Memories Of Huntington, WV
Huntington Through The Years
HUNTINGTON THROUGH THE YEARS
Through the years, the residents of Huntington have cried, laughed, and loved together. We have faced tough times and came together to help our fellow citizens get through. We celebrated victories together and partied together and shared success together. Through the years, Huntington has stayed together. We are Huntington.
I grew up in Huntington after moving here in the mid 70’s. This book, although it touches on other time periods, mainly focuses on the 70’s and 80’s when I was growing up in Huntington. The 70’s started out in tragedy. I did not live in Huntington at the time but even as a boy in Cumberland, Md I remember hearing about The Marshall Football Team Plane Crash.
The horrendous crash happened on November 14, 1970 and claimed the lives of 75 people. According to the website “November 14, 1970 ... Remembered
Memorial of the 1970 Marshall University Football Team Plane Crash” http://www.marshall.edu/library/speccoll/virtual_museum/Memorial/default.asp
“On a rainy hill side in Wayne County, West Virginia, the lives of 75 people were lost in the worst single air tragedy in NCAA sports history. Among the losses were nearly the entire Marshall University football team, coaches, flight crew, numerous fans, and supporters. The event marked a boundary by which an entire community would forever measure time... before or after "The Crash".
It took time to recover from the accident and in many ways we still have not recovered as the pain of the accident and the loss of loved ones will always be within Huntington city limits. But, Marshall football has risen like a Phoenix and given Herd fans much to celebrate.
“We Are Marshall” was a successful movie about the crash that was released in 2006. The widely acclaimed movie brought both smiles and tears to Huntington residents.
Marshall was the winningest college football program in the 90’s with 114 wins. We cheered watching the heroics of Randy Moss, Chad Pennington, and Byron Leftwich. The Thundering Herd won the NCAA Division 1-AA National Championship in 1992 and again in 1996.
Tragedy visited Huntington in the 70’s and 80’s when Huntington Police officers were murdered. I remember reading about the murder of Clemmie Curtis not long after I moved to Huntington. The chilling murder has stayed in my mind for years. He died on August 3, 1976.
From The Officer Down Memorial Page http://www.odmp.org/officer/3728-patrolman-clemmie-e-curtis “Patrolman Curtis' body was found handcuffed near his patrol car in a wooded area just outside of the Huntington city limit. He had been shot through the chest once. In January of 1985 one of America's worst serial killers, Henry Lee Lucas, on death row in Texas confessed that he and his partner Ottis Toole, on death row in Florida, had killed Patrolman Curtis.
Lucas died in prison in March of 2001. Toole is the primary suspect in the death of Adam Walsh. Police were still investigating the murder when Toole died of cirrhosis of the liver in prison in September of 1996.
Patrolman Curtis had been with the agency for nine years.”
Clemmie CurtisAfter returning home from working the evening patrol shift an unknown assailant ambushed officer Mills. Officer Mills was shot once, leaving him paraplegic. He succumbed to his injuries five years later.
From The Officer Down website: “December 14, 1981, Police Officer Paul Harmon was shot and killed while investigating a break-in at approximately 1:45 am.
The two suspects were escapees who were burglarizing the service station. The suspects attacked him and struck him in the head. They then obtained control of his service weapon and shot him several times.
Both suspects were convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life. One died in prison in 2000.
Officer Harmon had served with the Huntington Police Department for seven years and had previously served with the United States Air Force. He was survived by his wife and two daughters.”
“December 15, 1981- After returning home from working the evening patrol shift an unknown assailant ambushed officer Mills. Officer James Mills was shot once, leaving him paraplegic. He succumbed to his injuries five years later.”
There were many sad times but Huntington citizens survived the pain – together. The victories were many as well. Not just Marshall Football but Coach Rick Huckaby ignited Marshall’s Basketball team in the 80’s (1983-89) and were known as Huck’s Herd.
What I have most loved about Huntington through the years is that it is a close-knit community who stands together through good and bad. If tragedy strikes Huntington residents are there to do their part and when Huntington is successful, the city celebrates together.
This book is by no means a complete account of Huntington’s history in the 70’s and 80’s but instead, the inspiration that Huntington had on me as I grew up in the Tri-State.
I moved to the Huntington area in 1976. Although I live in Huntington, there are some things I miss about Huntington. I miss the chocolate cake with vanilla icing from Big Bear bakery. I miss the smell of freshly made donuts from Ward's while walking Fourth Avenue. I miss how great Dwight's Kingburger was at 4 am after a night of clubbing with my friends, and the smell of popcorn when you walked into Hill's. I miss the pepperonis under the cheese of Delapa's Pizza in Proctorville. I miss The Hot Dog Special at Frank's Sandwich shop and fries and blue cheese of Julio's. I miss buying an out of town paper at Nick's News, cassettes at National Record Mart, 45 rpm's at Davidson's, and import albums at Opus One and Sight N Sounds. I miss the Huntington Blizzard, The Huntington Cubs, Huck's Herd, and the Marshall football Herd playing for 1-AA Championships.
I miss a hot summer day at Olmpic Pool. I miss Georgie from The Copa, Blondie from Davis' Place, fistfights at Verb's, happy hour buffet's at Robby's, one armed Harry Hill at the after hours bar Old Coachman's Club on Fifth Street, comedy night at The Old Library, drinking ice teas from mason jars at Bojangles, Ali at Rockers, and John Black's cackle at the old Jake's. I miss the music of Foxwagon, James Murphy and Zachariah, and Menlo Park. I miss Billy Ray and The Players packing the Ragtime Lounge full of hot women every weekend. I miss drinking beer on Big Bear parking lot after a long night of work.
I'll always remember drinking Stroh's Beer on the porch listening to the Cincinnati Reds on WGNT. Also, there was Bob Miller in The Morning and Trivia on WGNT, Gary "Music" Miller on WKEE, Dr. Demento, King Biscuit Four on the FM radio. Of course, Mr Cartoon and Beeper on TV 3 and Ernie Salvatore writing about Mary ex-Model's Derby Day bet.
I don't miss paying a dime to cross the 6th street bridge, the long traffic on the bridge or the many years we had to wait for The East End Bridge. I don't miss Dave Peyton writing for The Herald-Dispatch. I don't miss Cruise Ave but I do miss Chi-Chis. Huntington has grown bigger with Pullman Square, Wal-Marts, and consolidated high schools. I miss the freedom of the safety of being out at night and being able to walk downtown without bums begging for money. I'm still in Huntington and still love Huntington, a part of me still longs for the innocence of Huntington of the 70's and 80's. Was it Huntington or just the time period?.
DOWNTOWN HUNTINGTON IN THE 70'S AND 80'S
In the 70's, Downtown Huntington was clean and vibrant. There was a hustle and bustle down the city streets as people scrambled through the stores like a big outdoor mall. There were department stores like Anderson Newcome, The Huntington Store, and The Bazaar.
Murphy's and H.L. Green were variety stores. Huntington had three downtown records stores with the chain store National Record Mart, local store Davidson's Records and farther down Fourth Avenue there were three different stores at different times. First there was Audio Tapes and Records. Local chain Opus One replaced it and then in the eighties, Gary Fizer ran Sight N Sounds.
Sight N Sounds was successful for years. Gary specialized in getting hard to find import hard rock albums and collectibles. Gary even helped usher in cds. Used record stores moved into the area and Gary delt with used records as well. But as the phonograph went out of business, so did Sight N Sounds. Although Now Hear This has done a good job in keeping Marshall students in cds.
Dan's and Glen's Sporting Goods have thrived in Huntington for years. Back then, Pied Piper was a successful stereo and musical instrument outlet. Nick's News sat on the corner next to National Record Mart and across from the courthouse. Owned by the Tweel family, Nick's specialized in magazines and out of town newspapers. They also carried books and cards. There were fast food places like Burger King and Bowincals. Bailey's Cafeteria offered a fresh assortment of home cooked foods. Chili Willi's was just starting out in the building that used to house a jeans store.
There always has been and will be a nightlife in downtown Huntington. In the 80's after the new Library opened, the Old Library became a bar. Ah, yes, beer and books. Lots of young comics there on comedy night. I am not positive but I think I saw a very young Jeff Foxworthy there.
The big teen hang out before Cruise Avenue was the game room Scratch and Tilt. Teens from all over the tri-state would fill it up on weekends to play pinball, Space Invaders, and Pac Man. Cruise Avenue was a place for kids to drive around and socialize. Of course the gas was high at around 99 cents a gallon. Downtown had jewelry stores, shoe stores, and dress shops. During the Christmas season all the stores would stay open until 9. Love's Hardware kept the Tri-State hammering and building. There were a few drug stores as well: Revco, Rite Aid, and Bogess Drugs.
Downtown was alive and well. In the 80's and 90's, things began to change. Downtown lost a chance at the Huntington Mall in the mid 70's. So for that we have the Huntington Mall in Barboursville. The rumors were that the old money that controlled Huntington did not want the mall downtown. Their theory was that the competition of the mall would destroy downtown stores. Downtown did start to die slowly after the mall opened. Downtown was likely to suffer either way. It is just the way downtowns have trended out in other areas.
Many downtowns are ghost towns. Huntington's downtown went through that stage but has been given a slight shot in the arm by Pullman Square. The Cinema, Camelot, and Keith Albee have been replaced by state of the art movie theatres that pull in customers from all over the tri-state. Steak and Ale is long gone and so is Albrecht’s but Max and Erma’s, The Marshall Hall of Fame Café, and others are now there.
Most of the companies that were downtown in the 70's have long gone out of business so the Mall really cannot be totally blamed. The slow demise of cultural city downtowns dying has been an American epidemic. It is just the changing of the guard as people's shopping habits have changed over the years. Downtown's emphasis is now on smaller, local companies instead of chain stores. Downtown is not as alive as it once was but it is not as dead either.
True, the presence of bums downtown do make any attempt at shopping certainly less pleasurable. The violence that has marred the downtown night scene also hangs over a Saturday night like a storm cloud. Pullman Square will ensure that the parking lots downtown remain full. Although it is now The Big Sandy Superstore Arena instead of The Huntington Civic Center, concerts and events do continue to bring downtown alive. Although The Regatta no longer exists, there are several events at The Harris Riverfront Park that brings in outsiders. Although no longer the hub of the city, Downtown Huntington is still alive.
Anyone who grew in 1980’s Huntington had to be familiar with Cruise Avenue. Cruise Avenue was essentially a strip of land in the parking lot which is now Pullman Square. Teenagers from all over the area would park and stand outside of their cars. Many others would cruise up and down on each side of the road. The cars would go slow and often talk to the car in the other lane. This was essentially the concept of an ‘outdoor teen dance.’ This gave the mostly teens and early twentysomethings somewhere to socialize.
Cruise Avenue came as a response to the traffic problem that was caused by the teens cruising up and down Fourth Avenue. The teens would cruise up and down all weekend night long backing up the traffic downtown and creating a traffic jam. The teens would talk to cars in the other lane. The city then set up Cruise Avenue so the cruisers would have a place to go and would not clog up Fourth Avenue. Cruise Avenue worked for a while but still caused traffic problems downtown. Although the teens did have somewhere to go it was not really deemed by most parents and city officials as being a proper hangout for teens. It was very hard to keep drugs and alcohol out of the area even though the police patrolled the area regularly. Occasionally fights would break out.
Pullman Square turned out to be the solution to the problem of bored teens. Teens congregate there on weekends and it is a much safer environment. As far as the traffic, well, it appears that Pullman Square ridded the tri-state of teen cruisers…either that or high gas prices. Though, to many people who hung out there back in the day: hot summer nights, loud music, the opposite sex, newly found friends and old friends, and the ice-cold beer were a recipe for fun and memories.
HUNTINGTON MEDIA IN THE 70'S AND 80'S
Back in the 1970’s and 80’s, radio was king. This was in the time before ipods and satellite radio. In fact, the biggest competition came from the old 8 track tape deck in the car. Even stores and business offices played the radio instead of piping in music.
In the tri-state area, it was the glory days of radio. AM Radio was popular in the 70’s. WGNT, AM 930, out of Huntington had a loyal following a great line-up. Before shows like “Bob and Tom” and “The John Boy and Billy Show”, WGNT offered Miller In The Morning with Bob Miller when Bob moved onto Oregon, his little brother J.B. Miller inherited his show and became a fixture in tri-state radio. WGNT featured DJ’s like Rod Grant and another tri-state radio icon Ernie G. Anderson. Ernie hosted the popular late-night trivia show. Callers would call in with questions and people would call in with answers. Before political talk radio took over AM, this kind of interactive radio let listeners get involved and feel like part of the show.
WGNT would occasionally rerun old 40’s shows like The Shadow as they helped celebrate the history of radio.Many tri-staters had a ritual of tuning into WGNT on a hot summer’s night to listen to Marty Brenneman and Joe Nuxhall broadcast Cincinnati Reds baseball: or as they were called back then – The Big Red Machine. Frank Giardinia was the long-time voice of The Herd – Marshall University sports. He has been the director of marketing and a broadcaster at Penn State. Jim Jablonski and Dee Delancey spent time in the WGNT newsroom. Delancey is tri-state news icon having spent many years on local Television newscasts. WKEE was the king of local pop music in the 70’s and 80’s much the way it is today. Gary “Music” Miller was the iconic dj who commanded the airways for years and his name became synonymous with WKEE and local pop music. Jack O’ Shea was a popular daytime dj. Casey Casem anchored Billboard’s American Top 40 on Sunday afternoons.FM 105 came along in late 70’s and early 80’s and gave WAMX a run for the radio rock money.
Out of St. Albans WKLC featured syndicated weekend programming which helped make it popular. Among the shows that were aired weekly was King Biscuit Flour Hour which featured bands like Molly Hatchet, Judas Priest, Foreigner and many more playing live sets. Dr Demento built a following of ‘dimensions and dementites’ by playing demented songs like “They’re Coming To Take Me Away”, “Pencil Neck Geek”, “Dead Puppies “ and many more. Even WMUL, Marshall’s FM station, gained a following by playing the hard rock songs that no one else would play until the hair metal explosion of the early 80’s.
Cable did not reach a lot of areas of the tri-state until late 70’s or early 80’s. For a while, most areas could only tune into the three local channels WSAZ, WCHS, and WOWK. One local show that caught the tri-states eye was Mr. Cartoon. Pre- Oprah, Mr Cartoon had the weekday 4PM slot sewed up for years. The WSAZ original program featured weatherman Jule Huffman as Mr Cartoon. He took over is 1969 and was the host until it went off the air in 1995. His faithful sidekick was Beeper. Wearing a costume that vaguely resembled one of the Banana Splits, Edwin Lake was one employee who played Beeper. The show featured a studio audience of local kids who interacted with the duo. In between, cartoons such as Looney Tune cartoons were played.
in the area for many years. Bob Bowen was a long time sports anchor.
The Herald-Dispatch was the morning paper and the evening paper was The Huntington Advertiser. The HD was the weekend paper. The Huntington Advertiser ceased publication in 1979.Star writers for the papers included Ernie Salvatore (sports), Dave Walsh (sports), Dave Peyton, Lavonda Singer, Jack Hardin, Mickey Johnson and many more wrote for one of the two papers.
TRI-STATE MUSIC SCENE IN 70'S AND 80'S
Huntington, West Virginia had a solid music scene in the 70's and 80's. In the 80's clubs like Rock's, Rock and Roll cafe, and Rockers specialized in the hard rock music or hair metal that had become pop music. The Continental Club, First Street Station, and Bojangles were just some of the many clubs that featured live bands.
One of the first bands to rise to local prominence was Zachariah. Zachariah featured the talents of songwriter/ vocalist James Michael Murphy. Murphy has become a legend in the tri-state area. "Applachian Lady" was recorded in 1974 and became a local classic. The song has been recorded by many local artists including Billy Ray Cyrus who recorded a version but never released it. Larry Pancake and The South of Heaven Band have also recorded it.
Other tri-state classics recorded by Murphy and kept alive for years in local clubs by area bands include "Ol' Cheap Wine" and "Broken Man." "I Never Thought I'd Ever Fall In Love With You" was recorded by Billy ray Cyrus and was included on "Some Gave All" which was one of the biggest selling cds ever recorded by a debut artist selling over ten million copies world-wide.
Steve French who drummed for Zachariah has played with Billy Ray's band Sly Dog for several years. French also drummed and sang lead vocals for the band Cash. Cash recorded the 90's local smash cd "Shoes and Cheese" which included the local hit "Seven Years of Sundays." While Cash was country, French also performed in the 80's hair metal/ hard rock band VHF which rocked several local bars including Bojangles.
Murphy died tragically in a fire in 1995. His death has turned him into a local legend. Sadly, none of his songs have reached the heights they have deserved outside of our region. But the songs still remain as testement to his undeniable songwriting talent.
Zachariah was a very versatile band and they could play rock or country. A close listen to their catalogue reveals songs in various genres. Zachariah various incarnations as they played until Murphy's death. One version included another Billy Ray veteran - Corky Holbrook on bass. Drummer Scott Simms played in a 90's version and he tragically died a few years ago as well.
Zachariah was a band whose sound changed with the times. If Murph had been around the last 15 years he would have found some sort of success in the ever growing country field.
BILLY RAY CYRUS
The Ragtime Lounge became known as The House That Billy Ray Built. Billy Ray and The Players rocked the Tri-State for years before moving onto the world stage. The mullet-clad singer from Flatwoods, Ky made Huntington his honorary home and played “Achy Breaky Heart” hundreds of times at The Ragtime before it become a smash-hit.
Billy Ray packed The Ragtime with women every weekend night as they crammed the little club to get a glimpse of the muscled vocalist.
Billy Ray’s first local hit never appeared on a major label but lit up the airwaves of WTCR. It was a local released single called “It’s Not Over Until It’s Over.” While Billy played most of the songs of his record setting debut album, there were many songs he played at The Ragtime that were never released like “Appalachian Lady”, “Remember”, and “Babysitter”.
“Some Gave All” was his debut album on Mercury Records and it sold over 9 million copies and was at the top of Billboards album charts for 17 straight weeks.
Warchylde came out of Cleveland, Ohio in the 1980s. Led by vocalist Joey Irby they toured the East Coast. They made Huntington a regular stop and eventually a termporary home. They played extensively at Bojangles and then after Bojangles closed they made Rockers their tri-state home.
Warchylde remained as a band into the 90's but only came close to cracking the big time when Irby was the vocalist. Irby had a high pitched wail that was popular in the 80's time frame. He performed an excellent cover of Judas Priest "You Got Another Thing Comin'" and did an outstanding montage of AC/DC songs. His voice was high pitched enough to mimick Triumph or even Rush.
Their 1985 release "Murder By Decibels" has become a metal collector's classic. Record hunters from all over the world hunt it and it has gone from $60 to 200 on ebay at times. "Please Don't go" and "victory" are slow cooking pop rock songs in the style of 80's Triumph. "You Can Get High On Rock N Roll" had the hooky sounds of hair metal. They explored harder terrain on other songs.
later version (possibly early 90's Warchylde without Irby
Malaki was a hard rocking band from the Huntington area that were regulars at Rockers in the 80's.
MENLO PARK / THE RETURN
Menlo Park was formed in the Ashland/ Huntington area in 1979. They took the name Menlo Park in honor of the place where Thomas Edison created the record player. Menlo Park were Mike Fitzpatrick - guitar, organ, saxophone, vocal
Ed Fields - guitar, slide guitar, keyboard, vocal
Gary Kesling - drums, percussion, vocals
Dave Copley - bass, backing vocals
Gary and Mike formed The Return in 1986 and Dave joined them in 1990. The Return still play live and record today.
THE LEGEND OF JAMES MICHAEL MURPHY
Will you cry for me when I’m gone?/ Will you party all night long?/ Will you drink from a bottle of ol’ cheap wine and think about this song?/ I bet you do, I bet you do”…those words musically drift out of local clubs and bars all over the Tri-State area.
The legend of James Michael Murphy lives on.
Sadly, James Michael Murphy died in a fire May 29, 1995. His words and music are not known outside of the Tri-State area, but inside the region, they will live on forever. Bands and singers like Crisp and Davis, South of Heaven Band, Steel Horse Band, Kenny Joe Johnson and Kentucky Rain, Phillip Dain Powell, Larry Pancake, Alligator Jackson, Billy Ray Cyrus, Bobby Cyrus, and many other local bands have performed and recorded his music.
His songs were truly a gift to the Tri-State that local music fans will treasure forever. Sadly, the only song he wrote that has received national attention was “Never Thought I’d Fall In Love With Billy Ray Cyrus recorded and released the song on his debut cd “Some Gave All” which sold over 13 million copies. Billy has guested on his cousin Bobby Cyrus’s new version of Murphy’s song “The Milkman’s Eyes.
But for now, The Huntington and Ashland area has musical treasures that can only be found in this area. Songs like “Ol’ Cheap Wine”, “Broken Man”, and “Appalachian Lady” will keep the legend of James Michael Murphy alive forever.
During his music career, his band, Zachariah, opened for Exile, Three Dog Night, Stepenwolf, Iron Butterfly, and Chuck Berry.
I first had the privilege of seeing Murphy and Zachariah perform live back in '81 when I was only 18. I was working at Big Bear and a girl that worked there was dating Steve French who was Zachariah's drummer.
Several Big Bear employees went to see Zachariah at First Street Station. I went and became an instant fan. I ended up seeing them play about a dozen times.
So next time you are out on the town in Huntington and you are hearing a local band, and you hear the following words begin a song “ It's hurtin' to say what I'm feeling/ It's tearin' me apart /I know when I tell you what's deep inside /It's gonna break your heart”: open and an ice cold beer and think about The Legend of James Michael Murphy and realize that you are enjoying a true gift that many music fans will never have the privilege of hearing.
When I moved to Proctorville, Ohio. The first person I met was a kid who lived across the street from me named Jeff Westlake.
Both big sports fans we found an even bigger common interest in music. Jeff was a big Johnny Cash fan who could play acoustic guitar.
As the end of the 70s grew closer we found ourselves liking harder and louder music. Jeff was an avid Kiss and Ted Nugent fan and began gaining interest in an Australian band named AC/DC.
I began experimenting with new bands and bought an album by a band called Iron Maiden simply because I liked the cover.
I bought Saxon's "Wheels of Steel" because I heard a track in Opus One Record Store. I bought Def Leppard's first album because the band was my age just 16.
Next thing you know Jeff is jamming on an electric guitar to the sounds of Judas Priest and a band his sister discovered while at Ohio State called The Godz. While swimming at Jeff's pool, Jeff, Forrest Hardy, Tim Watts, and I listened to some guys All summer that i never heard of called Ozzy and Dio.
I graduated high school before Jeff and we both got jobs and didn't see each other as much. Jeff played in a few bands but got married, had a daughter, and had a good job as an Area Manager for Rax at a young age.
Jeff never gave up the rock and roll dream and certainly never gave up the guitar. In the mid to late 90s Jeff exploded back with a new band Ned Westlake. Featuring singer Scott Niles the band quickly became one of West Virginia's hottest bands.
The band Westlake recorded two CDs on Thunder Bay records which would become cult classics and contained the song "Bring Me Down" which was a local smash and "Blind" which became a huge hit for his later band.
The band broke up but Jeff exploded back with a band named Hydrogyn. The new band featured his wife Julie, a country vocalist, and his good friend Jeff Boggs.
Since the early 2000s , Hydrogyn has been a world-wide success. They have toured the world a few times and made magazine covers across the planet.
The band has just released their seventh cd of sixth cd of new material called "breaking The Chains." The band keeps changing and evolving their sounding and growing in popularity.
Jeff got the chance to meet his idol Ronnie James Dio. He has recorded with ex-Dio guitarist Craig Goldy and Tracy G.
Goldy was briefly in Hydrogyn as was ex-Megadeth guitarist Jeff young and Westlake wrote a biography on Tracy G.
Jeff also has become a member of a band he idolized as a kid - The Godz and become a good friend of their legendary singer Eric Moore.
Hydrogyn has been produced by Michael Waggener who has worked with Ozzy, Metallica, and many other legends. Jeff has learned from Waggener and has become a much in-demand indie producer himself.
Jeff has recorded excellent projects as a member of Ura-Kia and Audio Porn. He is currently recording a cd as a member of the Godz.
It has been an honor to call Jeff a lifelong friend.
MEMORIAL FIELD HOUSE
Bear's Dad was saddened to hear that The Memorial Field House is going to be demolished. He fondly recalled a sixties concert at the Field House featuring the legendary Man In Black – Johnny Cash. June Carter traveled with Mr. Cash but this was before they were married.
Bear's Dad favorite Memorial Field House story involved a rodeo in the 60’s. The featured performer was Clint Walker who portrayed the title character in television’s “Cheyenne Body.” The Field House was covered in dirt and the crowd was excited and ready for some wild and rowdy rodeo action.
Cheyenne Body was introduced and came racing out of the gate on a furious quarter horse. The horse dashed half the length or two-thirds the length of The Field House. Suddenly, the horse stopped dead in his tracks. The cowboy did a one-and-half tumble overhead of the horse and landed on his ass in the dirt. The embarrassed rider picked up his hat and led the horse back to the gate. He did not dare get back on the horse.
The star walked to the microphone and addressed the audience, saying: “The only explanation that I can think of to give is that I said “Go horse” and he thought I said “Whoa horse!”.
HUNTINGTON IN THE 50'S AND 60'S
Bear's Dad was a charter member of the Jewel City Motorcycle Club in the late ‘50’s. It was not a gang but a social club. They would cruise up through Point Pleasant or take rides up to bike races in Ohio. Gill rode a 1950 74 cubic inch Harley Davidson.
Most of their cruises was before Interstate 64 was built. When 64 was being built, there were signs on the road that said “No pedestrians, no hitchhiking, and no motor driven cycles.” This started the fear that motorcycles were soon to be outlawed. It turned out that the sign was in reference to mopeds and bicycles with motors.
Bear's Dad and his biker friends had several favorite hangouts in the 50’s and 60’s. One was Shoney’s Big Boy on 5th Avenue. This was not the same Shoney’s that stood in Huntington for years next to Captain D’s. This was an old style drive-in complete with carhops and above where Gino’s Pub and Stewarts sits now. Stewart’s was there at this time though. The restaurant was very crowded and full of bikes on weekends. Although different clubs hang out there, there was never any trouble as they were all friendly to each other. Later in the late 50’s, Gino’s Public Pub was built.
There was a watering hole called The Choo Choo Inn. This sat close to where Kroger’s on Fifth Avenue is now. The name was a reference to the C&O Railroad shop that sat behind the tavern.
Bear's Dad also hung out at The Huntington Motorcycle Company. This was a Harley dealer owned by Uncle Bert Thersher on about 25th Street and Third Avenue. Next to it was a drive-in restaurant that was referred to as ‘The Wheel.’ Like most drive-ins it featured carhops. At the time, ACF was running full bore. The Nickel Plant on Route 60 was also thriving.
Fifth Avenue featured Marshall College. Stationer’s was there in the 50’s as well. A Cheverlot dealer sat on Fifth Avenue as well. Further down 5th was Huntington East High School and Wiggin’s, a famous Huntington restaurant which sat across the street from the school. Wiggins featured carhops as well.
Downtown Huntington beautiful and vibrant. The area was extremely clean and the sidewalks were full of bustling shoppers. B&B which was owned by John Beckwith was a busy grocery store that is where Kroger’s on 5th Avenue was now. Evan’s was another store that eventually became Tradewell. A&P (Atlantic and Pacific) was a chain grocery store that had locations in the area. One location was close to 20th Street.
Several drug stores were prominent in the area. Highlawn Pharmacy started out small on Third Avenue but was beginning to expand at this time. Lawrence Drug Store was a huge local store at around 4th Avenue and 10th Street. Walgreens had a store downtown. Kesyer’s was another local drug store.
Monty’s Original Pizza and Jim’s Spaghetti House sat where they are now and were tremendously popular. Texaco and Gulf were popular gas stations.
Bonded was a popular gas station with locations at the foot of the 6th Street bridge and 8th Avenue and 16th Street. At one time, Bonded had the policy that if they did not ask you if you wanted the inside of your car swept out then gas was free. Bear's Dad and one of his buddies cruised in with a bunch of broken beer bottles in the front passenger side and the worker cheerfully said, “Let me shovel these out for you.” Bear's Dad Harley had a three gallon tank and at thirty cents a gallon, he could fill it up for about a dollar and ride for about a hundred miles.
A couple of movie theatres that are no longer around were also in Huntington. These were second rate compared to the popular Keith Albee. Orpheum Theatre and State Theatre showed movies. State Theatre was on 10th Street and 4th Avenue. They occasionally had pro wrestling shows in the 50’s and Grand Opry acts would perform as well.
CHESAPEAKE WAS LIL' VEGAS?
CHESAPEAKE WAS LIL’ VEGAS?
Chesapeake, Ohio is a dry area. A beer has not been sold in Chesapeake in several decades. Hard to believe but back in the Forties the little Ohio town lit up the night like a miniature Las Vegas.
Bear's Dad described 3rd Avenue in Chesapeake as being “a row of neon signs.” If you pulled off of the Sixth Street Bridge and headed down toward the high school, you would see anywhere from four to eight small casinos lighting up the night.
Gill told a story of well to do farmer from Proctorville who would take a couple of his workers with him for a night of drinking and gambling. The doormen would be thrilled to see the respected farmer. The men would receive the red carpet treatment. The doormen would escort them inside and give them drinks and a place at the gambling tables.
Well, one time the two workers decided to visit the bar without their boss. The men were greeted at the door by the doormen, but, this time they were grabbed by their collars and shown the street.
Further down in Proctorville, there was a notorious forties nightclub called The Plantation. The Plantation sat somewhere in between where Hamilton Cheverlot now sits and the Ohio River. The Plantation was a huge two to three story high dollar establishment. The club featured gambling and drinking. Proctorville, like Chesapeake, has been dry for decades.
It’s hard to imagine public drinking, carousing, and gambling going on in dry, respectable Chesapeake and Proctorville. But it is easy to imagine old police cars sitting in the middle of Chesapeake and Proctorville pulling over Model T’s and horses and buggies. Not that they did, but Alligator Jackson can certainly picture that easier than the two quiet communities being ‘resort’ towns.
PROCTORVILLE, OHIO IN 70'S AND 80'S
Proctorville, Ohio in the 70’s and early 80’s, was a different community than it is now. The main difference is the 31st Street Bridge did not open until the mid 80’s. Without the bridge it was a long haul through Chesapeake and across the 6th Street Bridge. Then, if you were going to East Huntington, it was necessary to travel throughout much of Huntington. The traffic of the 6th Street Bridge was overcrowded to say the least.
Proctorville was full of small businesses during this time. Kroger did not open until the early 80’s. Proctorville Gateway thrived in Proctorville. Down in Rome Township, there were three grocery stores. Holderby’s SuperValu was the biggest. It was located where Hamilton Cheverlot is now. While Holderby’s was big, little Charlie’s Market which set in the curve on Route 7 was the most impressive. It lacked size but owner Charlie Gadd had learned a lot about the business from his days as a Big Bear manager. Charlie knew that the key to building a small business was customer service. Charlie and his daughter Judy and workers at different times – Edwin Lake, Bernie Kearns and Robert Douphit (spelling is wrong) were known for their customer service and lunchmeat.
Ramsey’s Market and Johnson’s Variety store also offered top notch small town friendliness. The prices of these stores were a little higher than Huntington but shoppers saved gas and time by shopping there. These were actually huge convenience stores though their prices were between grocery stores and convenience sdtores. At the time c stores were not thriving in Proctorville yet.
JR Foodmart with Creole Fried Chicken was the first true c-store to hit Proctorville as they opened next to the old Proctorville fire station in the early ‘80s. It was a 24 hour station. Rich Gas Station was also 24 hours though it was only gas.
Before BP came in by the fairgrounds it was Fortner’s Donuts. They had the freshest and best donuts around with that bakery taste. In the 70’s Arrington-Wyant Pharmacy was the town drug store. When the bridge was built, bigger businesses moved in and put out the smaller businesses. Of course, the bridge made stores like Big Bear and Hill’s more accessible by knocking at least a half-hour off of the travel time. Heck’s moved in next to McDonald’s and Krogers but did not last long. The company Heck’s went out of business in the mid 80’s.
Next to Charlie’s, Joe Delapa’s ‘Delapa’s Pizza was very different. The key was they put the toppings under the pizza.
In the 70’s there was a fruit stand up across from Gary Drive in Rome that offered the freshiest produce in town. Proctorville Dairy bar kept townfolk cool in the summer. But around 1980, Kentucky based Dairy Cheer came to town. The opening weeks saw an overflow of business as citizens were thrilled to have fast food on this side of the river. But, business dropped off quickly. Dairy Cheer was replaced by Tom’s Pizza. For awhile, only Bill Mack Diner was an alternative to the pizza places as Proctorville boasted Romeo’s and Delapa’s which became Tom’s. In the late 70’s Cam’s Ham had the best flaked ham and then became Gino’s, then left the area for a few years.
Perhaps the two things Proctorville was best known for in the 80’s was traffic and police. Before the Proctorville bypass was opened, the new bridge brought a glut of traffic with it. Rush hour could be unbearable at times and could rival Chesapeake’s nightmare traffic jams on the 6th Street Bridge. If Proctorville lacked the big city feel in other areas, it more than made up for it with their big city flavored traffic jams.
The amazing thing is that although traffic would crawl through Proctorville, the police would still manage to have someone pulled over and it couldn’t possibly be for speeding. It is presumed that the slow pace made it easy to check for out of date tags and other violations.
Proctorville and Chesapeake became known as the Capital of DUI’s. Busting drunk drivers became big business in Proctorville. They would hang out at the car wash off of the bridge and pull over drivers late at night. Often it was done randomly and without cause. In Chesapeake there became an epidemic known as the ‘501 Blues.’ Chesapeake police would pull a driver over and arrest them. They would post bond at $501 and never go to court. They would get out of jail and get their license back the next day without further penalty. Rumor was the money was not going to the state. This was later stopped in the later 80’s.
Proctorville was well-protected as they had round the clock police service although the town was only two blocks long. One rumored stunt was that the cops would sit across from Rich Oil in the late hours. If the gas attendant could tell that the customer was drinking, he would put a can of oil on the pumps and that meant the cop should pull the car over.
Today, Proctorville has a college and a Wendy’s and Dairy Queen. New businesses are rumored to enter the area as the population in Rome Township continues to grow with new neighborhoods with expensive houses. Proctorville has lost some of the small town aura but still is a peaceful alternative to raise a family with smaller
BIG BEAR AND CUB FOODS
Big Bear was a grocery chain centered out of Columbus, Ohio. They had three Huntington locations and one in nearby Ceredo-Kenova. I worked at Big Bear for eight years as I split time at the 1st Street and 29th Street stores. Big Bear held it's own against national powerhouse Kroger, helped forced Mr Moneysworth and Cub Foods out of Huntington, and outlasted local chain Tradewell. Some may credit Wal-Mart with putting the final nail in the Bear's ample coffin but many say that their last owners - Penn Traffic did the damage. Penn Traffic went into deep debt buying Big Bear that it could not afford to battle Wal-Mart's low prices.
Big Bear was well known for it's customer service which included carryout service. They stressed friendly, personal customer service. They advertised and ran effective marketing campaigns despite corny phrases like "That's My Bear." The Bear roared with a highly regarded in-store bakery and a fresh deli. Several stores had cheese shops and floral boutiques.
The Bear was near flawless in the operation of it's stores. It was in the overall operation at Penn Traffic's headquarters and the burden of the rest of Penn Traffic's chains that executed Big Bear.
Here is a piece of an article I found on the internet: "When I left eight years ago, we had the best team in Columbus, and this guy from New York has absolutely decimated the company," said Michael J. Knilans, president and CEO of Big Bear Stores Co. from 1976 to 1989. "This guy" is Gary D. Hirsch, chairman of Syracuse-based Penn Traffic Co., which bought Columbus-based Big Bear in 1989 in a hostile takeover. Knilans and former Vice President of Operations Richard Vogel were interviewed May 13, the day Penn Traffic announced the sacking of folksy Big Bear President Stephen Breech, 141 other Big Bear employees in the company's Grandview offices and four other Penn Traffic division heads as part of a corporate restructuring. "He bought a jewel and proceeded to run it into the ground," said Knilans, an Upper Arlington resident who serves on two supermarket boards. "He has micro-managed a company that didn't need to be micro-managed. When I left we had $35 million in the bank. Now the company has $1 1/2 billion in debt. "The problems at Big Bear, Knilans said, include declining sales and rising prices aimed at helping Penn Traffic pay its debt. Hirsch, he said, "did everything contrary to good business practice.
"Knilans' criticism of Penn Traffic and Hirsch were echoed by Richard Vogel, who was vice president of operations for Big Bear under Knilans."The man who took over never understood the business or the market and proceeded to ruin the company," Vogel said of Hirsch. "An awful lot of good people are losing their jobs through no fault of their own. It upsets me to no end.".-
Big Bear was a sort of a 'coming of age' period of my life. I met many life-long friends there. I feel nostalgic now due to a few deaths. Mark Erwin, who was an ex-manager and hero of mine, died about two years ago. I read online that my first manager, the guy who hired me, Jim Delozier had died. Also, Greg Tucker with whom I worked at 29th Street passed away a few years ago. I learned about retail, marketing, merchandising, and life while working at Big Bear. Also, even when I did not work there, I did my shopping there. I miss Big Bear in many ways.
I remember great times partying with co-workers Todd Burch, Dan Gleason, Mick Christain, John Moore, and many more. We’d sit outside Big Bear after work and drink beer in the parking lot. I remember leaving 1st Street Big Bear one evening to go to an employees apartment. A policeman pulled out of Dwight’s and pulled over to the 5 of us.
He asked us if we were leaving because he was there. We said no and explained what we were doing. He assured us he would rather have us drinking in the parking lot where he could watch us instead of driving around. Times were sure different back then.
Cub Foods, part of the Lofberg Cub franchise rolled out of Milwaukee and into Huntington in 1989. Built on the property that had previously housed John Beckwith’s successful B&B grocery store, Cub Food was easily the biggest grocery store in the area. The store boasted a floral department and in-store bakery as well as other features. The main draw to Cub Foods was to be the low price of their grocery items. Cub had studied the competition and they were confident that they could sell below the prices that Big Bear, Kroger, and Foodland were charging. This was before Wal-Mart had even opened their non-grocery department stores at the 29th Street exit and in South Point. Cub followed the Wal-Mart strategy of buying in bulk.
They had racks built on the floor of the store and filled the racks with pallets of groceries. They also had several huge display areas that allowed them to put more stock in the floor. So the backstock they were actually buying in order to get a quantity discount actually looked like a wall of bargains.
The warehouse model of the supermarket featured cutting open the fronts of cases so the employees would not have to hand stock the merchandise. Theoretically, this would allow the stockers to stock more cases faster and would reduce the cost of labor by having less stockmen. The problem was that Cub Food only had a few stores in their chain and bought their merchandise primarily from SuperValu’s warehouse in Milton and bought some merchandise from Forth’s warehouse as well.
Forth is the owner of the FoodFair chain. Kroger and Big Bear each had many more stores than Lofberg’s and had their own warehouse so they actually had more buying power. When Cub Food came into town, it certainly helped tri-state shoppers. The lower Cub Food prices caused Kroger and Big Bear to shift into battle mode and lowered their prices to be even with or lower than Cub’s prices.
When Cub came into the area, their hopes were high. They started with over 300 employees. They promised their management employees that there would be higher positions for them when new stores were opened in Charleston, Huntington and Ashland. In a matter of a few months, Cub began laying off employees and were down under 100 employees before long. The original management crew was vast and contained Bob Tebbitts who had managed the old B&B Store and Chuck Donahoe who had managed for the old tri-state chain Tradewell.
Cub had a large hierarchy for a company that only had one local store. As the workers were being laid off, it began to appear that there were ‘more chiefs than Indians.’ This caused dissension among the employees. Rumors began to emerge about the management team. The team was using what appeared to others as being unscrupulous management methods.
The store began ‘diverting’ trucks. A truckload of merchandise was bought from one location and sold to another company. For instance, a trailer of merchandise would be bought from a company in Georgia and sold at a slightly higher price to a company in New York. A Cub employee was brought in and paid under the table to unload the product from one trailer to another. A rumor was that allegedly a lot of the ‘diverted’ money was unaccounted for and disappeared. Cub also threatened its’ relationship with vendors. The rumor was that Cub Foods was not paying its’ bills.
There was a standing joke amongst stockers that whenever Little Debbie cakes were pulled then someone was going to be laid off because Cub could not afford to pay the bill. Little Debbie cakes and other vendor products were indeed pulled several times. Although it did appear that Cub could not pay the bill, the reality was likely that they were keeping the money as long as possible to save interest.
A Herr’s potato chip sales rep and a wine sales rep were caught throwing merchandise down the compacter so they would not have to credit the old merchandise out. A manager calculated how many times the rep had been in the store and multiplied that by the amount the vendor was caught throwing out. The companies had to pay that amount to Cub before they were allowed to put their product back in the store.
One manager told me: “If a vendor gets in your stocker’s way in the morning just knock him out of your way. I don’t care if a vendor dies in the street after he leaves…unless he has a wallet. Then I’ll take his wallet and won’t care if he is dead.” Cub’s attitude put a strain on the relationships with its’ vendors. Cub did not quite understand that the vendors made them money. Eventually, Cub had vendor appreciation days with free food and drinks for their vendors to try to repair the strained relationship. Cub lasted a few years, but finally went out of business in the early 90’s. Another chain, Mr. Moneysworth, tried to open a warehouse store around the Huntington Mall and went out of business much sooner than Cub. Cub Food was sold to Kroger and the store is still open as Kroger on Fifth Avenue.
When I say, Huntington used to be a beer town, your initial reaction is probably to say: "Of course it is, it's a college town."
Yeah, I know and I get it: cold beer and Marshall Football, cold beer and college kids partying, and cold beer and a bar on every corner. Yep, I understand quite well that a college in the heart of our city means that there are plenty of empty bottles and cans on a Sunday morning.
But, Huntington was once a beer town in the sense that beer was brewed in mass quantities and shipped out of town for mass consumption.
Fesenmeier Brewery, which became Little Switzerland Brewery in 1968 until it closed in 1971, brewed several brands including West Virginia Beer.
The brewery was located in The Central City District in the west end of Huntington. It sat across from what is now Big Lots on the corner of West 14th Street and Madison Avenue.
Though, it was sold to become a huge Kroger Shopping Center, it is a shame the building was destroyed in 1971. If nothing else, it would have been very cool to have the last brewery in West Virginia, to be available for touring and as a historical monument.
Of course, it would also be fun to think of all of the fun local beers that could be created and marketed to beer drinkers across the country.
I can imagine idiots in California who don't even realize that West Virginia is a state, popping open a bottle of West Virginia Beer. I can imagine a blond surfer dude going, "Cool, man, I don't know what a West Virginia is but this beer is gnarly."
Can you imagine WVU fans tailgating in Morgantown drinking Marco beer with the Herd's mascot on it. Yes, I know there was never a Marco Beer but rest assured if there was a brewery in Huntington today, there would certainly be a Marco Beer.
How cool would it be to be cruising the streets of Miami and see a Fesenmeier Beer Truck parked in a convenience store parking lot with the words "Huntington, West Virginia" on the side of the truck.
Or how about watching The Super Bowl and suddenly The Fesenmeier Buffaloes come stampeding onto the screen.
It would be a big boost for our economy to have a factory employing our citizens and sending product across the country and money back home to our community.
The old West Virginia Beer slogan of "That'll win ya" would have to be updated.
Unfortunately, most of us can only imagine what West Virginia Beer, Fesenmeier Beer, Charge Beer, innkeeper Beer, or chief Logan beer tasted like. But, one thing for sure is that if Huntington residents could brew beer as well as we can drink it, Budweiser would have serious competition.
November 14 is a day of infamy that will live in our hearts forever, like 9/11, we will always remember where we were when we learned the news. For those who were not yet born they will always remember the heroes. The heroes were the Huntington faithful who live with heavy hearts and memories of the loved ones that perished.
Even if you did not haves loved one aboard, you were affected. Huntington and Marshall always has and always will be an intertwined society. We have healed but will never ever fully recover. Every generation of Marshall University will always pay respect on November 14. It is a hallowed day but while we have heavy hearts on this day we will always hold our heads high.
Marshall is truly the Phoenix. Marshall refused to die. The Herd has come back stronger than ever and has grown in so many ways. But most importantly we have grown together. Perhaps we are bonded together by the pain of the crash, but we are bonded. For the chant of "we are Marshall" will forever have many meanings, amongst will be the memories of those lost on November 14. But also we understand that Marshall rebounded and though wounded, we survived and prospered. Memories of those lost will live forever and beyond. Marshall football lives on. The chant "We are Marshall" lives on and like a thread it connects and bonds those who perished, the loved ones who suffer, and those who will ever walk the proud grounds of Marshall University. For "We are Marshall is more than a chant: it is a heritage, a tradition, and a way of life.
HUNTINGTON NIGHTLIFE IN 70'S AND 80'S
HUNTINGTON NIGHTLIFE IN THE 80’s AND 90’s
With Huntington being a college town, the emphasis has always been on college bars although there was always a nightclub ready to rock for any demographic. In the very early 80's, 20th Street was the block for college students to socialize and partake in a legal beverage (i.e. - get drunk). This was the days when football was played on the other side of the viaduct in Fairfield. The partying started on the block just off of 20th Street at The Double Dribble. Vince Carter owned the little white club, that before the remodel, was not much more than a hole in the wall, but rocked to capacity on weekends. The feature attraction was The Slam Dunk. The Slam Dunk was 32 ounces of draft beer in a paper or waxed cup for $1. The bar would be empty until around 11 and by midnight you could barely breathe. Eventually the club went through a remodel that included a big screen television.
Many partiers would get a breath of fresh air by walking down the street to The Varsity. The Varsity was owned by Herb Stanley and featured a fooseball table. Ice cold long necks were the specialty there.
The legendary 1896 Club was down on the 3rd Avenue. The bar was actually a house that was transformed into a bar. Part of the bar, which would be a living room of a house, had a fireplace in which one could sit in front of the fireplace and drink a beer. The bar was on three floors and had a dance club in the basement.
Robby's which was on Third Avenue downtown across from The Civic Center was the premiere dance club. It was owned by ex- Pirates hurler Don Robinson who was from Ceredo-Kenova. It had a preppier crowd and boast an outstanding Happy Hour with a grand buffet on Fridays. They even had a chef carving out roast beef on Fridays.
Many clubs came and left in the 80's but 3rd Avenue was always rocking. The Inferno Club was a giant white building where the Marshall University girl's softball team now plays. It usually had an older crowd as it had a reputation of being a 'meat market'. To make it easier to meet (or is it 'meat'?) others, every table had a telephone on it. The telephone was used to call someone from another table and introduce yourself or ask them to dance. The bar cashed in on The Urban Cowboy craze with a mechanical bull as well.
The In Between seemed to stand forever on Third Avenue and quenched the thirst for older folks. The Monarch Club was next door and featured occasional bands. Johnny's Lounge was on the other side of the street. Johnny's Lounge would crank hard rock on it's tape deck. This was a few years before the 'hair metal' explosion.
Next to Johnny's Lounge was a notorious dance club that had the tri-state on the dance floor for years. In the early 80's, it housed clubs like The Jail and Cheers. For a while around '85, it was Rockers. As Rockers, it brought in name rock bands like Pat Travers and Johnny Van Zant. It also boomed when hair metal turned hard rock into 'pop' music. But, in the late eighties, when it changed to The Mad Hatter, it became the hottest dance club in the area
It boasted a lady's night which for the paltry sum of five bucks, allowed the ladies to drink all of the draft beer and well drinks they wanted. This brought in all of the guys, who of course, were there for the drunk girls as much as they were for the cold beer. Steve Newman owned the bar for a few years.
I had many wild nights at The Mad Hatter. One memorable night was a wild night out with Mick Christian. I started to break up a fight between Mick and Marshall University middle linebacker John Spellacy and was attacked by Marshall University Basketball player John Humphries. Humphries came swinging at me with long almost elongated arms and I dove at him and slammed him on the hood of his girlfriends red Camaro and then I was covered by various Marshall athletes.
The Mad Hatter moved to 10 Street and up past 8th Avenue across from where Ronald’s Cheese Shop was. The newer Mad Hatter was more drunk women, more guys on the prowl, and even more fist fights. John Keaton owned the bar for a while. Keaton was shot and killed on January 9, 2012 during a bar fight in 2009. The Mad Hatter burned down one night, and it just happened to be the same night The Ragtime burned down on the other side of town.
Jake's on Third Avenue was one of those 'neighborhood' bars like The In Between, Maxie's, and Davis' Place that seemed to be a Tri-State tradition. Everyone usually knew everyone until the other bars closed and then everyone came in from other bars and Jake's would close around 4 am. John Black and his famous limp and cackle, was the main attraction. A sports expert and ex-sports writer, John treated everyone like they were welcome and was/ is a Huntington nightlife icon. Often, John would drink most of the night with his friends/ patrons and then sleep out in the lot in his huge RV.
Jake’s had a shuffle-board table, a pool table, and a horseshoe pit out back. It seems like every weekend the gang found an excuse to pack the bar full of food, which of course, was no problem for me. The food was good and the beer was ice-cold.
John and his friends Dog, Doug, Ace, and more were a hard-drinking, Marshall and Cincinnati Reds loving group. They could handle business when they had to. I remember a night when I got upset in a fight with a guy little bigger than me and had him down inside the bar. The crew pulled me off of the guy and then the guy’s friends started to jump in. Suddenly John and Doug and others sprung into action. The guys went to work and thrashed the guy I was fighting’s friends. They immediately turned from expert drinkers to expert fighters.
Of course we can't forget Becky's legendary blue jean shorts, can we? My friend Steve Pruitt and I would go down to Jake’s at every opportunity to watch Becky strut around in her tight blue jean shorts and of course, we would down ice cold long necks of Budwiser. Steve and I would be their early to get a front row view of Becky’s shorts. We would hang out and drink with Sarge, Ace, Butch, and the rest of the Jake’s crew.
Jake’s finally got put down in the mid 90’s. It was sad but it was time. The building was slowly going down and the rats were getting bigger. I remember sitting and watching the rats scramble back and forth. Jake’s later opened on Fourth Avenue as a business venture of John Black and Johnny “Sarge” Piepenbrink but never captured the rugged charm of the original Jake’s. Jake’s is still open but under different ownership. Sarge died and is truly missed as he is one of the personalities that made both Jake’s a pleasurable trip.
Third Avenue also boasted Mycrofts and Yesterdays, at the corner of Third Avenue and 20th Street where Fat Patty's is now. Mycrofts was known as much for their food as they were a more sophisticated environment. In the very early 80's, Mario's Pizza, right across from Smith Hall kept many students from making it to class with their hot pizza and cold beer. Where Husson's Pizza now resides, featured a restaurant named Julio's which had very well-seasoned burrito's and tacos and fries and bleu cheese.
Back in the early 80's, around '81 and '82, Stroh's was a premium beer. If you walked into a bar, you could get Miller, Bud, or Stroh's. Around '82 or 83, Coors (more importantly - Coors Light) came into the area and Stroh's was knocked out of the rotation. Also, in the seventies and very early 80's, you could drink and enter bars at age 18. Around 82 or 83, they had a weird law (I believe a grandfather clause) you could drink at 18 if you were from West Virginia but 21 if you were from out of state.
Route 60 had a partying environment as well. Pea Ridge was the home of JDB's. JDB's was a dance club for twenty and thirty somethings. Peter Outlaws was in the old Econo-Lodge by Eastern Heights and was a late night dance floor where many guys would come down from JDB's and pick up drunk women around 2 or 3. Desoto's in the Kmart Plaza in Pea Ridge was probably where the term MILF originated, lol. The bar was notorious for being full of available divorcees.
Buddha’s and Bogart’s were popular drinking establishments in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Kelley’s also prospered in Pea Ridge in the 90’s.
The West End featured Ragtime. The old Ragtime burned down in the 90's. Around '88, Billy Ray Cyrus began playing there and it became known as "The House That Billy Ray built." Billy Ray packed the little white club with the women who came to swoon over his mullet and the alledged sock/ potato that he reportedly stuck down his pants.
My friend John Moore and I and usually his mother and brothers would frequent Ragtime. John and I would go down their every weekend as we got off of work on Saturday nights around midnight at Big Bear and head down to watch Billy and drink cold Buds.
I usually ran into Tracy West which meant one thing – a shot of tequila. Somehow, and neither of us knows why, but every time we see each other we traditionally did a shot together. Actually, it got to the point that we hated to see each other.
My girlfriend Betty Dement loved to watch Billy Ray. We ended up going down to see him several times a week. Billy was playing songs like “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Some Gave All” which would go on to become huge hits.
I spent a lot of time down in West Moreland. First I hung out at The Stop, a beer garden, in the West End with my friend Troy Rodefer. Later, my friend Tim Watts and I would frequent The Raging Bull and Kraut’s Creek.
Houston's rocked Ceredo in the mid-80's then became country when the country craze hit. Bojangles rocked Huntington with many fine rock bands and Mason jars of iced teas that would knock you on your ass. The hair metal years brought good hair metal bands like Warchylde and VHF which featured Billy Ray’s drummer Steve French as drummer and vocalist.
The Old Library was literally the old library complete with books. It featured one of the first comedy nights in the area. Big Dan Gleason and I would stop by Toohey's when we were out and about. It was a bar that sat next to Medical Arts, next to viaduct on sixth avenue and 10th street. It was a preppy place but we had a great time there and sat on the patio. The bar was owned by Tim Way. His dad, Stewart, was an assistant coach for Marshall basketball in the 60's and his nickname was Toohey and the bar was named for him.
The old Copa, up on 20th Street where Gary’s Bar is now, featured the legendary Georgie. Everybody knew and loved Georgie. The Copa was a dump but everybody went to see old Georgie and her great cheap pitchers of beer.
In the late 80’s, Verb’s Dugout was a popular college hangout. Mick Christain and his friend Tommy D (Dawson, who seemed to wear the same Big Peckerhead t-shirt every night for years) would drink outside somewhere and go to the bar. The evening seemed to end with Mick getting in some sort of physical altercation.
Next to Verb’s was The Tavern Off The Green. The Tavern Off The Green was owned by Caz. Caz was a New Yorker with an extreme New York accent. Ex-Marshall and Cincinnati Bengal center Sam Manos was a long-time doorman.
Davis’s Place is about as close as a place gets to being a local legend. The watering hole has been the home to drinkers of all social classes. It was always a place where a lawyer would hang out and talk to a man pushing a buggy full of tin cans for a living. No one was unwelcomed there. It also introduced the Tri-State to a whole cast of icons like Blondie, Beth, Felix and many more over the years.
In the 80’s, we would work midnight shifts at Big Bear and then go to Davis’s at 8 in the morning. The old ladies would fix us burgers and beers and Todd Burch, Dave Hall, John Moore, and many of us would drink beer.
One memorable morning featured Jessie Mannon betting Big Bear manager Hobie Adkins $20 that Jessie could chug a quart of Budweiser without throwing up. Jessie chugged the whole quart but puked in the doorway as Dave Hall was walking in. Somehow, we ended up in Ritter Park with Jessie losing more money as Hobie pinned him twice in two separate wrestling matches and both lasted literally seconds. Afterwards, Hobie could be seen flagging down cars trying to bum cigarettes.
In the early 2000s, Becky from Jakes went to work for Felix and Penny at Davis’s. Davis’s had been closing early but started staying open late. Once the old Jake’s closed, the regular Jake’s crowd began trickling into Davis. Later, Beth bought Davis’s.
Gilbert Perdue bought Davis’s a couple of years ago and totally redid the whole bar. It is completely different and although very modern, the old Davis’ still looms in people’s minds.
Huntington always has been and perhaps always will be known for it's nightlife. That is probably a main advantage of being a college town. The 80's was a different environment that was more conducive to partying. Beer and gas were cheaper and the police did not seem to be as aware of drivers driving under the influence. The 80's was a more carefree age. Fights were usually fistfights. In the early 90's, friends may jump in and gang up. In the late 90's, knives became popular. Today, fights seem to use to guns and have taken all of the fun out of fighting. Bars may come and go but the memories (and sometimes friends and even future spouses) made in them last a lifetime.
Back in the mid to late 1980’s, Huntington, WV had it’s own little secret underground – The After-Hours Bar scene. It may not have been all of that secret or even all that underground but it certainly was it’s own little world. The After Hours world had it’s own environment, it’s own icons, and it’s own characters. Soon as the legal clubs would shut down around 2 or 3 AM, the patrons would trickle into the illegal all night clubs like streams running into a river.
Inside an after-hours club, the rules changed. Blackjack, dice games, and poker for money were permitted. Sex was everywhere as there were ‘free lancing’ prostitutes and plenty of drunk women everywhere. Cocaine was the fuel that kept many patrons awake and partying all night. Of course, many visitors made many trips out to their vehicles to
smoke pot. The parking lots hosted many fights.
One of the icons of the scene was Harry Hill, or as many called him: ‘One Armed Harry.’ Harry owned the Old Coachman’s Club in downtown Huntington in between 5th and 6th Avenue and behind what is now Huntington Bank. Harry had one arm but he had everyone’s respect. No one messed with him. His two sons helped him run the bar.
I worked midnight shifts at Big Bear and on my nights off it was hard to sleep. I found myself spending many off nights at both Harry’s and Leo’s. My friend John Moore and I closed many After Hours Bars down in the mornings. We would walk outside into the broad daylight.
When I worked at Cub Foods; Steve Pruitt, Shane Nelson, and I would go to Leo’s on our nights off after hitting other bars. We were used to staying up all night working and on our nights off we just could not sleep.
It was easy to get attached to the environment. No one really thought much in the beginning about the bars being legal. Later as the political climate in Huntington changed, the bars began to be raided and closed and found themselves on newscasts and on the front page of The Herald-Dispatch. I was first introduced to the Harry’s by a girl named Kathi that worked there. She was young and blond. I would go in there just to talk to her and we became good friends.
One of the main things I remember about Harry’s was that the lights were to bright. Some of those people were just not meant to be seen. Some of them were pretty scary looking at four in the morning. Another thing is it seemed like the same songs were played over and over on the jukebox. I began to hate Digging Up Bones by Randy Travis and Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2. They were played over and over. You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC was always played as well. In fact, the song skipped and even when I hear that song some twenty years later I still expect it to skip.
My friend John Moore was a wildman. He was a natural born performer and his clowning entertained everyone at Harry’s. Harry’s was rocking on the weekends to the point you could barely move. Michelle (a waitress there) told me about the time someone got knocked out in a fight and she had a hard time getting someone’s attention to get the man some help. She was hysterical and kept bumping into people and finally got Harry’s attention. Harry called an ambulance.
I was in Harry’s one time right after I had just gotten off of work. I was standing by the front door. There was actually two front doors. There was a front door that opened
from the street and led into a small room where the door to the club opened up. The lookout room was used so the doorman could make sure there wasn’t any police before they opened the door up. On this night, I was inside the club and BOOM! Several police came charging into the club. They had knocked in the front door. They turned off the music. Everyone was frisked. All of the money in the registers was taken. The people dealing and playing blackjack were arrested. Anyone that appeared to be overly intoxicated or on drugs were also arrested. Everyone else including Harry were not arrested. For a long time, the bars were never raided. There were rumors that people were paid off. That almost had to be true because the police were well aware of the club’s presence. They would drive by out front to make sure there wasn’t any trouble.
One of the girls that worked told me about tripping over someone who was passed out. She was told by another employee that the guy was alright because he was the Mayor of Huntington.
Leo Combs owned a few after- hours clubs in Huntington. He would move from time to time. One of his clubs burned down. Michelle from Harry’s dated one of Leo’s bartenders Chuck Peterson. Chuck was a character. He was small but very tough. He was about eight years older than me and I looked up to him. He had been in the Navy and had lots of stories. He was definitely a barroom romeo but toned it down when he lived with Michelle. All of the female regulars had crushes on Chuck. Leo’s had lots of characters. Butch was Leo’s right hand man. He was an old gray haired pervert who enjoyed sexually harassing the girls that frequented the bar. Chunk, was another goofy doorman there. There were more employees at Leo’s as some of his bars were quite big and got very crowded. Every now and then big fights would break out and the extra bouncers would spring into action.
The after- hours bars was Huntington’s slice of Vegas. Gambling, girls, and all night partying. The bars would close up around daylight. Cocaine helped many drink until the sun rose above the mountains. Jean Dean became mayor and like many people said “The clubs won’t survive with a skirt in office.” They were gone not long after she took office. There were bars all over Huntington at one time. The original Leo’s was on 8th avenue and around 26th street. A fire put that club out of business. Leo moved to the old Inferno club on Third Avenue and ran a club in the back of that building. After that closed, one of his doorman Tiny *who was not Tiny), opened a club where Marley’s Doghouse is now. The Lighthouse in Guyandotte and Cricketts in the West End were also after hours. Leo had another club by the old Owens Illinois plant. Rabbit’s and another bar was behind where Mac Reedos is now.
The prominent drugs in those days were mainly uppers like coke. Nowadays with the powerful painkillers, the bars would be a disaster. Times have changed. Harry and Leo have both passed on to that after hours bar in the sky. There is just too many drugs, guns, and trouble nowadays for after-hours bars to be successful. There would be dead bodies piled outside every night. Times have certainly changed in Huntington.