The Red Lion Tavern is a Spokane institution. In the mid 1960s it was a predominantly black bar, with a separate food concession that fed fried chicken, fried bread and ribs to the bar through a window. The food concession was open to teenagers, and we would hang out there eating fried bread and listening to the jazz and soul that populated the juke box. In the bar there was a white bartender with appropriately long sideburns. Everyone called him “Whitey.”
In the later 60s the food concession was absorbed into the bar, which expanded to include pool tables. There was a painting on the wall next to the bar, of a man stabbing his own eyes out, perhaps an Oedipal reference. The graffitti above the urinal in the Men’s Room said “F**k the whole 5th grade!” It was now a mixed bar, full of hippies and cruisers. The constants were the great Jazz and Soul on the juke, the chicken and ribs, and Whitey.
In my early to mid twenties the Red Lion Tavern was the launching pad for not a few love affairs, and certainly the source of a good number of headaches and hangovers. It still exists, at Division Street and Main Avenue. Whitey is long gone. It is quite a bit more staid, and there are no longer the ubiquitous peanut shells all over the floor. But the chicken tastes the same, the ribs are still good, and the fried bread is just right.