The Bangor Cave Club

Who needs fiction when you have a rich treasure of true Alabama stories to revisit?  For example, did you know that almost a hundred years ago Alabama had an infamous underground nightclub that was lauded from New York to Cuba? Picture yourself going back in time to visit the unique Bangor Cave Club.

Step back in time

It’s Summer of 1937 in Alabama. You are hopeful that the lean years of The Great Depression are finally improving. Maybe you have mixed feelings about the long fight in the state over the gambling issue, and of course you know that most counties are dry as a bone; but an ad running the past few weeks in The Birmingham News has tempted you to consider a local adventure.

Dance in the Most Beautiful Cave in America, the ad beckons. Hear your favorite big band music, performed by the famous recording artist Billy Yates and his 12 Piece Orchestra. Have a magical dining experience created by an expert concierge from Birmingham’s Tutwiler Hotel.  

The Adventure Begins

You catch an evening train on the L&N line with a sense of nervous excitement; after all, you are headed to America’s only underground nightclub, right here in Alabama. The train takes you through the beautiful rolling hills to Blount County. Destination, a natural formation of wonder and breathtaking beauty: Bangor Cave.

You pay the conductor ten cents to stop the train at the cave.  It’s a relief you wore your party clothes, because this crowd is swanky and they are here to party

America’s Only Underground Nightclub

The moment you step into the cave, you are captivated by the lighting. From the cloakroom, to the main room with its huge tiled dance floor, to the elevated orchestra pit carved into an enormous boulder, there are thousands of Broadway style electric lights illuminating the cave features; the stalactites and stalagmites sparkle and shimmer in every color of the rainbow.  Your eyes are drawn up to take in the stars of the night sky painted on the cave ceiling. The wonderful aromas from the moon shaped neon-lit buffet make your mouth water. Your favorite Benny Goodman song Goody Goody is being played by the band; watching dozens of couples swing dancing puts a smile on your face. Your feet just won’t stay still!

You have a night of entertainment ahead of you; a Broadway comedian and a Vaudeville act will be on the stage soon. Musical acts are lined up to keep the joint jumping until the sun comes up. You saunter up to the bar to order a thirty-five cent Martini, and your jaw drops when you notice a tip jar full of actual thousand-dollar bills. Hopefully this colorful scene will be enough for you tonight, because if you decide to venture further into the club you might get more adventure than you wanted.

The Secret Casino

Because down a long, narrow passageway and behind a padlocked door there is an exclusive area of the cave, guarded by strict bouncers.  You will have to show a wallet full of money and pass an interview to go further into the secret caverns holding slot machines, blackjack tables, roulette wheels, and craps games, a full-fledged small casino, highly illegal in this day and time. Tension is high because everyone knows that at any moment the Governor’s men are likely to raid the place.

At the first sign of trouble, the casino boss will cut the electricity, and the croupiers will expertly hide the evidence of gambling, flipping the Mahogany gaming tables over to only show flat dining surfaces.

Spoiler alert: the local sheriff will eventually prevail and all the owners will end up going to jail, with the Bangor Cave Club shuttered forever.

Interestingly, the debate still rages in 2021 about gambling in Alabama; this is obviously not a new issue nor one with an easy answer. Even this week in February 2021, the headlines in the Birmingham News proclaimed that Governor Ivey believes that good can come from a debate on gambling. Whatever they come up with, it probably won’t be housed in a cave.

Not long after the Bangor Cave Club was permanently closed in 1939, a mysterious fire destroyed everything. Many of the natural features of the cave that had survived the construction did not survive the fire. For years afterward Bangor Cave became a remote site only visited by curiosity seekers and vandals. Today the site is privately owned and is not open to the public.

When you need a Realtor

We hope you will go along with us as we bring to you more stories of Everything Alabama, the state where we have always lived and loved. Any time you need help with real estate in Alabama, please keep me in mind. Contact Greg Arcara, (205)566-1426.

Inspired by Aunt Nellie

I am not a Realtor; but I live with one. And after twenty three years of being married to Greg Arcara, I just now figured him out, unpredictably, through genealogy.

Greg paying respects blogThe thing about a good, talented career Realtor is that there is no faking it; I’ve known for decades that Greg truly harbors a great passion for houses, homes, neighborhoods, communities, but especially for the sweet feeling of victory when a perfect match is made between a client and their new family home. I am witness to his tossing and turning at night when there are issues, and to his absolute delight when the deal works out for everyone. I get to know his clients even though I never meet them. I know that when we drive through a neighborhood being newly constructed, all I see is mess and sawdust; but Greg sees the possibilities. When we walk in a vacant house and I just see blankness, Greg literally sees furniture placement, colors, the specific comforts of the right home for certain clients. And when I am exasperated over Greg missing weekend days, football games, or late nights, I see an absence where he sees a presence.

It’s not just Greg; one of my very best friends, Tammy Taylor, is one of those obsessive, devoted Realtors whose mind is reeling all the time with possibilities of making that perfect home/homeowner match for someone. You know a true professional Realtor when you see one; it is not the people dabbling in it for a quick buck, some giving the rest of the Realtors a bad name; the good ones are fierce about the ethics because they really care about the rest of the story; they aspire to a “happily ever after” ending for all.

I have never known where this comes from, the stuff that makes Real Estate the only viable career path for a few special people; could it be genetic? In doing Greg’s family history research, I have run across three interesting characters that make me believe there is a Realtor gene and that my husband has it.

Randolph Hernandez colorizedFirst, there is Greg’s 2nd great grandfather, Randolph Manuel Hernandez, a true pioneer of the city of Birmingham. Born in 1838 in Pensacola, of Spanish descent, he and his vivacious wife, Emma, moved to Birmingham the very year it first became a city; the store they opened was noted for being the only store remaining open during the great Cholera epidemic of 1873. They took pride in building the prettiest house in the small new city, and they became involved in helping everyone around them make this brand new location, the Magic City, a true home. Randolph Hernandez earned the reputation of being a highly respected real estate man; by the end of his remarkable life in 1900, Randolph must have had great pride having seen his own real estate business grow with the booming city.

Second, there is Greg’s great-grandfather, born Andrea Tripi in the little Sicilian village of Montemaggiore Belsito way back in 1865; he came to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1895 and reinvented himself as Henry Trippi.

trippie building for blogWhile most of the new Sicilian immigrants in Birmingham were doing hard labor in the coal mines, Henry saw a different path; by 1905 he had opened one of those Italian “Mom and Pop” style grocery/drug stores in a building he built, called The Trippie Building, in downtown Birmingham. He figured out that this rapidly growing city was made of families needing homes; by the time of his death in 1934, he had become quite successful in real estate. There must have been tremendous pride and satisfaction in seeing home ownership become a reality for so many people who had been largely born into poverty.

aunt nellie for blogAnd then there is Greg’s Aunt Nellie Arcara. Aunt Nellie was a pioneer in her own right; she was the first female to be recognized by the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area Real Estate Board, in 1938. People like Aunt Nellie paved the way for future generations; when she worked her way up from a secretary and learned the real estate business during the Great Depression, most of the doors were closed to women. In 1931, when the company she was working for went out of business, Nellie jumped on the opportunity and started her own real estate company. She surmounted discrimination by the Real Estate Board and successfully fought for a change in the board’s by-laws to allow female members; she was finally recognized by the Montgomery County Real Estate Board in 1938. She was a remarkable person; she raised her family, ran a business, and spent a huge amount of energy towards philanthropic causes. By all accounts, she absolutely loved helping people with the huge life decision of choosing a home. Aunt Nellie worked until just about the day of her death in 2001; she was in her 90’s. She just could not stop doing what she loved and was very, very good at.

If not for pioneers like Aunsenia for blogt Nellie, we wouldn’t have great organizations like the Birmingham Women’s Council of Realtors, over which Arcara Residential’s Senia Johnson, Realtor, has presided.

 

So now I know: I married into the family and the Real Estate gene is real and continuous; our youngest son has decided that he has the bug, too. Here is a bit of advice from someone who has lived with it: when you are deciding on whether to use a Realtor and then selecting which Realtor to use, look for that gleam in their eyes; the one that sees past the structure and imagines the potential home, wheels spinning about how to make every party happy. That smart and ethical person who knows what they are doing because they obsess over it 24×7. The one that does the homework. That’s the Realtor you want on your team.

And when you walk into our new office in Helena, please tip your hat to Aunt Nellie Arcara, whose image will be smiling down, offering inspiration.

be inspired sign

 

 

All information on this website is deemed reliable, but not guaranteed, and may change without notice. Any square footage is approximate.

Property of Arcara Residential, LLC; 771 2nd Street; Helena, AL 35080