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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Saloon doors knew how to swing

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
If every invention worked, looked and satisfied its purpose as well as the swinging saloon door the world would be a much better place to live. Don't laugh until you read further.

No one is sure of the origin of the invention but it is old in principle and attributes. For example, in the old frontier days the delicate louvered design with a gentle curved top and bottom was usually the most attractive door on main street welcoming customers to enter its portals.

Further, the door was split in the middle so no one had to decide which side to open. The swing was further designed to push from either side eliminating the decision whether to push or pull when entering or departing the building.

Even more brilliant was the design of the spring-loaded, two-way hinges which assured the doors would always re-close after use thus eliminating the age-old call to "close the door! Were you born in a barn?" The sides of each half were longer than the center so that heavy hinges always kept the doors in total control and required little maintenance but oiling occasionally. No latches, knobs nor locks were used as most old-West saloons never closed staying open around the clock. This meant no keys to lose or lock maintenance eliminating security problems.

The double-acting, spring-loaded hinges were the most ingenious improvement of all as the always closed doors kept the customers inside hidden from the public, their irate wives and families searching for the heads of household spending the weekly paycheck. At the same time the door position also protected the outside innocents and sanctimonious passing by down the boardwalk from observing the horrible goings-on inside the den of inequity.

The door height and length were also carefully designed to prevent peeping overhead or forcing one to kneel down to peep under to see the festivities. These same openings provided ventilation to draw in fresh air at the bottom and let the billowing smoke escape from the top.

Saloon owners were happy with the door design as it satisfied their critics about keeping their temptations hidden yet allowed the laughter, music, other tantalizing sounds and odors to waft out into the street fulling advertising the entire range of sins available inside and totally without cost I might add. Many seated the saloon band near the front door where they played loudly enhancing the advertising effort even more.

The typical saloon door had a tender more gentle side as the free-working springs allowed the bouncers and bartenders to throw a trouble-maker through the opening without having to open the doors first. This free-working improvement seldom injured the victims head as he crashed through into the street.

This ingenious contraption was so famous worldwide that many saloons didn't need signs to denote their business. All who passed by knew instantly the purpose of the building. Dare I suggest that some religious entities with their huge heavy locked doors (except during services) take notice?

Now, can you name another invention that provides all these restrictions yet allowed fully automatic and independent operation without a power source?


Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" June 2, 2009 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.
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