The students have returned to classes at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. But they cannot spend all their time just studying. On Wednesday nights, many of the students like to head out for a little dancing at a famous local “honky-tonk” called the Museum Club.
Honky-tonks are dance and drinking places with reputations for getting wild and sometimes even a little dangerous. Country-western music is played and the crowds do the two-step dance. The energetic and tricky dance is also sometimes called the Texas two-step or the country-western two-step.
The Museum Club is an iconic business along the historic U.S. Route 66. Two-stepping and drinking were not the club’s first attraction. The building went up in the early 1930s. The owner, Dean Eldredge, built it to be the biggest log cabin in the world.
First, a museum...
Mr. Eldredge was in the taxidermy business. He displayed the animals he stuffed along the walls and beams of the business and called it a museum. Visitors back then also called it “the zoo,” a nickname that remains today.
Signs of the Museum Club’s past as a taxidermy business still remain. The heads of animals killed in hunting still hang in the club. They surround the dance floor as if to watch the dancers below.
Rhylee Helsper is a manager and bartender at the Museum Club. She is also passionate about dancing. “When I first started here I had no idea how to dance and now I’m a pretty great dancer,” she said.
She also noted the increasing interest in line dancing. This is when a crowd divides into straight lines to dance together. The dancers all carry out the same set of steps and move in the same direction at the same time.
“Definitely more songs are becoming line dances. It’s shocking -- every week there’s a new line dance,” Helsper said.
Later, dancers and ghosts...
The Museum Club became a night club after Dean Eldredge died. It was a popular spot among the many thousands of people who traveled Route 66 each year. The club’s atmosphere got rougher as the years passed. “Bar brawls” were not uncommon.
And the club is said to have ghosts. In 1973, Don and Thorna Scott owned the business. The couple lived on the second floor. One night, Thorna Scott fell down the stairs and broke her neck. She died a few weeks later. Her husband never recovered and his business suffered as well. Don Scott shot and killed himself inside the Museum Club in 1975.
Manager Rhylee Helsper says there are reports of sightings of the ghosts of Don and Thorna.
“She (Thorna) is often seen at the back bar,” Helsper said. “They (the ghosts) both hang out. Don’s not exactly a friendly character. But Thorna’s a sweetheart.”
The Museum Club has live music at least three nights a week. Friday and Saturday is for country music. On Sunday night, the club features Latin music. The Museum Club also offers two-step lessons on weekdays. And Wednesdays are reserved for local college students to relax and have a little fun.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Caty Weaver wrote this story. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
reputation – n. the common opinion that people have about someone or something : the way in which people think of someone or something
taxidermy – n. the skill, activity, or job of preparing, stuffing, and mounting the skins of dead animals so that they look like they did when they were alive
passionate – adj. having, showing, or expressing strong emotions or beliefs
bar brawl – n. a rough and noisy fight in a bar (a public gathering place where alcohol is served)
hang out – phrasal verb to be or stay somewhere for a period of time without doing much
sweetheart – n. a kind or helpful person : someone who is very nice