People who grew up on the South Shore have long known that her time had passed... but it still hurts to see her go.
There are rumors that The Ranch House in Marshfield, which has been closed for most (closed in 2004) of this current century, has been sold. They were asking a mere $365K, reduced from $373K. It is zoned for Residential use now, so get ready for a McMansion or some condos.
Before that happens, they're going to have to put the wrecking ball to a local hardcore icon.
It makes sense. The derelict old building was a fire waiting to happen. I'm sure that some homeless have squatted in it. It's a vine-covered eyesore. If you get close, it smells like 1970s white trash vomit. Whatever rodents are running around your Canal Street yard probably winter in there. Out-of-town drunks still make the Hajj, only to find disappointment. It should have come down long ago.
That doesn't mean that we won't miss it.
There are bars and clubs all over the South Shore, but none of them were in The Ranch House's league as a den of debauchery. Set between a beach neighborhood and a marsh on Canal Street, it was at least a regional capital of the Irish Riviera.
You couldn't ask for an uglier locale. It looked like someone made it for a Patrick Swayze bouncer movie. The actual bar in the film Road House was miles ahead of the Green Harbor landmark as far as aesthetics go, and that movie was supposed to be about a dive.
To keep it Hollywood for people who may never have been inside... it's pretty much exactly like the bar that the Blues Brothers had to sing Rawhide in... except that bar was classier.
You parked on a dirt lot, wherever you could fit. If you had 4WD, you could park in the marsh. Once inside, you sat at the sort of tables that you see in the backyards of poor rural families. I think that they may have bought their chairs from a high school closing, and they were the perfect size/weight to hit someone with. The exposed rafters had the authenticity that you just don't get when a yuppie restaurant has exposed rafters- you were supposed to swing from these beams.
|photos from Molisse Real Estate ("Selling the entire South Shore") ad for the property|
You also had regional superpowers like Clutch Grabwell, Jim Plunkett or the Fat City Band playing there. You had cover bands galore, including Crystal Ship of Bitchin' Camaro fame. You had bands that never crossed the goal line, like the The Steamers, The Well Endowed Gentlemen, Silent Underground, Itchy Fish, Feel Thing and Exit 11. First ballot Rock and Roll Hall Of Famer Joe Perry of Aerosmith and little-known Hannes Schneider of the Injurys (I asked them, it's supposed to be spelled wrong) plugged their guitars into the same outlet.
A thousand other local bands tried and failed there. Your friend who can play the guitar a bit may have secured a slot there in his youth, only to find that their drawing power was limited to family and very close friends.
This focus on live music gave The Ranch House a different crowd than the dozen gin mills nearby.
Rather than a gathering of locals (although they were well-represented), TRH usually had a good crop of road trip people who were there because they liked the band. For a guy who struck out with the whole South Shore, the new girls this diversity provided probably prevented an alienated loner-style mass shooting at some point in
my 20s the late 1980s.
You also had people- sometimes bikers- who came just because of TRH's reputation as a rowdy bar. The rowdy bar part worked for the locals. If your houseparty got the wrong crowd and it was time to move it to the bar... but if you didn't want to ruin your good name at the local bar that you frequent... that's why God gave us the Ranch House.
Beyond that, it becomes a hazy collage of drunken memories:
- I know a guy who got knocked out at the Ranch House, another guy who got his jaw broken, a third guy who tried to pepper spray some behemoth and the spray failed, catching him an extra-effort whupping. I know a guy who got a bottle broken over his head. I know a girl who slapped another girl unconscious there, and a bystander girl who got hit with a pool cue during a fight she wasn't in.
- I want to make sure to tip a glass to Mary, the waitress with the inexhaustible supply of miniskirts. She had a sister who worked there, forget her name, may have been
- Close to when the business sold, I saw Steven Tyler pay a visit to owner Dorothy Hudson there during a show with a full house. Some drunk walked up to him and said, "Hey, you're Steven Tyler," and Tyler went "No sh*t?"
- There's a rumor about a 70s era bouncer who threw a guy up the chimney.
- You could hear music and even distinguish song lyrics from Ranch House bands in Duxbury Beach neighborhoods. I may post this in a few Duxbury groups to see if the noise made it across the marsh into Duxbury Proper in the right weather conditions.
- It is very possible that Joe Perry, who at times lives a half mile across an open marsh from TRH, could sit on his back porch and listen to local Axemen trying to play Aerosmith covers on the Ranch House stage.
- A house on Ocean Road North in Duxbury once brought the bar home for an afterparty, even the band and their instruments.
- The loss of The Ranch House, coupled with the residentializing of Paddock's Package Store, means the end of Canal Street as a business district. It also killed two of my favorite spots with a range from about age 5 to 32.
- The Green Harbor General Store and the Brant Rock Market gained Paddock's beer/snacks customers. The local rowdies from TRH bled into the other local pubs.
- If your formerly low-key tavern deteriorated into rowdiness during the late Bush II era, that's most likely what happened to it.
They don't make 'em like The Ranch House anymore.
Marsh Vegas still has some rowdy bars, but it ain't what it once was.
Brian's Place is a Mama Mia's franchise now. The various bars that occupy the spot at the Green Harbor Marina are edging towards Yuppiedom. The Ocean Cafe, once the ugliest building that I ever enjoyed eating in, is now a lovely place that people call Haddad's. The Venus II got a facelift.
Marshfield- especially the Irish Riviera part- will never be a really delicate place. But it is changing...
Just one "Anyone have any Ranch House pics I can use?" post on Facebook brought up at least one Duxbury Wannabe comment regarding the nature of the neighborhood. Someone else called it "Duxbury Delusion Syndrome."
Coastal property- even if it is a few streets back- never loses that much value. Not everyone can hang onto the family cottage, nor can they turn down the money they can make selling it to some rich family.
The next thing you know, the people who own the rowdy hard-rock bar see the future coming, lack the desire to transition into something Yuppie, and decide to sell the property.
There were nibbles in 2004, but it's hard to build when you abut wetlands, have a reputation as the go-to rowdy bar on the South Shore that will take a generation to erase, and will immediately require a tear-down (it's essentially a giant doghouse) and re-build. I loved The Ranch House, but I wouldn't have dreamed of eating in that building, even bagged potato chips.
Most people have higher tastes than me, and that pretty much punched the ticket for The Ranch House.
It sucks when a relic from your past has to go away, and no one stays young forever. The live music scene is lessened for it, and you'll have to drive a bit to see a band in any sort of building that isn't better suited to a breakfast buffet. Most people will forget soon enough.
But not all...
It will be funny if whoever builds there throws up a large structure, and has to continually answer the door and tell people that The Ranch House no longer exists.
We probably aren't too far from a day where people will have to stop the car and think about exactly where The Ranch House used to be. There was once a time when there would have been no question about it.
|You know that I'm stealing that Wagon Wheel. Dibs!|