Monday, January 15, 2007

Remembering the Sunshine Inn

When the party was over in 1992 and again in 1997 at the Class of ’72 20-year and 25-year reunions, I joined classmates over a wee hour in the morning plate of food at the Sunshine Inn. Coming back to the Sunshine Inn took me back to remembering the many, many weekend nights Dad tended bar there. I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever been to or seen another place quite like it.

The Sunshine Inn was, in part, a motel, but I was more familiar with the other part of the business that was divided between a family/truck stop/too-drunk-to-drive restaurant that was open twenty four hours and a bar/lounge/dance floor. As a kid, I spent some time in the restaurant. It had a horseshoe shaped counter, and booths occupied the two sides of the room.

A door cut into the east wall opened into the other half of the Sunshine Inn. Whereas the all- night half of the Sunshine Inn featured burgers and fries, breakfast all hours, and cheap spaghetti and meatballs, the lounge half featured the Jackass Room, a more formal dining area. Tables were lighted by candles, the atmosphere was dim lit and, to quote Dad, “classy”. The Jackass Room was presided over by a picture of Noah Kellogg, the prospector who owned the jackass that kicked up the ore at the spot near what later became the Bunker Hill mine. It also featured an open broiler. Order a steak, and you would watch it be broiled, and have it brought to your table with a plastic bull stuck in it, colored according to whether the steak was rare, medium rare, medium, etc. The word “rare” or “medium rare”, etc. announced, underneath the bull, how the steak was cooked. Every Friday night the Sunshine Inn put on a fish feed, a popular payday buffet, especially for those Catholics who were not supposed to eat meat on Fridays.

Dad loved to eat a steak at the Sunshine Inn. He always ordered a martini and a bottle of Lancer’s rose wine, a sirloin steak medium rare with a fully loaded baked potato, a green salad with Roquefort dressing, the very kind Mom still serves at home, and garlic bread. Mom ordered prawns. Christy and I always had a Shirley Temple. It was our cocktail.

Sig and Bunny Peterson owned and ran the Sunshine Inn. They also lived there. Just off the dance floor, Sig and Bunny had an apartment. They were always at the Sunshine Inn. They would come right out of their residence, onto the dance floor, and circulate, saying hi, drinking right along with their customers, and adding a sense of cheer to the bar. Sig always dressed in matching slacks and a golf shirt, and as the seventies approached, wore a white belt and white shoes. His eyes always had that filmy, fishy, bloodshot look that comes from constant alcohol consumption. He walked slightly bent over, was always flat bellied, drove a Cadillac, and always carried a short clear drink on the rocks, probably gin or vodka. Bunny, too, always had a drink. Her speech was slurred. I heard her speak in the morning, afternoon, and the evening and she always slurred her speech and laughed extraordinarily loud at things that seemed sort of funny, but not as funny as Bunny did.

Dad worked the bar with Paul Riep. Paul and Dad ran a friendly bar, both drinking from a bottle of beer all night long, laughing, trying to keep things peaceful. It was a challenge. I know of one middle-aged woman who often showed up at the Sunshine Inn with a short skirt and no panties, flashing customers up and down the bar. Jack Robinson, a lifelong friend of my Dad's, could be a belligerent drunk, who often called my dad to bail him out of jail, and, who one night tore the white shirt off my dad’s back before dad threw him out the door and into the custody of the Kellogg Police Department. I was shocked when Dad came home early that night, his shirt shredded, briefly explained what happened, put on a new shirt, and went back to his job.

I don’t know if Sig and Bunny ever came to our house. I can’t remember. But they had Dad over to their apartment on holidays when the Sunshine Inn was closed and they had football game parties. The first picture ever taken of my younger sister, Carol, was taken at Sig and Bunny’s when she was five months old. When I went with Dad, or with Mom and Dad, into Sig and Bunny’s apartment, entering from the dance floor, right by the juke box, which Sig let us play free on such days, I felt like I was visiting royalty.

You can't go to the Sunshine Inn now. It's closed. No one runs it. However, if you'd like to resurrect the old place, here's the number to call:


Bob Taylor said...

Even us non-Catholics loved that Sunshine Inn fish feed.Drool.

raymond pert said...

We sure did! Dad made it an end of the Little League baseball season treat for our IOOF team. We loved to pile up those fish sticks!