The Silk Hat, Palm Springs 1930s
Once located on iconic Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, The Silk Hat bar was a drinking establishment with a sense of humor.
This 1930s menu warns that drinks would be mixed at your own risk and humorously listed the proprietor as a character called ‘Greasy Lee and Creditors.’
The proprietor was Lee Humbard, a popular figure in what the locals during that era referred to as ’the village.’
Humbard was obviously quite a character who gained notoriety by driving a gasoline-propelled puddle-jumper or motorized scooter in Palm Springs, against the local statues, and ended up being charged with reckless driving and driving without a license.
Adverts published in the Desert Sun in the 1930s said cocktails cost between 25c to 45c and included a Mamie Taylor, a combination of whisky and ginger beer that was popular in the first half of the 20th century.
Named for an actress and singer of the era, it was likely the predecessor to the Moscow Mule, according to experts. There was also the intriguingly named Beauty and The Beast cocktail, the house special for 25c. Wine cost 15c a glass and beer was 10c.
Another Silk Hat opened 90 miles away in the desert resort of Lake Arrowhead which had a cocktail lounge and a dining room overlooking the lake.
Sadly, research in local newspapers reveals that Humbard, who had sold the Silk Hat a short time before, committed suicide in 1937 at the age of 35, ending his life in the desert with a self-inflicted bullet through the head from a .22 calibre rifle.
Friends said he had no financial worries and attributed his death to sudden mental imbalance caused by Humbard being gassed during WWI and the fact that he was unhappy over having left his favorite business.
When local businessman Erwin Schulman took over the Silk Hat later that year, newspaper clippings paid tribute to the previous owner, noting that under the 'original and temperamental director of the late Lee Humbard, it became famous out of all proportion to its size and was known from Palm Springs to New York.'
Another newspaper report said the new owner planned to keep The Silk Hat 'as it was in its best days - a place of personality if not elegance - and a popular port of call for all good villagers who stay out late at night.'
The Silk Hat eventually merged with Palm Springs’s Chi Chi Room.
The Silk Hat was demolished to make way for the Desert Fashion Plaza shopping center, popular in Palm Springs from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.