Recent History Most Revealing



The Payson Event Center is about to get a makeover, or at least the town is looking at a proposal to add a hotel, conference center, amphitheater, and steakhouse, as well as covering the rodeo arena.

While some people are opposed to the project based on the notion that it's too high-falutin' for Payson, or that it will use too much water, or that it'll drive all the other hotels and restaurants in town out of business, or just because they oppose everything that smacks of progress, we here at "Around the Rim" give the product our official endorsement and seal of approval -- with a condition or two.

These conditions apply to the steakhouse, which the company that submitted the proposal -- Hospitality Support Group or HSG -- has chosen to call the 1882 Steakhouse & Saloon in honor of the year the first rodeo was held in Payson. So far, so good.

Bruce Berres, co-president of HSG, recently explained the concept.

"If you think about 1884, it says exactly what we want it to say about the restaurant -- a Western-themed steakhouse, hopefully with sawdust on the floor and live Western music," Berres said.

A little corny, but this is sawmill country, so we'll let the sawdust go. But there's more.

"The restaurant has to say something about Payson," Berres said. "It has to have a historical portion focus in on Payson, and as you walk in there you get the flavor of the town and the history of the town."

Here I think we better intervene and make sure Berres accurately captures the history, heritage and flavor of Payson. Oh, he can get the cowboy stuff right on his own. Just go down to the Rim Country Museum, buy a couple books and that story pretty much tells itself.

But history isn't just about what happened in 1884; it's also about what happened in 1984, 1994, and even yesterday. This stuff isn't even written down in the history books yet, but it says as much about us -- maybe more -- than those plywood cutouts of cavalry guys standing beside their tents down at the museum.

Therefore I have taken it upon myself to provide this primer on the modern history of Payson for Berres and the rest of his team so they can incorporate it into their authentic steakhouse. In fact, I have even gone to the trouble of incorporating Payson's modern history into their restaurant for them. Come on in and have a look:

  • The basic decor color is Payson High School ballfield-fence purple, a color so gaudy and ugly it has been banned in 17 countries.
  • No restaurant purporting to cover the history of Payson would be complete without Payson Concrete & Materials caps. In fact, instead of cowboy hats, the waitpeople will all be wearing them. A special display case will feature Payson Concrete & Materials caps through the ages, including the very first cap with a feather in it once worn by a Tonto Apache Chief. Among the other highlights: the Payson Concrete & Materials cap worn by Custer at Little Bighorn, with an arrow still sticking through it. Also included: The Payson Concrete & Materials cap worn by Roy Rogers under his cowboy hat when he recorded "Happy Trails."
  • Diners will sit in replicas of the fabled booths of the Beeline Cafe, complete with imitation rips in the upholstery.
  • Water will not be served in the 1884. Period. Don't even ask.
  • The house drink special will be gin made from Rim country juniper berries. And no, you can't get it on the rocks. Other special drinks include the Harvey Wal-Marter, the Beeline Bomb, the Pine-ya Colada, and Brewer's Brew.
  • The house specialty will be Green Valley roast duckling. (Remember that song, "Where Have all the Birdies Gone"?)
  • Displays on the wall will include the worn and splintered gavel used in the trials of ex-mayor Ken Murphy.
  • Another display will feature noted town council badges, including the one Murphy used to flash in bars and the one Councilor Dick Reese used to pull over an errant motorist who just wouldn't turn off his #@$%@# turn signal. Replica badges will be sold in the restaurant gift shop.
  • A special photo gallery will feature row upon row of Rim country teens posing proudly with their first elks -- all with tongues jauntily hanging to one side.
  • Instead of staged wild west shootouts, actors will dress up as retired pilots, complete with white patent leather shoes and pants hiked up to their armpits and go from table to table taking decibel readings.
  • A visit to the rest room will find diners face to face with a porta-potty. Don't complain. We could have asked you to go out in the woods the way our ancestors did.

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