“The Ponderosa Night Club – WVA – 1960’s”
20 December 2012
In the mid-1960’s there as a night club, honky-tonk, music venue, located in the West Virginia woods near Winchester, Virginia. I say West Virginia woods because I can remember having to take a dark, dirt, county road to get The Ponderosa and it was in a woods all by itself, but today, now, I have no idea exactly where it was and an Internet search reveals nothing about The Ponderosa.
So to document for history’s sake, my sake, here is what I remember about The Ponderosa Night Club:
- As I said above, it was near Winchester Virginia but one drive to West Virginia first and then take a country, dirt, road a long ways through woods to get to the venue. I remember the road being a single lane or close to a single lane but not sure now. There also might have been signs nailed to trees now and again directing to The Ponderosa. Once on the right road, not that hard to find but drunk, leaving, was another matter all together.
- The venue, the place, was all on one floor and it sat up off the ground on pilings and was clapboard or other wood exterior. I do not remember there being a “Ponderosa” sign on the building.
- Inside The Ponderosa there was a stage with stage lighting, a dance area in front of the stage and tables and chairs. I also remember a bar along one wall. Because I was under 21 every time I was there, the bar might have served mixed drinks but not sure.
- Was never there except on a Saturday night but every time I was there, The Ponderosa had live music on the stage.
- The Ponderosa could accommodate maybe 100-200?? Was never there when I could not get a table and do not ever remember it being extremely crowded.
- In the mid-1960’s racial integration was just beginning and so never saw a black person there, except for James Brown, the performer.
- The crowd at the Ponderosa was mostly 20-30 year olds with a few late teens.
- Never went to The Ponderosa without a date and remember it being a couples place rather than a singles bar scene.
- Was not a cowboy bar or the crowd did not wear cowboy attire.
- 18 year olds could buy and drink 3.2% beer (only kind available in West Virginia at the time?) in the mid-1960’s so those of us in Virginia, where the drinking age of 21 years, would ride over to The Ponderosa for beers.
- Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes went hand-in-hand in those days, so The Ponderosa was filled with cigarette smoke, always.
- I do not remember waitresses but there must have been someone cleaning empty beer bottles off tables, just do not remember.
- There was a doorman/bouncer.
- James Brown. Saw and heard James Brown at The Ponderosa. Not sure I went that night to specifically hear James Brown as not sure I had ever heard of James Brown but sure remember his "show" and "Poppa's Got a Brand New Bag". Also strange that a black entertainer would be at The Ponderosa in the mid-1960's.
- James Brown is the only band name I remember.