A Short History of the Barrel Brothers, or..
"Who Am Us Anyway??"

The Barrel Brothers are a group of loyal friends (actually we consider ourselves family) that have known each other for over 40 years.  Over the years we’ve been together through good times and bad, but have always vowed to get together at various times during the years to enjoy each other’s company with fun filled parties, sometimes based on themes (Oktoberfest).  We still do to this day! Check out the other pages filled with photos within our site documenting these grand events.  After all these years of grand times we thought (now with the power of the internet) that it was time to celebrate our lives & times with a web page!  But how did it all start and what made us what we are today, you may ask? Below is an excerpt from the ramblings of noted Eastside (of Joliet, Illinois) Historian and radio voice of KRAP studios, Art Kitchkay.  The passage is from Mr. Kitchkay's epic book “Eastside Legends: The Glory of Mishka Revealed”

  The Barrel Brothers originally started as a group of guys growing up together in that great, flowing cosmic void, (known sometimes to the little people on Henderson St. that live in stately homes made of brick, cheese and inflatable sausage casings) called the Great Eastside of Joliet, Illinois.  The area was a broad, roaming vista of plankton that was bordered by Collins Street to the west, Henderson Street to the east, Williamson Ave. to the north and Jackson Street to the south. 

Within this fertile bed pan of beer, potato sausage, cheap wine and gravel driveways, the seeds of great friendship would take root like a crazed dandelion on dog crap and grow to epic proportions.  In those early days during the late 1950’s, John “Kutsy” Kochalka, Andy Partak (later to be known as “Kid Komfort” but that’s another saga) and Dave “Riko” Picco lived within heaving distance of each other on Garnsey Street (known to some as “Droby Drive” thanks to the tons of potato sausage made there weekly).  Little did they know that within a few years fate would throw them together and a legend would be born.  With such establishments of the community as Partak’s Tavern, Yasko’s Tap, Kochalka’s Groceries, Shadow’s INN and St. Cyril Church (known for large nuns with even larger rulers), the boys would have the foundation few could imaging.  Then add in neighborhood icons such as, Jack Yasko, Marge Hertko, Angelo Piazza, Fabian Dooda, Joe Pott, Mickey McTavish and Yuttutta, and the catalysts were all in place to cause an epic eruption that would overwhelm Elwood Street and Hickory Creek.

  By the mid 60’s the bonds of bonding, never to be broken, were formed by these 3 cavaliers and the glowing nibblets of party spirit began to extrude in many directions drawing in other willing members to the great calliope.  Across the great steel ribbon of the “J” tracks (where bums slept in the bosom of Mogan David) the call to good times was answered by, Al “AJ” Soley, Ted Nitz and Lennie Jankowski.  Ralph Petrek joined the band from Landau Street and farther away once the ritual of high school began, Billy Stofan and Ron Pisha came on board from the far flung isles of Langerhand.

  As the late 60’s approached, further ingredients were thrown into the steaming cauldron that was the great frothing void of the Booze Barrel and brought it to a fever pitch of kinetic rhythm events such as: the home of the Barrel Brothers was established in Kutsy’s basement, Jerry Lauric arose on the scene like a pillar of foam, Peter the German issued his manifesto on the Rights of Inebriation, Yasko blessed many of the Brothers with his vision of the “Golden Nectar”, Fabin could see it in our eyes, and Da Shack became a safe haven for fishing, beer and Creamettes.  The fusion of these ingredients erupted in a glorious culmination never to be seen again on the Eastside know as the “High Barrel Renaissance” (1967-1971).   The good times, grand parties, impossible feats of courage and acts of random stupidity echoed through-out the lower eastside, to the chagrin of local residents and the wonderment of the Joliet police.

  It was at the dawning to the 1970’s that the Barrel Spirit spilled across the great tepid, swollen and stinkin’ body of water known as the Des Plaines River Canal to the west-side of Joliet.  Soon the inner light reached out across the Ruby Street bridge and that river of filth to touch 4 young ladies, who became the Barrel Sisters:  Elieen Burgie, Sue Colbert, Bonnie Driscol and Diane Getson.  These four free spirits grabbed a large beer and then took hold of the Barrel Brothers careening spirit and wild hairs, and brought meaning and focus to their random gestures of wanderlust.  As the 1970’s continued, the era known as “Classic Barrel Brothers” emerged.  It was just in time as the old east-side crucible of froth and fire was dying out. Various pillars of the Barrel experience disappeared.  Yasko’s Tap, Partak’s Tavern and Kochalka Groceries all one by one became just memories like Droby Drive and the great ones, Fabian, Yasko, Peter the German, Jake the Greaser, and Joe Pott either passed away or went into de-tox.  A door was closing, but the Barrel Brothers stood on the blazing threshold of a new beginning armed with the east-side credo of celebration to be unfurled as a glowing standard into the future!  Whew!

By the mid-1970’s, some of the Barrel Brothers from the early years had moved away or followed careers that took them away from the original gang.  But a solid nuclease was being formed, stronger than any of the founders could ever imagine.  The vision that was imagined long ago on Yasko's bar stools and brought into focus by the Barrel Sisters had over the years now crystallized like Schlitz Lager in the bottom of a 7 oz. glass at Partak’s Tavern.

Four families now formed the core of the Barrel Brothers: John & Sue Kochalka, Andy & Eileen Partak, Al & Bonnie Soley and Dave & Diane Picco.  It became their quest (like trying to find blueberry cigars with plastic tips) to honor those great principles forged in their youth of friendship, family and good times.  As the years have gone by, they have been blessed with children, changed their residences and underwear many times, and have had life's situations change their fates.  But one thing has remained a constant: their friendship and love for one another which is the true soul of all that is east-side and good is still there.  As these sons of the east-side have made their pilgrimage to new lands joined in body and soul by those beacons of passion the Barrel Sisters, their joyful vision has been realized to the Glory of Miska: Lifelong friendship and the determination to enjoy that great gift of friendship as often as possible. Brazzoss!

As Art would suggest let us raise our glasses............................

  “A toast, to good times and great friends!”

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