Happy Jacks Saloon

Other than Morro Rock, Happy Jacks has to be the most famous landmark in the city. The owner, Jack Williams, did seem to be a happy man. He lived in a stucco house on North Main Street that had a fishpond and two palm trees. The trees are enormous now. I remember him as being of medium build with curly black hair and a dark complexion. Jack had to be one of the most interesting people that ever lived in Morro Bay. He bought the tavern in 1929 and it was named Happy Jacks after himself for his smile and good nature. He built the stucco house about that time also. Jack had farmed for a time about 1918 in the Los Osos Foothill boulevard area. He loved farming perhaps because he was originally from the farming community of Burrton, Kansas.

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Jack's father, a black man, eloped with a Mennonite German woman. His father was lynched in Burrton for this transgression, but not before Jack was conceived. At the tender age of thirteen Jack left his home because of the strictness of his grandfather.

He made it to California and went to work on a ranch in Adelaide. Eventually he worked on the coast where he met and married Emma Silacci. They had one daughter--the beautiful Iona Williams. Times were still not easy for Jack. He had a difficult time making payments on his saloon. He bought beer one case at a time, and when it was sold he bought another.

During the building of the Standard Oil Company tank farm, Happy Jacks occasionally had some rough customers. A French crew came in off a tanker, one of the crew took a bite out of a glass and ate it. About 1937 a boxing ring was set up in the back of the tavern and local bouts were held. I remember a very long bar with the top made of matchbook covers neatly varnished into place. Jack was by nature a very generous person and although he was having somewhat of a difficult time himself, he provided some families with food and also shoes for their children. In 1941 he became tired of the bar business and wanted to get back to farming. He sold just before the war started. Happy Jacks is the oldest business in continuous operation in Morro Bay. Before and during the war, Happy Jacks was a rough place.

Happy Jacks was located across the street from the pool hall. The pool hall was also one of the main attractions in the town. Before it was a pool hall it was a skating rink. Before it was a skating rink, it was a ballroom, and dances were held on weekends starting early in the afternoon and continuing until midnight. At first it seemed a disappointment to replace a skating rink with a pool hall; however, the pool hall did turn out to be fun.This happened during 1938 or 1939. The Morro Bay swimming pool, "The Plunge," was not operating at this time, but it hadn't been razed yet either. "The Plunge" can be seen in a photo on the page Very Old Morro Bay. It was located in front of the Log Cabin Motel down the bank on the waterfront. Some of it is still there under a parking lot. The Log Cabins were replaced in the eighties with Charles Hartzel's very nice motel, the Blue Sail Inn. A photograph of the Log Cabins is in The Photo Gallery. Next to the Log Cabins was the original Breakers Cafe, which was probably called Warden's at this time. In front and sitting on pilings in the bay was Jackson's Fish Market. They lived in a boatlike structure next to the market. At a later time this market was operated by the Fanning family. This was years before the fill that is now the waterfront.