John Pann – A Man of Many Talents

John Pann – A Man of Many Talents

There aren’t many people that you meet and everyone else seems to like. My late partner with the Old Town Crier, David Underwood, was like that. Always a great attitude, always a smile and always asking “Hi, how are you?”. John Pann is like that! When the Pandemic hit this past March, most of us stayed at home to work, lost our jobs or just got by as well as we could. John Crouch Tobacconist was impacted by the virus but did stay open through the shutdown with John as the only employee. Eight hours a day, seven days a week. He got to see a lot!

John is first generation Irish and grew up in Michigan and Florida. John’s life and mine sort of paralleled each other. My early years were spent in Florida as well and as this article progresses you will discover the other coincidences in our lives.

John is a restless soul. He started riding motorcycles in races when he was six-years-old and competed until he was 15. “I enjoyed it,” he tells me, “I broke both legs, arms and a rib.” He then shows me the bulge under his shirt that marks the broken rib. “My dad bought me a 50cc Honda when I was 6,” he tells me. In the beginning he rode motocross starting with a Suzuki 125 and then moved to bigger bikes like the very well balanced Honda 250 single cylinder. As he got older he moved to flat track racing which is basically a dirt oval. One of the preferred motorcycles in those days was the Triumph Tiger 100, a 500cc motorcycle that was light at only 335 pounds and had a high ground clearance. It was the same kind of motorcycle that Bob Dylan crashed in 1966 near his home in Woodstock, New York. In the wake of that accident, Dylan withdrew from the public and did not tour for eight years. John was not so reluctant, he followed in the footsteps, or rather, tire tracks of his motorcycle riding dad and hit the streets in 1988 on his 1000cc, Honda Hurricane.

This is our second coincidence. I also rode a 1966 Triumph 500 motorcycle that I wrecked in 1968 and put me in the hospital for three months off and on.

I first met John when he was working at O’Connell’s Irish Pub in Old Town where he worked for five and a half years. This was soon after O’Connell’s opened and John joined a cast of Irish Lads that were the most fun people in town. John lit up the bar with his engaging personality.

From O’Connell’s, John went to work for our friend Stephen Mann and his newest restaurant, T.J. Stones. While John was working at O’Connell’s he also worked part time at John Crouch Tobacconist. When he got to T.J.’s and was working fulltime, Mann didn’t want John to have another part time job. He wanted him to enjoy his days off, which John understood.

After 2 years John left T.J.’s to work at one of Steve’s other restaurants, Shooter McGees in West Alexandria. This is when I got to know Steve Mann. My office was at 119 South Patrick Street. I also lived there and we had a great patio. When those guys got off work they would show up at my place at 2 am and I would join them for a cocktail on the patio. It was a rough life! I would say more but you probably wouldn’t believe half of the stories.

After he left Shooters John got a call from Carter, the manager at John Crouch and asked what John was doing. “I’m not doing anything,” he replied, “I am unemployed!” Carter invited John to come back to work at the smoke shop, which he did that day, and that is where he has been for the last seven years.

This is the time period when John and I had a similar experience and brought us closer together. It started seven years ago in the fall. I couldn’t walk more than a block without having to stop for breath and my right arm hurt, my chest hurt and my gums hurt. I relented and went to a doctor who put me into Medstar Hospital in Washington D.C. to have my heart catheterized. They found that a major artery was fully blocked. They immediately placed two stents in the artery which probably saved my life. In the spring of the next year John asked me about it as he had the same symptoms. I said get to a doctor. He did and went through the same procedure and had a stent inserted in his heart. We both recommend that folks have their hearts checked periodically. We both are very lucky.

Johns other hobbies were Ham and CB radio. “You can talk around the world on a Ham Radio,” I commented. “You can talk to yourself!” he exclaims. “You can bleed in, breaker on, and wait for it to go around the world and hear yourself talk on a clear night.”

John’s love today is his 1984 Chevrolet El Camino that he bought after he had his stent procedure. The vehicle was in reasonable shape but definitely needed a paint job. You may see him cruising around Old Town in his pride and joy and you will definitely find him standing in the doorway at John Crouch Tobacconist on King Street greeting all of the passersby. Do yourself a favor and stop in and say hello. You will probably make a great new friend.

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