CELEBRATING OWNER BOBBY WILSON’S 24TH YEAR AND 66TH BIRTHDAY THIS WEEKEND
By Kevin Hogencamp
PUTNEY — It would be the easy way out, sort of an obvious thing to do if you’re chatting it up with your pals in northwest Albany, for example.
But, if you wanted to be downright honest about it, it just wouldn’t be accurate to label the POB as a redneck bar.
So, resist the temptation.
It just ain’t one.
First, the guys in this nothin-fancy concrete block home-away-from home for the working class are in relatively good shape, it seems. The rough-and-tumble types must go somewhere else in south Dougherty County for their Bud Light and NASCAR. The pool players here treat a cue like a conductor’s baton and clearly aren’t afraid to strike softly and embrace the reality that geometry is their friend.
And if you’re looking for a brawl, this roadside institution that seems to mock time and technology (Wi-Fi?, Why, no!) isn’t your place, either. You might see one knock-down-drag-out a year here. But you might not. And it’s damned difficult to find a Confederate flag – much less someone in a pair of overalls.
The owner? You mean that diminutive fellow behind the bar who hankers to flatter customers by memorizing what they’re drinking lately?
Clearly, Bobby Wilson – who has owned the joint for 24 year this week – is more lover than fighter.
Sure, this joint is down-home – but hospitality is its No. 1 feature.
“Why do I keep coming back here?” said Jet Joyner, repeating a reporter’s question, clearly wanting do to his very best to present his favorite hangout – his only hangout, for that matter – in a good light.
“It’s because everybody really does know who you are, and everyone really does care for you,” he said. “We really are all friends, even the strangers who come in.
“And yes, everybody knows everybody’s name.”
Yep, this is Cheers — in flannel shirts, steel-toed boots and truck-stop bumper stickers (“somebody brought one and put it up, and it just stuck,” Wilson said.).
Dan Hays’ son visited from Arizona recently. What was his favorite part of the trip to the South? Why, the POB.
“Laid back. Friendly. What you want to walk into at the end of the day, whether you’re home or visiting from out of town,” said Hays.
Putney Oyster Bar favorite hangouts on his 42nd birthday, Aug 15, 1986, a couple years after it opened, when the shoe salesman finally popped the question:
Gwen, can I buy this place?
Or something like that.
And so he did.
And the rest is history.
The POB, as it would later become, emerged from an oyster bar into a regional music scene, luring folks from Leesburg to Sylvester to Moultrie to Camilla and even Cuthbert. Shiloh was one of the big bands that filled the little joint, which Wilson expanded by 500 square feet or so. And there was the likes of Pete Peterson, (Uncle) Ed and Joy Washburn, Hat Trick and Mandatory.
“We had ‘em all. All of ‘em loved to play here,” Wilson said.
Today, the highly competitive Wednesday-night pool tournament draws 20 or 30 contestants. The entry fee is still just $5. Thursday is Customer Appreciation Night and the grill will crank out some oysters from time to time, but Tommy Sizemore’s wings and beef tips are the biggest draws. Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for karaoke or live music featuring the likes of Faith Jackson and the Thomasville duo Phil and Teresa among others.
Twelve years ago, Wilson’s son, Tommy, joined his dad as a POB fixture. It wasn’t Tommy’s first rodeo at 2408 Liberty Expressway. He started hanging with dad on the job at age 8. When he was 11, he entered – and won — his first pool tournament, whipping – and angering – one of the area’s renowned players, something he’s still prone to do.
Gwen and one of Tommy’s two sisters, Dena, used to pitch in with the family business. Today, though, it’s Ashley, Tommy’s wife, who helps pull it all together.
“I always wanted a club and being able to have the family as part of this dream’s a blessing,” Bobby Wilson said.
There have been tough times – but no tough years, really.
Instead, “you take the good times with the bad times and the important thing is to keep working and to stick it out,” Bobby Wilson said.
The Wilsons say even though she rarely pops her head in the place any more, Gwen, the POB matriarch, is the soul of the family business.
“The sacrifices she’s made, she’s been right here for us, always supportive. I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate her,” Bobby Wilson said.
Bobby sold his shoe store at the mall last year, freeing up some time. But as the coming years slip by, he sees Tommy gradually taking the POB’s wheel.
Dean Sizemore, a utility company worker, says the POB is one of Putney’s foundations.
“We all grew up here in Putney, mostly, us regulars,” he said. “We ain’t all the same age, but we have known each other all of our lives, and like this place, none of us are going anywhere. “
THIS WEEK AT THE P.O.B.: The 24th anniversary celebration continues tonight with a big tool tournament; Thursday with a Customer Appreciation Day cookout featuring Tommy Sizemore’s grilled wings; Friday with POB newcomer Landis Frier; and Saturday with POB favorite Faith Jackson.