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Friends at Rainbow Garden-1951Friends at Rainbow Garden-1952
Friends at Rainbow Garden-1952

(Photos courtesy of: Terrance T. Burke)

Rainbow Garden

During the 1950s Rainbow Garden continued to attract crowds with its big band sound, but big bands and dance halls were on the decline. World War II caused bands to break up when their musicians were drafted, gas rationing restricted travel, the emerging music trend of rock n roll started replacing the big band sound, and many dance halls around the country began closing.

In the late 1950s Rainbow Garden was subjected to several raids by state liquor control agents. Bob Wingard and band leader Terry Burke recalled several of these raids.

At 10 p.m. on a Saturday night in 1958, a crowd of approximately 1,200 watched as state liquor control agents, with their guns drawn, raided the premises.
They treated us like we were a bunch of criminals, Bob [Wingard] said.

Terry [Burke] remembered the first raid.

The first night they came in with about seven or eight liquor
inspectors, and they all had hats, he said. They kept the hats on so you knew who they were. They went around and arrested those people that would have an open flask of liquor. There was a sheriff outside, and he hauled the people down to the justice of the peace who fined them $10 and then suspended the fine.

Appearing before the mayor of Fremont, Bob pleaded not guilty. The mayor ruled not guilty and dismissed the charges.

This liquor agent was madder than a wet hen, Bob said. So about three weeks later they raided me again and arrested me again. I figured this guy was going to keep after me until I pleaded guilty so I plead guilty. The mayor fined me $25 and costs.

During the last raid, Terrys band attempted to thwart the efforts of the arresting officers.

This one liquor agent came up on the bandstand and said, I want you guys to stop playing so these people will go back to their tables.

Terry explained.

I said, Mr. Wingard is the one who hired us, and hes the one who tells us to play or not to play. These liquor agents were standing at the tables waiting for the people to come off the dance floor so they could arrest them, but we just kept playing, and the people kept dancing.

[Excerpted from John Moor, "See You At Rainbow," The Bridge, June 2, 1988]

Because of the arrests and negative publicity generated by the liquor raids, Wingard decided to close the Rainbow Garden in 1959, converting it to a manufacturing plant. Atlas Industries, Inc. currently occupies the building.

- Written by Cheryl Laugherty -

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