Albert Breuers remembers the day - May 12, 1979.
Three days before, he had bought the Old Guard House Inn in Gladwyne - even then it was "Old" - a warren of dimly lit dining rooms with log-cabin walls backing up to a bar regarded as the Main Line's answer to Cheers. The previous fall, he started working in the kitchen for previous owner Jack Callahan, who opened the restaurant in 1949.
"One of those blue-hairs - we had them in those days - she called me over and said, 'Hey, boy. If you keep your nose clean, you will do very well here,' " Breuers recalled this week.
And that he has. The Old Guard House, whose building dates to 1790, is old-school all the way, with a menu that hews to the classics (lobster, rack of lamb, filet mignon, veal Oscar, crabcakes), personal service, and a curio- and taxidermy-filled atmosphere that screams " '60s." Perhaps 1860s.
New Year's Eve, though, will mark Breuers' farewell from the Old Guard House. It also will spell the end of the Guard House as we know it.
Breuers struck a deal several months ago with the Union League in Center City, which in January - after some light redecoration and a kitchen makeover - will take it over. The Union League Guard House will be open to its members and their guests.
Breuers, a nimble, solid man at 75 and in what he calls "great health," won't say he'll retire now, but...
"I've been here 38 years, and I'm doing this business for 62 years, and I think it's time for me to take it easy," he said.
Breuers, raised in Dusseldorf, Germany, came to America in 1962 after culinary studies. He served in the Army during Vietnam, and then went to work in the restaurant business - the business of his family for centuries.
While working at the Four Seasons in New York, he catered meals at Gracie Mansion for Mayor John Lindsay.
Moving to Philadelphia in the early 1970s, he worked at the Blue Line Club at the old Spectrum. Before joining the Old Guard House, he handled the in-house catering for Penn Mutual insurance company.
Working at the Old Guard House would be a major step: a segue to ownership.
Breuers said he started the day before Thanksgiving 1978 with the understanding that he would buy the place from Callahan the next year. "We had an agreement of sale on a handshake," Breuers said.
Nostalgists have kept the phone line ringing, but Breuers said the restaurant's reservation book and his 155 seats were full for the remainder of the year. The customers who make their next New Year's Eve reservation while dining New Year's Eve will have to find another place.
There is no chance he will change his mind.
"It's time," he said.