My husband Charlie is a good man…a really, really good man. He often devotes entire weekends to drive me around North Texas and play bodyguard as I explore not-so-safe areas with my camera.
One Saturday, at my suggestion, we headed to Fort Worth…no plan in mind…just to see what there was to see.
It’s a long drive, and I’d just dragged Charlie there a few weeks before. I wanted to see if I could get some photos of the Echo Lake Incinerator. I only got one, and that was from far away; that area of town was just too rough, even with my bodyguard…
I tried to soften the blow with a BBQ lunch at Railhead. It was yummy, and I think it helped.
Other than lunch though, it wasn’t a great day. We drove and drove and drove, yet nothing caught my eye. Feeling guilty for wasting Charlie’s day, I called the day a bust, and we headed home.
As we drove down Jacksboro Highway, I suddenly saw a really cool vintage neon sign. As I craned my neck to get a better look, Charlie immediately turned the car around so I could do my thing. (He knows me so well!)
The Innocence of the 1950s
Rock and Roll dominated the music scene, led by the growing popularity of the electric guitar.
America fell in love with the Wild West, brought into their homes through their TVs and Hopalong Cassidy, Wyatt Earp, and the Cisco Kid.
I Love Lucy topped the TV ratings.
Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best painted an idyllic view of what the perfect American family should look like.
The 1950s seem like such an innocent time in our American history…at least on the surface.
Highway to Hell
But the unsavory festered right under the surface, hidden away in dark back rooms where gambling, prostitution, and organized crime was alive and well.
Jacksboro Highway, Fort Worth’s own Highway to Hell, was rife with saloons, night clubs, backroom gambling, drugs, and any type of vice you could dream up. Police in the area conveniently looked the other way.
The Rocket Club
Built as a dancing ballroom in the 1940s, the Rocket Club had the largest dance floor in town, complete with a canvas awning that, on pretty evenings, was pulled back, allowing dancers to spin the night away under the stars.
In the ’50s though, the Rocket Club catered to the seedier side: folks who wanted to mix gambling, beer drinking, and rock and roll. Gamblers and gangsters were common patrons.
By the late ‘50s, after a very high-profile car bombing and numerous murders, the public demanded action, and the police had to stop looking the other way. Things on Jacksboro Highway, including the Rocket Club, finally began to change for the better.
The Rocket Club has been many things over the years:
- 1940s ballroom
- 1950s rock and roll nightclub
- Latino dance spot in the 70s and 80s
- Skating rink, indoor go-kart track, and furniture store
- And finally a muffler and welding shop that it is today.
But through all these changes, the Rocket Club sign, a true piece of Americana, has endured.