKE
Jack Rue and Commissioner Larry Jarboe lead the 1994 election night party for the GOP sweep in St. Mary's County general election. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Jack Rue and Commissioner Larry Jarboe lead the 1994 election night party for the GOP sweep in St. Mary’s County general election. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

(Editor’s Note: Jack Rue has been a longtime resident of St. Mary’s County. We asked him to tell us how the beginnings of Lexington Park as the business hub of the county took form. —   This was Jack Rue’s first column in The Chesapeake and was first published in August of 1988, ten years before his suspicious death.)

Lt. Jack Rue, Naval Aviator and Ghost Writer for THE CHESAPEAKE

Lt. Jack Rue, Naval Aviator and Ghost Writer for THE CHESAPEAKE

I had the good fortune to fly six congressmen around the world, heading west. It is claimed that this was a first as it was against the prevailing winds. When I received orders I was unsure about whether I should go regular Navy, go back to Ann Arbor and get my law degree or simply to hang my hat here.
Jack Rue in WWII

Jack Rue in WWII

My wife Penny and I went to see Mr. W. J. MacNeil, assistant sectary of the Navy, and two congressmen. They suggested that I ship over and continue to fly VIP’s. I told Mr. MacNeil, known affectionately as Mr. Mac, that we were considering opening a business in Lexington Park. MacNeil noted that Patuxent River NAS was going to be one of the largest naval air stations in the world because of its proximity to Washington, D.C. He also said that the runways over the water, the availability of 7,000 acres and the air space reserved for testing were all positive indications of continued growth.

He also said he wanted to come down and see us and asked me to show him the base. He came down on a Sunday and said he wanted to see the base anonymously. There was a picnic going on at the Officers’ Club and we walked around. Admiral Shouffle was there and I introduced him. On Monday morning, the admiral called me and nicely advised me to advise him when I had distinguished visitors. I told him I’d comply the next time I brought Winston Churchill.

 

Daugherty introduced me to Phillip E. Grey and we signed a lease, which occurred in the spring of ’46. The county was wide open, all types of gambling everywhere.

I had not seen Cadet (Jack) Daugherty since our Pensacola, Fla. Days. Penny and I went to the club about August 1945. There was a big band and Capt. and Mrs. Daugherty were jitterbugging. They had a large crowd watching them and I hollered, “Hey Dog, you dance better than you fly.” That is where it all started.

Jack Daugherty in 1989. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Jack Daugherty in 1989. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

He had bought an acre outside the gate where Raley’s Furniture Store is, saying he was going to open a gas station. I said I had been to Hi Millison and that I wanted to open a clothing store. He asked if I had ever run a clothing store before and I said, “No.” Then he said, “Every time I see you, you are sitting on a bar stool. Get behind the bar where the cash register is and get some of your money back.”

I responded, “Fearless Leader, that is the best advice that one pilot can give to another.” The reason he and Gabe Gabrelcik are well-to-do now and I am a pauper is they were selling gas by the gallon and I was selling booze by the ounce. I could also drink my product and they couldn’t.

Larry Millison at construction site of Millison Plaza in Lexington Park. Photo courtesy of Commissioner Larry Millison

Larry Millison at the construction site of Millison Plaza in Lexington Park. Photo courtesy of Commissioner Larry Millison

Daugherty introduced me to Phillip E. Grey and we signed a lease, which occurred in the spring of ’46. The county was wide open, all types of gambling everywhere.

The Chesapeake Tales & Scales in Kindle, paperback and Audible

The Chesapeake Tales & Scales in Kindle, paperback and Audible

I went to see C. B. (Dick) Greenwell, Clerk of the Court and got my liquor license. He asked me only one question: “Are you a citizen of the United States?” I replied, “I did not buy these medals, wings and uniform at a pawn shop”.

Then I asked if I should go to the liquor board and the health department. He said, “We have none”. When I asked about Sunday sales, he replied, “I drink Saturday afternoons and Sundays and don’t refuse to sell me a drink.”

I wondered about slot machines, and again he said, “We have none.” They were illegal at the time. You paid $50 annual tax to the federal government. Slots were on all the naval bases — they were legal on federal property.

My brother Medric had just gotten out of the Navy as a cadet, and he came to help us. Ken asked me to write ‘My First Month Out of the Navy’. Being in transports, my flying was similar to the airlines — only 80 hours a month with little of the time off (except when I had line duty.)

They both should have checked their wallets. President Bill Clinton meets Jack Rue.

They both should have checked their wallets. President Bill Clinton meets Jack Rue.

Penny, Med and I spent our time restoring Batty’s Purchase and the two tenant houses for rentals. The “Rue Purchase Road” was a logging trail; we borrowed a truck and the county loaded gravel from the Hayden Farm, which Jim Dobry bought later. Chap Thompson was head of county and state roads. The shovel was at the pit. I saw Hayden and asked how much a load. He said, “Fifty centers.” I asked who was going to count the loads, to which he replied, “You are.” Oh, for the good old days!

After we bought Batty’s Purchase, I went to the county commissioners — J. Frank Raley Sr., Frank Bailey and Matt Bailey — and asked them to take the road over. When I left, Eddie O’Brien (no relation to the present O’Brien’s — unless you go back to Ireland) came in and they said, “Who does that lieutenant think he is? We have natives who have been waiting 40 years for us to take over their roads.” O’Brien said I was not a bad guy.

We put beer on ice in garbage cans, booze and paper cups on boards, and the customers helped themselves. “Rue’s Roost” never closed! All our help pitched in on the move. Fran Harris came with us on the Friday morning of the opening.

 

He had the best club in the county. It was called Esperanza and it sat at the end of Green Holly Road where John Lore built his home. The clubhouse had a successful fire (how do you start a flood?).

We spent the summer of ’46 getting supplies for “Rue’s Roost,” buying some new furniture from Woodies and getting wagon wheels from the 7

Larry Millison - The Jewish Cowboy 1953 Baltimore Sun

Larry Millison – The Jewish Cowboy 1953 Baltimore Sun

My Navy friends named the place; they kept asking when “Rue’s Roost” was going to open. The old one was where Raley’s Furniture store is and we had a locker club upstairs for the enlisted men as they were not allowed to wear “civvies” aboard the base.

When you go to the new Roost, you will see the same bar, wagon wheels, etc. Mr. Page built both bars, and they got the brick for the fireplace from the old slave quarters at Tudor Hall — so they say.

Charlie Himmelheber built the new Roost, and Jackson Raley helped build it. We opened the old Roost on Good Friday, 1947. I called three of my skippers, and they put this in the plan of the day for a week. “Jack Rue, one of our plane commanders, is opening a bar this Friday at 1800 — all hands turn out.”

 

We opened the old Roost on Good Friday, 1947. I called three of my skippers, and they put this in the plan of the day for a week. “Jack Rue, one of our plane commanders, is opening a bar this Friday at 1800 — all hands turn out.”

It was payday, I thought the Navy marched out. There were very few cars and civilian clothes in 1946. Rationing was still on. The old Roost was supposed to be a hardware store, I am still biting nails.

Vote for Rue! The WWII Ace ran for president of the St. Mary's Board of Commissioners in the GOP primary in 1994 and again for Board of Education. He kept both races from being dominated by boring and mundane candidates. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Vote for Rue! The WWII Ace ran for president of the St. Mary’s Board of Commissioners in the GOP primary in 1994 and again for Board of Education. He kept both races from being dominated by boring and mundane candidates. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

The “know-it-alls” said we would go broke because we had tablecloths. You could not get near the place on Friday or Saturday. George Aud came in Sunday. I did not know him.

He said, “Where are your name brands of booze?”

We had none. He went to his liquor store and brought me two cases of assorted booze — VO, scotch etc. When I asked him how much I owed him, he said that salesmen would be here the next week to sell me all the good brands, adding, “This is a nice place, keep it that way.” I said “Aye, aye, sir!” Where do you find a friend like that?

Jack Daugherty's gas station and original Roost. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY

Jack Daugherty’s gas station and original Roost. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY

We opened the present Roost (now the Lexington) on September 15, 1950. It was another Friday — payday — and we did not close the doors until about 3 am on Monday. Johnny Dolak, Jack Daugherty, Bill Chapman, Harry Buckley and myself carried the bar top down the street from the old to the new Roost — cobwebs and all. I called it atmosphere.

We put beer on ice in garbage cans, booze and paper cups on boards, and the customers helped themselves. “Rue’s Roost” never closed! All our help pitched in on the move. Fran Harris came with us on the Friday morning of the opening.

People ask me why I sold the place. “The booze got stronger, my wife nervouser and the girls faster.”

Any other questions?

 

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