Television thrust open the doors to Archie Bunker’s Place and Cheers, sparking a love affair with the neighborhood bar that has endured for more than four decades.
But 2910 Hollywood Blvd. has since 1944 been home to the real deal: Stratford’s Bar & Restaurant. Lovingly wrapped into Stratford’s history was its former owner, Guy Roper.
“Completely,” his daughter Robin Gayle Roper said. “And so was I. I started working there when I was 12 busing tables and worked there for 26 years — a fourth-generation. It was a great way to spend more time with him because he was always at work.”
Roper, born in Chicago on March 6, 1938, died of liver disease Nov. 2. He was 77.
Roper, a Hollywood commissioner from 1986 to 1994, helped make Stratford’s — an unassuming haunt of black-and-white terrazzo floors, plastic chairs and red-and-white tablecloths — a Broward institution.
One bit of South Florida celebrity lore: On a shelf above the bar stood 15 ceramic Miami Dolphins dolls, clad with pin cushions. Robin Roper tells of the days when members of the famed undefeated 1972 team were regulars who wouldn’t play a game without sticking a pin into the dolls to jinx opposing teams.
“That’s why they went 17 and 0,” Robin Roper said.
Guy Roper was an avid Dolfan, she said. “The football players weren’t making as much money then and drinks were cheap. Jim Kiick would sleep upstairs. Manny Fernandez was our godfather. Larry Csonka. They all came in there and my dad took them fishing. We had so much fun.”
Fish fry dinners were a specialty. Inexpensive Buds. Shuffleboard. All served with a side of Guy Roper hospitality.
Stratford’s dates to 1938, the year of Roper’s birth. Al Stratford opened the bar, reportedly the first in Hollywood, on Federal Highway and moved it to its current location six years later. Stratford ran the bar until he died at 73 in a 1958 car accident. His son-in-law took over. Guy Roper, Stratford’s grandson, who started working at the bar as a 19-year-old University of Florida biology student, bought the bar from his father in 1973. He sold Stratford’s, which kept its name, four years ago.
“Al was an Englishman and bookmaker who was very generous, outgoing and a likable guy. Everyone knew him and loved him in town,” Roper said of his grandfather in a Miami Herald article in 2000, on the eve of Stratford’s 62nd anniversary.
Many said the same of Roper.
“He dedicated all of his time to giving to people,” his daughter said. “He was never one to ask for help. He just did it. It was a welcoming, no frills, come-have-a-great-meal and enjoy meeting new people kind of place. You had every walk of life. So many people met and got married there. I met my husband there.”
A retired Hollywood police officer, a regular since 1960, echoed that viewpoint when he told the Herald in 1999, “Stratford’s is like home, and the Ropers and other club members are family.”
In addition to his daughter, Roper is survived by his wife, Marsha Roper; his son, Guy Franklin Roper IV; four grandchildren and his sister, Janine. A memorial gathering and Masonic service will be 6-9 p.m. Nov. 13 at Boyd-Panciera Family Funeral Care, 6400 Hollywood Blvd. A funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Nov. 14 at St. David Catholic Church, 3900 S. University Dr., Davie, followed by a reception. “We’re asking people to bring their best stories,” Robin Roper said.