The First and Last Chance Saloon

Once upon a time in Warrick County, this was the place to go. A “haven for the menfolk,” if you will. “Where men could be men,” with a spittoon in one corner and an old pool table in another. My father once told me when I was just a little girl that the reason this place got its name was that it was the first chance and the last chance for a guy to get a stiff drink or two before boarding the train at the depot next door.

It has been through many owners and management over the years. The ones that come to mind most easily for me: Mr. Ben Kelley and Jim Ensor. Each of the men served great food to their customers, too, including homemade soup, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and, during Ensor’s time, lots of that homemade potato salad that his wife, “Pinky,” made by the gallons.

They came by horseback, wagon, vehicles and on foot to step up to the bar stool and find their very own personal space, with a smile on their faces and a sense of belonging. Oh, the tall tales that must have been told within those walls, as well as the fights and even the shootings that took place out in front. According to old newspapers, there were, indeed, one or two gun fights that turned out badly.

From the railroad workers to the coal miners, the place was nearly always full. These days, the old building is boarded up, abandoned and in bad shape. Remembered fondly, perhaps, by only a few who have lived past the age of drawing their Social Security. Sometimes, if you go and stand in front of that old boarded up front door, peer inside the dusty wind and I did just recently to take one last photo. You can almost hear the loud music and the laughter from inside.

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