When Historic Augusta announced last week that Squeaky’s Tip Top, the former extremely popular tavern on Central Avenue, was on the 2019 Endangered Properties List, many locals couldn’t help but shake their heads in disbelief.
After all, there have been many locals over the years who have long hoped that someone would not only preserve, but restore the former tavern.
While being listed on the Endangered Properties List is never good for any local building, it could be a turning point.
Someone might finally step up to the plate and do something with the long-abandoned building.
After all, Squeaky’s has a tremendous history in Augusta.
Almost 20 years ago, the Metro Spirit sat down with owner Michael Harrison to discuss the many tales and anecdotes that have long been tied to Squeaky’s Tip Top.
For example, the legend of Dr. Ed Hall’s finger being buried in the back of the tavern almost 40 years ago.
“Ed’s finger would be the early 1980s,” owner Michael Harrison told the Metro Spirit back in 1999, explaining that Hall, a Squeaky’s regular, was a resident surgeon at the Medical College of Georgia at the time.
One day, while building a sandbox for his children, Hall had a little mishap that his colleagues at the medical college were not able to correct and the surgeon lost his finger.
Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of the accident, Hall decided to make the best of it and threw a party for his finger at Squeaky’s Tip Top.
“We had a little casket and we had a little service back there,” Harrison told the Metro Spirit in 1999. “I won’t tell you all the things that we did.”
Needless to say, over the years, there have been a lot of stories that have come out of Squeaky’s.
“This is where streaking in Augusta first became popular, too,” Harrison joked.
One night, in the mid-1970s, Harrison said a friend of his decided to get naked in the pub. This occurred well before Harrison owned the tavern.
But it was a night to remember, Harrison said.
“This is how crowded it was: He got up, took his clothes off in the booth at the back of the Tip Top, put them under his arms and started walking toward the front door,” Harrison said. “He’d come up to somebody, tap them on the shoulder and say, ‘Excuse me, I’m streaking,’ and everybody standing there with their beer, said, ‘Sure,’ and just moved out of the way. It took him about 25 to 30 minutes to get out of the front door. Nobody knew he was naked until they saw him walking out the door.”
Clearly, there were wild times at the Tip Top.
But Harrison explained to the Metro Spirit back in 1999 that owning and running the tavern was not an easy job, adding that some of the younger owners who have tried to run it, treated it like an extended party.
That scenario never worked out. Then, other tenants over the years have “moved out in the middle of the night” owing rent.
But to this day, many locals still rave about Squeaky’s famous pizza and cheeseburgers and the good times spent in the tavern.
There are also fond stories about some of the beloved items that once were on display in the Tip Top. Items like the “Earls” that were crazy works of art that used to hang in Squeaky’s.
The story goes that a local “artist” named Earl, who was also a Veterans Administration patient, would make these unusual pictures and sell them to Harrison for $2 or $3 apiece.
“He probably used the money to buy cigarettes,” Harrison said. “We had the largest collection of Earls in the world.”
Unfortunately, some of the former tenants eventually stole the Earls from the tavern, Harrison said.
And then there were regulars to the tavern, such as a man named “Stan,” who was like the Norm Peterson of Squeaky’s.
Everyone knew Stan and had a story to tell about him.
These days, while most Augustans know that Squeaky’s had a long history in this city, many don’t realize that it’s been in existence since at least the 1930s.
“Arguably a very recognizable neighborhood landmark in the Summerville Historic
District, the Tip Top Grill first appears in the city directories in 1938 and first shows on the Sanborn Fire Insurance map in 1951 with the street number of 2596 Central Avenue,” according to Historic Augusta’s information on the building. “The commercial buildings clustered along Central Avenue and Monte Sano are all significant for their architectural and developmental contributions to the district.”
Ironically, an owner from the 1940s named Fred Johnson, who supposedly had a high-pitched voice, added his nickname, Squeaky, to Tip Top when he bought the tavern in 1946.
According to Helen Callahan’s book, “Summerville: A Pictorial History,” Tip Top was originally built as a restaurant by an Augustan named Pearl Harley, but closed down a few months after it opened.
It later opened its doors as a tavern and grew in popularity.
At one time, it is believed that 500 of Tip Top’s regulars had their own personalized mugs around the bar.
Now, that’s love.
Hopefully, someone will have faith in the history of this great Augusta hangout and will bring Squeaky’s Tip Top back to life.