Today is July second. It’s the anniversary of the day the Declaration of Independence was actually voted on and passed by the Continental Congress in 1776. But whether you celebrate our national independence on July second or July fourth, it’s the time of year when Americans reflect on their nation’s past. Today we’re reminded that America’s roots actually go beyond the Revolutionary War to our British heritage – something everyone can get a small “taste” of – literally – in Rapid City.
If you know your American history, you’ll associate the first week of July with the Revolutionary War and names like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere.
But even though the Revolutionary War was all about rebelling against England – our “Mother Country” we can’t escape the fact that Great Britain is the basis of our roots. And over the last century, the relationship with our family “across the pond” has strengthened through everything from supporting each other during World Wars, to enjoying a shared love of entertainment and, especially, music – like The Beatles.
If you’d like to explore our British roots and be a “Brit for a day” or evening, so to speak, you can actually do just that in Rapid City.
The Wobbly Bobby – from a 19th century nickname for London police officers – is an attempt to recreate a British pub in America’s heartland, as well as pay homage to our Brit cousins, wherever they are.
Stepping into the darkened recesses of the pub from Rapid City’s fanfare is reminiscent of those I visited in Scotland many years ago: dark wood, marble floors, mellow atmosphere and kilts.
“Yeah, but we really have a lot of fun with that,” says Bob Fuchs, managing partner of The Wobbly Bobby. “And our male bartenders, our female bartenders… they all are in kilts. And we do have customers come in with their kilts on once in a while and have an ale with us.”
Fuchs admits that part of the idea for the British Pub was to bring something different to Rapid City – which already has Irish Pubs. But Fuchs adds that his own love of the British culture, especially Brit TV, did play a role in the decision.
“You know, it really did,” says Fuchs, with a smile. “We really enjoy that show ‘Doc Martin’. And a lot of that dry sense of humor that comes from the Brits. And that’s part of it,. Even the stuff we have on the walls is very much British and all of our pictures and artifacts and things like that come from England.”
There’s also British ale and British food Shane Trudo is one of the British pub’s bartenders. Although he’s never worn a kilt before, Shane has no problems with it.
“I enjoy it,” he says. "I like it. Don’t mind it at all.”
That may be due to his Irish heritage, but Shane is also quick to point out that the word British includes England, Wales and Scotland. It also includes Northern Ireland. Shane says he enjoys the environment of the pub as well.
“A lot of the other places...I don’t want to say we’re less busy than they are, but being’s we’re more laid back, you’re able to come in, have a conversation pretty much from open to close,” Shane explains. “You know, you don’t really have too many people blaring a jukebox or getting in altercations or whatever that you may have at other places.”
Of course, the customers are the true judges in any pub.
So, you’ve been to a British pub?” I ask one woman. “Yeah, in London,” she says. “Actually, this environment here is what it’d be like in London."
One patron who’s just about to leave after spending quite a while at the bar with a friend, happily admits “I am a regular at the brew pub. You gotta love the Wobbly Bobby.” “Do you feel it’s reminiscent of a British pub?” I ask him. “Well, I do. I’ve been in British pubs. I’ve been in Scottish pubs and…it’s definitely the closest thing we have in Rapid City.”
Two women sitting quietly in the front at a table share their sentiments. “It’s quaint,” says one. “I think it replicates it beautifully,” her friend observes.
Those were “Yank” opinions, but bartender Shane Trudo says Brit visitors have also given the pub praise.
“A few of the British customers we have…they’ll be the first ones to tell you this is not a British pub,” Shane admits. “But a lot of the others take it on the chin, you know, and they enjoy it.”
Some Brits who have a problem with The Wobbly Bobby are upset over signage.
“Our rest rooms say ‘blokes’ and ‘lasses’ and they say in England it’s ‘blokes’ and ‘birds’,” explains Shane.
Now, if you really want to have a full Brit experience, you can take a ride on one of two double-decker buses from England that are cruising around downtown Rapid City. There’s no charge, it’s a comfortable ride and you get to see the town from, well, a low-flying bird’s point of view.
This is nothing new for 9 year old Birdie, who rode on a double-decker bus in New York City when she was 5.
“Wow. You get around, huh?” I ask Birdie. “Uh…yeah,” she says with a giggle.
Then there was this interesting pair, sporting great imitations of a Brit accent.
“Kate,” a woman proudly states her name to me. “And how about you, dear?” I ask a young girl in the seat next to her. “Grace,” her daughter says, also as a Brit. “And how do you feel about being here on this British bus?” I ask the woman. “I’m quite happy,” she replies, still sporting Brit. “Are you? Are you? And what about you, dear?” I ask her daughter. “I’m quite happy, too,” she laughs, also still Brit. “Oh, good. I’m glad,” I say, speaking myself as a Brit all the while.
It’s amazing how a little shift in culture can change your accent.
The Wobbly Bobby is operating the British buses through the remainder of the summer. Riding on one may not make you feel like you’re in London, but you never know who you might meet – maybe even a woman with a Brit accent named “Kate.”
For more info on The Wobbly Bobby and the British buses:
"Paul Revere's Ride" was recited in the audio version of this story by Chelsie Bauer.