Churchill remembered at Hotel Bethlehem event
It was "carry on," "cheerio" and "old chap" at the Hotel Bethlehem's recent dinner in honor of World War II British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, one of the many world dignitaries and celebrities who have stayed at the 90-year-old historic hotel.
Churchill was invited to visit Bethlehem in 1929 by Charles M. Schwab, then president of Bethlehem Steel, which hosted all of its VIP guests at the Hotel B. That summer and early fall, Churchill had been on a tour of Canada and the United States. The son of American mining heiress Jenny Jerome, Churchill was in New York City on Oct. 30, the worst day of the stock market crash.
In commemoration of the great British statesman's visit in 1929, the hotel's Tap Room offered a special authentic food and drink menu, along with British-inspired entertainment. If you looked carefully, you could even spot Winston, himself, in the person of Dave Schaff, hanging out at the bar. He had popped by to hear the music and enjoy his favorite stogie and liquid libation.
Schaff admitted that he actually was an engineer at the hotel who had done such a good job playing Santa at Christmas, the management thought he could impersonate Churchill.
"I do have a little bulldog face," Schaff observed.
Seeing "Churchill" at the bar was a reminder of one of the stories that were often told by or about the great man. Allegedly, a socialite once exclaimed in his presence, "Sir, you are drunk," to which Churchill replied, "Madam, you are ugly. In the morning, I shall be sober."
One of the alcoholic beverages Churchill might have enjoyed in his day, and the one that was on the Hotel Bethlehem's Churchill Dinner menu, is Strongbow's Hard Cider, a dry beverage made from a blend of bitter-sweet cider and culinary apples imported from Hereford, England. It was very popular in Great Britain, as well as in America before Prohibition. Today, it is one of the top 10 drinks sold in English and Welsh pubs.
The night's nosh, of course, had to be traditional fish and chips - translation, batter-dipped haddock and French (freedom) fries. Served, of course, with salt and malt vinegar, and accompanied by cole slaw. Topping off the fare was rum raisin toffee bread pudding.
Helping set the proper English tone for the evening was singer Jennifer Beierie, a musical performance major at Moravian College. Her tribute to the music of Great Britain included selections from the Great American Songbook, which contains many contributions from British composers, such as London-born Sir George Shearing and Elvis Costello. Beierie was accompanied by Lou Lanza, who also happens to be her music teacher, and who belted out a few numbers of his own to the delight of listeners.
By way of a review, the Winston Churchill Dinner was a worthy tribute to the prime minister. The fried haddock portion was huge, came crispy, moist and piping hot. The bread pudding was a bit dry, but you could certainly taste the rum. Winnie would have approved.