Bob Shank, The Rodman, “Forever Young”

Written by Kathy Leaman and Darlene Pruett
We met with Bob (John Robert Shank II) at Shanks Tavern, on a day the bar was not open. It was wonderful to be able to walk around and closely examine all the photos of the 94 years of the Shanks Tavern and family. We sat in the now quiet space and talked about Bob’s memories of growing up in Marietta with his younger brother Jeff. Jeff went on to work for the Marietta Post Office for 38 years, his interest in the Tavern is currently more behind the scenes. Bob smiled as he reminisced about his mother and the impact she had on his life. She acquired the Tavern through her divorce and was determined to hold on to it for Bob and Jeff through some very tough economic times. Bob said he didn’t always agree with his mom on how to move forward with the Tavern but ultimately succeeded in convincing her to change the menu consisting of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and Stewart’s sandwiches to the current, well-known popular beef on weck, tacos, sushi, and Pho. As microbrews were on the cusp of becoming a popular drink Shank’s offered Stoudts, Victory, and Troegs. As he and Wendy visited some of the bars at Fells Point, they had an epiphany, Shank’s was the quirky, neighborhood bar offering good food and good beer in Marietta.
As a child, Bob was too young to be in the tavern, so he would hide behind the jukebox listening to the music for hours while peeking out at the clientele. We asked Bob what he thought helped shape his personality, he shared a picture of himself in the third grade May Day event. His third-grade teacher, recognizing his need to perform, gave him 5 minutes at the end of class to impersonate Elvis. Bob said he would bend over backwards to make his classmates happy.
The tavern was closed on Sundays and Bob was responsible for cleaning and getting it ready for the next week. Occasionally, he would put a quart of Ballentine beer in the trash to share with his friends when they went to the mountains. As a teenager he participated in The Little Theatre in Columbia. Bob and friends Dave Pittenturf and Paul Sload dressed as female cheerleaders during a school pep rally. They sang “The House of the Rising Sun” in the school talent show and were called by the principal to do an encore. Bob continues his passion for music and performing to this day.
Bob graduated from high school in 1965 enlisted in the Navy in a program called the Kiddie Cruise, entering before age 18 and discharged before turning 21. Bob served from 1965 to 1968. He was a Radioman and was assigned to the Admiral’s Staff. In January 1967, while serving on the USS Guam, Bob’s ship was the primary recovery ship for Gemini II. After serving he came home from the Navy and helped his mom tend the bar. He also worked with his dad at Beasley Ford. During the 70’s Bob was the lead singer in the band Whiskey Train.
Bob had an opportunity to travel to Florida and be on the creative end of opening the Intracoastal Dispensing Company with local entrepreneur Dick Shepp. Dick was the guiding force of The Dispensing Company in York and Lancaster. The three-story Victorian bar took a year and a half to bring to fruition and was a huge success. Unfortunately, after three years the business partnership failed. During his time in Florida, he met Wendy. Moving back to Marietta, Wendy followed Bob with the intent to continue her Alaskan adventures. When that fell through, she came back and after a proposal of marriage, she and Bob continue to build upon the Shanks Tavern progress and popularity. Bob found an Alabama tile company that could perfectly match the Front Street doorstep tile and was able to replace the Maulick’s name (the former owner) with the well-earned and more appropriate “Shank’s”.
Several years ago, they moved to the property next to the Tavern. This year, their beautiful yard will be featured on the Marietta Garden Tour. Bob says to stop in “he’d love to meet ya”.
Shank’s was featured in the movie Diamond Men. Bob received a call asking to use his neighborhood bar for a few scenes. He agreed and then promptly forgot about the conversation. Several months later, he received a call from his mom that he was needed at the bar immediately. Huge trucks were parked outside the tavern and people insisting they had permission were coming into film. Bob quickly remembered the request and quickly made it back to Shank’s!
Bob is a man of many interests. He has a love for his dogs Bootsie and Freckles. He likes sharing videos of his dogs on their trail walks down at Chickie’s Day Park. Freckles sings solo as the Marietta fire whistle blows. Bob said any time he needs a laugh he watches the video.
One of the questions we asked Bob was what he thinks helped him make the Tavern such a success. He replied, his humor, sincerity and personality and we couldn’t agree more. We shared with Bob, we seriously cannot travel anywhere and mention Shank’s without someone commenting on their experience with the tavern and Marietta.
When you stop in Shank’s, you can see Bob, making food, helping his staff, and, oh yes, on special occasions he is “The Rodman”. His good friend of many years, John Chapman, who plays keyboard, convinced him to give it a try. The rest, my dears, is Marietta history.
When visiting Bob, we could hear in his voice all the years of hard work and see the twinkle in his eye when reminiscing of all the successes and friendships that were realized. We reminded him that to us he is “The Man, the Legend”. Bob said he was so grateful to all the people that helped him through the rough times.
Bob keeps active with the Tavern. When people ask him when he is going to retire, he laughs and says, “I am too old to retire.” We all know it’s because he is “Forever Young”. From time to time after receiving some offers, selling the bar crossed their minds, but he and Wendy decided no, this is where they belong.
Sharing our admiration for John Robert (Rodman) Shank, we wanted to know who he admires. First on his list is his mother, the rest are all current Mariettians who believe in this borough just as Bob does. Freddy, Alana, Abby, Molly, and all the young people who have taken an interest in the history and feel of this small town.
We will leave you with a funny Shank’s Tavern family story: A very obviously intoxicated potential patron shows up at the Waterford entrance to Shank’s before noon. Bob’s grandfather meets him at the door and explains that he will not be served there for obvious reasons. The patron leaves cheerfully and proceeds to the Front Street Entrance to Shank’s where Bob’s grandfather greets him again. The surprised patron says HOLY COW, do you work at this bar too?