Back in the 1920's, my great-grandfather built a large tin pole barn atop a concrete foundation. In it he put a concession stand and a band stand, and Joe's Place was born. Joe's Place was out on the family farm, and the profits from it literally fed the family and kept the farm out of foreclosure during the leaner years. Since there was no electricity, the barn was lit by kerosene lanterns hung from hooks in the rafters. Grandpa Joe would fill them with oil, light them and hang them up with a long wooden pole that had a hook in the far end. He would raise the lanterns up, place them on the hooks, folks literally danced until dawn. If the weather was too warm, the walls would swing up out of the way to let in the breeze. The women in the family sold food and drinks. Non-alcoholic of course. The men brought their own moonshine whiskey in little brown jugs. No, really. They would tie one end of a piece of string onto the jug ring and the other end to a tree branch. Then they would throw their jugs into the spring- fed creek that wrapped around 2 sides of Joe's Place. First they came in to dance the night away. Later, they went outside, pulled up their jug, and had a belt of ice-cold moonshine. Then back to the dance!
Of course this all happened before I was born. Joe's Place still stands, but the bandstand and concession stand are history. But the last time I was there the metal harp from the old upright piano was still there. My Dad remembers it well. And if you managed to find this page, you may also remember that I told you he was a big fan of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. That's because Bob and the boys played at Joe's Place. Over 1,500 people packed in and around Joe's Place on those nights. They were one of the more popular musical groups of the times, and toured extensively. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys were the first really big-time band that my Dad ever heard. Texas swing music was fresh and new and he loved it. Dad has carried that love over to today. After I showed him how to use Napster and its successive clones, he immediately began to search for Bob Wills. At last count he had 244 different songs by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Now that's gotta be a record!
This is Joe's Place today. It's glory days as a dance hall are long gone and is now used as a hay barn for cattle. But folks around here still refer to it as "The Dance Hall." There is still no electricity, but thanks to Honda generators it has been the site of a few music parties. It's nice and private; and, if you look close, listen just right - and use a little imagination - you can almost sense all those wonderful people who spent so many happy hours at Joe's Place. The thumbnails below contain links to a 1983 article from the Fairview, Oklahoma newspaper about Joe's Place.
An interesting side note to Bob Wills. The Ticketmeister's parents knew Bob Wills. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys were the house band at a dance hall in Fort Worth, Texas called the Starlight Ballroom. When he was a child his family lived near there and his mother and father often went there to dance. The Ticketmeister remembers he and his brother and their friends sneaking through the vacant field across the street from the ballroom and laying down in the grass to listen to the music and watch all the dancers. Like my Dad, they have fond memories of Bob Wills.
Grandpa Joe is on the right. Here he is the little boy on the right. Grandpa Joe's truck on Ames Day
Col. Charles "Boots" Askins
My Grandpa grew up with a fellow named Charlie Askins. Charlie Askins left Ames, joined the United States Army, and eventually became Col. Charles Askins, marksman, author and noted firearm expert. Along the way he fought Apache Indians, chased Zapata into Mexico, became the World's Pistol Shooting Champion 5 different times, and bagged every big-game animal in the world, except the Bengal Tiger. That tiger will forever elude him. Boots, as he was known to his friends, passed away a few years back. But he was a fascinating man to talk with. He had a million stories, and all of them exciting as well as true. He was one of the last of the truly tough hombres. I am fortunate enough to have an autographed copy of his autobiography. It is entitled Unrepentant Sinner, and is one of my prize possessions. Reading it is just like having him there talking to you, telling you the stories in person. As I said, he was a remarkable man. He also wrote several other books including the renown Askins on Handguns. To this day it is still the definitive handbook on pistols and revolvers, as is his father's book on shotguns. His books are published by Tejano Publications in San Antonio, Texas.
These two pictures are of my Grandpa schmoozing with Chill Wills.
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