Old Eagles | AspenTimes.com

Old Eagles

Tony Vagneur

There is a shell of a building in Aspen that has about as much history to it as anywhere in town, a watering hole now gone forever. When you’re walking around some night, stop in front of 310 South Galena (now Prada) and give a moment of silence to a grand old place, the past home of the Aspen Eagles Club. Back then, there were no fancy windows out front, just narrow concrete steps going up about three feet from either direction on Galena, leading to a narrow, locked door off a very small landing. There were a buzzer and intercom to the left of the door, a token “members only” setup, but no one except naive novices used the intercom as everyone knew everyone else, and it would have been virtually impossible for a nonmember to sneak his way past the gazes from the bar that greeted his arrival into the foyer of the club. If the interloper looked reasonable, he was in for at least a drink on the house and an informal quizzing by those at the old-time bar. It wasn’t fancy by any means, but was originally what a quiet, burned out mining town with a few leftover miners, some merchants and a sprinkling of ranchers needed: a place to blow off steam and have some fun. Like every bar in town before noon, it had the smell of stale beer, spilled whiskey, spent cigarettes and the lingering body odor of last night’s crowd. But get a few people in there, have a couple of rounds, and soon the well-oiled social interaction overcame any shortcomings and it became a home away from home, a place to catch up on the day’s news with people you knew very well. A working man’s club. Early on, I used to sneak in there on Sunday afternoons with my girlfriend, Norma Just, hoping my grand-dad would be there for the Sunday dance and buy us a coke. He’d let us sit in the booth with him and his lady friend, Jennie, and Norma and I’d secretly hold hands under the table and maybe dance a time or two.When I came back after college, I found the Eagles to be a little different from how I remembered it with Norma. I discovered what a 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. shift in front of the bar could be like, more than once, and was always grateful that the kind people in there never reminded me about what a moron I might have been the day or night before. But I also discovered the stronger parts of the Eagles, like the charity that is so freely given, the fund-raising efforts that seemed to be going on almost continually. Not only did we give money to national causes like the cancer and heart funds, we took on local organizations like the Aspen Valley Visiting Nurses and the Aspen Camp School for The Deaf. There was almost nothing like walking into the old Eagles Club on a Saturday night, seeing everyone dressed up in their dancing best, smiles on their faces and mischief in their eyes. The sounds from the ballroom would slowly entice you past the long line of friends at the bar, past the lounge area and to the edge of the dance floor, where the voices and nimble guitars of the Rainbow Playboys would hold your attention. For many years, it was one of the few live bands in Aspen and a Sunday afternoon radio show on KSNO was broadcast live from the Eagles Club. Brothers Dub and Eb Tacker, along with Carroll Whitmire (the sheriff), Glenn Smith, Little Joe Phillips, Jim Hamlin and Twirp Anderson made up the band over the years (Dusty and Smokey, too). They could play just about any country song from the fifties on, including whatever was hot at the time. Saturday nights were good. And now, if you listen quietly on a lonely Saturday night, you may feel the warmth and hear the memories of the past rumbling around in the building one more time, just for the hell of it. Tony Vagneur knows there is a new Eagles Club building. He just misses the old one. Read him here on Saturdays and e-mail him at ajv@sopris.net

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