Cape Cod Characters – Cap’n Joe of the Casino

The mural Joe Miron painted at Captain Kidd, courtesy of Captain Kidd Restaurant

Throughout its history Cape Cod has always had its share of characters. There have always been those larger than life individuals whose personalities have insured that they left their mark on this area long after they have passed on. They have come from all walks of life, worked in all fields, these characters have one thing in common, the lasting legacies they have left.

One such Cape Cod character made his livelihood slinging suds as a bartender beginning before World War II. However his creativity with cocktails was surpassed by his creativity with a sketch pad. His name was Joe Miron and if you lived in and around Falmouth during the middle of the 20th century chances are you had heard of ‘Cap’n Joe.’

Joe Miron was born in 1894 in the town of Webster, Massachusetts on the Connecticut border. The son of an opera singer he would grow up in Webster before leaving to serve in the Army during World War I. Miron would return and try his hand at Vaudeville which was not a success. He then begin his rise by serving alcohol during the Prohibition at a speakeasy called The 19th Hole and then later at Boston’s Dinty Moore’s Hickory House.

In the summer of 1939 Miron would travel from Dinty Moore’s to tend bar at a radical new place in Falmouth. It was called the Casino Bar and was quite literally at the water’s edge. The new bar and restaurant had been built as a part of the established casino at Falmouth Heights. William McCann owned the new summer venture but Joe Miron would quickly become the star attraction.

Donned in a striped pullover, dungarees, and a beret Miron would gain notoriety locally as his talent for caricatures became apparent. The bartender would serve up the drinks his customers desired and then follow that up by sketching their likeness while they drank it. Beyond caricatures Miron had skill with the brush when it came to landscapes and watercolors. By his third season at the Casino Bar his works were already being showcased at local art shows and galleries on the Cape. He rightfully earned the nickname of ‘painting bartender.’

A postcard featuring Joe Miron, courtesy of Falmouth Public Library

The Casino Bar’s popularity skyrocketed along with that of Cap’n Joe. He would create a spot in the bar called ‘Amen Corner.’ It was named that for those patrons who would drink their fill and then sit in the corner to philosophize. It was here that Miron would hang some of his favorite caricature sketches. The notoriety only grew when Miron was featured in the October 1943 issue of Click magazine. There he was referred to as ‘Boston’s bartender artist.’ Still it was on Cape Cod where his artistry was truly unleashed. He proved that when he painted the mural at Captain Kidd Restaurant in 1946. It still remains there today.

Miron’s fame allowed him to do more in the community as well. In 1945 he gave a reassuring lecture to 500 soldiers returning from World War II at the Camp Edwards Convalescent Hospital. He used his own service as an example, stating that his love of painting began at age thirty-eight as his dealt with the difficulty of returning to civilian life after the First World War. He was a truly beloved Cape Cod character.

The Casino Bar, which would become known as the Casino-by-the-Sea, was a summer endeavor, allowing Cap’n Joe the chance to travel during the offseason. His travel hit its peak beginning in the 1950’s. Miron would visit places like Italy, France, Portugal, and Spain, meeting the locals and painting whenever and wherever he could. His most famous trips were those he took with good friend Burl Ives. The two had become friends during the mid-1940’s after meeting in New York. They would travel to places like the Bahamas and more throughout the 1950’s. Still, no matter how far away he traveled, Joe Miron always came back to rule the roost at The Casino.

Throughout the 1950’s and into the 1960’s Miron would continue to thrill guests with his skill as a mixologist and enthrall them with his artistic gifts as well. Summer afternoons would routinely see Cap’n Joe proudly shout down to The Casino’s private beach via megaphone during cocktail hour: “Cocktail spree, Cape Cod fishballs!” Many guests would hear it as ‘cocktails free’ and come running. As fondly remembered as The Casino-by-the-Sea still remains it is hard to imagine it without the presence of Joe Miron.

Cap’n Joe would remain behind the bar in Falmouth Heights for thirty years before sailing off into a well earned retirement. He remained a vibrant part of the community up until his passing in 1980. The eulogy given at Miron’s funeral summed up the larger than life figure as perfectly as possible. Joe was described as: “an artist, bartender, philosopher, bon vivant, world traveler, raconteur, restaurateur and part-time baby sitter…The word ‘character’ is loosely applied to many people, but Joe was the walking definition.”

By Staff
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