Ida Meyer of cabbie’s TapĀ generous to the end

By Jim Stingl, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A former bar owner’s $200,000 gift to Northland College was secured one ten-cent beer at a time by students who met, mingled, and mated at the watering hole.

“I might as well give it back to the college,” Ida Meyer told her lawyer, Michael Rider, as she planned her estate. “Those kids were good to us.”

Ida died in Lake Placid, Fla., March 22 at age 103. During the 1950s and 60s, she and her husband, Casper, ran Cabbie’s Tap in Ashland, just a short walk from the Northland campus. Cabbie was Casper’s nickname.

Ida and Casper came of age in the Great Depression and never attended Northland or any other college. They owned the bar and later a Dairy Queen. Casper died in 1991, and Ida moved south to escape the cold. The couple had no children.

Northland College received word of the gift in a fax from Rider last month. Northland spokeswoman Julie Buckles said a scholarship fund is planned in honor of the Meyers. A social media appeal will encourage alumni to make a donation to the fund that’s at least the current cost of a beer, not the dime charged at Cabbie’s Tap during the Eisenhower administration.

Fond memories of the bar have been pouring into the college from long-ago students, including those under 21 who could legally drink beer back then. The cheap brew washed down countless cheese sandwiches and foot-long hot dogs slathered in Ida’s secret sauce. The jukebox got plenty of use and students danced in the smoky haze.

“I probably spent more time and money than I should have there, but I don’t regret it one bit,” offered Judy Francois, who recalled that when her father sent her checks at school, she cashed them at Cabbie’s.

“It was the ‘student center’ in the ’50s,” Justine Speer remembers. “We walked there and walked back to the dorm regardless of the weather because most of us didn’t have cars.”

“In the fall of 1959, I even tended bar at Cabbie’s,” Ken Pacholke said. “As far as Cabbie and Ida, I remember them as hardworking and frugal, and their bar was the cleanest bar I’ve ever seen.”

“I met my husband there,” Jean Anne (O’Brien) Case said. “When we came home for Northland reunions, we also spent time at Cabbie’s.”

The Main St. bar remains open and is still a Northland hangout up on Wisconsin’s northern edge. For several years after the Meyers sold in 1963, the Cabbie’s Tap name lived on. It’s now called the Stagecoach Inn.

Florida attorney Rider said he represented Ida, a North Dakota native, for a long time. The gift to Northland is what’s left of her estate after some money went to her two nieces in New Mexico.

“I have known about this gift all these years, but I never could say anything. I didn’t know whether she would outlive her money. She was in assisted living first and then a nursing home the last few years. So I never alerted the college. The college had no knowledge of these people at all,” Rider said.

Northland is a liberal arts college with a focus on the environment and sustainability. It has about 600 students. President Michael Miller said he was pleasantly surprised to hear of Ida Meyer’s gift.

“I have listened to many stories about Cabbie and Ida being particularly generous with Northland students who struggled a bit financially. There are many stories of them sending cheese and sandwiches home with many of our students. They also employed many students,” Miller said.

A good bar is where everybody knows your name. You know the theme song. And now Ida and Cabbie have assured that Northland College won’t forget theirs.

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