One of the earliest photos of Jerry's Drive In
Hey all! Very excited to share this cache of original photos from Jerry's Drive In, one of the well-known hangouts, in the 1960s, for local Pueblo music. This amazing collection is courtesy of Gary Giarratano, the son of John Angelo “Jerry” Giarratano, and Angelo Giarratano, the son of Settimo "Cecil" Giarratano. Brothers Jerry and Cecil were the long-time co-owners of Jerry's.
Jerry Giarratano was a lifetime resident of Pueblo. After he graduated from Centennial High School (1942), he joined the U.S. Army. He served during the Normandy Invasion of World War II as a Sergeant in HQ 3,
502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (he was the recipient of the Purple Heart, and the
Bronze Star for bravery). When he returned from service, in 1946, he and his brother Cecil opened Jerry's Drive In, later renamed Jerry's Lounge / Keg Room.
"It was a drive-in restaurant." said Gary Giarratano, Jerry's son. "You would drive up and park, and we had car hops, who would bring out your order... but they weren't on roller skates."
During high school, Jerry Giarratano worked at Patti's, on south Santa Fe. "He grew up on Mechanic Street, so he would walk a block to work," said Gary. "He knew he wanted to get into the restaurant business, when he worked there."
Jerry convinced his brother, Cecil, to leave his job at CF&I to help run the new venture, named Jerry's Drive In.
Inside of Jerry's (1946)
"It was originally supposed to be called Gerry's Drive In, which was short for Giarratano," said Angelo Giarratano, Cecil's son. "But they decided to use the J. My mother floated them a loan for $1,500. The brothers built that building. My dad laid every brick."
"I was a little boy. My dad would bring me there in the summertime, and I would hang out and sort pop bottles. I was still in grade school. The older I got, I would take on more responsibility, but I could still have fun, like play pinball all day long," said Gary.
In 1963, Jerry and Cecil decided to expand the restaurant.
"He couldn't compete with the A&W and the McDonalds," said Gary. "They started off with making the back of the building a patio, with picnic tables, then they put a roof over it, and added a fireplace, to make it feel like a ski resort. Then they added the bandstand, and closed it off."
The new addition was christened The Keg Room.
During the Vietnam era, Jerry's saw an increase in soldiers stationed at Fort Carson. "They would
come down to Pueblo, because we treated them better than they were in the Springs," said Gary.
As is usually the case with adult beverages flowing - there were plenty of fights at Jerry's.
"There were fights there all the time," said Gary. "We had bouncers, but the guys who sat at the front bar would also come in and help, if we needed extra bodies to break up a fight."
Gary said Jerry's had a coordinated system, whenever a fight broke out.
"We had this lighting system, and when a fight would break out in the back room, we would flip this switch, and the breaker would shut down the band on the stage. So if we only heard the drummer playing, we knew there was trouble," said Angelo.
"That meant the guys up front had to come to the back, to help break up the fight" said Gary. "The barmaids would run behind the bar to secure the cash register."
"Don Bussey's [formerly of the local band, The Cobras] wife Marcia once walked in before we were about to play [with the Trolls] and called me a two-timer and pulled out a pistol, and shot me with blanks," said Phil Head. "It was actually a bad joke, but I don't know who it scared the most, me or the college kids who sat near the stage."
Business was so good at Jerry's that in 1970, Jerry and Cecil decided they needed another patio. "They wanted to expand the right side of the building, to make the patio," said Gary. "But when they were excavating, and putting the floor in, they dug up a skull and bones."
They immediately called the police, who investigated, and sent the bones to Colorado State University.
"They found out that the bones were more than 75 years old, and there were both adult and and children's bones. The police couldn't figure out who it was. It was a guess that they were probably a result of the 1921 Pueblo flood, since back then, the river ran right behind Jerry's."
"It made the news, and we ended up calling it Jerry's Graveyard Patio."
Bones weren't the only thing found at Jerry's.
"I was the janitor too." said Gary. "I had to clean up afterward, and I would often find tons of money on the floor. One time I found a ring on the floor, an engagement ring. My family said we should put in in the safe, in case somebody came back for it. It stayed in that safe for ten years. When I got married, my dad offered me that ring. It was my wife's first wedding ring. Finally on my 20th anniversary, I bought her another ring."
Just another fun evening, at Jerry's
Angelo graduated from East High in 1965, while Gary graduated from Central, in 1970. By 1975, Gary had graduated college, with a degree in biology. Angelo had left the business earlier, to attend medical school (he is a how-retired podiatric surgeon). Neither had an interest in working at the family business.
"Being the oldest, I was supposed to take it over," said Angelo. "I became a doctor. My brother was the second oldest, and he got a job at Coors, and moved to Denver. And Gary went on to be a medical rep."
"None of us wanted to continue at the bar. Actually they encouraged us to go to college," said Gary.
"Times were changing. Then the GIs stopped coming, and so did the college students. It was getting hard to pay bands," said Gary. "We would charge the door $1, just so we could pay the band."
The club remained open until 1980, when Jerry took a job as a field
appraiser for the Pueblo County Assessor's office, and later retired
In 1980 Jerry and Cecil leased the building to Ottie Otterstein who two years later gave it back to the brothers. They held on to the building for ten more years. The building is now a long-time pawn shop.
Cecil passed away in 1995. Jerry passed away in 1998. Both brothers are buried in Roselawn Cemetery, in Pueblo.