When James White opened the Broken Spoke in 1964, it represented the last stop for civilization one mile south of what then served as Austin city limits. Fifty years later, the dance hall still stands beside the largest oak tree along South Lamar Boulevard and endures as a legacy for a city that has grown up around it.
Meanwhile, if walls could talk, the Broken Spoke would have a lot of history to tell. Instead, more than 1,000 photographs of celebrities who have visited over the past five decades line the walls. One-of-a-kind memorabilia items are preserved inside the Broken Spoke, including a vintage Nudie suit, autographed guitars, a 70-year-old Wurlitzer jukebox, a 50-year-old silver encrusted saddle that James White's father, Bruce Lamar White, rode for years in the Rose Bowl Parades, and a western hat worn by a former President of the United States.
James White, at 25-years-old, began construction on the Spoke Sept. 25, 1964--the same day he received his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army. "l built it to look like the '40s and the '50s," he says. "My parents took me to honky-tonks like this, where I always had good times. That's why I went into this business."
"I started thinking about the things that tie into westerns and country. My mind was always on a wagon wheel,' White recalls in a history collected for the Texas Treasure Business Award. "Then, like a light bulb that went off in my head, I remembered a Jimmy Stewart movie called Broken Arrow. I thought, I'll just name it the Broken Spoke." He and his wife, Annetta, officially opened the Broken Spoke a few months later on Nov. 10, 1964.
Legends like Willie Nelson, George Strait, Ernest Tubb, Dolly Parton, and so many more have gone on to play on the Spoke's stage.
"I would have rather that everything stayed the same," says White, "but as it is, I wish that I had a little more breathing room, a little more elbow room and I wish I had more parking, but I will weather the storm... I'm thinkin' we'll get a few more country music lovers and they'll love the chicken fried steak, dancin', the Texas Two Step, and havin' a good time."