Relive great memories of Huntington, WV through blogs written by David "Alligator Jackson" Williams

Huntington Then and Now; Cruise Avenue/ Pullman Square 

Anyone who grew in 1980’s Huntington had to be familiar with Cruise Avenue. Cruise Avenue was essentially a strip of land in the parking lot which is now Pullman Square. Teenagers from all over the area would park and stand outside of their cars. Many others would cruise up and down on each side of the road. The cars would go slow and often talk to the car in the other lane. This was essentially the concept of an ‘outdoor teen dance.’ This gave the mostly teens and early twentysomethings somewhere to socialize. 

Cruise Avenue came as a response to the traffic problem that was caused by the teens cruising up and down Fourth Avenue. The teens would cruise up and down all weekend night long backing up the traffic downtown and creating a traffic jam. The teens would talk to cars in the other lane. The city then set up Cruise Avenue so the cruisers would have a place to go and would not clog up Fourth Avenue. 

In 1987, Huntington designated the old 2nd Avenue between 8th and 10 Streets where Delta Hotel and Pullman Square is now as Cruise Avenue.  Mayor Bobby Nelson was credited as the man who created Cruise Avenue and he took the first drive on Cruise Avenue in a police cruiser.

Cruise Avenue worked for a while but still caused traffic problems downtown. Although the teens did have somewhere to go it was not really deemed by most parents and city officials as being a proper hangout for teens. It was very hard to keep drugs and alcohol out of the area even though the police patrolled the area regularly. Occasionally fights would break out.  The drugs and increased violence helped doom Cruise Avenue.  A plainclothes police officer suffered powder burns in a scuffle when a gun discharged.  

Pullman Square as turned out to be the solution to the problem of bored teens. Teens congregate there on weekends and it is a much safer environment. As far as the traffic, well, it appears that Pullman Square ridded the tri-state of teen cruisers…either that or high gas prices, lol. Though, to many people who hung out there back in the day: hot summer nights, loud music, the opposite sex, newly found friends and old friends, and the snuck ice-cold beer were a recipe for fun and memories.

Chi Chi's had a place above Cruise Avenue.  It opened in 1991.  The restaurant was an immediate hit.  It gave Huntington's favorite Mexican restaurant Chili Willi's some competition.  

When plans were developed for Pullman Square, Chi Chi's had to go.  The company refused to sell at first but eventually did sell out.  The restaurant closed in April 2003 and was knocked down a month later.  Chi Chi's company filed for bankruptcy in 2004 .  A month later they were hit with Hepitiitis  A and 4 people died and over 600 got sick.  A month later, the company was out of business.

In November of 2004, Marquee Cinemas Pullman Square Cinema 16 was the first business at Pullman Square.  In 2005 several other businesses including restaurants Max and Erma's, Uno Pizzeria, Moe's Southwest Grill, and The Funny Bone Comedy Club opened.  Five Guys would open in 2008 and Roosters' in 2011.  

 

Hart’s Family Centers 

MEMORIES of HUNTINGTON  
“Hart’s Family Centers” 

Big Bear grocery stores bought Hart’s Family Centers in 1954. Although the company had a couple of Big Bears in Huntington, they did not open a Hart’s until 1975.  
In October of 1975, Hart’s was owned where Arlan’s Department Store had gone out of business on Route 60. The business today is now home of Gabe’s.  

In 1976, Big Bear and Hart’s opened a side by side combo in Ceredo.  

My family moved here in 1976. My mom and dad would shop at the Route 60 store. This was pre Walmart and Target in this area, there were plenty of options. We had Kmart, Hill’s, Heck’s, Hart’s, and Sears  

When my mom and dad discovered the Ceredo store, we would go there on a Saturday every two weeks. They would buy groceries at Big Bear and household items at Hart’s. We would eat lunch at Bowincal’s.  There was a plaster craft store they liked and I liked Opus One Records. We spent most of the day there.  

In 1981, Big Bear and Hart’s split the Sears store on 29th Street. The Ohio bridge was not yet opened so it was still a good trip from Proctorville and they still went to Ceredo some.  

I started at First Street Bog Bear in 81 and switched to 29th Street. It was just after the 31st Bridge owned and the stores were booming     

I would were night shifts on the stock crew at Big Bear. About the time Hart’s was closing for the night, we were coming in. I’d come in early and grab a few things at Hart’s.  

In 89, Penn Traffic bought Big Bear. They started combining the stores into Big Bear Plus and shitting some Hart’s down. By 1996, Hart’s was gone. Big Bear lasted into the early 2000s.  

It was a different world before Walmart took over everything. They certainly were one of the reasons for the demise of stores like Hart’s.

 

 

 

Huntington Mall 

HUNTINGTON MALL 

The Huntington Mall opened in 1981.  I graduated high school that year and bought my first sport coat there. 

  I have many memories of the mall.  Shopping with mom and dad.  Falling in love with Chick-fil-A.  Buying albums, cassettes, magazines, clothes, tennis shoes, and everything.   

I remember when I managed Rite Aid at Hal Greer in the late 80s and helping close down the Rite Aid store at The Mall.  I remember taking my girlfriend's kids to see Santa Claus.  There were several years of back to school shopping.  I remember walking in the mall waiting on my mom while she shopped.  Then, we ate at Morrison's Cafeteria.  I remember getting hooked on Steak Escape and eating there.  I remember going to the mall to see a girl I had a crush on that worked at American Eagle and later at Camelot Records and making it looked like I accidentally just stopped in shopping. 

So many memories over the years. 

HISTORY  
From. https://evanrocks.fandom.com/wiki/History_of_Huntington_Mall 

"In the mid 70s, Tri-State shoppers appeared ready for a mall of large proportions by the mid-1970s, when everyone from families to groups trekked to large shopping malls in Lexington, Ky., Columbus, Ohio, and elsewhere. In response, three developers stepped forward with plans for a Huntington area mall. Crown American Corp. wanted to build a mall at the 29th Street interchange; Interstate Properties had its eye on land near the 16th Street interchange (now Hal Greer Boulevard); and a Youngstown, Ohio-construction company had plans for a $25 million mall at the Ona interchange. 

In 1977, the city of Huntington signed an agreement with Interstate, allowing for annexation of the site after the first store opened, delaying payment of business and occupation taxes until that time. 

But several downtown businessmen filed a suit in March 1977, challenging the agreement. The men argued that the contract violated the state uniform tax law and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

The argument charged that downtown retailers paid substantial taxes as part of urban renewal, while City Council delayed annexation for the mall to allow those retailers a chance to circumvent taxation. 

Cabell County Circuit Judge Robert C. Conaty ruled in August that the agreement was valid, but those five months of turmoil caused hesitation among the large anchor stores. The Ona interchange became the prime target, with William Cafaro, a partner in the construction company, announcing the deal after commitments from anchor stores. 

“The anchor stores drove the deal. (They) are our partners,” Johnston said. “Without the anchors, there is no mall.” 

The mall was given the surname of Huntington. While it spurred animosity from the city, which desperately wanted the tax revenue that would have come with the mall, the name, Johnston said, has been crucial to its success. 

“Huntington the market is a six-county metro over three states,” he said. “When national retailers see a map, they see Huntington.”" 

The malls have been under attack by superstore discounters like Walmart and Target for several years.  Now, COVID 19 has enticed shoppers to shop online more through Amazon and others.  More and more mall stores are struggling and going out of business.  But, in my mind, it's a busy Saturday.  I'm getting a haircut (used to be 4 places, now none) picking up some CDs and waiting on my mom so we could eat.  The Huntington Mall will always have a place in my heart.

 

 

Then and Now: Jake’s Bar 

HUNTINGTON: THEN AND NOW 
“Jake’s Bar” 

Who over 50 in Huntington that doesn't have memories from the old Jake's on 3rd Avenue? 

Jake’s Bar no longer lives on in Huntington but the memories will. The second Jake’s closed down on 4th Avenue a few years ago, but it was the original Jake’s on 3rd Avenue that I’ll always remember.   

Who could ever forget John Black?  John was the iconic owner of the bar in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.  It was the ex- Herald Dispatch sports writer and bartender from The Joker that everyone came to see….or was it his booming laugh that everyone came to hear? 

The beer was always the coldest in town and the bartenders were quick and friendly (a rarity in Huntington these days it seems.)  Jakes rocked long into the night.  Although Happy Hour brought close friends and a regular crowd, you never knew who would come drifting into Jakes in the wee hours as patrons would spill out of the other clubs around 2 and keep Jake’s rocking until 4AM. 
Jake’s was the perfect place to watch Reds baseball (and hear expert though sometimes drunken commentary from John and his buddies) and Marshall football.  Marshall gameday brought tailgating and huge spreads of food.  Super Bowl was always a big day as well.   
Jake's was the party home for everyone - lawyers, homeless, college students, bikers, sports enthusists, ect. 
The patio outback featured horse shoes and the patio rocked on the closing party as karoke was featured as everyone gave Jake’s the send off it deserves. 

I first went into Jake’s in the very early 80’s. My Big Bear co-worker Brian “Beamer” Howard took me in a few times. Later in the 80s, I would go in with Ed Canterbury after he would close his bar Beau Brummell/ Marco’s.  

In the 90s, my buddy Steve Pruitt and I became regulars. Jake’s was a second home to me until they closed. Becky and Cindy were awesome bartenders. Becky and those tight shorts were legendary.  

There was a cast of characters that rivaled Cheers. Dougie, Tim Milne, Dog, Pup, Ace, Butch…too many to name. Some like Todd Wilson, Pup, and Sarge are no longer with us.  

I attended a Jake’s reunion at Bar None a few weeks ago. The bar was packed. The Bipolar Band rocked the house.  

The spirit of Jake’s is the “Now” part because 3rd Avenue building is long gone and the 4th is just a shell   

The spirit of Jake’s was certainly alive on this Spring evening. It had been over 25 years since I had seen most of these people. Some I didn’t recognize although I probably knew them well at one time. Some, like me, hadn’t changed a lot but just a little grayer. It was a great time.  

Jake’s was a classic Huntington bar. If there was a Huntington Bar Hall of Fame, Jake’s and John Black would be right up.  

Most of these pictures were borrowed from The Old Jake’s Bar Facebook page

 

Then and Now/ Robby’s/ The Market 

HUNTINGTON: THEN AND NOW 
“Robby’s/ The Market 

Pittsburgh Pirates hurler Don Robinson wanted bring something to Huntington that the city had never seen before. The star pitcher had graduated at Ceredo- Kenove High School.  

Robinson told friends that his other dream besides being a Major Leaguer was to own a bar. So Donnie transformed Super Bee department store into a huge nightclub that held over 250 people. There was two huge bars and a 22 foot dance floor. Donnie spent $500,000 to create his dream. Considering it was about forty years ago when he invested the money, it is reasonable to assume it would cost much more today.  

It was truly a showplace. The doors opened in July 1984 and the club rocked until 1995 Anyone who ever went out in that era definitely walked through those doors.  

My friends and I loved the Grand Buffet Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Chef Bob carved up a beautiful roast beef and surrounded it with a tremendous amount of food.  

Robby’s had a preppier crowd at first but then became the type of club where everyone could co-exist.  

Of course, it would take something magnificent to replace Robby’s. After a few other places operated there for years, a giant transformation happened. A 7 million dollar project that involved knocking a building down to create a walkway before 3rd and 4th Avenue.  

The first store opened in 2017. Five years later, it is still rocking. AJ Dawg and I love Austin’s at The Market. They feature the homemade ice cream that made the Ceredo store a legend. They even have a few sugar free options.  

The Market features restaurants and small shops. The outside area is beautiful and there is often live entertainment. AJ Dawg and I chill out and listen to the music regularly  

It is hard to compare the two endeavors. Robby’s was certainly a legend but The Market will be a key part of Downtown Huntington for decades.
 

 

Then and Now: Davis’ Place 

For decades Davis’ Place was the place to be in the Southside of Huntington. Ice cold quarts of beer, hamburgers and hotdogs, all served by an icon nicknamed Blondie for years while patrons played shuffleboard.  

The man down on his

luck and the influential lawyer could sit down and have a beer. Tailgating, weddings, and happy hours.  

I walked through those doors with literally dozens of different people. In the mid to late 80s, stockcrew workers from Big Bears all over the Tri- State would meet at 8:30 on a Monday morning for cold beer and hotdogs and hamburgers after a hard night of stocking groceries.  

Through the years, I would stop in occasionally. In the 90s, the bar would start quieting down at night after happy hour and closed around 11. When Jake’s on 3rd Avenue closed its doors for the last time, then Davis’ owners Felix and Penny Daniels eventually hired Jake’s bartender Becky and old Jake’s crowd came roaring into the bar. They began staying open until 3am    

Felix and Penny would later sell to ex Davis’ bartender Beth. Davis’ remained popular.  

Gifford Perdue bought the bar. He gave the bar a total facelift. He expanded it and added a beautiful patio. He reopened the remodeled bar in September 2011  

This was no longer your grandfather or even father’s bar. Suddenly Davis’ Place was not just a neighborhood bar but a chic, trendy nightclub.  

It is still a sports bar to watch the game but it is more. The food is top notch including a delicious brunch on weekends. It just isn’t burgers and dogs.  

The atmosphere at Davis’ is lively. They are known for their very attractive bartenders.  

Below is a link to a song I wrote in honor of the old Davis’ Place. I wrote it honor of regulars of the old bar that are no longer with us.  

The O.T. Hill Band 

Being a young rock fan and beer drinker in the 80s and 90s had its' advantages.  I was able to watch and listen to some great Huntington bands.   

One bar I used to frequent was The White Owl Tavern.  It was owened by Tom Laishley.  The OT Hill Band played three nights a week from 88 to 90.  They played a mix of blues, southérn rock, and classic rock.  OT Hill Band was Gary "Doggy" Paden on vocals.  Mark Stark on drums.  Rick Mulholland on bass.Mike "Lassie" Hensley was on keyboards.  They had two guitarist.  ..... Rick Brown and Frank Norton. 

There was a whole lot of talent in that band.  Rick Brown is in the pictures below with Tanya Tucker, Joe Walsh, Vince Neil, Sammy Hagar, and Brian May of Queen.   

The first two pictures are of The OT Hill Band.  The second is Brown and Mulholland jamming at The White Owl. 

Rick Mulholland now lives in North Myrtle Beach.  I talked to him by phone the other night.  He told me a story from the good ol' days at The White Owl.  Rick worked at Pied Piper with his friend Sam McClanahan.  Sam and his friend Carl McQuaid played in a band called Stagebrush.  Stageebrush was touring with George Jones and were opening up for him at The Huntington Civic Center.  Rick recounts, "Sam and Carl were coming up to White Owl.  They were going to catch our last set and then we were going to lock up and party.  He said he would try to bring up whoever he could.  So they come up and George doesn't come up but they do bring George's son Brian Jones.  Brian is drinking and getting cocky as he gets drunk.  He starts bragging he can outdrink everyone shot for shot in tequila.  So we start drinking and eventually Brian falls off his stool.  Tommy Laishley is trying to get Brian to quit drinking.  Brian shoves Tommy.  All hell breaks loose.   A person who seemed to greatly resemble me may or may not have put Brian Jones in a headlock. And he may or may not have decided not to hit him because he needs his hands to play music.  The cops came and everything was broken up. I thought to myself, Did George Jones' son really just end up in a headlock at The White Owl Tavern?" 

There's a lot of great talent from Huntington and some great memories and I will be reminiscing about them in a new series of articles. 

OT HILL BAND ON YOUTUBE 

OT HILL BAND at 1996 Harley Davidson MDA Show Part 1 

Part 2 
https://youtu.be/fPkTXX2UdmY  

Part 3 
https://youtu.be/j3_3RBfapdE 

Part 4 
https://youtu.be/wHazpEMKBUM 

Part 5 
https://youtu.be/8TNolBoToz0

The Explosive Dynamics 

The legend of The Explosive Dynamiks started in Huntington in 1964.  A group of diverse young musicians started the soul band to perform in Huntington East High School's senior assembly. 

The band quickly gained a reputation in Huntington and in true sixties' garage band style built a following by playing proms, special occassions, and clubs. 

As their popularity grew they started performing in larger cities like Lexington, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. The band played their new release on a television show based in Cleveland called, "UPBEAT". That particular show was headlined by James Brown, and included Bobby Goldsboro and other up and coming stars. 

The band stayed together until 1971. 

Members of The Explosive Dynamiks  were : Wayne Brown - Bass guitar, Larry Sumpter - Lead guitar, Mike Thomas - Lead singer, Rick David - Drums, Lindsey Blair - Singer, Lorenzo Batts - Singer, Charles "Tyke" Stover - Keyboards. 

Michael Thomas was inducted into The Huntington Hall of Fame in 2021 after a long career of making a musical, business, and social impact on Huntington. 

To hear their music 
Whole Lotta Loving.  Https://www.youtube.com/ 

I Need You 
https://youtu.be/vHlkxjGCDig 

The Parliaments 

Archie Himonds was a child prodigy musically.  He could play piano by age 3 and drums by 5. He sang in church as a small child. He made his national tv debut in Huntington at age 8 singing on The Today.  He started singing pro by age 15. 

In the early sixties, he went by "Little Archie".  Little Archie wasn't so little though, he was 6 foot 7.  In Huntington, Little Archie started a band with William Banks.  They called themselves The Parliaments. 

They built a following playing local gigs and dances.  They started to grow regionally.  Another band started to grow in New Jersey called Parliament.  This band featured George Clinton who would go on to be a funk icon.  After a legal battle, a judge ruled that The Huntington band could keep the name.  Clinton's band became Funkadelic and had great success in funk. 

The Huntington group  recorded two 45's on Cabell Records, a local label named after the county Huntington is in., one on the Symbol Records label,  and one on their own Unpredictable  label.  

There was an old story that their first single is rare.  They had 1000 copies pressed and left in a flat they were renting.  They a few with them on tour to Tennessee and Ohio.  When they came back, the landlord had evicted them for back rent and threw all of the records out. 

When the band failed to record a hit record, they broke up.  While most of the band stayed in the Huntington area, Little Archie moved on to places like New York, Washington, and Nashville and had a long career in music. 

Click link to hear 

This Is My Rainy Day 
https://youtu.be/_l36BLXbwyE 

Cry No More 
https://youtu.be/OHNCP19Y1H0  

Sweet Nothing 
https://youtu.be/BXsd_kCEd6M

Then and Now: Ward’s/ Rocco’s  

HUNTINGTON: THEN AND NOW 
“Ward’s Donuts/ Rocco’s Little Italy” 

It was September of 1981. My ugly Saddle Tan Brown Chrysler Cordoba was parked at a parking lot by the bus station. It was my first semester at Marshall University. My monthly parking spot came with a free smell…well, aroma, is a better description  

As I opened up my car door and began to walk down 4th Avenue, my nose was quickly approached by the aroma of fresh donuts.  My first day of college was my first encounter with Ward’s Donuts.  

As I walked to colle each day, I also got acquainted with their hot dogs and chili.  

Ward’s Donuts is a legend in Huntington. Paul Ward opened it up in 1947. After over a half- century of serving fresh donuts 24 hours a day, Ward closed up in 2000.   

Rocco’s Little Italy opened up in 2001 and has been there ever since.  It was originally opened by Rocco Muriale but is now owned by the Kim family.  

Ward’s was long a staple in Huntington, whether it be a hot donut after a night visiting the college bar scene, a hot cup of coffee and donuts before work at ACF, BASF,or WV Steel, or a chili dog between classes.  

There was an old legend around town that when the HOT part of The Ward’s Donut sign lit up that there were working girls in 4 and a half alley behind the shop. Of course, that wasn’t the case, but it is a story that usually pops up when you mention Ward’s Donuts.  

When I first encountered Ward’s I loved the donuts but thought of the building as a dump. Now, over 40 years later, I am fascinated with the building. I think it is a beautiful relic of days past. The red and white Rocco’s sign as become as iconic as the original Ward’s Donut sign.  

If there was a Huntington Hall of Fame for old businesses, Ward’s Donuts we surely be in it.