Don’t play with the candles


It’s not often that you run across a menu that tells patrons how to behave, right on the front. It seems to project the message Welcome! . . . or maybe not.

In case you were wondering what “trucking apart” means, I think it refers to flirting with someone other than who you came with.

nightingaleMenufrontdrawingThe menu, which probably dates from the 1950s, is entertaining inside too: Pop Corn as an appetizer, Toast (under Specials, .20), Pickled Egg Salad with Crackers (.50), and Blackberry Wine from Ohio (.30 per glass).

The Nightingale’s finest and most elaborate offering is clearly its Chicken Dinner ($1.25). The potatoes, tomatoes, and biscuits get glowing modifiers while the chicken has none.

Tomato Soup or Tomato Cocktail
French Fried, Golden Brown Potatoes
Sliced Field Ripe Tomatoes
Peas or Beans
Piping Hot Biscuits
Coffee or Tea
Ice Cream

nightingaleclubMarch251940In 1940 Luther L. Dixon, an enterprising factory worker at American Tobacco Co. who made money in real estate, opened a restaurant/club called the Nightingale on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia. He had left the business by the mid 1950s, so the owner of the Nightingale with the menu advice, located south of Alexandria, may have been someone else.

© Jan Whitaker, 2014


Filed under night clubs, patrons, roadside restaurants

11 responses to “Don’t play with the candles

  1. Anonymous

    My father sang in a big band” Rod Rafell and his orchestra at the Nightingale before the war.

  2. amy wilson

    I have a photo from 1941 of this restaurant signed by the band and a menu

  3. Great job with research. White they were. I’m reminded of the Carl Perkins song, “Dixie Fried.” There was a lot more overlap between Black and White in Southern popular culture than people were admitting in those days.

  4. This was a fun post! I am amused that the Nightingale’s management was as focused on maintaining propriety as this admonishment indicates. I believe that many clubs and establishments would be wise to adopt a similar code today! Reggie

  5. Everything points to this being an African-American establishment from the blackberry wine to the names of the entertainers. Being a factory worker and an enterprising businessman is more characteristic of the limited employment opportunities of Southern Blacks than Whites.. I think “trucking apart” refers to the kind of dancing where the partners get carried away and pull apart to dance as solo acts. The rules sound like, let’s have fun and stay safe: no fights, no police. This could have been a White establishment catering to the working class, but I think there would have been fewer warnings and more tolerance for rowdiness, because off-duty cops would have been patrons, too.

    • That makes total sense but I simply don’t have enough evidence to be sure. I went back to look at censuses and city directories and saw that the founder of the club is listed as white. That’s not ironclad proof that he was indeed white but he was also a real estate developer, which lends support, though again not proof, to his not being (perceived as) Afro-American. As for the patrons, I have no information. To me the menu says “rural” more than anything. I will see if I can learn more about the acts that appeared at the club.

    • Upon further research I am reasonably sure that the Nightingale was a white club, at least as far as the earlier club established in 1940 in Richmond goes. I looked up the acts that performed there in 1940 and the only two I could find anything about, Luther M. Lipscombe & His Jolly Syncopators and Wesley Booker’s Band, were both white. I also noticed that there were many Dine & Dance clubs in the general area and that it was common for them to say in their advertisements “Couples Only — No Stags.”

  6. Glen H

    Would this restaurant have catered to local Afro-American families? It could explain the emphasis on respectablity. Considering the time and place, an Afro-American owned business could be under heavy scrutiny by police and licensing authorities.

    • Very good point, though I don’t believe it was an Afro-American business nor that its patrons were Afro-Americans. I didn’t get very far in my searches for The Nightingale but I’m going to take another look with that in mind.

  7. majskyking

    Jan…nice piece – wish the Nightingale were around now.

    I think the term “trucking apart” refers to dancing without your partner.

    To dance; to “truck”. I may be wrong.

Leave a Reply to victualling Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.