Why This New Bedford Restaurant Has Money Pinned to the Ceiling
You walk into the popular West End Grill on Rockdale Avenue in New Bedford, order an amazing breakfast or lunch, and notice money stuck to the ceiling. Sometimes it has written on it the name and the date the people were there; other times with personal messages written across the bill.
Some bars and eateries that feature this never take their currency down, but at the West End Grill, the money is taken down every year, and for a good cause.
"When my son was born, he had open heart surgery," said West End Grill manager Michelle Eugenio. "When we first started the ceiling fundraiser, we had a sign that read, 'Give me a Buck and Try Your Luck.'" She said the idea came from a friend who saw it elsewhere.
The customers took to the novel fundraising idea.
"On Blake's first 'heart-a-versary,' we showed our gratitude by donating all the funds to the American Heart Association during their annual Heart Walk, that we've participated in for the last seven years and have so far raised in excess of $20,000," Eugenio said.
One legend has it that taverns and bars during California's Gold Rush would stow money on the ceiling with names and secret messages written on the bill, so that in case the prospect mining didn't work out, at least they had "get home" money at the pub. Whether miners never made it back or they no longer needed the money, cash was abandoned to the ceilings and the money that was never claimed has stayed there, and in a handful of cases, the money is still there today.
Thus the tradition of pinning money to the ceiling was born – or maybe the tradition came from our own local whaling sailors here in New Bedford. According to fishing lore, the practice stems from the old tradition in which the seamen would attach money to the wall on their way out to sea. That way, they always had money for drinks when they returned.
How many misfires have occurred as customers try their luck at money to the West End Grill ceiling?
"Plenty of folks have been unable to get the money to stick, and that goes for some of our own employees," Eugenio said with a laugh. The entire crew is terrific and hard working, including owners Danny and Maria Tremblay, as well as fellow manager Monique Charbonneau, Arthur Correia, Carol, Morgan and Diane.
As for young Blake, he is doing beautifully with all of his regular check ups, even though future surgeries are anticipated. Like other ceilings, the one at the West End Grill must also be broken through in a figurative sense, because Blake's life deserves the open, endless sky as his ceiling.