1817 Frederick Avenue – Hi Ho History

It’s said a gentleman with the last name of Petrie was keeping a saloon at this location as early as 1882. By 1895, the saloon keeper was Herman Kley, a native of Germany. Herman Kley was born 1857 and came to St. Joseph in 1885. During the prohibition era, the business was known as Herman Kley Soft Drinks. Herman Kley remained in business until two years before his death in 1936.

In the 1930s and early 40s, the location was home to Lawrence Welgert’s Tavern. Lawrence passed away on August 24, 1987.

According to an article in the St. Joseph News-Press penned by Fredrick Slater on June 30, 1982, Francis Curry opened the Hi-Ho in 1947, with then co-owner Tom Welsh after bartending for his uncle, the late Tom Curry, at the Shamrock Bar near Sixth and Edmond streets. Above the Hi-Ho at that time was a boarding house for the railroad.

“When his father died in 1969, Ed took over the business. Embedded in the sidewalk in front of the place at that time were blue and white ceramic tiles, showing that Herman Kley, long in the tavern business on Frederick, had once operated a saloon at the location. “I think the building has always been a tavern,” said Curry.”

According to the same article, “He said he had been told that several nearby buildings more than a century ago had housed hotels where farmers and their families stayed when they came to St. Joseph. Leaving their farm wagons at the hotels, the families rode the then new-fangled horse cars and later electric trolleys to downtown to shop.

For a number of years, Arthur Burrowes, News-Press and Gazette editor, anchored his “Thanatopsis Literary Society” around the Hi-Ho from the 1950s until his death in August 1968. This was an informal group, but guests were there only with an invitation from Mr. Burrowes, along with a selected handful of N-P employees.

Guests at times included an ambassador, True Davis; a federal judge, Richard M. Duncan; a U.S. Senator, Tom Eagleton; a congressman, Bill Hull; baseball legend Dutch Zwilling, various mayors, chiefs of police, local business leaders, and anyone else he felt like including. The lone rule of the informal club was that everyone went home at 5 p.m.

The Hi-Ho had a large family trade and was a mandatory stop on the way home for many of its patrons. Many of the patrons ended up bartending at one time or another. It was a lunch place for businessmen and was famous for its chili.”

Francis Curry named it the Hi-Ho Bar and Grill, according to his son, Ed, because he once frequented a bar of the same name and noted it was a friendly bar, where the two brothers who operated it threw all tips in a container and used the money to throw a Christmas party for neighborhood kids each year. After that, the name just stuck.

Historian and Hi-Ho patron Bob Slater said, “The Hi-Ho had a great reputation for its roast beef sandwiches. Francis would get very upset when a customer from Schott’s Tavern at 1415 Frederick Avenue would come in, buy six or so sandwiches, and then return to Schott’s for beer.”

Francis operated the Hi-Ho until his death in 1969. Francis’ son, Ed Curry, took over the business until July of 1982.

The building sat empty until 1983 when it was purchased by Steve and Mike Welsh.

The bar and grill was sold 12 years later, in 1996, to Dan Giannattasio, who owned it until June 1997, when it was again sold to Joe Tewell, Scott Stanton, and John Garvey.

The current owners are John Garvey and Kendall Randolph.