Remembering Long-Lost Marino’s Club – September 26, 2011
Special to the Eye
NINTH STREET – It was a bit of a struggle, writing this article. I wanted to do justice to such a grand ol’ dame as Marino’s Club, a true piece of Arcata history.
I did some research, and since I work on the Plaza I was able to talk with a lot of people who frequented the old bar, and some who bartended there, too.
One, from years ago, was Dave Moore of Moore’s Sleep World. Dave has a great memory, and has lots of stories about the club. Soon after turning 21, Dave made Marino’s his home away from home. After some time there, Marino Orlandi, the owner at the time, said to Dave, “You’re here all the time—don’t you think it’s time you get behind the bar?” Dave did his stint as a bartender.
Jack Wilson, who had Toby and Jack’s for 50 years and made that bar into a very well-known and popular “working man’s” bar, had worked at Marino’s Club for around a year and a half before going to work at Toby and Jack’s and buying in as a partner. He eventually bought it outright. All the townies miss that place—although it’s still running strong, it has changed completely.
The very loved and well-known Betty Larson worked there. That gal has worked at so many social establishments in town, it’s no wonder she is such a popular bartender.
Back in 1965, Sweet William had broken both his legs while working on scaffolding. Although he had to walk with crutches, it didn’t stop Bill from having fun. He frequently went to Marino’s and at times was known to play the “stick-tub,” which is a washtub turned upside down with a tall stick through the bottom, strung with a cord. In his day, Bill was a pretty fancy dancer, too.
When I asked Bill what the best thing was about Marino’s, he replied with a twinkle in his eyes, “The apartments upstairs.” The building was built between 1889 and 1891, and belonged to the Native Sons and Native Daughters and the Orangemen. It was opened as an undertaking establishment, and later turned into a bike and small engine repair shop.
Following the end of Prohibition in 1933, Banducci and Pritchard opened the building as a bar, and within a few years Marino Orlandi bought Pritchard out. In 1947, Marino bought the building and converted the upstairs into apartments. He also put in two bowling alleys, known as Arcata Bowl.
After Marino retired, his son Reno ran the place. Eventually, a man by the name of Rakovitch bought the club. As the story goes, Rakovitch had a couple of good-looking daughters, and a handsome young fella came into town and took up with one of them. That was Fred Trump, who ran the bar and, after some time, bought it from Rakovitch. Fred was a well-liked and successful bar owner. He had the bar for many years before selling it to one of his patrons.
You could always find Steve Wilson at Marino’s Club. A very easygoing and well-liked guy, Steve was the right-hand man for a long time. He was clean-up, maintenance, stock man and bank runner. He was truly at home in the club, and when Fred started talking of selling the place, Steve was determined to buy it. He bought the place in 2001.
Marino’s club was unique. It had black velvet nudie girl paintings on the walls, a big rotating disco ball, and during the holiday season the whole ceiling was decked out with bright, shiny Christmas balls, too numerous to count.
Dave Burley worked there as a janitor/clean-up guy for a couple of years. He lived in one of the apartments upstairs and recalls his rent was $175 per month.
The young people coming into town now will never know the club. It burned to the ground July 25, 2001, only three months after Steve acquired it. It meant total devastation for many people—Steve, because it had been his dream to own the place, and the people who lived upstairs who lost everything.
There was much speculation on how this horrible blaze began. It took the whole building, and the paint store beside it. Fire departments, insurance adjusters and federal fire inspectors couldn’t quite agree on just how the fire started. One thing is certain: it left a big hole in a lot of hearts.
On August 13, a group of us gathered at the Bayside Grange to commemorate and celebrate what had been, before the tragic fire. We shared stories, ate wonderful food and shed a few tears. As usual, the barbecued ribs and tri-tips prepared by Big Dan were to die for.
There were many friends, relatives, and a few old bartenders who had worked there. It was a nostalgic party, and as it was coming to an end, folks drove away slowly, as if they really didn’t want those good old memories to fade.
For those of us left who loved the old place, it will remain in our hearts forever.