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REMEMBER COSIE'S?

cosie

In the past, Geneva newcomers may have been confused when, after receiving directions to the infamous Geneva watering hole, "Cosie's," on Tillman Street, they arrived at "Sam's Bar & Grill." Today, there is little room for confusion regarding the sign now tacked to the door of the place that generations of HWS students loved -- "Cosie's is closed forever." For 50 plus years, Cosmo Fospero has been the proprietor of the bar he bought from his brother-in-law, Sam. But after a recent hospital visit and on the advice of his physicians, Cosie decided to close. "It's the end of an era," Cosie said recently. "The place is gone forever."

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Remembrances

One improvement for clarity sake here would be to mention that the original song done for his 85th birthday and nicely exhibited here was written and performed by my brother, Ed Lavin. I can write but I can't sing!
— Chris Lavin '81

Original song done to mark Cosie's 85th birthday.
Chris Lavin '81

Cosie's was my favorite place to go because Cosie was just such a great guy. After studying, my friends Lois Brown, Dale Rosenson, Linda Steller, Jeff Fickling, Debbie Morris, and I would gather there to help ourselves to 50 cent beers, be served 50 cent drinks, eat peanuts, watch Monty Python, listen to the endless "Stairway to Heaven" on the jukebox and enjoy the camaraderie of hanging out with folks from all ages and walks of life. When I returned for my reunion seven years ago, I brought my daughter who had just completed the DARE program at her middle school. The first place I took her when we got to Geneva was Cosie's. He let her come in to meet him, visit and eat peanuts. I got a picture of her on the barstool. (Incidentally, she still does not drink since taking the DARE pledge.) I was happy to see that everything looked the same as I remembered it. Cosie called the women "sweetheart" and was such a good host that he was beloved by so many. He remembered so much about all of his customers and everyone sent him pictures and clippings of their weddings, kids and happenings that he had posted them on the refrigerator. I got the last copy of his CD and was so happy. This is a nice tribute to a great guy. It's nice to hear your voice Cosie! You'll always be my all-time favorite bartender and good friend. I wish you the best. Thank you for all of the memories.
— Leslie Gatcombe-Hynes '76

As a local kid who would eventually go to Hobart, I got to see Cosie's through both lenses -- and in one instance the town and gown views merged in a memorable moment. My family discovered Cosie's almost immediately after moving to town in 1970. Though under age as we moved into our mid- to later teens, we could come in with our older brothers and sisters and, if discreet and well behaved, have our first beers under the watchful eyes and guidance of our siblings. As a result, I became very familiar with a bunch of characters who would sit at the end of the bar, talking, drinking and playing cards with Cosie. One smoked a pipe, looked down a lot and as the evening's drew on would mutter more and more, and on more than one occasion, slipped off the bar stool and in need of a bit of help to regain his balance. Some years after my first beers at Cosie's, I was accepted into Hobart and literally walked from my home on West Street and onto campus. My course schedule that September included a Gen Ed Course called Mosaic or something like that and you can imagine my surprise when I walked into the first lecture and standing before me was the tall guy from the end of the bar. Joe DiGangi, looking more professorial and not at all concerned that these two worlds had collided in my freshman brain. Later that afternoon, I walked into a European history class and there was the little guy with the pipe who got all wobbly on the stool at Cosie's. Professor Krauthammel introduced himself and stood in front of the class, never stumbled and used the same pipe to gesticulate as he made points throughout the trimester. That, in the end, is the kind of place Cosie's was for Geneva -- just decent people gathering to enjoy some time and to laugh with the thoughtful, colorful and jovial owner. There were no titles or professional hubris there. Joe DiGangi was one of the best professors in Hobart history but Cosie would still chide him if he held garbage trump in a pitch game. Even in days when the relationship between town and gown was not so warm, Cosie's stewardship transcended all that. I drove down Tillman this past summer during my annual visit home. I saw the sign and felt a loss and a hope that Cosie himself was still playing tennis somewhere nearby. I explained to my son, Will, now 15, that this was my club house for several years. He looked at the building, unassuming as it is, and rolled his eyes -- teens do that. I can only hope somewhere, someplace, there is as humane a place with as humane and worldly a barkeep for my Will to have his first beer.
—Chris Lavin '81

Cosies was always a theatre hang out, whether during the academic year or the summer theatre season. It was the place to go after rehearsals or long tech calls where you could relax over a beer or 20 without the noise and crowds that one encountered at "The Oaks." There were never any barriers at Cosies--all classes mixed, and students, faculty and locals met and interacted on common ground. Everyone was treated with equal disrespect by the management. (Remember the sign? "We don't cater for weddings or parties; in fact we don't cater to anyone.") But Cosies was a special place, a place where you would take only your best friends. I never remember any sort of closing time being observed, though I think he did tend to pull the shades down at around 2am. When I was a student and even years later when I was teaching at the Colleges, Cosie would always cash a check for me when no one else would, and he always had helpful advice and a warm welcome. I can hardly imagine a world without Sam's Bar & Grill but it will live on in memory. I'm sure I speak for many others in sending much love and heartfelt thanks to Cosie for all he's done for all of us over the years.
—Jiggs Coldiron '77

I opened my first beer from the old fashioned fridge at the end of Cosie’s bar one evening after five of my friends and I followed lecturers and professors from a Fisher Center panel discussion down to the little blue house next to the Family Dollar. We were deep in Geneva and didn’t know what to expect. We walked into a generally middle aged crowd with a sweet ambiance of Nina Simone, salty peanut shells and pickled peppers and got the "Hey,
are you 21? You better be!" Cosie showed us his mug shot taken back in the day when he was arrested for serving someone underage. My friends and I agreed that this was THE SPOT to go to from now on! Finally! A refuge from the mundane college life! I went there every week that I was on the HWS campus after that first night. When my family would come to visit, I would bring them there to reminisce about the Cuban Revolution (my father had lived through it as a boy in Havana and Cosi idolized Castro). Mainly we all bitched about the Bush administration. We also tried to hook my then 90 year old German grandmother up with him when she came to visit. They would speak in Italian together. In my senior year, I made a 30 minute documentary about Cosie's life, a montage of his stories including his parachuting into Italy during WWII and becoming interested in Communism. The film also covered the transformation that his bar made from when he bought it during the Civil Rights movement to when migrant farm workers came in and how the jukebox hadn't changed... His charisma always charmed us, and as we walked back home past the other bars, often seeing the chaos of a typical college bar strip scene, we were proud of our evening at Cosie's, where jazz and storytelling fed our need for fun with style.
—Amillie Coster '06

To sum up Cosie: jazz, warm peanuts and green chillies on a cold winter night, sharing his music and passion for life and history. He warmed up my last years of college. Cheers to a great memory and to Amillie Coster for bringing me to this world.
—Tanya Khokhar '06

In the 1950s, very few HWS students were customers at Sam's - most were local Geneva residents. Cosie's was a most welcome oasis from William Smith's repressive (even by 1959 standards) rules. I fondly remember Cosie's humor and advice and his lovely wedding in the spring of 1959.
—Susan Gaudern Lott '61

Here's my story about Cosie's and I'm sticking to it: in February of 1984 I married JoAnna Isaak formerly of the Art department at HWS in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. We hadn't planned to have a wedding reception but my colleagues Grant Holly and Lee Quinby somehow figured out how to reach us and said the English department was planning a wedding reception for us when we returned to Geneva. I was reluctant until Grant told me the reception was to be held ...at Cosie's! We did it and it was memorable. It seems to have been for Cosie too since he put a photo of me on his wall which remained there until Cosie's closed recently. I'll miss Cosie and his place... gone forever not forgotten.
Professor of English Dan O'Connell (retired)

In the 60's Cosies was the "underground" — it was off the beaten track, unpretentious, "real". Everyone, no matter who they were or where they were from, was welcome. I always felt safe there. My experiences at Cosie's were a valuable part of my education!
Lynn Hyde Frank '66

Cosie's was not only a friendly hang out for HWS students and faculty but also for the community. While I first visited Cos as a William Smith First-Year, I eventually married a Geneva "townie" and had the pleasure of stopping by Cosie's on occasion for many years after I graduated with my in-law family and local friends. I even had the pleasure of introducing my daughter to Cosie, who immediately set off a rocket for her! As time moved on in Geneva so did the kaleidoscopic clientele at Cosie's. Regardless, there was always a feeling of acceptance belonging and good cheer. Cosie never tired of catching up with old and new friends or sharing stories of his latest tennis victory. The best free peanuts the homiest (and cheapest!) pool table ever and an honor system for help-yourself beers all lent to the Cosie experience. But Cosie himself is what held it all together. Good health Cos and God Bless!
Deb Hanley '85

Since I was involved in the theater I would return to campus early so we could prepare a show for freshman orientation. One day after rehersal we all headed down to Cosies. He was thrilled to see us &mdashespecially the girls. William Smith ladies were usually followed by Hobart Men. Cosie was so excited he broke out his ukele and seranaded us with his version of "Happy Days are Here Again." "Happy days are here again They're drinking Cosies beer again. The William Smith girls are here again. Happy days are here again."
George Smith '69

I was racing Porsches at Watkins Glen and came back through Geneva with the car on the trailer (not really racing; a bunch of us old dudes rented the track and fooled ourselves for a couple of days). I pulled up Tilman St. and parked and before I was fully in the door of Cosie's he said::"Bridgham how are you?" We hadn't seen each other in 35 yrs but we recognized each other. He gave me a piece of cheese with bread and a cooked chile he had made and I got my own beer. The machete was not from Castro as Cos would admit if he had had enough to drink. He held on to the myth of the UFO even when well-oiled. I love Cos and am sorry to hear Sam's is closed; I'm sure he's sad too.
Willard Bridgham '68

In the summer of '65 I stayed on working in the admissions office for the summer along wih Alum Peter Hahn a colleague and Joe Carver another admissions officer. We were regulars at 20 Tillman St. and I had been since first arriving in September 1961. One June evening relaxing with Cosie at the bar we got talking about tennis and resolved to play doubles the next day. We all turned out (it was the first time Cosie had held a tennis racket) and went out the next afternoon for some doubles. It was Fospero and Carver versus Hahn and Anthony. Of course Forspero and Carver were victorious and that evening much much later we called in the results of the "Semi-Finals of the Tillman Street International Lawn Tennis Championship" to the Geneva Times sports section where the results were duly posted the next day. Of course we had to go out the next day and play the finals. The results were again phoned in and brief write-up appeared the next day under the title: Fospero-Carver Net Team Wins. This turned out to be the last time the TSILTC was played. Schaefer was 25 cents a bottle in those days as it always was whenever I returned to Sam's Bar & Grill years later.
Thomas Anthony '65

The 25-cent-per-game mini pool table squeezed into the back room was one of the enticements of Cosie's. Cos used to rib me and a friend about "getting 45 minutes of entertainment out of a single quarter" thanks to our lousy hand-eye coordination. I learned about jazz at Cosie's. The back room was papered with pictures of jazz greats and the jukebox always had plenty of Billie Holiday. My favorite memory of Cosie is from the summer of 1982 when I shared a house with Masato, a visiting research scientist from Japan who was working at the NYS Experiment Station. One evening Masato was sitting at the bar practicing his English with Cosie. Cosie was "teaching Masato some American slang" and&mdashjust as I entered&mdashwas just explaining the meaning of a certain American idiom: "This is a person so bad that he would have intimate relations with his own mother." Thanks for the memories Cosie!
Laura Sarantis '86

Professor Joe DiGangi first introduced me to Cosie's at some point in the mid-'80s. Cosie told me that he and I share a birthday (Jan. 25) and he would set off a rocket when I visted on that date in honor of our mutual celebration. The memories I have of spending time there with friends teachers (and our parents on the eve of graduation) are among the very best I have of the years I spent in Geneva. It truly is the end of an era- I am grateful I had the chance to enjoy it and I wish Cosie all the best.
Jon Insull '87

No reunion in recent years would have been complete for me without a nightcap at Cosie's because no Hobart students' education would have been complete in the 1960s without spending many an evening there. What made those evenings so pleasurable was not the alcohol itself but its effect in helping enable an inevitably powerful discussion. Among professors who drank and philosophized there I remember friend mentor and professor of English Roger Farrand and also Perrell Paine of the philosophy department. I am sure there were many others I am forgetting. Cosie though seemingly not well educated academically always seemed able to follow 'most any discussion. At times when your professors might have left the scene if you wanted to continue your well lubricated thinking he would always listen and let you know he understood exactly what you were talking about. He was always the consummate bartender full of laughs and stunts always willing to listen and comment without stepping on anyone's toes and always willing to trust the customer to grab his own beer out of the old white fridge and settle up later. He always took great pains to keep his place looking just as it did in 1963 when I first entered even repairing that old fridge a few years ago when that cost him more than replacing it would have. Perhaps he understood that Cosie's was an experience we all wanted to remain unchanged like the great cathedrals of Europe or the laws of thermodynamics.
John Baxter '67

The night before we were married my wife Amy (Weidner '00) and I and all of our friends and family celebrated with Cosie and had one of the most memorable nights of our lives. Cosie told us stories about the UFO and Castro's machete and we took turns behind the bar ate peanuts and pepperoni and laughed and drank until it was entirely too late. We had gotten to know Cosie better than our college days during our weekends in Geneva planning for the wedding and we would spend our evenings with Cosie and he promised us a rocket for our wedding. And that night he did shoot one up (though it took a few times). We will miss finding excuses to go to Geneva just to sit at his bar.
Joe LaSala '98

As a local, I met Cosie at Seneca Lake State Park in the summer of 1973. Every day Cosie would take his constitutional bike ride through the park prior to opening up for another night's business. The beach was closed for a month that summer due the lake's four foot rise caused by a long stretch of rain. After playing euchre all day long at the State of New York's expense a "help yourself" beer at Cosie's was the perfect elixer for our boring days at the park. The news of "Sam's Bar and Grill's" closing strikes me like watching a great movie that you never want to end. It leaves you with a sense of something very good lost. We cannot write the script for the next scene anymore than we can imagine our next experience at Cosie's. In closing Cosie accomplished his mission of creating a safe environment where we could all learn a little more about the importance trust and the value of serving others to the benefit of all. Thank you Mr. Fosporo Fospero.
Jim Koch, Union College '74

In the fall of 1959, I was introduced to Cosie's by a bunch of Phi Phi Delta fraternity brothers and foot ball players. After several bottles of Roma's Tokay red wine the conversations with Cosie and that experience became blurred and the hangover lasted for days. Since that time as many other Hobart men I have included a stop at Sam's Bar and Grill everytime we returned. Cosie is a member of the Greatest Generation and served his country aboard a B-17 during WWII. He always made you feel welcome and was a kind and trusting man. Thank you Cosie for all the memories. We'll miss YOU and that serve yourself bar.
Bill Maroon '63

Cosie's was a true meltingpot with Geneva's most engaging master of ceremonies. Having been raised in Geneva prior to attending Hobart, Cosie's fits more than one definition for me. It was a neighborhood joint and a blue-collar place before becoming a college bar although I don't think it ever severed ties to any of its previous identities. Like a true historic site it just kept layering on the collective experiences of all who came there. I came there before I should have. Under-age drinking was not entirely discouraged in Geneva (at places like the Oaks Old Man's and Sam's). They just didn't ask as long as you behaved yourself. And Cosie's, the honor system did encourage an appropriate and effective initiation into socially responsible behavior around alcohol. My most enduring memory of Cosie's is that it endured. It was always there - from the early '60s when some of the men sitting down the bar were my future professors; to spending probably too many nights there between 1964 and 68; to stopping in most times over the past 40 years when I was home for the holidays visiting family. (My sister too used to hit Cosie's whenever she came back from Buffalo and later San Jose.) Lots of other memories pop to mind like the jukebox: hard-boiled eggs and hot sausages, darts, 25-cent beers, (35 cents for imports including Canadian) the bowling machine and Cosie in his tennis whites. My most enduring memories of Cosie though are playing cards with him at the end of the bar on nights when it wasn't busy. You never felt like it was a slow night there though, because Cosie always made it fun and interesting and just good to be there. Cosie, thanks for it all and all the best to you.
John Baroody '68

ABOUT COSIE

For more than five decades, Sam’s Bar & Grill represented a easy place for students, faculty and local Genevans to congregate and talk about the issues of the day and a home away from home for the countless alumni and alumnae who returned time and time again.

The ultimate entertainer, proprietor Cosmo “Cosie” Fospero was the story-teller, jukebox and  ocassionally pyrotecnics engineer at the little bar on Tillman Street, though he rarely actually served a drink. “For me, no visit to campus was complete without ending up at Cosie’s,” says Ellen Fridovich David ’71. “He always made us feel so welcome and special and I will always be grateful for that.”

 

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