Of course there were stories of the good-ol' days and who was sick/dying/dead from the area, but they also were the a great window into the "old school" way of thinking. At our breakfast joint there were a few lesbians that worked there. I can not tell you how many times I was told (in a not very quiet tone because some of them were hard of hearing) that they were "LESS-BEE-ANS and how they couldn't understand how someone so cute could be a "LESS-BEE-AN. They told me I just needed to find a husband and settle down (even though they knew that i wouldn't be the quiet wife type).
They were also my mirror for any situation I was in. The reflection I got from being at that table when I presented anything helped me realize what the correct answer was. Any boyfriend (including my future husband) during that time, had to meet my old men and "pass" the unofficial test. Whenever I decided to move out of state, which was often, I had to run it past the guys. Not many 20 year olds have such a great support system.
It all eventually came to an end. After I got married, I had one more great year with them, and then they all passed away rather quickly with in about 7 months of each other. While they have been gone for almost 5 years, not a day goes by where I don't hear them all in my head laughing about a decision I have made or shouting out advice to guide me in my every day life. And when I go to coffee now (admittedly more rarely now) the players in the coffee break 2.0 pale in comparison to the men that once occupied those seats.