COTTAGE GROVE – Are the good times really over for good at the Village Green?
If you ask some of the longtime regulars of the iconic hotel — known for having live music at least six nights a week in the lounge — rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. With a change in ownership for the first time in more than 60 years, the Village Green closed its doors to the public on Thursday, Sept. 30.
“A year from now, this place is gonna be hopping,” said Don Place, a 17-year resident of Cottage Grove. “They’re going to throw a lot of money at this place, and somebody is going to come in and run it as a separate entity. The guy who’s coming in is going to build it back up.
“I don’t know how long it’s gonna take, but they have the money. Oh yeah, it’s gonna be back.”
Place said his occupation is “chasing music, good music, old-time music … Frank Sinatra. I don’t like noise.” He was at the Green with longtime couple Dennis Calvino and Tracy Quigley. The three of them like to go to music festivals together.
“I played my last show here last night,” Calvino said last Wednesday night. “I’ve played for 50 years.”
How is he going to fill the void?
“Well, we do live in a motorhome,” said Calvino, 66. “Our plan before Covid was to stop and play when we need money. Just stop and play for money and food and drinks … I’ve done that before.”
When Quigley thinks of all the good times she’s had at the Green, she can’t believe it has closed down. She had moved to the Grove in 1973, at age 6, and had immediately become a regular, as two of her brothers worked there.
“As I got older and started going there, there was a handsome bartender named Michael and we went together for a while,” Quigley said. “Sometimes, even in January, we would strip down and jump in the pool and then go back and forth to the hot tub. This went on for quite some time.
“Then we got busted by one of the night guards, and he was like, ‘All right guys, get out ... in like 20 minutes or so.’”
Ah, the memories …
“Back in the day this was the place to be,” Quigley said. “It was set up differently. There was a baby grand piano in the corner. We came out during the week and Mark Richard and his sisters owned it, and he came out and played piano. We always had the best time in this place.”
Beth Somemore said her life has featured many epic moments at the Green.
“I started coming here to the Copper Rooster for breakfast at age 10 or 11,” she said. “Then in the ninth grade our whole class was shipped over here and the cheerleaders stole the silver. It was quite a big deal at the time.
“I came to the Sunday brunches for decades. Then I was in my 50s when my son’s wedding was here. I went to many, many Halloween parties here, and of course the annual Christmas lights.”
And there was the occasional Caddyshack prank.
“Kids used to throw candy bars in the pool now and then,” Somemore said.
Oddly enough, the last musician to take stage before the Green’s final curtain call Wednesday night was Gary Millard, whose doctor says he needs to keep singing to prolong his life, nevermind his career.
“I’ve got COPD. I play these gigs because my doctor says keep doing it because it works. I want to keep my music going,” said Millard, who lived in Cottage Grove for four years before relocating to Elkton last year. “I smoked three packs for 13 years -- it’s been almost 30 years since I’ve had one. I had a heart attack and I went for my last checkup and I had COPD.
“My mom was a Christian and one night she says, ‘Hey, do you get dizzy spells when you smoke?’ I said, ‘Yeah, lately.’ She said, ‘Good.’ She was saying that so I would quit, and I did.”
Since he was playing the final show at the Village Green, Millard, 64, made sure to play some of his sentimental favorites, like “Old Habits” by Hank Williams Jr. (“my most requested song”) and “The Fireman” by George Strait (“my wife’s favorite”).
“I also played a few Merle Haggard songs -- I’ve always been a big Merle fan. My niece has her own band in Medford, and growing up we would always pretend to be Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.”
Millard, the youngest of 14 kids, headed up a four-piece 50s rock-n-roll band in Reno, Nev. for over 30 years.
“My kids want me to teach them, but I’m not a good teacher,” he said. “But I think every kid should learn how to play some kind of instrument.”
In the meantime, devoted fans will wait with hopes of a revived Village Green.
Maybe the good times aren’t really over for good.