SPECIAL REPORT: Cavern Nite Club at Lost River Cave

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- Tucked away underneath a canopy of trees, off a path lined with wildlife and natural wonders, sits a piece of history -- waiting for old stories to be told, and new ones yet to be created -- as you walk into the Cavern Nite Club at Lost River Cave.

The club really took off after World War Two.

"When Jimmie Stewart came back from the war, the whole country was ready for something new, some excitement, some normality -- and the underground night club at Lost River Cave turned out to be just the ticket," says Rho Lansden, executive director at Lost River Cave.

Friends still gather, even after Jimmie's passing, remembering his legacy and love for the cave, at a party at his son Buster's house.

Long time friends look through the old pictures provided by Lost River Cave, sharing tales of how their parents met at Jimmie's Cavern Nite Club.

"They met at the cave at a dance. And after the war he came back and they got married and so the cave sparked a good union then and so without that I probably wouldn't be here," says Dr. Jack Glasser, a family friend of the Stewart's.

The nite club was active from the 1930s until the late 50s, and the dance floor has seens its fair share of guests over the years.

"The Cavern Nite Club was a place where you put on your best dress and your best beau took you down the stairs -- clinging to the edge of the bluff -- for a night of good times with your friends," adds Lansden.

She goes on to say, "So there was a law on the books dating back to the prohibition era that it was illegal to sell alcohol below street level."

But that didn't keep the night club from finding ways around the rules, as more stories begin to unfold.

Describing a phone call from years ago, when she was a volunteer at the cave, Lansden says, "And I answer the phone and the guy says, 'Lost River Cave, well I used to party there.' And I knew I was getting ready to hear a great story, so he told me about the deluxe ice. You could buy the deluxe ice at Jimmie Stewart's Cavern Nite Club for two bucks. Well think about a two dollar bowl of ice back in the 1940s -- there was a half pint of yellowstone whiskey under the ice -- and that 's how they got around not selling alcohol below street level."

Jimmie's wife Ruth, several years younger than her husband, wasn't old enough to go to the night club when he opened it, but she's heard stories about how it all got started.

"I can remember him saying that it was the year of the flood which surprises me, because they had to shovel mud off the dance floor in order to get it open," she says.

Once it was opened ... it stayed busy.

"At the time, there wasn't air conditioning, so that was the place to go. It was always cool down there," adds Ms. Ruth.

"This was a famous stop over for a lot of the big bands at that time," says Lansden, "So many of our parents and grandparents will tell stories of the parties that they attended at the cave."

Dr. Glasser says his parents would tell stories about meeting in the cave, "They would love to tell those stories there, and you know, of course over the years those stories changed on who actually made the first advance (laughs) dad would always say that mom did and mom would say 'are you crazy?'"

The nite club eventually closed down as interstates came through and air conditioning became available.

Today, the dance floor still sits at the mouth of the cave, hosting weddings and dinners through the year and of course, all the visitors who stop by the cave for a tour.

Lansden says when guests walk into the cave, they can still see parts of the nite club.

"They can see the original band stand, they can see the original bar, you'll actually see them doing a few swing dance steps, stepping out with their children and talking to them about it and people are very excited about the history that they can touch and feel and learn about," she adds.

"We always love to go the cave when we can get a chance," adds Dr. Glasser.



 
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