The Happy Bottom Riding Club was Pancho Barnes most famous and successful creation. Club members could fly in to Pancho’s FAA approved airport, attend rodeos at her championship rodeo stadium, ride horses from her well-stocked horse corral, dance in her dance hall, have drinks at her bar, eat the best steak of their life in her restaurant, swim in her large circular pool, and then decide to do it all again the next day by checking into her hotel. Additionally, on her 360 acre ranch, she had a thriving dairy, cattle and hog business. During the height of the Happy Bottom Riding Club’s success, there were over 9,000 members worldwide. You never knew who would show up at the Club for a steak dinner, sit in with the jazz combo, or sing with the other customers at the piano bar. It was not unusual to find heads of state, high ranking military, actors, actresses, famous writers and artists, and perhaps even your next door neighbor at Pancho’s bar and restaurant. At Pancho’s, everyone who liked to enjoy life, laugh and have a good time was welcomed. Pancho was fond of saying, “When you have a choice choose happy!” Well, when you went through the door of her club, it was quite clear that you had chosen the happy path for the evening!
Here are some photographs and other memorabilia from the Happy Bottom Riding Club:
Entrance to the ranch and the Happy Bottom Riding Club. Yes, there were always beautiful women to be found in attendance!
Pilots in Uniform at Bardup
The night is just getting started at the Happy Bottom Riding Club.
Here is a view of one of the dining rooms.
Pancho Barnes relaxing with Phoebe Omlie and Irma “Babe” Story at the Happy Bottom Riding Club bar (Below). Phoebe Omlie (center) flew in the first Women’s Air Derby with Pancho and later worked for the FAA. Irma “Babe” Story (on right) was a student of Pancho in her Civilian Pilot Training class in 1941. One of Pancho’s favorite toasts was “May you live as long as you want, and want to as long as you live.”
This is a view of the pool at the Club. Legend has it that the reason the circular pool had an inclined ramp was so that Pancho could ride into the pool on horseback to cool off after a long day in the desert. In the background is Pancho’s house:
Pancho and Mac planning one of their ‘Treasure Hunts.’ Guests were provided with a map and several hints to find the buried treasure of 200 silver dollars.
This 1928 photograph of Pancho Barnes by George Hurrell was one of her favorites and hung on the wall at the Happy Bottom Riding Club.
Pancho had a championship rodeo stadium at the ranch. Many of the finest cowboys of the day demonstrated their riding and roping skills during her ‘Rodeo Days.’ Pancho’s Rodeo was just another scheme to create fun for her guests at The Happy Bottom Riding Club.