When the ferry made its last run after the war ended, the very popular Riley’s Café on 43rd and Madison closed. The Purple Poodle closed and the Red Onion stayed open to locals. West of that 1 1/2 blocks away was the Broadmoor Tavern (now Bank of America). It was referred to as the Old Folks Home due to the fact that most of the clientele was over 40. Next door, the Broadmoor Café fed the hungry with its great burgers and fries for $1.25. The combo of the two created the hot spot of the neighborhood.
We became aware of quite a few crazy rules for the taverns. One of the more ridiculous rules was a patron could not carry a beer or wine anywhere. You had to stand to play the one and only pinball machine, but sit back down to drink. Rules were made to be broken, right? Owners of the Broadmoor Tavern, John and Louie, let some rules slide.
There were a few dice games (another gray zone): Ship Captain Crew, 4.5.6 and S.O.L. John was considered the enforcer, and Louie was known as the good-hearted, laughing Italian who let the good times roll. Louie worked evenings, so he cranked up the Wurlitzer, to which patrons danced. Someone always played the bones (from the meat market) but seldom to the beat, which was highly annoying. Dancing was considered a no-no, as it required a special entertainment license.
On any given Friday night and/or payday, someone would even buy the house a round. Soon the alcohol limit was reached, but no worries; chances of being cut off were slim. It was common that someone would say to the bartender, “Double or nothing!” Flip a coin right, and a drink or a double was free. Of course, the schooner was only 25 cents, so that would not break any bank.
Beer was always better when combined with an activity. The pinball was a great way to spend time. Five numbers in a roll meant 20 more games or $5. Big winner! If you hit the super card, you could win as much as $10! We had punch cards that paid $5. It was against the law to play for cash but, again, another gray zone. Besides, who ever invited the liquor board anyway?
The Broadmoor had a longboard (shuffleboard) and teams played for “bucks under the table.” A gentlemen known as “Three-fingered Howard” (lost on his right hand in some accident) was good to have on the team because if you won, he’d take the team into the restroom for a shot or two of whiskey. By the end of the tournament everything was pretty fuzzy.
Brown paper covered the windows of the Quality Café, until it became the Attic. I could hardly wait to be 21! Taverns stayed open until midnight, when bartenders would yell, “Beer and wine to go, hotel-motel time!” All bars were closed on Sundays, so the entertainment on the Ave was limited to what was happening in the various taverns Monday-Saturday. TV was barely invented, so we would listen to Leo Lassen bring the Seattle Rainiers to life over the radio.
One night, near midnight, a ‘36 Ford Coupe could be heard coming down Madison with pipes wracking. The owner came in and all patrons checked out his ride. Our friend Bruce was sitting with us in a booth and had been given a white Business Coupe Oldsmobile from his dad, which was, in a word, not a hotrod. Bruce had added a huge powerplant engine with super charger but sadly it lacked some accoutrements like white sidewalls, which was the rage then.
After a few brews, the dude with the Ford announced, “I’ll race anyone for a hundred bucks!” Bruce answered quietly, “I’ll take that offer.” They each laid down the cash.
That dark and very quiet Saturday night, we all stepped out as the two cars, side by side, aimed west. Someone dropped an arm and the two roared up Madison, out of sight! Only the winner came back, and he had detoured down East Lee, in case Gordie Socket, the local cop, saw him. Who comes through the back door but Bruce! He picked up the money and yelled, “Buy the house a round!” That definitely put life into the evening, Broadmoor style!
Bruce described that the Ford took a big lead, but once the supercharger kicked in it was Bruce all the way. He slowed down and the Ford slowly passed by him waving into the night.
Arm-wrestling duels were frequent and sometimes ended in fistfights. John and Louie, of course, didn’t allow that, so the fighters took it to the alley, and we all watched as they slugged it out. The next day the two shook hands, laughed, drank and toasted the event. Who would think a few 25-cent schooners would lead to fisticuffs? Even I had the honor to “step outside” another time, but the accumulation of brews and a street light behind my nemesis hid that wild left! I went to Harborview with a broken nose, bruised ribs and a large medical bill.
Drag races, fistfights, arm wrestling and 911! See what fun can be had without TV, computers or mobile phones?