Joe Jost’s Antler Lighting Continues

By: 
Kirt Ramirez

The antlers are lit up for Christmas at Joe Jost’s.

During a football game on a packed Sunday afternoon, Dec. 1, an employee powered-up a strand of old-fashioned, colored Christmas lights, draped on an old pair of deer antlers. The crowd stopped whatever they were doing to watch the light-up at 3 p.m. and some even took pictures.

Most of the bulbs glowed, but some did not.

For those who correctly guessed the number of working bulbs; they got a free beer.

This custom at the rustic tavern at 2803 E. Anaheim St. has gone on for many years. Employees and customers recall the antler lightings as far back as they can remember, but no one seemed to know exactly why or when the unconventional tradition started.

Original owner Joe Jost founded the Long Beach saloon in 1924. His maternal grandson, Ken Buck, owns the pub today.

“I am 69, grew up in Joe’s and this tradition has been done as far as I can remember,” Buck said through email.

“The lights are lit the 1st of December and turned off the 31st,” he added. “At this time all the lights are re-tightened. Over the next 11 months, probably due to street vibration, some lights loosen. A complimentary beer goes to the correct choice.”

Asked why the number three was chosen, as in 3 p.m., for the lights to come on, Buck did not have an answer.

Jost was born in Istranfold, Hungary, which is present-day Yugoslavia and at age 12 he had a choice of either becoming a priest or getting a job, according to a “Joe Jost the Man” article written by Buck’s wife, Cathleen in 1994, a write-up available at www.joejosts.com.

Regarding how many of the 15 lights would illuminate, Fourth District Councilman Daryl Supernaw gave the public an opportunity to guess and win prizes via his weekly emailed newsletter. Guesses had to be submitted via a form by 3 p.m. Dec. 1.

“The five participants with the closest guesses will each win chances for a Joe Jost’s $20 gift certificate,” Supernaw wrote. “The five winners will be announced in our Dec. 6th Go Fourth! Friday newsletter.”

Meanwhile, a landmark known for its cold beer, root beer, Polish sausage sandwiches, roasted Marmion’s peanuts and famous pickled eggs, Buck said more than 20,000 Joe Jost’s pickled eggs are sold during the Christmas season.

And the annual Christmas T-shirt remains a popular item this time of the year, Buck said.

The sports bar turned 95 this year and in celebration of the anniversary, “We donated 50% of sales that day to the Prostate Cancer Foundation,” Buck added.

Russ Blayney worked at Joe Jost’s during his college years from 1985 to 1989. The place is special to him, as he met his wife there. He remains a regular customer.

“I started in ’85 and we were doing the antlers back then,” Blayney said, while sporting a Joe Jost’s reindeer hat with battery-operated red lights.

“We’d dust off the old-school bulbs,” he said of the antler display. “People would gather to see how many lights would come on.”

He said many of the current customers are people he knew from his time working there in the 1980s.

“I’ve been coming here since 1975,” said Rudolfo Nuñez. “This place never changes.”

A former Long Beach resident, Nuñez drops by Joe Jost’s at least twice a month when he’s in the area.

“I have to stop here and get a beer, pretzels and eggs,” he said.

And he arranges to meet with friends at the pub whenever possible.

Nuñez said he has watched the different generations come in over the years.

Mariano Bonilla has gone to Joe Jost’s for 40 years. He used to bring his children – and then grandchildren. His 23-year-old grandson visits on his own.

“It’s a good place,” Bonilla said. “It’s a family-oriented place.”

kirt@beachcomber.news

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