"I came in on the day of the race, and there must have been 50 people at 10 o'clock in the morning wearing shorts and sneakers," Phylis says. "They all wanted their free beer. I wasn't giving out free beer. The story was wrong. I could see people would be coming in all day looking for the free beer."
What was there to do? "I went into le back," Phylis says. "I made up a big sign. It said FREE BEER ONLY FOR OFFICIAL ENTRANTS. MUST SHOW NUMBER. That ended the free beer right there."
The runners have covered almost seven miles when they reach The Happy Swallow. There is a different New England look here. This is the edge of an old mill town. The Dennison paper factory stands on the left. Train tracks crisscross the road. The Happy Swallow stands on the right.
In marathon history, this is the spot where Tommy Longboat made his smartest move in the 1907 race. A freight train was coming, and Longboat, a Canadian Indian, and eight other runners hurried to cross the tracks before the train arrived. The rest of the field had to wait, in the drizzle and sleet, for the train to pass. Longboat beat the eight other runners to win the race.
The Happy Swallow has been at the same location since the repeal of Prohibition. Maybe even before the repeal of Prohibition. This is a blue-collar, all-age neighborhood bar. Two pinball machines are lined against one wall. Four television sets are spread around the room.
"I call those my New England Patriots television sets," Phylis says. "The Patriots had that good season and went to the Super Bowl two years ago and every week the crowd got larger in here and I needed another television set. I started with one and wound up with four. The Patriots bought those sets for me."
The marathon is the best day of the entire year for The Happy Swallow. From 10 in the morning until seven at night, the beer is sold so fast that there isn't time to wash glasses. Twenty barrels of beer. Plastic cups. One man is hired just to tap kegs and bring bottles from the cellar. Another man cooks hot dogs. The place is noisy and packed. New Year's Eve on a Monday afternoon.
"It's my best day of every year, far and away," Phylis says. "The only one that ever came close was the day of Hurricane Gloria. Don't ask me why. We do very well during disasters. We're the first service on the Boston Edison line, and for some reason we never lose our power. Hurricanes. Blizzards. The place is packed."
The marathon is first in the standings. Disasters are second. There also is no dispute about the third-place event at The Happy Swallow.
"Third is Waxie Mandino's stag party," Phylis says.