LINCOLN PARK— When Adam Klemm moved out of town a decade ago, Bill Hemme was the last bartender to pour him a farewell pint at his local bar, Four Farthings.
And this year when fate brought him back to Lincoln Park — where bartenders vanish with the seasons — Klemm found a little comfort to find Ol' Bill still there behind the welcoming bar and grill at Lincoln and Dickens.
"I came back to the same apartment, and at first all you see is how Chicago has changed in 10 years, and then there's Bill. It's nice to see something that lasts," Klemm said. "Really, it's kind of comforting."
Hemme got the job at Four Farthings after his truck-driving career stalled, and he took a few bartending classes that taught him how to best deal with drunkards, idiots and fools, as well as how to mix a tasty cocktail.
"What they really taught me was how to deal with people," Hemme said. "That was before mixology. They warned us not to use most of the ingredients that are now cool. Like Malort, which used to be what you bought for somebody you don't like."
He has faithfully poured pints — and generous double shots of whiskey — at Four Farthings at least four days a week since 1981, except for a few months in 1987 when he quit to drive a beer truck and joined a couple guys in a failed attempt to strike it rich in advertising.
Over the years, Hemme has watched Lincoln Park change from a youthful drinkers paradise to the older, more affluent neighborhood it is today.
"I lived down the street, and my share of the rent, with three roommates, was $87.75, including heat," Hemme said. "The neighborhood was filled with young people living in two-flats and three-flats that are all gone now, replaced by massive mansions. This was what Wicker Park and Bucktown are today."
Indeed, a lot has changed, but not Hemme, who says The Farthings — that's what Lincoln Park denizens call it — has become like family.
"I don't own the place. I didn't think that this would be something I'd do for so long," Hemme says. "But it's special."
After all, in 1987 Hemme met his wife, Teresa, an Irish immigrant working as a housekeeper, at the corner tap he's manned for 32 years.
"I saved her from one of our rather obnoxious regulars who was bothering her," Hemme said. "And then I decided to bother her instead."
As things turned out, Bill and Teresa's barroom romance led to marriage in March 1988, and they had a daughter, Gillian.
"I've kind of grown up here, and hung out here. And now I work here," says Gillian, now 25, in between delivering drinks poured by her father to thirsty patrons.
Hemme loves working with Gillian, an aspiring playwright and actress who scored a part on an episode of "Mind Games" on ABC that's set to air this spring.
"The best part is I get to spend time with her," he says, smiling. "She's a bright young girl and interesting person and really fun to talk to. And she's a good worker."
There's certain times when Gillian especially appreciates having her "Pops" within earshot, too.
"Whenever a creep tries to hit on me, I just say, ‘That's my dad behind the bar, so you've gotta stop.' " She said. "It actually comes in pretty handy."
On busy nights, the father-daughter team doesn't do much chatting because Hemme, 65, doesn't stop moving.
If he's not mixing drinks, he's delivering grub or washing dishes or restocking the bar or listening to somebody's troubles.
So if you stop by to see Hemme, please try to be patient.
If there's one thing that ticks him off, it's a drinker in a hurry.
"Whatever you do, just don't whistle or snap your fingers at me," he says. "I'll see you; don't worry. I'm here for ya … and, really, I'm not going anywhere."