Monday, March 12, 2012

A trip down memory lane

". . . there must have been at least two hundred girls active along Silver Street simultaneously, and perhaps many more. There were a lot of miners, and a girl can only do so much." -- J. B. Martin, Call It North Country, 1944.
This is the town where I graduated from high school. One of my first real jobs was as a waitress at the Club Carnival (on the right in the photo). It was an interesting place to work. The building was designed like a lot of supper clubs, restaurant on one side, lounge on the other. The stage wasn't visible from the restaurant side, but we could hear the music. As a minor, I wasn't supposed to ever step into the lounge side, but of course managed to satisfy my curiosity eventually. Back then, it was old-fashioned Gypsy Rose Lee style burlesque -- lots of sequins and feathers and g-strings and pasties that covered more than some bathing suits do today.

Most of that side of the street is now vacant lot -- lots of mysterious* fires happened after the mines closed but before winter tourism (skiing and snowmobiling) became popular. Business was already dying when I worked at the Club Carnival -- most nights the restaurant had barely enough customers to justify staying open, and the lounge would be practically empty. There was definitely something very sad about a dancer having to get up on a stage and do a strip tease for an audience that could have fit into a phone booth.

For awhile after the night life on Silver Street faded the locals weren't too happy about the lingering association between Hurley and vice, but at some point someone realized that, although the hookers were gone, there was still money to be made off their memory. The Chamber of Commerce now brags about Chicago gangsters having frequented the saloons, and cheerfully describes the city as "long known for gambling and prostitution."

[*although the only real mystery in most cases was how the fire marshal avoided smelling the accelerant or tripping over the gas cans.]

4 comments:

Susan said...

I have lived in 2 California cities that do the same thing and give tours based on the wild old times.

Sarge said...

Is Scarlett Ohara's and The Office still open on US 41 in Marquette?
I remember having to do police up Sharon Kay from the Crossroads Bar on 552 - From Gwinn to Marquette after getting off a swing shift -
4- misnight in the radar approach control at Sawyer.
She slept on the floor by the commode that night.


Ron

BBC said...

They do tours of the old whorehouse above the shoe store here.

This post reminded me of a time before I became aware of such things and we would go up capital hill in SLC and look down State Street at night.

Colorful it was, but I was also impressed the first time I rolled into Las Vegas in the night.

Kulkuri said...

Worked with a guy that said he tried to have a shorty beer in every bar on Silver St. one night. He never made it, there were still many bars left when he was too drunk to continue.