- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Their story begins at the Wonder Bar.

He wore Hai Karate aftershave. She was tall and skinny with long blond hair. It was the summer of 1972 on the second floor of Casper’s watering hole - a rock and roll band, pitchers of light beer and a blind date for Pat and Vicki.

They had seen each other once before. They had many mutual friends. She was 19, arriving first, easily bypassing the bouncer who knew she was underage. He was 24, coming from baseball practice, wearing a blue hat with white polka dots.

She sat at their table of friends. He approached with a pick-up line.

“Let’s ditch these losers,” he said, and nobody laughed.

They danced and talked over loud music. She thought he was handsome with an odd sense of humor. He was talking fast and falling in love. They kissed on their next date. They were married six months later. Together, they have five kids and 11 grandchildren.

And it all started at the “world famous” Wonder Bar.

Everyone has a story. A first date. A promotion at work. A death in the family. The Wonder Bar is where life’s biggest events are celebrated and mourned, a place where chapters begin and end.

Oct. 8 will be the final day, reported the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/2dtsMGz). The bar was sold and will shut down indefinitely, to be renovated and possibly reopened. It could remain the Wonder Bar. It could be something else.

The building was constructed in 1914. It opened as the Wonder Bar in 1934. Cowboys used to ride in on horseback. The original tile floors have been walked on by the likes of Ernest Hemingway and John Wayne. The bar has evolved with age: a new tin ceiling, an expanded dining area, a microbrewery - and so have its customers.

A blind date 43 years ago is now a 68- and 63-year-old couple - Pat and Vicki Hughes - sharing what might be their final beers at the downtown watering hole where it all started.

“I don’t think Casper will ever be without a Wonder Bar,” Vicki said to Pat, surrounded by a packed weeknight crowd that shared the sentiment.

Pat looked around.

“I hope not.”

___

Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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