|Location of Kaye's Happy Landing|
Location: 3815 South Central Avenue (later 4405 South Central Avenue), Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Opened: August 13, 1941
Closed: Around 1966
First found out about Kaye's on a brand new Arizona LGBT Timeline called Signs of the Times: 25 milestones in Arizona’s LGBT culture that predate Echo:
What’s the best name for a lesbian bar ever? Kaye’s Happy Landing Buffet, of course, which opened its doors on south Central Avenue in 1941. During WWII, happy landing could have been a double entendre. Kaye Elledge was a rather short and gruff woman with the opposite taste in girlfriends: She liked the femme lipstick lesbians. She operated the bar for some 25 years and passed away in 1977.
I was afraid I would get stuck with just this little teaser. Then I found this incredible write-up on Kaye's by John Suever at azgays.com:
Kaye’s Happy Landing
4405 S. Central Ave.*
Phoenix, AZ Owners: Kaye Aileen Elledge & Violet Patricia O’Hara-Rector-Brand
Happy Landings was one of Phoenix’s first gay bars and was located in South Phoenix on Central near Broadway. The bar initially opened in 1941 at 3815 S. Central Ave. The 1968 edition of the Damron Guide shows the address at 4405 S. Central Ave.
Conducting research for Kaye’s entry for our Phoenix Gay Bar History section wasn’t typical. What’s typical are a lot of dead ends and fruitless queries. The research for this entry was just the opposite, which made the work very exciting and rewarding. This one had lesbian blackmail letters, big girl bouncer fights, womyn with husbands away at war and more!
During my research I learned that Kaye’s Happy Landings was founded in 1941 by Kaye Aileen Elledge along with Violet “Patricia” O’Hara-Rector-Brand. Records do not indicate how the two met, only that Patricia owned a home in Phoenix and that she rented a room to Kaye.
Kaye was born on July 27, 1911, just a year before Arizona was granted statehood. Kaye’s parents George M. Elledge and Sylvia Madsen raised her in Safford, a small mining town in the southeastern portion of the state. Named after an Arizona Territorial Governor, the town of Safford is said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Main Street in Disneyland.
Kaye eventually left Safford’s Main Street for the big city lights of Central Avenue in Phoenix. By 1940 Kaye was 28 years old, working in a tavern and lived at 509 1st Street in Phoenix. Census records did not provide a north/south direction for the street address making it unclear as to whether the address was downtown or just south of downtown in the warehouse district. Google Maps currently shows a warehouse at 509 S. 1st Street. In the other direction at the corner of 1st Street and Taylor is a recently built residential high-rise, which is next to the Arizona Center and ASU Downtown. If memory serves me, I do recall there being single family homes on that block from early 1900’s.
The same census data gives us a blurry picture of what the household may have looked like. There were six people living at the home, three men and three women. The youngest was 27 and the oldest 35 at the time. It’s difficult to tell the makeup of the group judging by their surnames. Head of the household was Ervin H. Karz with the remaining occupants listed as “lodgers”. They were Albert D. Ashby, Grace Ashby, Kaye Elledge, Josephine Wykoff and Paul Van Wassenhove.
The year after the 1940 Census was taken, a very pregnant Violet “Patricia” Rector left her home in New York City to setup household in Phoenix, Arizona. Her husband, Mr. Rector was an enlisted man and flew for the Royal Air Force. During this time he was on active duty during World War II and either agreed to, or instructed Patricia to move the family to Phoenix where they would wait for his return from the front line.
In the early months of 1941, Patricia purchased a home and settled in to Phoenix. Later in the year Kaye moves in to one of the spare bedrooms as Pat’s new roommate.
One night, Kaye along with some male friends invites Patricia out for drinks at the South Seas. Listed in the 1960’s editions of The Damron Guide, The South Seas was located on the block where the Chase Tower now stands near Central and Monroe at 32 E. Monroe up until 1969 or ’70. The Chase Tower was completed in 1972 and remains Arizona’s tallest building.
During this night out, conversation turns to one of the friends discussing a bar he had visited in New Jersey. The bar had an aerospace motif and was quite appealing. Kaye was especially interested in the conversation since she had been in the bar business for many years and enjoyed both working at them and playing at them. These conversations happened on numerous occasions, as Kaye and Patricia would fantasize about opening this perfect bar just the way they wanted and how it would be a tremendous success.
With Pat’s husband away at war, the phrase “Happy Landings” had special meaning to her. She had picked up the phrase from a 1938 movie of the same name. Happy Landing the movie was a musical ice skating comedy that starred Olympic Medalists Sonia Henie and Don Ameche.
On August 13, 1941 Kaye and Patricia met with the superintendent of the Department of Liquor Licenses and Control. They wished to transfer the liquor license from the current owners of the Broadway Inn to themselves and under the new name of Happy Landings. At the time, the department had a policy that prevented people with less than a year residency in the state to hold a liquor license. That meant that Patricia could not be on the license for another year.
After their trip to see the Department of Liquor Licenses, they went on to the county recorder’s office and signed and filed a certificate of partnership between themselves , reciting that they were doing business under the style and fictitious name of Happy Landings, located at 3815 S. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ. The recorded document was not specific in the details of the co-partnership.
Between August 13, 1941 and January 12, 1942 Pat put in more than $11,700 of her own funds for upgrades and renovations to the former Broadway Inn.
Tragically, Pat’s husband is killed in action in early 1942. Since we don’t have an exact date of his death, I’ll need to speculate here. Perhaps the bar was started after his death, since it seems hard to imagine the husband allowing his 1940’s wife go purchase a bar and spend over ten-thousand dollars on it with new her lesbian roomie, both roomie and bar sight unseen. In addition, Pat may have been the beneficiary of his insurance policy or whatever money the RAF offered the widows of those killed at war.
Later in 1942 Pat remarried and would change her name to Violet Patricia Rector-O’Hara. With Pat’s new marriage, Kaye decided to move out of the home for the newlyweds. By February of 1945, Pat’s new marriage had ended and by 1949 she decided to move back to New York City with her children, leaving Kaye to manage the business on her own. Before leaving though, Pat attempted to collect on at least a part of what she had invested. Kaye replied that she had been reinvesting the small amount the bar was earning for further upgrades. The most popular of which was the installation of a pool in the back of the bar. The bar and bar was packed in summer months. Let’s not forget this was a time when air conditioning was rare and the was just as hot.
In San Diego Pat met her third husband John Brand. She then returned to Phoenix where she lived from 1951 to 1953. Mr. Brand was enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in Japan in 1953. Pat decided to move there with the children to be close to her new husband.
By 1955 she was back in Phoenix and began to seek legal counsel to resolve the Unhappy Landings issue. Lawyers requested that Kaye provide accounting for the business and its profits and losses. Kaye refused to cooperate. Then Kaye filed a general denial that a partnership ever existed between the two. It was Kaye’s understanding that if the partnership was not legal, that she would not be required to return the funds. The argument was that when the partnership was created, Pat was not allowed on the liquor license so how could the partnership be legal? Initially Kaye prevailed but later at an appeal the tables were turned and Kaye was ordered to repay Pat. But this was not before both of the “ladies” had threatened each other with blackmail letters threatening to reveal what seemed to be lesbian secrets. Kaye claimed that the blackmail letter was the only reason she paid Pat $5000, a payment Pat claims to never have received. Now if I could only figure out how to get access to the blackmail letter exhibits… hmmm.
In the end Pat prevailed and Kaye had to pay the agreed upon amount.
In a separate case, Mrs. Brand paid a visit to the Happy Landings bar in 1957 with two friends. They were met at the door by June Burnett, an employee of the bar. I’m visualizing a female version of Hulk Hogan, but anyway, Miss Burnett advised the group that Kaye did not want them on the property. The group left for the bar across the street. And as you may have guessed, the trio was feeling a bit tipsy on their second approach to Happy Landings. Again they were met by June but this time an argument ensued, then after being struck, or just simply falling, Pat was on the ground hurt. She then went to the hospital where she was treated and paid $200 for the visit.
Her new case was suing Kaye for the $200. During this case, Pat’s lawyers inserted irrelevant and highly prejudicial evidence that the bars customers consist primarily of homosexuals.
The most stunning act of misconduct was in the plaintiff’s lawyers closing statement, “Ladies and gentlemen, there’s only one question that’s here to decide here and that is what kind of a tavern, bars do we want in our community?”
The judges stated that even though objections were made to these revelations, the jury still heard them and the knowledge might prejudice their verdict. The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff, but it was reversed due to the prejudicial remarks.
Kaye died on February 01, 1977 at the age of 65. It is not known what became of Mrs. O’Hara-Rector-Brand.