Special Reports

Historical Perspective: Club Saloon

With patriotic bunting and flags, Fresnans gathered in 1902 for a festive Fourth of July celebration at the Club Saloon at the southwest corner of California and Elm avenues.

The Saloon, located on the southern edge of town, advertised to travelers that it was the "first and last chance," presumably for a cold drink, on the main roadway heading in and out of town.

The owner, Fred Ruge, with wife Lizzie, are standing, just right of the man holding a guitar at center. The Ruges were German immigrants, arriving in the U.S. in the late 1800s. By 1920, the same year Prohibition laws shut down such establishments, Ruge and family had moved to Santa Clara, where he worked as a hotelkeeper.

Fourth of July celebrations of this era in Fresno were extravagant, all-day affairs. Visitors from other Valley towns, as far south as Bakersfield and as far north as Merced, began arriving in fully-loaded railcars, early in the day or the day before. An estimated 15,000 visitors attended the 1902 festivities in Fresno, which had a population of about 13,000 at the time.

Highlights of the day included two parades -- morning and evening-- picnics,concerts and speeches by civic leaders. An evening of firecrackers and sky rockets concluded the celebration.

Today, the site is a fenced parking lot of the Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission's Local Conservation Corps offices on California Avenue.

The small wood-framed building disappeared long ago, as did the intersection of California and Elm avenues -- lost with the construction of Highway 99.

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