The above rendering looks West along Bayshore Highway at the University Avenue signal light.

Popular East Palo Alto Hangout

Copyright 2002 Mike Carroll Jr. Productions. All rights reserved.

It was a warm night along the popular strip as the fog began to roll in. Cabbie, Parky Sharky a well-known icon in this neighborhood of pizza joints, restaurants, liquor stores and night clubs was leaning against his old Ford sucking on a cigar. Wearing a cap and vest, Parky was waiting for his next fare, most likely a Stanford University College student who may have indulged a little bit too aggressively.

In the early years, Stanford University had placed restrictions on the sale of alcohol within a one-mile perimeter of the campus. The prohibition affected the neighboring towns of Palo Alto, Mayfield and Menlo Park and lasted up until the 1970s.

However, on the outskirts of the Santa Clara County line, there was a defiant business district more than willing to satisfy the thirst of the college partygoers. Along the four-lane Bayshore Highway that stretched from East Palo Alto to Redwood City, the businesses quickly gained a colorful reputation and soon became recognized as Whisky Gulch.

Bright neon lights glowed and lit up these places with names as Mikes-In-Question, Inez Club, Zombie Hut, House of the Lords, the Collins Club and the Reno Club.

Weeknights were quite busy along the Whisky Gulch strip. Some of the nightspots featured small bands, live singers, dancing and plenty of spirits for the young and young at heart. According to reputable sources, on a good night, you could walk into any one of these establishments and hear the clanging of slot machines coming from their back rooms.

But by the mid-fifties, the area began to change. Around 1956, an overpass was built over the Bayshore Highway to cross University Avenue into Palo Alto. East Palo Alto was building track homes to accommodate the economic growth from the defense industry. The San Mateo County Sheriff's Department began cracking down on the illegal slot machines as the growing community was quickly shedding its agricultural base.

Anyone who frequented Whisky Gulch knew of the legendary cabbie, Parky Sharky. A resident of East Palo Alto, Parky scraped together everything he could to purchased several old cars for his taxi service. He was not wealthy by any means, but was widely known as a generous man and always had an interesting story to tell. During the strip's heyday, he saw many things and even published a biography about his life on the strip. In the early 1950's, he appeared on the television show, You Bet Your Life, hosted by Groucho Marx. In the early sixties, Parky Sharky worked various odd jobs, such as sweeping the floors at the Oasis Hamburgers in Menlo Park. In his book, he complained of the area's growing congestion and vowed to "move to the hills".

Today, a large shopping Center sits where the clubs and liquor stores of Whisky Gulch once stood. The last remaining buildings of the strip, located on the end of University Avenue, were razed in 1999 to make room for office buildings.

BACK