Saloons, barrooms, honky-tonks, or watering holes - by whatever name, they are part of the mythology of the American West, and their stories are cocktails of legend and fact, as Richard Selcer, David Bowser, Nancy Hamilton, and Chuck Parsons demonstrate in these accounts of four legendary Texas establishments. In most Western communities, the first saloon was built before the first church, and the drinking establishments far outnumbered the religious ones. Beyond their obvious functions, saloons served as community centers, polling places, impromptu courtrooms, and public meeting halls. Here, the spotlight is thrown on four celebrated saloons: Jack Harris's Saloon And Vaudeville Theater-San Antonio; Ben Dowell's Saloon-El Paso; The Iron Front-Austin; The White Elephant-Fort Worth; Selcer and his coauthors start with the origins of each establishment and follow their stories until the last drink was served and the places closed down for good. They discuss all aspects of the business: the owners, the liquor provided, the entertainment, the troubling issues of segregation by race and gender, and the way order was maintained - if it was at all.
Along the way they consider the ornate bar construction, old floor plans, the liquor suppliers, the attire of the gentlemen gamblers, the variety of casino games that emptied men's pockets, fatal shootings that occurred, and more. Vintage photos of the establishments, along with some of their more famous customers, further take the reader back to the Old West.