Salome Arizona looses a piece of history ..

The historic Sheffler's Cafe, recently known as the Cactus Bar and Salome Cafe were totally destroyed by fire in a mid-morning fire on July 10, 2011.

Salome Cafe / Cactus Bar

destroyed by fire, July 10, 2011

click here for fire photos

additional historic photos below

Tribute by Albert Nord

A GREAT LOSS 

Early morning on the 10th of July,  2011, I was awakened by the sound of fire trucks with their sirens blaring, and since the sirens were short lived, I thought that they may be responding to a fire close by.  I got out of bed and looked out the door to see if I could see any smoke.  At first I did not see any, but in a few minutes I saw lots of smoke.  On further search I saw that Don's Cactus Bar and the Salome Cafe were engulfed in flames.  This was indeed a sad sight to see.

To look back some 75 years, in 1936 the original Van's restaurant and bar, located on this same spot, burned to the ground.  I was at our ranch out on Salome road and since the fire was in the middle of the day, we could see the smoke from the fire.  Mr. & Mrs. Van Orsdell had operated this cafe, bar and service station for a good many years before the fire.  Mr. Van Orsdell had died several years before the fire and Mrs. Van Orsdell continued to operate the business. 

After the fire, a small cafe was built and they continued to serve people.  Mrs. Van Orsdell apparently did not have enough money to properly rebuild the place and  she made a deal with the Sheffler Brothers from Los Angeles, and they started building the building that had been standing on that spot for many years.

As a boy of 10 years old, I watched the making of the adobe bricks for the walls and the pouring of the concrete for the floor.  The architect for the building was a Mr. William Ruck.  Mr. Ruck and his wife and daughter lived at our ranch for several years, while he built a mill next to our ranch and processed ore before they moved back to Los Angeles.

The grand opening for this new building was in August of 1937.  It operated as Van's for several years before the name was changed to Sheffler's.  I believe that Mrs. Van Orsdell had passed away by that time.

The restaurant was open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  It was a bus stop for three bus lines:  Greyhound, Santa Fe Trailways and All American Bus Lines.  When one of these buses would stop the place would become quite busy.  When I was still going to Salome Elementary School, I ate many noon meals at this restaurant.

Bill Sheffler was quite a big game hunter and many of the stuffed heads of the big game animals that he had killed were mounted on the wall separating the kitchen from the dining room.  Bill had an aviary built on the east side of the building that housed many exotic birds. Many local people were employed by this bar, cafe and motel.  Sheffler's brought many of their own people from Los Angeles that served as Chef, Bartender, Janitor and Manager.

With the completion of I-10, and less traffic through Salome, the cafe was closed for a while and the mounted heads had to be removed because they had deteriorated so bad.  The bar remained open all these years.

I will always remember Saturday, July 9th, when my son Jerry, Jim Steffen and I went to the Salome Cafe about 2:30 in the afternoon for coffee.  We were soon joined by Kemper Brown and his grandson, Gavin.  Jerry and Kemper started talking about their years in the army and their time spent in Germany during this time.  They had a lot in common, even though Kemper was in Germany 10 years before Jerry.  Little did I know then that this would be the last time that I would be able to have coffee in this place as it had been for 75 years.

I feel so sorry for all of the people that are now out of a job because of this fire and Alexa and Jim for the loss of their business and Don for his tremendous loss. Many people feel that this building was the oldest in Salome and although it was 75 years old, there are two buildings that are older.  Vance and Robin Randall's RZ Mini Mart is the oldest and the building where Jim Downing operates The Harcuvar Company is the next oldest.

~ ~ ~  Albert Nord

Historic Photos of Sheffler's Cafe

Vintage Photo:  Van's Cafe, Salome, Arizona

Van's Cafe Postcard

Van's Cafe Curio Room

Van's Cafe Postcard

Sheffler's Cafe & Sheffler's Aviary

Sheffler's Cafe - 1950's

return to Arizona Outback main page