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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Sunday, September 29, 2019

#3598 - Mello-Dee Club, Arco, ID - 8/20/2018

Mello-Dee Club and Steak House, Arco, ID
For approximately two hours on July 17, 1955, technicians at the Department of Energy Idaho National Laboratory switched the electronic grid of the city of Arco, Idaho, to be sourced from the Argonne National Laboratory's BORAX-III nuclear reactor, making the city the first in the world to be powered by nuclear generated electricity. Five and half years later, the same NRTS site would be the location of the US's first nuclear reactor fatalities, as three workers perished when a control rod was withdrawn faster than it should have, resulting the SL-1 core melting and a fatal steam explosion. It may seem an odd history for a small city in south-eastern Idaho that had originally been known as "Root Hog" and was somehow later renamed after a German radio technology pioneer. But the city features prominent reminders of the former event, as well as celebrating it each July with an Atomic Days event.

1955 was also the year that Harvey Helderman was persuaded to purchase the Mello-Dee Club bar and dance hall, which had just been constructed two years prior, probably by the Nuff brothers. Harvey and his wife Betty ran the club for many years before it was taken over by their son Roy. Roy had just retired before I visited the place in August of 2018, but still seemed to come by every day. Roy said that before he purchased the Mello-Dee, his father had owned "a cowboy bar" in Nampa. Roy and his wife had sold the adjoined restaurant portion in 2013, which then became Big Sexy's Burgers and Things and later Burger By Number.

The Mello-Dee no longer features the formalwear dances that one can see in the photos on the wall (Roy pointed out himself as a boy in one), and it doesn't generally have host a huge number of patrons. Arco is the largest city in Butte County, but the population hovers around 1,000 people. It does however still host live music and times, and the sort of social events one sees bars still providing many smaller communities, such as potluck dinners for holidays, memorials for locals who have passed away, and celebrations of Roy's birthday.

Both the decor and the drinks are now familiar neighborhood dive standards. But like the city itself, the bar hints at many untold stories of a sometimes dramatic and romantic past.

Mello-Dee Club, Arco, ID token (via
Mello-Dee Club, Arco, ID token (via

Mello-Dee Club sign, Arco, ID

175 Sunset Dr, Arco, ID 83213 - (208) 527-3125
Est. ? - Building constructed: 1953?
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: facebook 
Reviews: yelp - waymarking  

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