Monday, September 30, 2013

Speakeasys, Opium Dens, and Brothels- Part 1

I have been jealous of my oldest daughter for a long time. While playing basketball in high school, her coach took the team to the Pendleton Underground Tour. It was a place I have wanted to check out for years. my dream finally came true this past weekend!

When I discovered my presentation on Saturday at the Word Round-Up have been canceled I decided I was going on the Underground Tour.  Saturday morning, I had to drive downtown Pendleton to go to Wal Mart and purchase a plug-in for my phone. On the way I saw signs pointing to the Underground Tour. After getting the plug, I followed the signs and found the tour office. It was closed but said they did have tours at 10:30 and 1:30 that day and to call for reservations. I tried calling and received a voice message that didn't take messages.

I tried again at 9am and still the phone message, finally at 10:01 I found a real person on the other end of the line and made my reservation. Then I closed the computer, shoved my phone in my person and left the motel room because I didn't want to miss the tour!

There were a dozen or so people milling around the gift shop when I entered. I paid and waited with nervous tension until they called us into the parlor. In there we watched a short DVD that told the history of the underground tunnels. Once the video was finished, Kricket, our guide took us outside and noted the different street names carved into the street corners and how the street names were changed when the military had an airfield in Pendleton in the 1940's

Next, she motioned to the spikes sticking up on the handrail that led down to one of the underground bars. The reason the spikes were added had to d do with keeping cowboys and other males from loitering, sitting on the railing while talking with the sporting girls hanging out the second floor windows.

The first room we came to was an underground bar that was reached from the stairs leading down from the sidewalk and had a door that led into the underground tunnels.

Kricket explained how back in the days when gold was being found in the Blue Mountains and the miners came to town to spend it, the bartenders could make an extra $50 a night by having sticky fingers. He would pinch gold dust out of the miners pouch, weigh, it and announce if it was enough for the drink. he'd then pour the gold into the saloons till while spilling some on the bar. His trusty bar rag would swipe the dust onto the floor and the one hour out of twenty-four when the bar closed, the bartender would go outside, get mud on his feet and come back in walking back and forth behind the counter until he had all the gold stuck to the mud on his shoes. Then he'd take the shoes and dip them in a bucket of water until the mud came off. The water would then be panned in the back room.

The saloon girls would take a strand at the nape of their neck and and slick it with butter or lard. Then during their shift when snuggled up to a miner gambling with his poke, she would run their finger across the sticky strand, put their finger in the dust, then rub her finger in her hair again. Adhering the gold to her hair. After shift, she would wash her hair and have gold in the bottom of the bucket over which she rinsed.

That's all I have for the first room on the tour. But I have more tidbits that will be coming your way.

Photos by: Paty Jager 


Anonymous said...

Fascinating, Paty. Can't wait for part 2.

Paty Jager said...

Thanks, Charlene!