It was about 3 a.m. on a winter morning in the late 1960s. Laughter and the smell of bacon woke me from my slumber.
My mother, still in her evening wear, was at the stove. Scattered about my parents' kitchen were Major League Baseball players Gene Oliver, Eddie Mathews, Johnny Logan and Bob Uecker. Oliver, a Moline native and friend of my dad's, had brought the gang to our house for breakfast.
They had been the featured guests at a local sports banquet at the famed Marando's Nightclub in Milan. I had attended the banquet but was jettisoned long before my parents and guests arrived back at our house. I was also the show-and-tell king at school that day.
That is one of my favorite memories of Marando's, which for more than a quarter century provided first-class celebrity entertainment and dining in the Quad-Cities. It was one of "the'' places to dine -- or hang out -- in the Quad-Cities, and I considered it a treat every time I was allowed to go there. Many a night, it played host to famous names from the sports and the entertainment world, including Liberace, Rosemary Clooney, Louie Bellson, Guy Lombardo, Nelson Eddy and Amos and Andy.
Marando's was owned and operated by Jimmie Marando, one of life's good guys. Marando was as comfortable with heads of state as he was with the crew who wiped down his place each night. He was an 11 on the 1-to-10 good-guy scale. He passed away in 1966 at age 52, but the club was guided through the years by brothers Ernie and Jeff and general manager Charlie Spates.
Marando's (known as The Tropics from 1946 to 1950) offered great food and entertainment, and was all you wanted in a swanky night out. Its doors closed in 1972, but, thanks to Jimmie's son, Mike -- with an assist from his brother, James -- the local hotspot is once again up and running at marandosrestaurant.com
The website is dedicated to the thousands of people who worked and dined there, a veritable "who's who" of Quad-Citians.
There are many great photos, links to newspaper articles and remembrances about the many wonderful nights Marando's provided. The site, thanks to numerous scrapbooks owned by the Marando family, is a fantastic walk down memory lane.
"I am absolutely humbled by the outpouring of affection this website has evoked,'' said Mike Marando, who found time to break down the many scrapbooks and put the site together after he retired last year from a post with the state of California. "People from all over have made some very heartwarming and genuine comments. I have been in contact with so many people whose lives were touched by by Marando's.''
Ever the idea man, Jimmie Marando was always sponsoring big-time sports trips, including stops at the Rose Bowl, Iowa-Notre Dame football games and the Kentucky Derby. The Rose Bowl trip even included a two-night stay at Las Vegas for just $300.
"My father had a great knack for making things happen,'' Mike Marando said. "Imagine the Rose Bowl on a chartered jet with two nights in Vegas for $300. Amazing.''
But that's what Marando's was: amazing. No matter how old you were.
Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today is Wednesday, Dec. 11, the 345th day of 2013. There are 20 days left in the year. 1863 — 150 years ago: The message of Abraham Lincoln, read in congress yesterday, is published in full in our paper today, with a new proclamation relating the terms upon which states can return to the union. 1888 — 125 years ago: An appropriation has been made by congress for the improvement of the upper Mississippi River with $200,000 set aside for the portion of the river between Keokuk and the mouth of the Illinois River. 1913 — 100 years ago: Work of remodeling First Swedish Lutheran Church at 4th Avenue and 14th Street was nearly completed. 1938 — 75 years ago: An unexplained outbreak of tularemia (rabbit fever) in the state has Illinois public health officials puzzled. Ten persons have died, and 243 are officially reported ill with the infection. 1963 — 50 years ago: A dramatic, multi-million dollar riverfront improvement project for the downtown area of Rock Island was unveiled at a meeting of 200 civic leaders at noon today. 1988 — 25 years ago: For several supporters of the Dispatch Goodfellow/Argus Santa program their donation is a year long project. Emma Pugh and Anne Persinger spent a good part of their spare time this year knitting forty pairs of mittens and slippers.