The owner was an ex-sailor, a black belt Karate expert, and he possessed a short fuse…real anger issues. He taught self-defense at the local Indiana Highway Patrol post and ran his bar every night till closing at 2am. Before the sailor bought it, the bar, one of the oldest in Lafayette, was always a great place to go if you wanted to hit somebody or be hit. It had been through a lot of tough times and many name changes.
There were basically two rooms at the Anchor Inn. The bar room was long and narrow with four or five small tables and a huge bar with at least 20 stools. Ray, the sailor/owner found two midgets to tend bar. Midget isn’t even a word technically in use any more, but’s that what we were told they were. The two brother/bartenders grew to perfect physical dimensions until about 9 or 10 years old. They stayed that way for the next 20 years until I met them in 1964 when my band started playing at The Anchor Inn. Ray had built a raised wooden platform behind the bar so the two 10 year old looking bartenders could work. Of course they attracted a lot of attention for their looks and their foul language (in 10 year old voices) added to the circus. They both smoked cigars, too.
The music was in the back room behind the bar. It was an L-shaped room with a long wall of tables and then the short part of the “L” was the dance floor. Ray thought that he could make the room really look cool by only using “black lights” (come on, this was the 60s).
Black lights made most of the folks real ugly. If they smiled, any dentures, or crowns turned black. You could see through a lot of women’s clothing and their undergarments would glow. The 2 years I spent doing that gig were like going to an alien zoo every night.
For whatever reason, Ray the owner only liked two bands in town. My band and the other chosen band would alternate weeks playing Wednesday through Saturdays from 9pm till 1am. The crazy place was always packed.
Neither of our bands were “rock” bands. However, the music of that period had quite a mixture of easy listening. Both of our “anchor inn” bands played the soft rock and easy listening ballads of the mid-60s. We were a hot club in town for middle aged dancers, lovers, and a great place to meet up.
I believe today it’s called “hook up”.
More tomorrow about the antics at the Anchor Inn.