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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

< Back to Oral History project: Louisville Barroom Culture


Bill Tinker and Billy Reynolds

In 1935, just after Prohibition came to an end, Check Sumpter opened up a tavern in Louisville’s Germantown neighborhood and called it Check’s Café. After nine years in business, he sold the place. The new owner, Joe Murrow Sr., ran Check’s for the next thirty-six years, until his death in 1980. In the three decades during which Joe was behind the bar, he gave Check’s the reputation of being a neighborhood joint where anyone was welcome and everyone was a regular. Today Joe Murrow’s grandson, John, operates Check’s. And while there have been some cosmetic alterations to the place over the years, not much else has changed. Not even the neighborhood regulars.

Bill Tinker has been a regular at Check’s since 1957. He grew up in Germantown and started frequenting the bar when he was in college. Bill is a walking encyclopedia of Germantown history and stories from his days at Check’s. He organized the Schnitzelburg Walk, which is an annual night of progressive tavern-hopping in the neighborhood. In 2007 Bill Tinker was elected Schnitzelberg’s Number One Citizen.

As a young boy, Billy Reynolds listened to the stories his grandfather would tell about Check’s. When he was eighteen, Billy was a player on the Check’s softball team and visited the tavern for the first time. In 1994 Billy noticed a “Help Wanted” sign in Check’s window, applied for the job, and has been working there ever since. Today he’s one of Check’s most beloved bartenders. Billy never forgets a face—or a drink—and he always has a good story to tell.

The interviews below offer a portrait of this neighborhood tavern, the bartender who keeps the tap and the stories flowing, and the regulars who call it home.

*It is with great sadness that the SFA shares news that Bill Tinker passed away on December 4, 2010.

NOTE: Two interviews, Bill Tinker (regular) and Billy Reynolds (bartender), are featured on this page.

Date of interview:
2008-01-17 00:00

Amy Evans

Amy Evans

Download Transcript Download Transcript 2



The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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