† 323½ Commercial Street

Rumpus Room

One of the liveliest nightspots stood until about 30 years ago between the Old Colony Tap and the beach. This large building, known as 323½ or 323R, was reached from a narrow alleyway. In the 1930s, it was the White Whale and Mooring Mast nightclub, run by Frances Bell. It may also have been Maline Costa’s first bar and short-order restaurant, the Shed, before he opened the Moors. In the early 1940s it was the Cape End Club. In May 1945, it reopened as Frank DeMello’s Pilgrim Club, with dining, drinking and dancing to the sounds — over the years — of Sam Robinson’s Harlem Boys, the Duke Boyce Trio and the King Levister Quartet. On the inset photo, you can make out the “Pilgrim Club” sign stretching over the entrance to the alleyway between the Old Colony and Lobster Pot.

The nightclub was annexed to the Old Colony in 1962, when Leonard Edward “Lenny Blue” Enos Jr. connected the two properties, over a bit of skepticism on the part of Selectman Ralph S. Carpenter, who said, “This looks like a revival of the old nightclub, which was a source of difficulty.” But Enos’s lawyer, John C. Snow, assured the selectmen that the expansion would be operated in a way that made it an asset to Provincetown. (Helen David, “Selectmen Allow Old Tap to Expand, Praise Owner for Inn Transformation,” The Advocate, 31 May 1962.)

First as the Back Room, then more famously as the Rumpus Room, this was the birthplace in the 1960s of the Original Provincetown Jug and Marching Band, which later became a fixture at the Surf Club, 315 Commercial Street. It was also the birthplace in 1964 of the Barbarians (Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?): Victor “Moulty” Moulten, Bruce Benson, Ronnie Enos and Jerry Causi. Benson recalled the time in “A Teenagers Tale The Rumpus Room To NYC” on Facebook:

Lenny gave us a job. I barely made it. Still 17. He said OK. Good to go.
We would get a cut of the door And have to carry out the empty cases of bar bottles after closing.
Part of the deal. Great! Stack em’ up!

Lenny was the door man.
Lenny was a powerhouse.
Short sleeved shirt, Bar towel around his neck, collecting the gate.
A Buck to get in.
Nobody messed with Mr Blue.
More than one rowdy patron was eased out the door and down the alley onto Commercial street.
Take a left, take a right. Didn’t matter, just get out.

The placed was packed. The alley was packed. We’re having a ball.
Playing music and getting paid.
Got a big banner for the back wall behind the stage.
“The Barbarians” Red letters.
Moulty put his name on the bass drum.
We put flyers on EVERY car in P’town.
“The Barbarians Are Coming”
After all Moulty was a Barbarian.

Doing good tonite. The cases are stacking up. Keep playing.

6 thoughts on “† 323½ Commercial Street

  1. My grandmother was Frances Bell. My father, Fred Bell, reminisced about the White Whale and talked frondly of his youth in Provincetown in the 1930s. So great to find this article.

    • Jennifer, I am working on a book about historic Cape Cod nightlife and am very interested in including the White Whale. Do you have any info about it that you could share? Email me if you’d like cjsetterlund@aol.com

  2. Spent many nights at the Old Colony Tap and its back room when working at the Provincetown Inn summer of ’66-68…also Surf Club, Pilgrim Club and Weathering Heights on Shank Painter Road, Atlantic House.
    RIP Bob and Jean Hendrickson.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s