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Hi Hatt Drive In aka The Hi Hatt Club, 3830 Forest Drive: 1973   75 comments

Posted at 11:12 pm in closing

UPDATE 7 June 2016 -- Many thanks to commenter Mandy for sending these pictures of the Hi Hatt:




Original post:

Well, there have been a lot of people over the past few years urging me to do this post. I have always put it off up until now as I have no personal memories of The Hi Hatt Club, and though I must have seen it many times up until I was 12, I cannot even recall the building. I was always hoping that I would run across a picture of the club, or would find an old ad that I could use to hang a post on, but that seems destined not to happen, so I will go with what I have been able to establish, and by consolidating various mentions made of the place in the comments.

Here's what I found out by looking through old phone directories last week. The Hi Hatt Club first appears in the Columbia Southern Bell listings in the August 1957 directory. The last time it was listed was in the December 1972 directory. At the start of its run, the phone number was given as SU-7-9143. That number was retained in each directory though with the advent of direct dialing the prefix changed from Sunset to became 787-9143. The name the club used for its directory listing was always Hi Hatt Drive In, and it listed under Clubs in the Yellow Pages though it never bought a Yellow Pages ad.

Given that other sources state that the club started in the 1930s, I'm not sure why listings only started in 1957. I suppose that in those days not every road-house felt it needed a phone, or perhaps the listing was under another name.

Here's what the Town of Forest Acres says on their web site in what seems to be a semi-official history of the town:

The town limits formed an irregular rectangle that paralleled Forest Drive. The original area of incorporation was two square miles with the northern and southern boundaries lying one half mile on each side of the road. The eastern boundary ran north to south a thousand feet to the east of Gill Creek. The western boundary lay two miles to the west paralleling the eastern boundary. The boundaries did not change right away, but over the years the city grew to the east and primarily to the north. Forest Acres was planned to be a residential area. Existing businesses were grandfathered in, but new businesses were not to be opened. Because of loopholes in the laws, this was not enforceable. To the chagrin of the local residents, the old Bethel School at the comer of Forest Drive and Landmark Drive (3830 Forest Drive) had closed, and the Hi Hatt (pronounced High Hat) Club had opened in the building. The Hi Hatt Club, an early form of nightclub, was in the area in 1935. The city founders would have liked to have seen it close, but it managed to stay open. Over the years, especially in the 1960's, the Hi Hatt Club was rumored to be a place of prostitution, or a "whore house," as such operations were called. Mothers shielded their children from it, but the Hi Hatt Club's reputation made it a big source of interest and a hot topic of conversation for teenage boys. Frowns and concern could never close it, but a good financial offer to purchase the land to construct office buildings finally brought it to an end. The city officials, from the beginning on, wanted only wholesome businesses in the area with protection and privacy for the nearby residential properties.

Here's a bit of information on the appearance of the club from commenter FirstDennis:

Does ANYbody remember the Hi Hat Club on Forest Drive, not too far from Beltline? I asked William Price Fox about it, because he is a wealth of info on stuff like this, but he cannot recall it. I swear I’m not making it up, though. It was a white wooden building. Had a neon sign shaped like a top hat.

Commenter BR suggests the place was informally known as Goldie's:

Speaking of Forest Acres places, when Forest Dr was just 2 lanes (yes, how many of us remember that!) there was a honky tonk in the pine thicket about where the gold-glass reflective building is now located. It was called GOLDIES. Anyone else remember that?


Again, maybe the Hi Hat club was owned by ‘Goldie’, so maybe they were the same. At the time, a frequent visitor to the place always called it the latter.

Commenter Michael Taylor passes along this information from his uncle:

Hi-Hat Club update: My 91 year old uncle is the last remaining person of that generation alive for me personally, and I’ve been hitting him up for city history a little at a time so as not to wear him out. The latest nugget should tickle all the “Hi-Hatters” out there. Dig this, before it was a honky tonk the building was a 2-room schoolhouse and my uncle went there for a bit. Unfortunately he is not a photographer and doesn’t even have a photograph of his old garden center. Oy vey!

Something a little less certain that I remember from my father talking about the Hi Hat Club back when it was still a working honky tonk in the 1960s is his insistence that a couple of scenes for the cult Robert Mitchum movie “Thunder Road” were filmed there in 1958 or so. According to this wikipedia entry for the movie, most of the principle filming was done in Asheville, NC, so this at least puts the production crew to within a few hours drive. It’s not uncommon to film several locations for one final composited location. In other words, if you were filming a honky tonk scene, you may film the interior of some place on the outskirts of Asheville and the exterior of some distinctive juke joint in the suburbs of Columbia SC and then edit them to look seamless. It seems excessive, but often one place looks better on the outside and the other place looks better on the inside and because they can, film crews do this stitching all the time and you’d never know it.

Going against my father’s story is that the South Carolina film database doesn’t have “Thunder Road” listed, however it mostly lists the films that have been primarily filmed here. It does list a “Thunder In Carolina” stock car movie (with Rory Calhoun and Alan Hale, Jr., the skipper from “Gilligan’s Island) filmed in Darlington in 1960, which my father could have been confusing with “Thunder Road”. But on the side of a film crew having filmed a few scenes at the Hi-Hat Club for “Thunder Road,” here is an interview with Mitchum’s son James on the 50th anniversary of the film where he mentions that some of the inspiration came from their South Carolina cousins’ moonshining and fast driving. I could see Mitchum coming down the short drive from Asheville for some scenes at the Hi-Hat Club, it was such a wild looking little honky tonk. I suppose one way to solve this would be to rent both movies and watch them with hawk eyes and keep an eye out for that crazy neon sign on top of the club. And speaking of signs, wonder what ever happened to that sign, bet it’s at the bottom of a trash heap somewhere.

I can see that place in my mind’s eye just as clearly as this computer screen, but sadly, 41 years or more later it’s not enough, especially with websites like this. Right this very moment there is a box of photographs with photos of places like the Hi-Hat Club and YOU may know the person who has them.

Comments from anyone who actually visited the club are welcome (and you can be anonymous if it really was an establisment of ill-repute at some point :-)! Pictures would be great too..

UPDATE 14 Dec 2010: I got the Montgomery book for my birthday. You can get it here:

Anyway, there is a section on the Hi-Hatt Club. To answer some questions asked here:

1) Yes, 'Goldie' was the proprietress.

2) The 1968 movie with scenes at the Hi-Hatt Club was not Thunder Road, but The Road Hustlers. (It does not seem to be available on DVD or VHS).

3) The book doesn't definitively settle the question of whether the Club really was a house of ill repute, but states "Due to a renewal of complaints about the Hi-Hatt Club's liquor violations and rumors of prostitution, SLED (State Law Enforcement Division) raided it in 1973.

4) There are no exterior pictures of the club given.

UPDATE 20 March 2012 -- Well, The Road Hustlers has surfaced (subtitled in Norwegian, of course). I have not watched the movie as such, but simply fast forwarding through it leads me to believe there is only one scene set at The Hi Hatt Club, stills of which, and a youtube embed, are below.

The exterior shots at the beginning (Hi Hatt sign) and end (front porch of Hi Hatt) are definitely the club. Unfortunately they are so dark as to be almost invisible. I don't *know* the interior shots for the scene to be the actual Hi Hatt Club, but it seems unlikely that a shoestring drive-in quickie would build a sound set for such a thing. Perhaps some old Hi Hatt patrons can comment..

75 Responses to 'Hi Hatt Drive In aka The Hi Hatt Club, 3830 Forest Drive: 1973'

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  1. I think the club was actually to the right of the building you took the picture. I grew up on Dalloz and used to play over there.


    15 Feb 10 at 6:06 am

  2. I remember the building having a tall black neon sign shaped like a top hat. Under neath it was a neon bow tie, which may or may not have said "Budweiser." Both of these were directly over its front door.


    15 Feb 10 at 9:13 am

  3. Talk about a double-dose of synchronicity, I had recently been thinking about actually going to the trouble of making a scale model of how I remember the Hi Hatt Club looking, trying to figure out how to make the background look decent, and then someone forwarded me the flickr slide show that I linked to in my most recent comment in the "Have Your Say" section, the slideshow with all the scale models set against the real world for a backdrop, done in a brilliant way and answering most of my questions by the way. Then almost as if right on cue, you do an official posting for this honky tonk of local legend, though it's been mentioned several times across your blog in a casual manner. The gauntlet certainly would appear to be thrown down synchronistically in front of me for coming up with something in lieu of a photograph that people would recognize who remember seeing the original building.

    The problem I am having in doing this is being able to get past the sketch in Photoshop where I don't seem to be able to translate what I was seeing so vividly in my mind's eye to the blank virtual canvas of a new Photoshop document. It would seem that as soon as I started putting the image down, the memory dissolved, and I ended up with some vague building that could be any building. Like with a voice impressionist's version of some famous personality, often all it takes is for one main characteristic to be accurate. All the other obvious things are overlooked as long as the main feature is done well. The same could be said for modeling (or Photoshop sketching) a facsimile of the Hi Hatt Club, because if there is one thing that needs to be spot-on, it would be that distinctive neon sign. Everything else could be kind of vague and it would still work if that sign was correct. I thought I knew how the sign looked until I started trying to capture it with Photoshop, now I have almost forgotten what it looked like in my mind's eye.

    I remember the black top-hat just as Tom does, but I seem to remember a martini glass below the hat and angled toward Forest Drive. If I remember correctly, the neon on the top hat was white and the martini glass was blue or green neon. I remember the sign being directly over the front door, which had a small wooden awning to cover the entrance. Sometimes when I see that building in the mind's eye, I see windows, but then other times I don't see any windows; false memory will inevitably lead to many false conclusions. Maybe in the spirit of mere curiosity, the folks who check in here who remember some details can contribute their recollections, and I'll be the guy in the police department who sketches a composite based on a description, or in our case, an "average" description. And then you guys can say, " well, that's kind of close, but the sign just isn't right," and in that way we'll end up with something that a photograph would solve in an instant.

    I cringe at all the times I passed this place with a fully loaded film camera either in hand or a few blocks back at the house, but didn't EVEN consider it worthy enough to photograph, even though I knew it was a place of controversy. What a lousy cheapskate attitude that certainly hasn't served me well as far as photo albums of city history are concerned. Who knew that 38 years later there would be a thing called the internet and a hang-out on that internet by the name of Columbia Closings where people would be interested in some long-gone honky tonk. Who knew?

    Michael Taylor

    15 Feb 10 at 7:04 pm

  4. We drove past the Hi Hatt a thousand times with me in the back seat as a young child of 5 or 6. I would always notice it at dusk or dark because of the neon hat. Sometimes when there was a family discussion of where to eat after church I would throw out "How about the Hi Hatt?" and get a laugh.

    When I close my eyes and try to picture the place, the impression is of a one story wooden clapboard house painted bright white with black trim. Few or no windows. A black wooden screen door. Small gravel parking area right in front. And of course that sign, which I remember as a black top hat shape outlined with one line of light blue neon. It was attached directly to the side of the building near the door, partly sticking up in the air past where the roof began.


    16 Feb 10 at 6:19 am

  5. I think the "martini glass" in the sign might be the Budweiser logo of the 1960s which looked like a mis-shaped bow tie. You can see a picture of it at


    16 Feb 10 at 4:39 pm

  6. Thanks guys - it would seem that we remember basically the same thing. That's a good start. In my last comment I meant to add that I also vaguely remember the bow-tie as well, but for some reason I remember a martini glass slightly diagonally lower than the top hat & bow-tie and leaning in the direction of Forest Drive. Last night I spent some time looking around the web for photographs of top hats, martini glasses and neon signs to get some inspiration, and I found several neon martini glasses with the naked woman sitting in the bottom of the glass with her legs draped over the lip. I don't remember a naked woman, but I do remember a martini glass. Could be a false memory. We can leave that out for the time being or until someone else can verify it.

    So here's how I remember the club so far with some help from Tom & Dennis:

    • a one story white clapboard building with black trim and few windows. Where would those windows be? I seem to remember two windows on both ends, but none in the front. Was the door black or was just the trim black? Can't say I ever got a look behind the club, so I don't have a clue about that.

    • If I'm guesstimating the dimensions of the building, I'm thinking maybe 40 feet by 20 feet at most? I seem to remember that the front part was ground-level and the rear (away from Forest Drive) was elevated on short brick piers to accommodate the slope of the land.

    • the door was at the left end of the building looking at it from the street.

    • I seem to remember a small, slightly elevated front "porch" with a small wooden awning, the sign being directly over the awning. Could be another false memory, so any additional thoughts would be welcomed.

    • the neon sign was:

    1). a marquee-style box neon sign with the same design on two sides, hanging over the front entrance and extending above the eaves a few feet.
    2). the box was black. The box is the basic background shape usually made of sheet metal and painted appropriately, holds the neon tubes in place, and usually houses the transformer. I'm not quite sure if it was a straight vertical box or was there additionally a flat box for the vertical box to rest on. By the way, a box doesn't have to be square, it can be in any shape, but it's called a box because you have two "show" sides, and 4 narrow edges (or one long continuous edge in a circular sign). Any thoughts on that detail?
    3). the Top Hat was slightly tilted to the rear (away from Forest Drive), and was either blue or white neon in a single tube. I seem to remember white while Dennis remembers blue, so I'll split the difference and use a bluish white to get started. We can adjust anything once we get the basic building and sign close to memory.
    4). had a bow-tie under the top hat and was "Bud" red (red is the color of neon, other gases produce other colors). I'm kind of vague on the bow-tie, was the word 'Budweiser' on top of, in the middle of, or below the bow-tie? Could be that the whole sign was sponsored by Budweiser.
    5). Regarding the last point, I don't remember seeing the words "Hi Hatt Club" anywhere on any of the signage. Anyone else, and if so, where would it be? The lack of the club name in the sign would lead further to the notion of it being a Budweiser sponsored sign. Wouldn't it be funny if Budweiser has a record of the sign along with a diagram or photograph. Yeah, really funny, especially after I pull my hair out trying to capture it on a digital canvas ;-)

    Please feel free to add your 2¢, and in a few weeks I'll average it all together in Photoshop (and Illustrator) and see what we come up with. This is just for fun, we don't have to be exact. And it still stands from my "Have Your Say" comment that Ted moved to this entry about the movie "Thunder Road" (or either "Thunder In Carolina") possibly having used the club for a scene. If someone has a Netflix account, they can rent the movie(s) and look out for the Hi Hatt Club, saving me a lot of grief. I have neither a Netflix account, a credit card, nor a full-time job, so it ain't gonna happen on this end any time soon.

    Who knows why I'm willing to go through all this for a club I never went to, it's beyond me! Who knows why a place like that calls from the grave, but to be absolutely honest with you about it, I have thought about the Hi Hatt Club at least once a year since they tore it down. Don't ask me why, I don't have the slightest clue. It's not an obsessive thing, more of a memory of a simpler time, and for some reason that club reminds me of when Forest Drive was a sleepy little two-lane road with all kinds of clapboard buildings along the way.

    Michael Taylor

    16 Feb 10 at 8:59 pm

  7. Michael - you do seem obsessed, and I like that in a person.

    Here's a still from "Thunder in Carolina."

    That's Rory Calhoun in the foreground, and once you tear your eyes from Connie Hines you see the building. Is it? Could it be? Definitely the same sort of construction.


    17 Feb 10 at 4:49 am

  8. Iremember the the doors being in the center of the building facing the road. I recall the "tie" being white and the "bud" script being white also. For some strange reason I want to say the building was green.


    17 Feb 10 at 7:07 am

  9. Dennis, there's a building in that shot? I didn't notice..


    17 Feb 10 at 10:50 am

  10. Let's all oogle sexy Connie Hines.

    Michael, you are obsessing.


    17 Feb 10 at 5:17 pm

  11. I'm with Ted on this one, what building?! But yes indeed Dennis, thanks for finding that picture. The building, if not the actual club, certainly is in the same ball park, I'm talking the exact same park. White clapboard siding and black trim is what I remember as well. There's a pole immediately next to the steps, and I keep wanting to look up and see what that leads to. Could be the conduit for a neon sign. About the only thing that really stands out as non-Hi Hatt Club would be the yard and lightness of it. As I remember, the club was down a hill from the road in a pine thicket, and during the day it was pretty dark in there. I think that's why it stood out so much at night. Even with all the big studio lights set up around the scene, that place would have been much darker than it shows in that still. As far as a yard goes, it seems to my memory that there was mostly gravel and pinestraw down there. I will definitely be using that building as inspiration, what a find Dennis.

    On the door being in the middle or end: I remember it on the left end and Tom remembers it in the middle. Any seconds on the position of the door? Anybody to second the Budweiser bow-tie, white or red? Maybe this neon bow-tie will jog the memory banks. Any help with research on this project is 100% appreciated.

    Here's a very simple, elegant example of a double-sided boxed neon sign. It doesn't look a thing like I remember the Hi Hatt Club sign looking, but it does illustrate how there is a certain amount of optical illusion in a neon sign. If you'll look really carefully, there are not as many colored tubes as you first think, but because of the way it's painted underneath, it would appear that there are more. Maybe this will spur some memories as to what colors were used for our neon sign in question.

    Terry - Am I obsessed about this? Yes and no: Yes - but I'm like this about many different things. I get obsessed about something and put myself totally into it, thats just my nature. No - right now, without a full-time job, doing Photoshop and Illustrator is something for me to keep my mind from going stir crazy. I see it as a way to work on those skills in my spare time for possible employment in that area. I see this Hi Hatt Club project as a way to sharpen those skills in a VERY public way, just what you'd expect if you apply for a job at an advertising agency for instance. But actually, at the end of the day, I see it more as some weird synchronistic thing because before I saw the flickr slideshow and before Ted posted the official Hi Hatt Club entry, I was just half-heartedly thinking about doing something really different by making a scale model of that building, something I've NEVER done before. Just something creative to occupy my spare time. I put together model planes and cars as a pre-teen, and I did once build the Star Trek Enterprise, but that's about it. It's almost like the "Close Encounters" movie when Dreyfuss starts building that mountain peak in everything, including mashed potatoes. Your guess is as good as mine why I would all of a sudden decide to make a scale model of the Hi Hatt Club. I'm thinking the alien invasion is next and what we need to do is begin storing food & wate... ok, you're right, I'm obsessed, I see it now.

    Michael Taylor

    17 Feb 10 at 7:16 pm

  12. THe building probably looked alot like the house on the other side of the road about 1/2 a block towards Richland Mall.
    It's a clapboard house that used to be a store.


    18 Feb 10 at 6:11 am

  13. Thanks for the reminder Chief Dan, I know exactly the house you are talking about; you and I are from the same neighborhood. There was also an old country store on Forest Drive a couple of blocks east of Clemson Ave, think it was Dent's, but it was the same white clapboard with dark trim. And I remember when the Wachovia corner of Forest Drive and Beltline Blvd. was occupied with a big old clapboard-sided country house with either black or dark green trim. That was the style when people first started really getting serious about building houses on Forest Drive (early-1900's), and when I first moved to Forest Acres in 1960 from the Belvedere neighborhood, I remember many more white clapboard structures, but they were the first to go when they started building Richland Mall.

    The scary part about it for me age-wise is that I vividly remember when Richland Mall was a wooded sloping lot with live oaks and a few pine trees, but mostly brush. I don't know, maybe because it was built about the same time my family moved to Forest Acres, but I've been to some of the fanciest shopping malls in this fine country of ours, and I must say that I have never enjoyed one as much as I enjoyed the original Richland Mall. I really miss that place, and it was like losing an old friend when they tore it down.

    Calling out to commenter cjlBrooks from "Have Your Say," I'd certainly love getting your take on the neon sign for the Hi Hatt Club. Any little tidbit of memory would be most welcomed.

    Michael Taylor

    19 Feb 10 at 11:26 pm

  14. Michael sends in this picture as a study in doing neon for an eventual Hi Hatt sign. Pretty cool!


    21 Feb 10 at 2:04 am

  15. Cool looking sign, Michael. It would look totally real with one of the letters burned out.
    I remember driving by a small sign shop with a sign that read "Ray's Neon Signs". Both sign faces were made of plastic.


    21 Feb 10 at 4:02 am

  16. Thanks for posting the neon tube study Ted, much appreciated. It's great feedback in finding out how the colors translate to the web, and getting a sense of size and proportion is always critical when trying to eventually put up a finished painting. When I click on the neon sign for the high resolution image, I'm seeing the same colors I see when I look at it in Photoshop on my desktop; that's always a major relief when doing graphics for the web.

    Terry - yeah man, the dead tube would have given it that extra 10% of reality. When you're doing the hyper-reality type of painting that I was attempting with the neon tube study, it's ALWAYS that extra 10% that you have to give the painting to take it into something approaching reality. I'll remember that tip, thanks. Maybe you'll cut me some slack when I tell you that the Columbia Closings neon sign vignette was the first time that I've ever painted neon tubes in Photoshop or Illustrator, or painted neon tubes in any medium for that matter. Before I could seriously think about doing a Hi Hatt Club sign to put in front of an "old clapboard building," I had to figure out how to build neon tubes from scratch. It's just a matter of looking at picture after picture of neon signs and taking it all in so it can be let back out in the form of a neon tube study.

    At present, I'm doing the various studies of the different elements that will be in the finished image. If we're lucky, someone dropping in on this blog will see all the commotion under the Hi Hatt Club entry and have some choice details, and this will spur me on to starting with the actual painting. I'll be posting the progress here from time to time, and I'm counting on you all to help me whittle away the wrong stuff. Please don't hesitate to be constructively critical so we can end up with something we might recognize. Bear in mind that this is all just for fun anyway, we have nothing to lose but our inhibitions.

    Michael Taylor

    21 Feb 10 at 5:55 am

  17. Michael - great looking sign! Maybe you could figure out how to turn it into an animated .gif so one of the letters blinks like it's about to burn out.

    ted - wonder what archive would have info on the owners of the Hi Hatt?


    22 Feb 10 at 5:36 am

  18. Great idea Dennis, that really would put it into another realm. Along those same lines, I could paste the Photoshop file into Flash and get crazy with neon lighting animations. And while I'm in Flash, if I really wanted to get whacked, I could put some 60 hz hum in the background, and then you would not only see the neon flicker, but you could hear the neon transformer hum. While I'm being totally whacked, why not animate a scene where a '57 Chevy pulls up to the Hi Hatt Club, and the driver goes in, opening the door to a loud din of patrons and the juke box playing some period appropriate music (wonder what was on the juke box there during the heyday?). On the other hand, maybe Mikey should just keep it simple so that at least we get something before the next decade.

    Richland County probably has some sort of tax record for the Hi Hatt Inn, or at least some sort of land map and usage record. The City of Forest Acres could quite possibly have some sort of record. And as I mentioned in a previous comment, if the neon sign belonged to Budweiser, there is a possibility of them having a record of it, though that's a long shot to be sure.

    Speaking of neon signs, I'm amused at how the Google ad banner at the top of the page is trying to sell signs, especially neon signs. Don't get me wrong, that doesn't bother me in the least, I'm all for making something like this blog pay it's keep, just a mention of the AI technology involved in an ad banner. As a matter of fact, a couple of the links have actually provided me with some decent images of neon fixtures to study, so that's one of those weird junctures of commerce and art.

    Michael Taylor

    22 Feb 10 at 7:14 pm

  19. Oops! That should be Hi Hatt Drive In for research purposes. I never heard it called that growing up, but often the true name of a place is not what it's commonly called as Ted has discovered in the phone-book search of this place.

    Michael Taylor

    22 Feb 10 at 8:34 pm

  20. [click on comment thumbnail for full resolution image]

    So instead of the usual route where a brick & mortar store starts a commercial website, what if Ted decided to go the other way and open a brick & mortar store because the mugs and calenders were flying off the virtual shelf so fast that he simply had to meet his customers face-to-face. He finally got tired of working from home, and decided that a nice little storefront would be a good place to hang out. Ted's also thinking about putting in Wi-Fi and a coffee bar to balance out the business, and may even serve food if he can find the right chef. And of course the store would be open very late into the night.

    This sketch is where I finally start to put the various elements together and tease around with remembering how the Hi Hatt Club looked. I'm hoping this will tickle the memory banks of you all who vaguely remember this place, and you'll be tempted to speak up and help me with a completed painting of the club. Ultimately what I'll do is make the trip over to Richland County and see what they have for the Hi Hatt Drive In, or even the Bethel School, which was the original use of the building (and where my 91 year-old uncle went to school for a brief period). I'm thinking it's 50/50 on whether Richland County will have anything that would help me with the club's neon sign, but even a simple floor plan for the school would be a tremendous help.

    Any thoughts? Don't hesitate to add your memories of how the neon sign or building looked, this is all just for fun.

    Michael Taylor

    27 Feb 10 at 2:23 am

  21. Michael, I've patched the HTML in your comment. For some reason, the "a" tag was there but the "img" tag was not.

    Pretty neat, I have to say!


    28 Feb 10 at 6:54 pm

  22. Thanks for the patch Ted! I don't know what to say about the missing tag. The "img" tag is in the original word-processor document, but somewhere between here and there it got cut out. I suppose the test will come for the next Hi Hatt Club image update. If it happens again, we'll know something's screwy in Kansas and not just operator error on my end.

    Michael Taylor

    1 Mar 10 at 3:40 am

  23. Wow. I just stumbled upon this page and I do know of the Hi Hatt - I'm 52 so way to young to have gone in but I have (3) brother the youngest 68. I grew up on Beltline between Covenant & Two Notch. My middle brother (70) ran and was convicted of running moonshine - busted while hauling sugar. I actually used to get to ride along on some of this stuff as cops wouldn't mess with a kid riding along. One of the moonshine drops was at the club and I have a picture somewhere of me sitting on the hood of a car with the club in the background. As far as prostitution, the hook ups were made here but the house was over off Two Notch in the woods right before Arcadia Lakes Blvd. The saying was when you see the PInk House on the hill up on your left (shakespere rd.) turn into the driveway on your right. You follow that dirt drive up in the woods and there was the house. Big great room with a long hallway filled with bedrooms. Huge screen porch outside. Another moonshine drop was made here. Most of the stills were along the canal down by the broad near black bottom - cops didn't come thru there much and you dealt with the old root Dr. there to get passage. My Mother actually took me to him to have a strawberry birthmark removed from my face now gone.
    The movie - Thunder Road - Yes it features the Hi Hatt but in the movie I think it was called the Top Hat (from the sign) - also Mitchum running from the law drove a car off the Lake Murray dam onto the river side. This was actually picked up from a guy (my brother) who drove a car full of whiskey off the cliff at the old green hole off greystone. That how folks started driving their cars off the cliff and hammering the key which you had to pull right b4 going over in a nearby tree.


    1 Jun 10 at 3:48 pm

  24. Myrtle,

    That's fascinating info, thanks!


    1 Jun 10 at 4:27 pm

  25. Now that's what I'm talking about Myrtle, thanks for the memories. And what memories! Sounds like a potential movie somewhere in there: a root doctor moonshine "gate keeper" in the old Black Bottom, your brother running a load of shine off into the old quarry (a.k.a. Green Hole), and the big pink stucco house on Shakespeare Road as a visual landmark for the Hi Hatt Club "Extension" off of Two Notch. That's rich. I remember both the pink stucco house and that house off of Two Notch (didn't realize what it was used for at the time), and once as a small child accompanied my... er, uh, family member to get some moonshine in Black Bottom once, this is no joke. I thought the story about a root doctor was to scare me so I wouldn't mention the episode to my mother. She would have had a major conniption fit if she found out that my... er, uh, family member had taken me along for the ride to buy moonshine from a root doctor.

    If you get the chance Myrtle, that photo of you on the hood of a moonshine car in front of the Hi Hatt Club would be priceless for those of us interested in that place. If you're concerned about having a photograph of you sitting on a moonshine delivery vehicle up for the world to see, remember, the statute of limitations is in effect. If you're concerned about having your photograph on-line regardless of any statute of limitations, I can easily remove you from the scene with Photoshop.

    A few months ago while doing all the Photoshop studies for the Hi Hatt Club, I looked for "Thunder Road" locally, but never did find it. Blockbuster would order it with a credit card number, but not with a check. Since I don't presently use credit cards, that was a dead-end investigation. It is listed as being for rent on Netflix, so anyone with a Netflix account (read: credit card) and some curiosity care to step up to the plate?

    Michael Taylor

    2 Jun 10 at 2:51 am

  26. Hi Myrtle! We knew each other at CAJ. I lived right up Beltline from you. Is your brother named Freddie?


    2 Jun 10 at 10:18 am

  27. I forgot to add in my post yesterday that there is a chapter devoted to the Hi Hat club in the Forset Acres book.


    10 Dec 10 at 6:28 am

  28. Thanks for the heads-up Tom, I was wondering when someone on this board would mention the new Forest Acres book after it came out. Supposedly in the Hi Hatt Club chapter, there is a picture of a wrap party for "a movie that was made there." As you can tell by my above obsessive comments, I'm pretty darned curious. Unfortunately, this old unemployed bohemian will have to wait until it shows up at the library before he can read it.

    Michael Taylor

    11 Dec 10 at 1:32 am

  29. I have the book on my Christmas wish list. I only had time to quickly glance at the book, but I do recall reading in it that the club building was originally a church!


    11 Dec 10 at 10:44 am

  30. ChiefDanGeorge - I just noticed your above comment that you grew up on Dalloz. Did you know

    -the Zeiglers?
    -the Steinmeyers?
    -the Beals?
    -the Woods?
    -the Matthews?
    -the Isabels?
    -the Rees?
    -the Eleazers?
    -the Tsiantis?
    -the Longs?


    11 Dec 10 at 4:38 pm

  31. Dennis, I don't recognize any of those names.


    12 Dec 10 at 6:36 am

  32. Dennis, if you're talking about Billy and Johnny Zeigler, Tony Steinmeyer, Ernie Wood, Lyn and Andrea Isbell, Amy and Andy Rees, Jenny and Hannah Eleazer, Lee, Anna Maria, and Vicki Tsiantis, and Scotty Long--I don't recognize those names, either.


    12 Dec 10 at 11:24 am

  33. How about the Catoes or the Moaks?


    12 Dec 10 at 7:46 pm

  34. That's funny Jim (and very thorough). I remember Billy & Johnny Zeigler, Lynn Isbell, and for some reason think I knew Scotty Long. I haven't heard those names in years. It's weird that I lived only a couple of blocks down the street from Dalloz Road yet recognize very few of those names. Neighborhoods can be funny that way.

    Michael Taylor

    13 Dec 10 at 12:10 am

  35. Jim -- aha! We probably know each other.


    13 Dec 10 at 2:41 am

  36. The Isbell's lived on Stepp Dr..


    16 Dec 10 at 10:08 am

  37. Joel, the Isbell's lived in a white brick house on Petigru Street, one house off Stepp.


    16 Dec 10 at 11:41 pm

  38. There was a Colonel Buckles that lived on the corner of Stepp and Petigru, next door to the Isbells and across Stepp from the Longs.


    16 Dec 10 at 11:43 pm

  39. Thanks for the update Ted, that does answer the questions I had about the chapter on the Hi Hatt Club in the new Forest Acres book with the exception of the movie made there. Well, it does answer the question about the movie discussed in the book, but my father died in January of 1968 (the actual release date of "The Road Hustlers" movie), and he was talking about a Hi Hatt movie as early as 1963 or so. I distinctly remember him mentioning Robert Mitchum and something about a thundering road. Still a mystery that will only be solved by watching "Thunder Road," something that requires a credit card and thus counts me out. I'm telling you folks with a credit card, "Thunder Road" is a cult classic and should certainly be a fun evening around the plasma screen ... hint hint.

    Michael Taylor

    17 Dec 10 at 2:30 am

  40. Michael,
    You don't need a credit card, you just need a library card!! And that is free if you are a resident of Richland County, which I hope you are.!12669~!3100001~!3100002&aspect=basic_search&menu=search&ri=2&source=~!horizon&term=Thunder+road+%5BDVD%5D+%2F&index=DVDTT#focus


    17 Dec 10 at 9:15 am

  41. I have Thunder Road and have watched it several times. I have seen nothing that remotely resembles Columbia, nor the Hi Hatt sign referenced here. Does anyone have specifics on the scene where the club supposedly appears?

    59 Ford Wheelman

    17 Dec 10 at 4:51 pm

  42. Thanks Jonathan, the thought never occurred to me that I could check-out the "Thunder Road" DVD from RCPL. Admittedly, it's been nearly 20 years since I visited the library (whenever it was last on Sumter & Washington Streets), and at that time they didn't have a whole lot of films to check-out. And yes, I am in Richland County, but no, I don't have a library card and haven't had one since the Washington Street days. My bad.

    59 Ford Wheelman, WHERE IN THE WORLD HAVE YOU BEEN BRO?!?!? Is this your first time on the Hi Hatt Club entry? ;-) From what I remember hearing, there is only one scene filmed in Columbia, and that was the Mitchum character going into some roadhouse bar (at night) with the woman in the movie. Looking at the synopsis on IMDB, that scene would be at the 3/4 point approximately. It's supposedly a very brief scene, but the neon sign is fairly obvious. If you would, look through it again, and if you don't see the roadhouse scene with the neon sign, then hey, mystery solved FINALLY!!!. The only reason I continually bring it up is because it would at least be a glimpse of the outside of the Hi Hatt Club, something that seems pretty elusive to this point. That, and because I'm obsessive/compulsive as my other comments prove.

    Michael Taylor

    17 Dec 10 at 6:51 pm

  43. I'd like to see it too. I'll check and report back, hopefully in the next day or so. Please stand by....

    59 Ford Wheelman

    17 Dec 10 at 8:51 pm

  44. I thought Ted said on Dec 14th that the movie in question was not Thunder Road at all, but The Road Hustlers? And Myrtle said that Robert Mitchum's character in a whichever movie drove off the Lake Murray dam, that should be recognizable.


    17 Dec 10 at 10:41 pm

  45. JBL, the movie that Ted confirmed was the movie that the new Forest Acres book mentioned in the chapter about the Hi Hatt Club, something that was teased about several months ago when talk of the new book surfaced on the WIS 1320 morning radio programme. It doesn't solve the question of whether any other movie was shot there. From reading the synopsis of "The Road Hustlers," it does indeed sound more like the movie that Myrtle was talking about. The thing is, Robert Mitchum was NOT in "The Road Hustlers" movie at all. However, I'm going back 46 years or so (long before the release date of "The Road Hustlers") when my father used to talk about a Robert Mitchum movie called "Thunder Road" having had a single scene filmed in Columbia at the notorious Hi Hatt Club. Hopefully, 59 Ford Wheelman is about to solve that long held notion. Thanks a bunch Wheelman.

    One thing is for sure: now we need to watch "The Road Hustlers" movie to see the exterior of the Hi Hatt Club. We know for a fact that this movie had a scene filmed there. But we're back to the credit card deal, because I just checked the library, and they don't even have it listed.

    Michael Taylor

    18 Dec 10 at 1:08 am

  46. Unfortunately the film is not on DVD

    This is what IMDB says about the movie:

    The Reedys are a family of moonshiners plying their trade in the deep south. A criminal syndicate is trying to corner the bootleg liquor market by inducing all the local moon-shiners to come under their 'protection'. Only the Reedys have turned down their offers and remained independent, so the syndicate decides to teach them a lesson. At the same time, a pair of federal agents is trying (and failing) to crack down on all of the alcohol smuggling going on.

    There is also a Facebook page for the film:


    18 Dec 10 at 10:43 am

  47. Sorry, I guess it just went over my head that there was discussion of TWO movies shot at this infamous club. The crazy things is, I believe I am a little younger than most discussing this club, and grew up in a completely different part of the Midlands, and I somehow have this vague recollection of someone talking about a place exactly like this, in that general location. I can't wait for y'all to solve this mystery, either. And Netflix doesn't even recognize The Road Hustlers, while Thunder Road is not available, but you already have that.


    18 Dec 10 at 11:00 pm

  48. Instead of "TWO movies", I guess I meant "BOTH movies."


    18 Dec 10 at 11:04 pm

  49. I may be about to disappoint a lot of people, but I cannot find the scene in question, and I have gone through Thunder Road twice, pausing at every outdoor scene. If the Hi-Hatt is there, it is probably at 1:23:48, when the federal agents arrest Kogan. There is a brief shot of a building exterior with a banner-shaped sign above the entry door reading "Cocktails". No other signage. According to the Forest Acres book the top hat didn't go up until sometime in the 1960s, so Thunder Road would have predated the sign we're all looking for. If the Hi-Hatt is in Thunder Road I think that is the scene, and it literally lasts a couple of seconds at most.

    59 Ford Wheelman

    19 Dec 10 at 11:08 am

  50. I think the Road Hustlers (not on DVD) is the film with the scens in question.


    19 Dec 10 at 5:21 pm

  51. Wheelman, the only person you would be disappointing would be me, and you are not doing that in the least. I'm glad to FINALLY have gotten to the bottom of whether there was a noticeable shot of the Hi Hatt Club in "Thunder Road" or not. Thanks a bunch for giving it a good college try, that's all we could ask for. The brief scene that you mention could very well be the club, but from what you said, it's much too brief to get a take on how the place looked. I would suggest that the above illustration that I did of "Ted's Club" as a stand-in model is probably pretty close to how the exterior looked with the exception of the large display window that I put in Ted's Club, so if the roadhouse in the movie even vaguely resembles that (white clapboard siding, black trim), again, it could be the Hi Hatt Club, but a lot of good such a brief shot does us. Perhaps I would like to know if my father was correct (or my memory of what my father told me is correct), but now the need to know for the purposes of Ted's blog is gone without a clear vision of the club being in the film.

    I'll agree with Tom, "The Road Hustlers" is probably our best bet for getting a decent view of the exterior, but that movie is even harder to track down than "Thunder Road". I would say the chances of someone having this movie, or being familiar with it, would be about the same odds as finding someone with an actual photograph of the place. Here I go again, but I can't tell you how many times I drove past the Hi Hatt Club with a fully loaded 35mm camera without a single thought of snapping a photograph entering my mind.

    Oh well, time to move on, at least I can forget about "Thunder Road" as containing a clear image of the old club. Thanks again Wheelman.

    Michael Taylor

    19 Dec 10 at 7:38 pm

  52. Thanks for the kind words. What I see in the movie doesn't exactly resemble your picture, but the club may have been "facelifted" over the years too. I was a very little child when the club was closed (if 1973 is the correct year), so I have no memories of it, but I remain in hope that a definite answer to this mystery will surface, and hopefully The Road Hustlers will make it to DVD one day.

    59 Ford Wheelman

    19 Dec 10 at 8:28 pm

  53. Let me clarify that it definitely was The Road Hustlers that filmed a scene outside the High Hat Club. That was in 1968 when the movie was filmed in Columbia and around Lake Murray. Michael is correct that the film is not on DVD. The trailer is on YouTube but no scenes with Hi Hat appear in it.

    I remember when the movie premiered in downtown Columbia. There seemed to be a lot of hype, such that this could lead to Columbia becoming Hollywood East, but this was only a B movie that would fade to obscurity. My father took my mother and me to see it on a Sunday afternoon, then we were driving from downtown out Forest Drive to eat dinner at the Ponderosa Steak House which was then near Trenholm Plaza. We passed right by the Hi Hat which had been in that movie!

    I don't know about Thunder Road having any scenes from there as I have no memory of when that was made. I was only 4 then if it was 1958. I do definitely remember the above from 1968, when I was going on 14.

    Ronald Anders

    9 Aug 11 at 11:47 pm

  54. Here is a possible picture of the car going over the dam at the flood gates on the Lexington side. Does anyone see the Hi-Hatt club?


    11 Aug 11 at 12:18 am

  55. JBL

    11 Aug 11 at 12:20 am

  56. To my recollection when "Thunder Road" came out, there was NEVER any mention at the time about any of it being filmed in Columbia. Whereas, I do remember some press about "The Road Hustlers".... I'm not sure but, perhaps when they widened Forest Drive, the sign might have come down and it might not have been put up afterwards. I don't remember for sure.... The owner was Goldie Garrett and her last name was on the mailbox as I delivered the Columbia Record, there. With all the myths about the place, around 1969 when home on leave, several friends and I went there for a beer and there were autographed pictures on wall of the star of "Road Hustlers" - Jim Davis who later became Jock Ewing on "Dallas". ... Way back it would've been a roadhouse between town and Ft. Jackson and there might have been some prostitution. As I remember there were several small cabins back in the trees behind the club.

    Etienne Culler

    15 Aug 11 at 12:51 pm

  57. badger

    15 Aug 11 at 12:59 pm

  58. great work badger!


    8 Jan 12 at 7:31 pm

  59. FINALLY, no myth afterall--now we can get to making the HI Hatt marque

    Jock Dalloz

    27 Mar 12 at 12:18 pm

  60. I grew up on Dalloz and remember alot of those names. Most lived in the area. But not on Dalloz. The Robert, Mayers, Broomes were next to be.

    Kevin McCormick

    11 Apr 12 at 9:04 pm

  61. Hi Kevin -- we went to Bradley together,


    12 Apr 12 at 7:24 pm

  62. Have pics of hi hat club outside pics and inside ones. My great aunt was Goldie!!!!

    Mandy Buchanan

    15 Oct 12 at 10:07 pm

  63. Correction my great grandmother Goldie! If this place was in Columbia S.C. this has to be finally some info that I ve been intrigued with for years! Anyways please contact! Heard it was torn down ect. I know she moved to FL in mid 70's...

    Mandy Buchanan

    15 Oct 12 at 10:35 pm

  64. Mandy,

    Yes, it certainly was in Columbia, but as you can see from the post above, reliable details are very hard to come by. If you have pictures, I would love to post them here.


    15 Oct 12 at 11:22 pm

  65. Some genuinely superb posts on this web site, thanks for contribution. "The difference between fiction and reality Fiction has to make sense." by Tom Clancy.

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    26 Jul 13 at 1:17 pm



    4 Dec 13 at 11:51 am

  67. Would love to see some of these old pictures that you may have !! Growing up you heard about this place but not people can remember


    7 May 14 at 10:34 pm

  68. Photo of Gov. McNair visiting the movie set of "Lightnin' Road" in The State, July 22, 1967, page 14C. Governor was invited to go on camera but "graciously declined"!

    Midnight Rambler

    8 May 14 at 7:48 am

  69. I've lived in Forest Acres a total of 10 years now and enjoy reading about its history. The story of the Hi Hatt Club is of particular interest to me. Mandy and Paul, if either of you are willing to share some of your stories or show some of your pics please contact me.


    6 Jan 17 at 5:39 pm


    PAUL Jones

    2 Jan 20 at 1:22 pm

  71. Does anyone know who the people are in the first 2
    Pictures? Is either one Elton Clark? Also does anyone remember Patsy Davis? I would love to see pictures from the club. Does anyone have picture of Elton Clark who I think was married to Goldie.


    19 Jun 20 at 1:50 pm

  72. There are several photos from the movie filming in the State Newspaper Archives at the Richland Library website here:


    3 Jan 21 at 12:26 am

  73. SU-7-9143 and 787-9143 phone numbers are the same. A glance at a phone dial shows that "S" and "7" are on the same button and "U" and "8" are on the same button. The "2-5" phone numbering scheme with 2 letters and 5 numbers was introduced in eastern Columbia for the SUnset exchange in 1956. The rest of the Columbia area exchanges went to the "letter" system on July 11, 1957. Customers with existing phones were sent templates which added the letters to the dial. As they added more and more exchanges in the 1960s they stopped using the letters and used the corresponding numbers instead.


    3 Jan 21 at 1:38 am

  74. According to an article in The State on February 6, 1957, Goldie Painter had operated the Hi-Hatt Club at the 3830 Forest Drive location since the mid-1930s. Goldie and her husband, Marshall Louis Painter, operated the club together until Marshall’s death in 1954. An article in the State indicated he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on the night of October 1, 1954 in the kitchen of the club. The death was ruled a suicide.
    The first mention of the Hi-Hatt that I found in the newspaper archives was a classified ad in The State on May 29, 1940. The 1942 & 1954 Columbia telephone directories, which are available online, listed the Hi-Hatt Club at 3830 Forest Drive with phone number, 2-7338. In 1956, the city directory listed the club at 3830 Forest Drive with phone number, 6-9639. In 1957, with the creation of the SUnset exchange for east Columbia, the Hi-Hatt Club’s phone number was changed to SU-7-9143 (787-9143).
    The Hi-Hatt Club was still open in December 1972 but was closed by February 20, 1973 when all the club’s equipment, fixtures, etc. were auctioned off by George P. Pechillis.
    The property at 3830 Forest Drive was sold in 1974 to Fin Tac VII and the Landmark III office building was constructed there.
    In January 1992, the property was sold for $1.3 million to C. C. McGregor & Co., a Columbia-based accounting firm.


    3 Jan 21 at 4:32 pm

  75. Thanks for all the great info, Paul!


    3 Jan 21 at 9:50 pm

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