By Danny Crownover
Gadsden attorney Gregory Cusimano recently posted a photo on the “Welcome to Gadsden & Etowah County” Facebook page. The photo included many people from the mid-1930s in front of a building called the Rossiere Garden, or an Italian beer club. It was built on Rainbow Drive near Highway 77 by Cusimano’s uncle Zito, who was from New Orleans. The building supposedly burned at some point, and arson was suspected.
Murphy D. Garmon noticed the photo on the Facebook page and said that it was the old Skyline Club operated by Ann O’Bar for many years.
O’Bar was a native of Calhoun County but a resident of Gadsden for most of her life. She owned and operated the Skyline Club for 47 years. It is believed she closed down the business and sold it around 1977. O’Bar passed away Dec. 3, 1991, at age the age of 91. She is buried at Forrest Cemetery. If using O’Bar’s sell-date minus 47 years of ownership, the club was in operation since around 1930.
The Skyline Club building is still standing and now houses Burns Metal Fabrication shop. The building is located just off Rainbow Drive on Skyline Drive to the left before you get to White Springs Church.
The Vagabond went inside the building years ago and noticed it had a stage and a neat little bandstand built into the wall that was reached by a narrow little stairway. It appeared to have had a piano up above.
Garmon said that his parents referred to the club as Rossiere Gardens, or an Italian beer garden. To others during that time, it was a common term for a honkytonk. Apparently, it was built by someone who knew what they were doing, since it featured very ornate light fixtures. Garmon said the building should have been on the state historical register.
Paul Piazza said his grandfather, father, Papa Toney Cashio, Nino Bonnesera, Aunt Josie and Aunt Angel are pictured in the photo at above right.
Michael Piazza wrote that he saw several family members and friends in that picture, including his father, under the middle arch at far left. Joe Virgone is pictured in the middle arch, second from right.
Wayne McCluney said that Ben Troncale is pictured on the back left next in front of the door. The Vagabond remembers that Ben and his wife Lilly were owners of the Great Western Market on Bay Street between 3rd and 4th streets in downtown Gadsden.
Charles Gargus wrote, “I grew up hearing a number of fun stories from family about Ms. O’Bar and her club. They remembered her fondly. I know during the “dry days” of the county, Ms. O’Bar’s Skyline Club was able to operate as long as patrons kept their liquor or beer on the floor at their table, even as law officers stopped by to walk through.
On the rare occasions that a patron left a bottle on top of the table, Ms. O’Bar would be held accountable and booked for the infraction. In hindsight, it was an amusing approach to keeping our county ‘dry.’
The Vagabond found a newspaper article dated December 1961. It reads:
“The Skyline Club is located on Rainbow Drive, six miles south of Gadsden. The club invites you to dine and dance this holiday season and the new year. They have private dining room that will accommodate up to 80 people. There is ample parking space. This popular eating establishment features steaks, chicken, and other foods and beverages with a wonderful sparkle. This is one of the most popular places in this section of the state and enjoys a large patronage.
“You will realize that the club has prepared something novel in the entertainment and nightclub life of the period. This is where it is smart to be seen. In addition, you will find delicious food and sandwiches and beverages and cordial hospitality. The prices are un-usually reasonable.
“There is plenty of room to park your car where it will be in perfect safety while you are enjoying yourself. We are pleased to point to this popular establishment as a place where you will chase the ideas of depression and blues away from your thoughts.”
De Harp Roach said his aunt wrote in her diary du-ring that era: “We had a swell time…and how!”