2021 Pride Month- Springfield’s First and Oldest Gay Bar

Introduction from the Author: Hello! My name is Jonathan Golden and I am an Outreach and Social Media Intern for the Clark County Historical Society. I currently attend Wittenberg University as a double-major in Marketing and Communication & Digital Media graduating in 2024. I am super ecstatic to be writing for Clark County Historical Society.

Why Not III is Springfield, Ohio’s first and oldest gay bar in existence. The first rendition of this bar, named Why Not? was established in 1970 by owner and operator Floyd Hook JR, also known as JR Hook.

Floyd Hook JR

JR Hook’s inspiration for his bar came from a local bar in Columbus, Ohio named Peppermint Lounge which was open to women and gay men. This bar served as a sanctuary for gay men because they could be themselves and not have to worry about the trials and tribulations of the current status of the world and their views on the gay community. Hook would attend every Saturday night until he decided to open Why Not?.

At first, there was no gay clientele and they would host private parties with events such as drag shows, and these parties are what turned the bar into a gay bar. Eventually, it became a mixed bar filled with both gay and straight men. Once the rumors started to spread that there were private parties, straight men stopped attending and the city of Springfield got involved causing them to relocate. This was because they supposedly wanted to “improve the downtown area” by widening the road.

Why Not?’s first location ended up being sold and torn down to be turned into a parking lot after seven years. Why Not II was the second rendition of this bar opened by JR Hook and his partner, Sam, and they operated this business until 1986 when the city decided to close the business again to “widen the roads”. When trying to find a location for Why Not III, the city kept providing excuses against creating a brand new bar. In trying to mitigate this issue, JR found a bar already in existence and Why Not III ended up being established in 1987. At this bar, it was filled with fun times for every individual. They had drag queen events, dancing, karaoke, and a community.

In October 1994, Why Not III sponsored their own newspaper named The Proud and Free, written by JR Hook which ran into the late 1990s. The purpose of this newspaper was to provide support and resources for the queer community, and it was available for every patron of Why Not III. This newspaper highlighted many different topics that were relevant to Clark County as well as specific items for the queer community.

The topics included in the newspaper included an anonymous dating advice questions for the column “Dear Aunt Alma,” there were updates on national movements within the queer community, support resources and updates on issues such as AIDs and HIV, updates regarding the bar, and even ways to post advertisements about dating. Since there was no social media during these times, they used this newspaper as an outlet to communicate, date, and share information.

We wanted to acknowledge the trilogy of Why Not? and it’s newspaper The Proud and Free because it impacted the Springfield community since its conception in 1970. This bar has served as a safe place and support resource for many, and it has been an instrumental outlet for everyone to be themselves. It has been through both community value issues and politics regarding gay rights, and it has been a reason that Springfield continues to grow stronger as a community.

Author notes: When I wrote this article, I was very unsure on what I would get into when reading because I have not wrote on a topic like this before. When planning, I knew I was going to write about The Proud and Free until I found that there was a larger significance of a bar in Springfield, so the whole article ended up shifting to highlight Why Not?. Why Not? riddled me at first because I could not understand how a bar, which is commonly known for just drinking, could also serve as a supporting place for a minority community but my questions were quickly answered through research. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to sort through different types of history, including informal newspapers and oral history and I firmly believe that it has both enhanced my perspective as well as contributed to this article. When researching, I was lucky enough for the Clark County Historical Society to have a smaller box of information, and I was able to contrast past projects on this topic to expand more. I learned that topics, such as this one, which are not largely recorded in history are very important to keep record of. This is because it can be difficult when history has happened and not everything has been recorded.  Overall, this was very enriching to be able to learn how to cross reference oral history with public directories and past projects, and to also learn other perspectives of a singular location could impact a community!

Scanning the Past

For the last fifteen weeks I have been in the Clark County Historical Society archives scanning photographs from the Moores Photo Collection. The photos capture snapshots of Springfield at multiple angles from 1938 to 1972. People, places, and ponies are frozen in time thanks to amateur photographer W. Huston Moores. My goal for this project was to make the Moores collection more accessible by having digital scans for easy sharing.

Let’s travel back in time to explore Springfield through the eyes of Mr. Moores, and maybe learn a little history along the way.

Farming Innovations

Farming is a noble profession. Working endlessly to provide for all families, farmers move forward into the future with the help of new innovations. Springfield has aided farmers in their labors by manufacturing agricultural machinery.


Farmstead 1938

Many industries developed here including, the Champion Machine Company, which produced mowers and reapers under the direction of William Whiteley. Horse drawn machines changed the agricultural landscape with the help of Whiteley who invented “champion” farming equipment.


Horse Drawn Threshing Machine 1938

Let’s Go to the Movies

The Apollo Theater in Springfield illuminates the street, offering two motion pictures. Drawn in by glowing and flashing lights, moviegoers could enjoy the Golden Age of Hollywood. During the 1930s, theaters used different gimmicks to attract patrons including ladies nights. These tactics could have resulted in Americans going to see a motion picture 95 million times each week in 1930, or maybe it was because the average admission ticket at the time cost 23 cents. Either way, motions pictures did not lose popularity despite the Depression, and attendance gradually rose until the end of World War II.


Apollo Theatre, Springfield, OH, 1939

Rustic Style


Log Cabin 1938

Log cabins are not American in origin, but European. Colonists from Finland and Sweden built the first log houses in present day Pennsylvania in 1638. As settlers moved west, various buildings, including houses, churches, and schools, continued to be constructed from logs.

Near the end of the nineteenth century, fewer and fewer log cabins were being built for residential housing; however, the rustic style found popularity with vacation resorts. For instance, Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is a log cabin, but on a much larger scale. Years later in the 1930s and 1940s, the Civilian Conservation Corps used log construction for different structures within Federal and State parks. Log cabins have a long history and their style remained popular among Americans.


Brewer Log Cabin 1938

The Circus Came to Town

The Ringling Brothers Circus enchanted Springfielders in 1941. Elephants, clowns, and tigers probably arrived by train to entertain young and old. Because of the railroad, people all over the country could enjoy the visual spectacles of a three ringed circus. Showman William C. Coup, partner of P.T. Barnum, designed train cars specifically for the circus, and the first circus train was used in 1872. The railroad continued its tradition of transporting “The Greatest Show on Earth” until recently when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus gave its last performance in May 2017.


Ringling Circus 1941


Ringling Circus 1941


Ringling Circus 1941


Cole Bros. Circus 1944

Imagine crowds of people shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalks hoping not to miss a single fantastical detail as the Cole Bros. Circus parades through town. Animals of all types would be featured under the big top, and where there are animals there are animal trainers.

Clyde Beatty performed for the Cole Bros. Circus for three years beginning in 1935. His acts brought him fame by showing off his bravery and control over wild animals, including polar bears and various big cats. In recent years, Cole Bros. Circus has been protested on numerous occasions due to animal abuse, and has violated federal laws, such as the Animal Welfare Act.



Cole Bros. Circus 1944

Covington-Cincinnati Suspension Bridge


Roebling Suspension Bridge 1939

Moores and his camera traveled outside of Springfield. The Roebling suspension bridge connecting Covington, Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio took ten years to build, and at the time of its opening on January 1, 1867, it was the longest bridge in the world. Named after John A. Roebling, designer and builder of the bridge, the Cincinnati suspension bridge is a National Historic Landmark.


Roebling Suspension Bridge 1939

Roebling was also the engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and his son followed in his footsteps in overseeing the bridge construction in Cincinnati. Work stopped in the late 1850s due to financial strain, but the Civil War boosted the need to finish the bridge in order to move soldiers and supplies across the Ohio River. For 150 years, people have driven or walked across the Ohio River by way of the Covington-Cincinnati Suspension Bridge which continues to accommodate travelers today.

Drive-In Theaters

Camden, New Jersey opened the first ever drive-in movie theater in 1933. Richard Hollingshead came up with the idea as a response to his mother being unable to sit comfortably in the indoor theater seats. Drive-ins became especially popular with the help of in-car speakers and they soon reached their peak in the 1950s with nearly 5,000 drive-ins in the U.S. The Melody Cruise-In in Springfield opened during the height of outdoor movie going, but closed just like the Show Boat Drive-In across the street.


Drive-In Theater 1941

By Julie Hale


Kummerow, Burton K. Heartland: An Exhibition from the Collection of the Heritage Center of Clark County. Springfield, Ohio: Clark County Historical Society, 2001.

“Movie Theatres.” The Museum of American Heritage. Last modified September 17, 2001. http://www.moah.org/movies/movie_theatres_p.html.

Butsch, Richard. “American Movie Audiences of the 1930s.” International Labor and Working-Class History no. 59 (Spring 2001): 106-120.

“Step Right Up!” History Magazine. Accessed February 2, 2018. http://www.history-magazine.com/circuses.html.

Domonoske, Camila.“’A Kingdom On Wheels’: The Hidden World That Made The Circus Happen.” NPR. May 20, 2017. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/20/528778286/a-kingdom-on-wheels-the-hidden-world-that-made-the-circus-happen.

Quigley, Barbara. Cole Bros. Circus Photographs (Finding Aid). Manuscript and Visual Collections Department William Henry Smith Memorial Library Indiana Historical Society. April 9, 2014. https://indianahistory.org/wp-content/uploads/cole-bros-circus-photographs.pdf.

Kuiper, Kathleen. “Clyde Beatty: American Animal Trainer.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2018. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Clyde-Beatty#ref230701.

Shapiro, Craig. “A Win for Animals: Cole Bros. Circus Cancels Tour.” PETA Latino. 2017. https://www.petalatino.com/en/blog/cole-bros-circus-cancels-tour/.

Bomberger, Bruce D. “Preservation Briefs 26: The Preservation and Repair of Historic Log Buildings.” National Park Service. September 2001. https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/26-log-buildings.htm.

Wolff, Ralph G. “A Quick History of the Roebling Suspension Bridge.” Covington-Cincinnati Suspension Bridge Committee. Last updated 2016. http://www.roeblingbridge.org/history/.

“This Day In History: First Drive-In Movie Theater Opens.” History.com. Accessed March 6, 2018. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-drive-in-movie-theater-opens.

Reid, Robin T. “The History of the Drive-In Movie Theater.” Smithsonian.com. May 27, 2008. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-history-of-the-drive-in-movie-theater-51331221/.

“Melody Cruise-In.” Cinema Treasures. Accessed March 6, 2018. http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/9027.

Local Weavers at the Clark County Historical Society- Archival Research

My project at the Clark County Historical Society is to research two local weavers from the 1800s, Daniel L. Myers and Simon Riegel.  The information I gathered from Ancestry.com included names of the men’s families, and dates of their births and deaths.  This information will help me in my search in the Heritage Center’s archives.

The first books that provided me with detailed information were the Early Clark County, Ohio Families Vital Statistics Index of Fathers of the Family Unit.  Sylvia Olson put these books together, with the help of all of the families who provided her with genealogical information.  I found Simon Riegel listed with his two wives, and his children.  This source indicates that Simon was a carpet weaver in German Township, and it includes the same names and dates that Ancestry provided me.  Similar information is good, because it tells me what I have is correct, and that I am dealing with the same person.  In Marriage Records for Clark County, by Grooms, I found Squire T. Riegel and his wife Flora A. Follrath, who married on December 14, 1880.  Squire is the youngest son of Simon.  In Early Marriage Bonds of Clark Co, Ohio Books 3-4 M-Z, I found Simon and his second wife Margaret Maggert, who married March 7, 1858.  I also found three of his children, Henry Reigel married January 13, 1859 to Lydia Thralls; Levi Reigel married November 23, 1859 to Susan McAlister; Angeline Reigel married March 18, 1862 to William A. Roberts.  (Notice the last names are spelled differently.)

In continuing research on Daniel Myers, I found a copy of a newspaper advertisement that Myers took out about his business.  I was also able to find information about his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Louisa Jennie.  According to the Clark County Marriage Returns, Jennie L. (here, her names are reversed) married William A. Quick, in November of 1888, and again on April 7, 1904.  Could the pair have split then reconnected?  In the Death Records, I found a Jane Quick, (the birth and death dates match other sources, so this is the correct Jane/Jennie) who died March 9, 1907 at the age of 55 of heart disease.  Barbara Myers, Daniel’s wife, died at the ripe old age of 82 on February 7, 1892.

Another interesting source I found on Daniel Myers was a newspaper article in the Marysville Journal Tribune.  This newspaper was dated to Wednesday July 12, 1961 and featured an article on page 4 that mentioned Daniel Myers.  Mrs. Nolle McCloud Hoopes of Marysville loaned the local museum a four-poster rope bed, and an old fashioned hand-woven coverlid.  Wove in the corner of the coverlid was “Made by D. L. Myers, Bethel Township, for Barbara His Wife 1842”.  After this discovery, Miss Nolle Kloepfer recognized she had one similar.  Her great grandparents were located in Clark County, after coming west from Maryland.  Her great grandmother, Mary Clay, bought and took yarn to a weaver to make a coverlid.  In the two opposite corners is woven “Made by D. L. Myers, Bethel Township, for Mary Clay 1849”.

Local Weavers at the Clark County Historical Society- Ancestry Research

The Clark County Historical Society possesses multiple coverlets made by two local weavers, S. Riegel and Daniel L. Myers.  My project is to conduct research and piece together information about their lives.  This will be useful information for the museum to have in its archives.

My first step was a basic search on Ancestry.com.  I was surprised by how much information I found, and how thoroughly other people have put together research on these men.  For each man, I was able to find parents, spouse(s), and children.  Along with the help of genealogical contributors, Ancestry puts this information together and searches through public documents, like death certificates or censuses.

Simon Riegel was born on October 8, 1806.  The most helpful source that Ancestry used for Simon’s information was Find A Grave.  A page on the Find A Grave website was created for Simon and genealogical contributors posted familial information.  His father was David Riegel and his mother was Elizabeth Schmidt.  Simon was the eldest of four children, or possibly more.  Simon, a weaver, was married twice, first to Susannah Wellhouse, from 1830 until her death in 1853, then to Margaret Maggart, in 1858.  Simon had ten children, John, Henry, Levi, Mary Ann, Angeline, Sarah, David, Louisa Jane, Squire Theodore, and a 10th child that died.  Find A Grave lists five of those children, while Ancestry lists all ten.  Simon died February 17, 1890 and is buried at Rector-Gard Cemetery in Tremont City, Champaign County, Ohio.

Find a grave

Daniel L. Myers was born in 1801, in Pennsylvania.  For Daniel Myers, the 1850 and 1860 United States Federal Censuses provided information on his location, occupation, estimated value, and listed his spouse and children.  Daniel’s father was Wesley Lewis Myers and his mother was Mary Larimer.  In 1850, Daniel was a farmer in Bethel Township, in Clark County, Ohio. He was 49 years old, with his wife Barbara (Otto) 41, and their four children Daniel, Sarah Ann, Rebecca Alvira, and Louisa J.  This census also indicates that Daniel, his wife Barbara, and their first two children were born in Pennsylvania, then moved to Ohio, where the last two children were born.  In 1860, Daniel was still listed as a farmer in Bethel, age 59, with wife Barbara, age 51, but with only Rebecca and Louisa.  This could indicate that the two oldest children had moved out.  Another interesting difference in the information between the two censuses was the spelling of their last name.  In 1850 it was spelled Myers, but in 1860 the name was spelled Myres. Daniel died on March 12, 1879 in Ohio, with a possible burial plot in a New Carlisle cemetery.

Local Weavers at the Clark County Historical Society

The Heritage Center is home to thousands of artifacts, many of which represent local history.  Within the collection are coverlets made by two local weavers from the 1800’s, S. Riegel and Daniel L. Myers.  There is one full S. Riegel coverlet, made in 1869.  There are six Daniel Myers coverlets, ranging from 1840 to 1848.  These coverlets have become valuable sources of knowledge because on all of them, Riegel and Myers wove in their name, location, whom the coverlet was for, and what year it was made.

Besides that basic information, which the men have so generously provided on their work, not much is known about them.  My project will be to conduct research in the archives and library, to piece together more information about S. Riegel and Daniel Myers.  I will search family genealogies; birth, marriage, death certificates; local and federal censuses; local newspapers; and any other source that could possibly provide me with information.  This information is important because the museum can update its records, and because it may shed light on these possible local businesses in the 1800’s.

What do we already know?

For each artifact, the Heritage Center has a record in PastPerfect.  PastPerfect records include information about the artifact such as a description, who donated it to the museum, and anything known about its creator.  We know S. Riegel was working around Germin Township (how Riegel spelled German Township) at the date of his coverlet, and Daniel Myers was working in Bethel around the date range of his coverlets.  Daniel’s record also has two notes, a May 4, 1838 newspaper advertisement, indicating his business 1 mile of New Carlisle and 11 miles west of Springfield.  And the 1850 Census of Manufactures, which states Myers has a coverlet/weaving business, he employed one man, and made 50 Coverlets annually, valued at $450 and 300 yards of carpet for $225.

DL Myers

Riegel Coverlet


The Art of Encapsulation

Encapsulation is used to protect fragile documents. A document can be encased using two sheets of an archival plastic called mylar. This helps to secure and protect these fragile documents, helping to preserve them for future generations. This is a step by step process to encapsulate a document.

First, I begin by measuring the height and width of the document that I am encapsulating. You want to add another two inches or so to each side to give you more room to work with, most will be cut away later. You then cut the two sheets out.

Next, you place the document in the center of one of the sheets of mylar and use the archival tape to tape around photo_2[1]the photo_1[1]document. This tape is double sided but has a paper cover that you remove when you are ready to secure the two pieces of mylar together. You want to leave about a quarter to half an inch around the document. This way you leave room so that if the document does shift it will not be stuck to the tape. You also do not want to connect the corners of the tape to each other. Leave a small space between the taped edges to allow for the escape of air. 

After placing the tape on one sheet, you take the other sheet and gently rub a cotton glove or some other cloth across the sheet to create static electricity. This will help stick the two pieces of mylar together and keep the document in place without damaging it. photo_3[1]

The following step is to place the statically charged sheet of mylar on top of the document. You then place a heavy, flat object like a book on top of the plastic sheet to keep everything for moving around.photo_4[1]

Next you begin to remove the paper cover off the tape. You must do this slowly and gently to avoid moving the plastic sheets. You help to seal the plastic sheets by pressing down on the tape after removing the paperphoto_5[1].

Finally, after the tape is secured all the way around the photo_1[1]document, you can trim the edges and cut the corners into rounded edges to avoid the sharp points.


You have now encapsulated your first document, better preserving the document for the future. 

This document is a roster of the 4th Ohio infantry which fought in the short lived Mexican Expedition.


The men pictured (clockwise) Hugh L. Scott, Woodrow Wilson, Frederick Funston, Newton Baker, George A. Dodd,

Reactionary Items in Modern Day Museum Collections

Have you ever gone to a museum or historic place and saw an exhibit dealing with a moment in history that made you feel a little uneasy? The Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society, had exhibits entitled Controversy and Controversy 2 that tackled just that.  Throughout our time at CCHS, especially with our inventory project of the textiles and our exploration of other storage areas, we’ve come across a few unnerving items.  Like everyone else, we’re human and have our own thoughts on events in history. But, it still amazes us how just one object can evoke such a strong emotion.  Regardless of what our personal beliefs are, we have to stand back and look at the bigger picture and how these items have importance to the historical narrative of not only Clark County, but to how Clark County falls into the history of the U.S.

What are some things that make you uneasy? Would an embalming table?photo 2 Or a Ku Klux Klan robe? Stuffed animals? And remember, we don’t mean those cute squishy ones you had as a kid.   Now, we love our Justin Beaver, but others may not feel the same.

All of these items hold historical significance to Clark County. For instance, did you know that Springfield was a major hub of manufacturing of funerary items such as caskets? Or that there was a branch of the KKK? Or that the trade of beaverphoto 1 pelts were one of the major factors in the settling of not only Clark County, but Ohio, the Midwest, and much of the continent?!

Despite the stir many of these kinds of objects may give you, there can be no doubt that it causes a reaction in the viewer. Even if this reaction is unnerving, it is still history causing you to feel something, to react to an event or happening that occurred in our past. As well, it provokes interesting discussion, which can always be a good thing.



Being Resourceful With Collections Management

In dealing with numerous items in the collection here at Clark County, we’ve learned quite a bit about storage methods. However, there are always a few tricksters in there that make you work to find an appropriate and capable way of going about this. For example, a little while back we came across a situation where we had to move a beautiful hair wreath to another shelf, in order to organize other objects in that area. There was not much room for this wreath to be moved elsewhere, but we did have space above a framed flag. This frame was a deep one with a large pane of glass on the front. When we tried to see if the wreath would fit a top this framed flag, we found that it was too small and that if we set it down, we would be setting the wreath (and it’s frame) right on top of the glass. (DANGEROUS…for the artifact, that is)

TIME TO BRAINSTORM!What were we going to do to remedy this situation?

Hair Wreath

– We discussed padding the glass with Ethafoam before setting the wreath on it, however this still posed a strong risk to the glass of the flag frame and we did not want to unintentionally break the pane of glass protecting the artifact.

– We also discussed using a single metal shelf/plank over the flag to give the wreath more support and to protect the frame below. However, this was a very heavy shelf and were worried about the integrity of the frame below it being damaged by the weight of it.

– Finally! We decided on a solution!

We would utilize three small planks of wood (laid across the flag frame vertically) to lend support to both frames involved.



First: We laid a piece of acid free cardboard above the flag, in order to protect it and the frame.

Second: Beneath each edge of the planks, that touched this piece of cardboard, we put pieces of Ethafoam.

Third: We laid the planks vertically across the top of the frame (and the cardboard and Ethafoam). note: we made sure that the wood planks were lying so that there was no pressure put on the glass, just the wooden frame.

Fourth: We put more Ethafoam pieces above the planks to protect the hair wreath from direct contact with them.

Fifth: We laid the hair wreath on top of the planks (and the Ethafoam).

Sixth: We laid one more piece of acid-free cardboard over the top of the hair wreath frame to protect it from dust and light exposure.


After thinking it through and working with what we had, we were able to make a safe and supportive place for both artifacts and their frames in our collections storage.

A Historical Connection

The archive and museum both provide an exciting opportunity to not only learn about the past in a broad sense of community and country but also can help make a more personal connection. Many people visit the archives to do genealogy research, researching a person’s family history. By working with the over-sized materials I happened to stumble across my own family history.

Joseph P. Clark

Joseph P. Clark, ancestry.com

This Civil War infantry roster lists the men from Ohio Volunteer Infantry’photo (7)s 110th Regiment, company C. This exciting find includes the name of my ancestor, Joseph P.  Clark, who did live in Clark County and fight in the Civil War. A little searching revealed his probate record, which handled his estate after he passed, giving his children their inheritance. This provided the location where his house once stood in New Carlisle and the names of his family members, providing an extra avenue of research.

To tie in the museum, Georgia and Sara, who have been working with many different flags mentioned that they had come across a regimental flag from the 110th Ohio infantry. This was truly exciting and it was neat to see the flag that my great-great-great grandfather marched under. These fIMG_0289lags symbolized much for a Civil War unit and many laid down their lives to keep it aloft. Its rich history and historical IMG_0288connection to me, really illustrates the personal connections anyone can make in both an archive and a museum, bringing the past alive.

International Harvester Company

In our most recent post, we mentioned a flag that belonged to members of the International Harvester Battalion.  Well, while trying to figure out some more of the history of this interesting flag, we took advantage of the resources just upstairs in the Library and Archives.  IMG_0312 In the collections, we have quite a bit of information and documentation about the IHC.  This includes photographs, newsletters, newspaper articles about the company, and so much more. IMG_0313 If you want to find out more about this company, and its involvement especially during World War II, click on this link to search the Finding Aids of the collection: http://www.heritagecenter.us/search_collections.cfm

It is really an amazing resource and a great experience in research of local history.



Also follow us on Twitter @DiscoverCCHS and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/clarkcountyhistory.