EATON — A Preble County couple has made it their business to see that people have somewhere to go on a Friday night.
“He just decided to come out here and do some work,” Robin Eck said of her husband Fred’s decision to build a tiki bar on their back lawn. “He started out just building stuff.”
What started as a fire pit and a wheeled beverage container eventually grew into a set-up including a bar, socially distanced seating, tiki torches and other tropical decor, according to Eck, with many of the building materials donated by friends and neighbors.
“A lot of it came from people who knew he was doing woodworking, so they just gave it to him,” Robin said.
A projector screen providing a Hawaiian-style backdrop to the small kiosk where Fred prepares drinks, for instance, sat in a garage for years, according to Eck, before being “resurrected,” with a frame built by Fred, for use as part of his ongoing project.
It all started because the couple, both retirees, was unable to engage in their customary travel during the summer months due to restrictions related to COVID-19.
“Usually we go to different places and meet people,” Eck said. “In September we would’ve gone to Canada. In August we would’ve been in Gatlinburg.”
The coronavirus put a stop to such plans this year, but Eck insisted that for herself and her husband, at least, the situation has turned out to have a silver lining.
“Mostly you hear about the bad stuff related to COVID,” she said. “But this is something good, because it’s gotten people from our past to come out and sit and talk to each other. We’ve seen people we hadn’t seen in years.”
The couple’s get-togethers are usually held on Friday nights, according to Eck, and are typically limited to about eight participants. Eck serves pre-packaged snacks and simple fare like grilled burgers and hot dogs to cut down on the chance of transmission through food preparation.
Guests come from all over, according to Eck.
“Friends from the Y. Friends from church. Friends that I work with,” she said. “When we set up a group, we try to find something that’s common between them. One time, it was people that Fred used to carpool with when he was in college. Another time some of his cousins came out from Springfield.”
The gathering on Friday, Oct.30 was the couple’s seventeenth, according to Eck.
“And nobody’s gotten COVID yet,” she said.
Fred Eck said his reasons for arranging these little parties were simple.
“I built a bar, so I figured I ought to use it,” he said. “Then I put it on Facebook and everybody wanted to come.”
Some of their guests hadn’t left the house in months before being invited to their home, according to Eck.
“Most of them were scared to death to go anywhere,” he said. “But they know we don’t go out much, we stay secure, so they felt safe.”
The arrival of colder weather will probably put a stop to the couple’s get-togethers for the next few months, according to Eck, but they’ll be back at it again in the Spring.
“We’ve got it pretty well down to a science now,” he said. “And COVID will still be here, won’t it?”
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish