"The wooden door. The Phyrst Family. Table wars. The sign. Ernie. The Mug Club. Saturday Night. Oh yes, something there is different."
The Phyrst 50: A Bar in a College Town
A Documentary Film From The Nittany Valley Society and BlueWhiteTV celebrating 50 years of The Phyrst
Fifty years ago, a 22-year-old landscape architecture student named Don Bartoletti signed a $250-a-month lease at 111 ½ E. Beaver Ave. for a bar he had wanted to create since arriving in State College four years earlier. This bar would be a welcoming place where businessmen, students, Viet Nam vets, and those just passing through could have a drink, tell a story, sing a song, argue about politics, and do so freely, without prejudice.
In 1969, “Bart” would be joined by a 44-year-old father of five, a WWII vet and an engineer at one of the Defense Department’s largest contractors. Together, the unlikely duo of Don Bartoletti and Ernie Oelbermann would prove the power of a bar was not unlike that of a church. Ecumenical. Sincere.
College towns need these places. At Penn State, dozens of them have come and gone throughout the years, impossibly important for a group of people for a fixed time, and then gone and forgotten just as quickly. And yet, The Phyrst persists.
The wooden door. The Phyrst Family. Table wars. The sign. Ernie. The Mug Club. Saturday Night. Oh yes, something there is different.
Countless thousands love The Phyrst. Few know its story.
The Nittany Valley Society will reveal the fascinating 50-year history of this State College landmark in a feature documentary film this fall.
About the Film
The Phyrst 50: A Bar in a College Town will capture the stories of the people who have helped the local establishment persevere in Happy Valley for half a century. Production is underway and principal filming will take place this summer, including during the daylong 50th anniversary celebration at The Phyrst on August 5. The film will premiere at The State Theatre on November 17.
The Nittany Valley Society has engaged veteran production company BlueWhiteTV, the team behind feature-length films like the Emmy-nominated “The Joe We Know” and “365 Days: A Year in Happy Valley,” to produce the film.
The film will feature interviews with proprietors, staff, and patrons dating back to its founding, rare images, new and archival footage, and original music. An original logo and poster have been created by Bellefonte artist Brian Allen of Flyland Designs.
Thank you for helping us to forever preserve the stories, music, and images of the past to enshrine the cultural significance of The Phyrst.