Fairbanks, AK Night Club Destroyed By Fire, Aug 1956




Flames which broke out at 3:30 a.m. today completely destroyed the Club Rendezvous, located at Mile-One on the Steese highway. Damage was estimated at $125,000, with only $30,000 being covered by insurance.
About 35 patrons, bartenders and entertainers were in the building when the fire broke out. The flames were seen on the front of the building near the roof by MARK RINGSTAD who was driving out the highway at an early hour on a hunting trip. He swung his car into the club's parking area, raced inside, and shouted, "You guys better get out of here. The building is on fire." That was the first warning those inside the building received. The flames were not yet visible in the club.
Immediately, the patrons fled, and the owners and entertainers attempted to save some of their personal possessions. JIMMY CAMPION, a bartender, raced to the phone and called the fire department. Engines from Ladd field and the city responded.
Saved Instrument.
"I slid my xylophone out of the building, then I ran back into the dressing room to get my clothing," said ELTON LEWIS, an entertainer. "But almost immediately the lights went out, and I couldn't see anything to grab."
Owners FRANK CARUSO and SATCH BIANCHI were in the building when the warning was shouted. A third owner, JACK TIEMEIER, is currently in Seattle.
"I grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran outside the building," BIANCHI said. "A customer had climbed up on the roof and I handed him the extinguisher. He sprayed the extinguisher on the flames, but it was hopeless. The fire kept flaring higher and higher."
Wiped Out.
In the brief moments before the lights went out and the building turned into a mass of flames, BIANCHI, CARUSO and the entertainers managed to save most of the personal clothing in the dressing rooms, one cash resister and the musical instruments. However, everything else was destroyed, including all of the kitchen equipment, bar fixtures, liquor stock and one cash register which contained more than $700.
"We are wiped out," said BIANCHI.
BIANCHI was not certain this morning of the exact amount of insurance that covered the fire loss. He said that at most, a $30,000 policy was in effect. "It was not possible to buy a policy that covered the full value of the building at any price we could afford," he stated.
Plan Meeting.
BIANCHI said that he and CARUSO would hold a meeting this afternoon to decide whether or not to rebuild.
"It will cost us at least $60,000 to get back into business," BIANCHI said. "Then we'd be another five or ten years paying off our debts. I don't know if it's worth it."
BIANCHI said that he, CARUSO and TIEMEIER had been paying off old debts of the destroyed club, and were just getting into a position where they could begin taking some profits for themselves. But the fire put an end to any hopes they entertained for getting ahead financially from the night club operations.
Blame Wiring.
BIANCHI believes that the fire was caused by a short circuit in the wiring because flames were first seen near the point where the powerline enters the building. In addition, lights went out shortly after the fire was seen.
As the flames roared through the large log structure, there were frequent small explosions as whiskey bottles and beer cans burst open. Within a few minutes after the building was evacuated, the structure was a roaring mass of flames.
The kitchen of the night club had recently been completely renovated by JACK and BETTY MAITLAND, who leased this part of the building. They also were wiped out by the fire.
Little Left.
By 6 a.m. today, there was nothing left of the Club Rendezvous but a few charred timbers and an debris-littered hole in the ground. Two racing cars were destroyed by the flames, one a stock car owned by DON RAMSEY, and a midget racer owned by LEO HOYT. However, the race track installations was not damaged.
"We will hold races as usual, Sunday," BIANCHI said.
Out Of Control.
Fairbanks Fire Chief E. B. WOODCOX said that when the call was received at 3:20 a.m., the city dispatched one civil defense truck to the club. However, the situation was out of control when the engine reached the scene.
"There were flames all through the roof," WOODCOX stated. "All we could do was squirt water to keep the fire from spreading to surrounding installations."
Among items destroyed in the fire were BIANCHI'S three congo drums and about 500 of his "Ice Worms Nest Again" and "Squaws Along the Yukon" recordings.

The Fiarbanks Daily News-Miner 1956-08-30