Erv Anderson was a visionary whose dream was to build a large night club.
His dream was fulfilled when in 1938, the doors of Bar Harbor swung open and the sounds of a big band and the clinking of coins in the slot machines rang out over the lake.
To many area residents and vacationists, the big wood frame building that extended out over the shores of Upper Gull Lake on County Road 19 was a landmark -- a place to come to for an evening of dining, dancing and letting your hair down in song fests around a piano bar in the Elbow Room.
Others will remember Bar Harbor during the gambling era of the late 1930's and 1940's when everyone had a fair chance to beat the house at the crib tables, one - armed bandits or in games like California or "bing."
THE GAMBLING ERA
WINTER TROUBLE--The winter's heavy snow and ice and wind caused the roof at Bar Harbor to cave in 1949.
Former Governor Luther Youngdahl - banished gambling from Minnesota in 1946. Gambling that helped pay the taxes at almost every grocery store, railroad station, resort and night club soon began to disappear.
Other popular gambling spots besides Bar Harbor were Breezy Point on Pelican Lake, and Deauville, a night spot across the channel from Bar Harbor.
Audrey Anderson, widow, of Erv Anderson, who died in 1965, remembers a place called "The Farm," on the road from Pequot Lakes to Breezy Point, where gas lanterns hung over the gambling tables in a "what's behind the green door" atmosphere.
At Deauville, roulette wheels and table gambling games were serious business. In those days, Deauville was run by a gambler' who had worked for Bar Harbor.
THE SEA GULL--This was a pleasure boat owned by Mike Ryan, Brainerd attorney whose law firm holds the record for having been in continuous business for over 50 years. Ryan bought the Sea Gull from A. L. Hoffman on Gull Lake. He took it to Pelican to his cabin on the east shore.
Today Deauville is a supper club. The name was, changed in 1970 to The Colony Inn and it is owned by Medtronic Corp, a company that also owns Sports Craft, just north of Brainerd on Highway 371, and the Gull Lake Marina, adjacent to The Colony Inn.
One of the deciding factors in the ouster of gambling from Minnesota was when Youngdahl was on a late-evening hike with a group of Boy Scouts. He heard the clinking of glasses, ice and dice from Bar Harbor and decided that gambling had to go, or so it says in the 1940 edition of the Saturday Evening Post.
Gambling was by county option. The local county attorney had the deciding voice as to whether gambling would be legal in that particular county.
BAR HARBOR COLLAPSE
Life at an early resort was not all work for the proprietors. Most guests were from out of Minnesota. Here, left to right, Ross Frazier, Kansas City, Mo.; Gust Olmquist, one of the proprietors of Rocky Point; Fred Latrop, Kansas City, and Earl Southerland, Omaha, take time out from fishing to enjoy refreshments. Photo taken in 19l9.
Bar Harbor had a slight set-back in 1949 when a severe winter snow storm coupled by driving winds caused the roof to collapse. Insurance didn't cover winter storm damage--only precipitation from rain.
After much haggling with legal authorities over the definition of "precipitation," Erv collected enough insurance money to repair the damage.
In 1968, Bar Harbor was completely destroyed by fire in an arson-burglary seige. All that remains of the Central Minnesota Fun Spot is the charred ground where the huge night club once stood.
Ironically, the air cooling system that cooled the place and attracted so many guests on hot summer evenings before the advent of air conditioning, contributed to the destruction of Bar Harbor, said Bob Daniels, Audrey's partner at the new Bar Harbor Supper Club.
Inwood Lodge in about 1920 was one of the most popular on Gull Lake. It has since burned down.
To cool the building, air was sucked in from the lake and circulated through huge fans situated throughout the structure. The arsonists got in through a window by bending a fan blade, robbed the place and set it a-blaze, said Daniels. Daniels, who played the piano in the Elbow Room of big Bar Harbor, and formerly owned a hotel in Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Audrey formed a partnership after Erv Anderson's death.
After Erv died, Audrey ran Bar Harbor for two years alone.
BAR HARBOR'S BEGINNING
Erv first started to envision a Bar Harbor when he ran the Pine Hurst Resort on Gull Lake with Martin Dullum, who started Martin's Sports Afloat in Nisswa.
At Pine Hurst there was a small store with a few gambling machines. "People complained about the food and lodging prices, but didn't say much about losing money at gambling," said Audrey.
Erv recognized that the business to be in during those days was night clubbing, said Audrey who met Erv when she was a bookkeeper at Bar Harbor in the early 1940's. "Bar Harbor had the biggest dance floor in this part of the country," said Daniels. Crowds filled the place to capacity nearly every night. It wasn't unusual for there to be 1,000 patrons.
A big reason for Bar Harbor's fame is credited by Audrey to Camp Ripley, when in war years, the base sent buses loaded with servicemen to and from the night club. The word spread that Bar Harbor was a fun spot.
When gas was rationed during World War II, groups of vacationers and other weekend visitors came from the Twin Cities by bus. Erv and Audrey met them at the station. Most stayed at the Bar Harbor Resort, owned and operated by the An- derson couple.
THE BIG BAND DAYS
People brought their own bottles and Bar Harbor served set-ups during the days of the big bands that followed the banning of gambling.
Bar Harbor was a supper club during the years 1946 until 1960. Bands of Woody Herman, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Blue Barren and Kay Winding providing dancing from sunshine to moon glow.
The big band sounds came back in 1966 when a Daniels brought the Piper Sons and Tom to Bar Harbor. The group was composed of bandsmen from groups of Eddy Howard and Stan Kenton.
The sounds of the big bands were back and the last stage of a remodeling job was nearly completed when Bar Harbor was destroyed.
TROUBLES AT BAR HARBOR
Bar Harbor was a successful supper club, but liquor could not be served on the dance floor and in about 1960, it evolved into a free-for-all for minors.
She said there was no on-sale liquor and people were forced to bring their own. Bar Harbor was getting a bad reputation.
The crowds became unruly until Audrey finally got permission from the state Liquor Department to serve liquor on the dance floor.
The Liquor Department realized the plight of Bar Harbor and the problems associated with bottles and minors. The Department sent agents and the National Guard to help keep law and order.
"They must have concluded that even the National Guard couldn't handle the situation," said Audrey. So, Audrey was issued a full liquor license.
In 1966, it once again became a successful supper club, said Audrey.
TODAY'S BAR HARBOR
"Little" Bar Harbor, across the road from the big frame supper club, was built in 1963 to handle the winter business when the big fun spot was closed for the season.
It now replaces Big Bar Harbor and is open year around.
Reproduced from the Centennial Edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1871-1971).