It was the place to be and not to be.
If you were an Eastern Kentucky University student in the 1950s and '60s, a bar/dance hall/restaurant called Speck's was essentially it for nightlife in Richmond.
EKU administrators, however, weren't thrilled that students were hanging out at the club at First and Water streets, just blocks from campus.
"Speck's was, like, off-limits," said Durward "Doorman" Hale, a former Speck's employee.
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This weekend, Hale and his fellow Speck's "alumni" will gather for two reunion events that he helped organize.
Ironically, the reunion is an officially sanctioned part of the EKU Alumni Weekend, said Jackie Collier, director of alumni relations. When Speck's fans began talking about being an official event, Collier said, "let's try it and see if we get in trouble."
It turns out even EKU President Doug Whitlock has fond memories of Speck's.
"During the era in which it was open, and that includes my undergraduate years of 1961 to '65, it was truly part of the Essential Eastern," Whitlock said. "It remains so in the memories of thousands of our graduates."
"Time heals all," said Collier, adding that the reunion is open to all.
Essentially an old warehouse, Speck's as a whole outshined its parts.
Most weekend nights, 300 to 500 people would groove in the smoke-filled room to live covers of Proud Mary, Midnight Hour or Old Time Rock 'n' Roll. But also popular were original songs from two favorite house bands: the Maroons, who eventually toured with Dick Clark's American Bandstand, and The Exiles, who went on to become the chart-topping Exile of the '70s and '80s.
Plus, as a visitor at Specksekualumi.com noted, "Speck's was always high-energy, a lot of fun and a good place to meet girls."
Frank and Joe Ann Nassida ran the place starting in 1959. As 1954 EKU graduates, they had their own memories of the club when it was then owned by Hugh "Speck" Young. After Frank served a stint in the Army, they returned to Richmond to find the place for sale. They bought it.
That was a time when society had many more rules. State liquor laws required that women sit in booths only, not at the bar. Campus rules required female students to be back in the dorms by 9 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on weekends. Frank Nassida said he tried to attract only the college crowd and closed down in time for the women to get back to the dorm before curfew. Also, the place served only beer, no hard liquor.
Hale says EKU was a hard-partying school during that era, and he claims that Speck's holds a record for selling more beer over the counter than any other establishment in the state.
There was the occasional scuffle, but Nassida, who had been captain of EKU's football team, was not above banning the chronically rowdy. If you were banned from Speck's, that could be the end of your social life. There were few other entertainment options and no fraternities or sororities on campus at the time.
Hale remembers that many "Speck's Boys," employees who stood out for the vests they wore, were on partial scholarships and needed the jobs to get by. The jobs paid $1 an hour. But back then, a four-course meal next door at the Golden Rule was 94 cents.
The "Speck's Boys" became more like family with the Nassidas, who were known for their generosity as mentors and sounding boards for the ups and downs of the college years, plus the occasional loan when money got tight.
"The boys really loved him," Joe Ann Nessida said of Frank, her husband of 57 years. "They are just all good friends, still."
Hale said the reunion is as much "a tribute to Joe Ann and Frank" as anything.
The Nassidas stopped operating Speck's in 1967. The location later operated under other names, including The Family Dog. It is now closed.
Frank Nassida went on to become a well-known figure in Richmond, serving as police chief, teacher, principal and city councilman. Joe Ann Nassida taught art at Madison County public schools.
"We have a lot of fond memories of the place," said Frank Nassida, 80. He and his bride, 78, are eager to dance at the reunion.