Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Where Have The Good Old Days Gone

The Garwood Saloon has been in existence for so long, nobody still alive remembers when it first opened. Recently bought by the Idaho State Department of Transportation for a new highway project, this icon will close permanently July 30, with a going away bash on the 19th, which I attended. The riding arena next door, closed in 2005. Owners for the last 23 years, Wayne Darwood and his wife, Darralyn enlarged the old place, then built the riding arena that borders the Saloon on the south. Situated on Highway 95 and Garwood Road, it became a police magnet for potential DUI’s. Not to be deterred, Wayne set up RV parking so guests could party all night, then crawl into their rig without the fear of being arrested, or worse, killing themselves or others on the highway.

A gigantic barbecue out back signaled the goodies the guests were going to experience at this, the last hurrah. As we walked through the door we were greeted cheerfully by bartender, Tina Miller, who scooped up an ice cold MGD with my name on it. Not wanting to be churlish, I humbly accepted the brew and started circulating the room. Introduced to owner, Wayne Darwood, I took in the most recent history of the place. Much like the Snake Pit on the Coeur d’Alene River, the current liquor license is a historical one. In Idaho, liquor licenses are not issued to businesses outside incorporated cities, unless they are waterfront resorts, or historical. Several years ago, violations of bootlegging laws, were flagrantly violated in the more secluded areas. In order to better control liquor sales, the state passed a law that issued licenses to those businesses that could provide evidence that a bar or saloon had existed for at least 75 years. That license is over 23 years old, suggesting it might have been in it’s previous existence since the turn of the previous century, as a logger’s hangout. In the seventies, real cowboys hung out there, as there were many ranches still operating in the area. The Garwood burned down in the early seventies. I remember dropping in for a beer back in, I think 1972. Then it was much smaller. It was rebuilt, but current folks don’t remember the names of the owners, other than the ones preceding Darwood were, “Deb” and “Sam.”

Wayne showed us around, and explained that about twice a year, he would throw a free barbecue for his friends and customers, which actually, were one and the same. Visiting with the friends and relatives that showed up for the final shindig, we noticed the preponderance of older people present. Ted Prewitt, grizzled horse rancher from Twisp Washington was there, spinning tails of his roping days. When a cowboy was spotted, they weren’t just dressed the part, they were people that raised livestock and harvested their own hay, for the most part. Denny Middleton and his band prepared to play one last gig at this historical place. Denny is know far an wide for his magical fiddle playing. The odor drifting up from the BBQ became overpowering as the chef, Herman Froelich opened the cooker, revealing perfectly prepared pork loin. Time to ‘er pig out. A trestle table appeared bulging at the seams full of beans, potato salad and much more. We paused for the cause.

Asked what they were going to do, when the last of the month came and the doors closed for one last time, Wayne replied, “Were gonna head for Fargo North Dakota to see our son, then who knows where. Probably Arizona in the winter.” He went on to say,”We like having our freedom, but were going to miss this place and every one of our customers.” They will undoubtedly catch some rodeos, as Wayne and several other relatives and friends were retired rodeo performers. Darwood’s, specialty was roping, as was his buddy from Twisp, who was visiting for the last time. Garwood Saloon, one of the last “Road Houses,” will be missed.

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