July 4, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.
Recently my wife and I enjoyed an evening at the Superstition Skies Restaurant & Bar. We had heard the band at the “Skies” was just phenomenal. I am embarrassed to say the last time I was in the Superstition Skies was when Jo Lane played the piano there.
We found the band very upbeat and great to listen to. Once through the door we were introduced to some of the Superstition Skies past which is by all means a part of Apache Junction’s history. When I worked for the Barkley Cattle Company in the late 1950’s the “Skies” had just opened for business.
The “Skies” has a very interesting history. Some say a bordello operated out of the restaurant and bar in the late 1950s, however I cannot verify that statement nor was I a witness to such activity. The legacy of the “Skies” centers around two significant historical events. One was the many different Hollywood legends that visited the restaurant and bar during the filming of the many movies at Apacheland and the second was Burnette Pletan, known as the world’s fastest painter.
Elvis Presley stayed at the Superstition Ho Hotel and ate several evening meals at the Superstition Skies while filming “Charro.” One story is told that he actually strummed his guitar and sang a song one evening at the “Skies.”
Stars like Ronald Reagan, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Kenny Rogers and Marty Robbins ate at the Superstition Skies over the years. The “Skies” opened before the Superstition Ho Hotel, the Mining Camp and many other well-known establishments in Apache Junction. The “Skies” was open before the Apache Junction Dog Racing track on Main Street (Apache Trail).
The Superstition Skies is one of last real “honkytonks,” where it is not uncommon to see horses tied up at the hitching rail and cowboys with chaps and spurs standing at the bar, with country music being played by a jukebox or a live band.
Places throughout the Southwest such as the “Skies” are the heart and soul of America’s County Western music tradition. These restaurants and bars are the place were many great Country Western singers got their start. Men such as Marty Robbins, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, and women such as Loretta Lynn and hundreds of more began their entertaining at the “honkytonks.”
Burnette Pletan was probably the world’s most prolific artist. He was certainly the fastest artist in the world with a paintbrush. Over the years I have marveled at his work. And his work has survived after his death. I had the pleasure of working with him when the school district sponsored the first Superstition Art Saga Fair in 1977. When my wife and I visited the “Skies” we were introduced to Pletan’s work again. If you have never seen his work, this is an excellent example of it at the Superstition Skies. This was Pletan’s last major project. He painted the walls all in one day, and the paintings are still there. Mr. Pletan was in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” and “That’s Incredible.” He was certainly an incredible artist.
History and tradition are certainly a part of the “Superstition Skies’” menu in addition to good food. Take a little time out of your busy schedule and enjoy some genuine country-western music and good food. While you are at it take time to visit other great honkytonks and historic sites in Apache Junction such as the Mining Camp, Hitching Post, Mammoth, Filly’s, and Dirtwater Springs. They all have something special to offer in the nostalgia of old Apache Junction.