Harry's was a beer joint in Five Points back in the 60s. It was in the location that now hosts the Five Points Bottle Shop. Across Lumpkin, where the Five Points Deli is now located was Hodgsons Pharmacy. Up on the hill behind Harry's, where the new building is going up, was a club with a swimming pool.
But Harry's was the most interesting place in Five Points for us kids. We were told by our parents to stay out of Harry's. It was a beer joint after all. No college students hung out there, back in those days you had to be 21 to drink a beer legally, so Harry's catered to older Athenians. The parking lot was dirt with a little gravel and lots of beer bottle tops pressed down into the dirt over the years. Harry's was owned by, you might have guessed, a nice fellow named Harry. Later on, Harry and his wife would manage a country club out in the south side of Clarke County, Green Hills CC.
One day, three or four of us Five Points kids were riding our bikes and we passed through the parking lot at Harry's. I guess the thrill of at least being in the Harry's parking lot attracted us. We'd ride through there every chance we had, which was at least 5 times a day during the summer. One hot and dry summer day as we rode through the parking lot, Harry himself stepped out of the door and said for us to come in for a minute, he had a Tasmanian Devil to show us. Well now, we were conflicted about this. We had been told by our folks not to go into Harry's. But here was Harry asking us to come in to see a Tasmanian Devil. My conflict lasted about 15 seconds. I got off my bike, leaned it against the wall next to the door, and walked into the joint liked I owned it. So did the other kids.
Boy howdy, that was some sight, seeing 8 or 10 men sitting at a long bar, each one with a beer. The inside was smoky and dark. Beer signs on the wall. Everyone was smoking. There were peanuts in the shell in bowls on the bar. I felt wicked as hell. Harry walked behind the bar and told us kids to pull up a bar stool and he'd get the box that held the Tasmanian Devil. He disappeared into a back room and soon came back out with a wooden and screen box. It was about 4 feet long. 3/4ths of the box was wood. The last 1/4 of it was screen, we called it hardware cloth, but it was a meshed screen with about 1/2 inch mesh. At this end of the box was a door that was latched shut. Harry put the box up on the bar in front of us and told us to sit real still. He told us that the Devil was real shy and very very mean. At this, we began hearing the Devil back there in the darkened back of the box. It was whining and screeching. It sent chills down my back. Harry told us that sometimes it would take several minutes for the Devil to come out into the screened end of the box, but that when it did, we'd all get a good look at it. Well, this must have been one of those times, because nothing much happened other than the whining and screeching got louder and more intense. We were nervous as we could be. This went on for 4 or 5 minutes. Harry kept telling us to be patient, he kept tapping on the top of the box with his hand. His other hand was behind the box, holding it down onto the bar. Harry suggested that one of us move around to the front of the box, the screen end of it, and maybe the Devil would see us and come out. I hopped off my bar stool and moved around to the front of box. The whining and screeching got even louder. Then, to my horror, the latched door fell open and out came the Devil, flying right towards my face. I could hear the screeching at a crescendo by now as I ran my little ass out the front door. Violating Kid Protocol of the day, I left my bike leaning there on the wall as did the other kids. We had one thought in mind and that thought was to get the hell away from the Tasmanian Devil at all costs. I was convinced that I was going to be attacked by that thing. I do remember hearing the men laughing as we ran out of there. I didn't slow down until I was damn near to Highland Avenue. We sat down there on the curb trying to catch our breath and figure out what to do with our bicycles being left there at Harry's. We decided to wait an hour or so, give someone a chance to catch the Tasmanian Devil and get it back in the box. I figured maybe they'd have to call the Fire Department or the Police.
After an hour, we walked back up Millege Circle, cut through the Mathis Aparments lot, and peered over the privet hedge at Harry's and the parking lot. There were our bikes leaning against the wall just like we'd left them. Everything looked normal and quiet. No firetrucks or police cars. We walked up the sidewalk and stood in front of Hodgsons for a time, all the while looking across the street to Harry's. Finally, we decided it was safe, so we crossed the street to retrieve our bikes. Harry met us at the door and told us to come in again, which we were not at all interested in. He said he wanted to show us the trick, so in we went one more time. Harry had the box still on the bar. On top of the box were two tennis balls with a couple of racoon tails attached to them and holding them together as a unit. That was the Tasmanian Devil. Behind the box was a waxed kite string. Harry had put some rosin on his hand and rubbed the string up and down and produced the whining and screeching sound that we thought was the Devil in all its rage. He showed us the hidden latch on top of the box and the spring door which he tripped open. In the back of the box, hidden away in the darkness, was a spring loaded lever which was operated by the same latch.
That was the Tasmanian Devil in its entirety. It damn sure looked like the real deal to us when that door flew open. At least, as much the real deal as any of us kids had ever seen in person, we had no idea what a Tasmanian Devil was, but it was real to us that day. I think back to the work, the effort, the planning, and the implementation of that joke and I am amazed that they came up with that. Of course, back in those days, what else would a group of men do over their beers? There was no TV in Harry's and I suspect the radio only was on during a game. So that was their amusement and I feel privileged now to have been a part of it.