‘He was bigger than life’: Partners, lifelong friends remember Tahoe icon Peter Paine
Above the normal clank of pint glasses and other background noises at the bar could be heard the voice of only one man.
With a crowd surrounding him, hanging on to every word like the beer glasses in their hands, Peter Paine regaled the group with stories of the old days at Squaw Valley and of times spent teaching skiing in New Zealand.
“I’ve never known a better storyteller,” said current Pete ‘n Peters owner David “Johnny B.” Rutter on the larger-than-life co-founder of the pub who passed away at age 80 on Aug. 6.
Whether it was only for a fleeting moment over a glass of beer or a decades long friendship, the announcement of Paine’s passing triggered an avalanche of grief from those that knew the longtime skier and local icon. The post shared by Pete ‘n Peters’ Facebook page regarding his death has drawn nearly 200 comments from those sharing memories about softball games, nights at poker tables, and simply, the involuntary smile Paine would put on the faces of those he met.
“One of his favorite things to do was to sit down out at the bar, entertain people, buy drinks … He loved holding court. That was one of his big things,” said Rutter.
Paine came to the area in the late 1950s and worked as a bellman at Squaw Valley. He later became a ski instructor at the resort and worked at several ski conventions for Squaw founder Alex Cushing.
Eventually, Paine and Pete Perata would partner to open longtime Tahoe City fixture Pete ‘n Peters.
“We talked about opening a bar and talk, talk, talk, and we finally said, ‘God, let’s do it,’” said Perata. “We started in 1975 and opened in February of ’76. We had a lot of good times together, Peter and I”
As a lifelong lover of gambling, Paine often joked that he’d come up with the money for the bar by winning at cards. And shortly after Pete ‘n Peters opened he had poker tables set up in the back of the bar — an activity Perata said didn’t sit well with a segment of the locals at the time.
“That lasted for about a year, and then all of the wives started getting mad because all of their husbands were playing poker … we had to put a stop to that,” said Perata, who sold his share of the bar to Rutter in the early 1980s.
The next several years at Pete ‘n Peters would be highlighted by fast-pitch softball state championships, late nights of stories from past times, sports betting, and later on, raising money for the youth in the community.
“He was very instrumental in setting up a program to help North Tahoe athletics. We did that for years before the booster club was formed,” said Rutter, who added the bar raised roughly $250,000 for North Tahoe High School athletics.
Paine and Rutter went on to run Pete ‘n Peters together until Paine’s retirement in 2009.
“He still came into the bar all of the time,” said Rutter. “That was one of his favorite things to do — to sit down and tell stories about Squaw Valley and his days about teaching skiing in New Zealand … He was bigger than life. He really was, and I truly miss him.”
Due to COVID-19, Pete ‘n Peters said they will wait to hold a celebration of Paine’s life. Follow http://www.facebook.com/pete.n.peters/ for updates.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643.
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