Shot glass from actor Ace Cain's Hollywood nightclub, 1369 N. Western Ave., 1940s. Measures 2¾x1¾ inches at rim.
ACE CAIN was one of the more colorful and controversial characters of midcentury Santa Clarita (which wasn't usually called Santa Clarita then). He'd already been a soldier, bootlegger, movie actor and Hollywood nightclub owner by the time he came to Sand Canyon in the 1950s and opened the Rocky Springs Country Club, an adult resort with a bar, pool hall, "friendly" women, private cabanas, and a members-only swimming pool.
Born in Chickasaw Nation, Okla., on Aug. 23, 1903, Horace Truman Cain grew up on a farm in Wichita Falls, Texas. "Ace" and his brother Jim enlisted in the Army to see the world, and while touring the Pacific Rim nations throughout the 1920s, they became proficient gamblers. Returning to the states just in time for Prohibition, Ace parlayed his winnings into a successful bootlegging business in Hollywood.
In a published 2002 interview, Ace's son Everett said when the police "needed to make a raid," his dad would "have his boys leave an old car with a few cases of cheap booze in it, so the cops could report that they had raided Ace Cain's."
The 1930s brought Ace a wife, Beatress "Skeeter" Willys, as well as a second profession. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 240 pounds, Ace made the ideal on-screen "heavy" for the poverty row movie producers who were buying his hooch.
But the passage of the 21st amendment in December 1933 killed his bottle trade, and by 1937 his fleeting film career was over. Producer Ray Kirkwood, who cast him in several Westerns, quit the business in 1936; Cain made his last screen appearance in an early Sam Katzman feature the next year.
Cain stuck with what he knew. He opened a new — and legal — watering hole, Ace Cain's Café, within spitting distance of 20th Century Fox studios. "It was complete with live floor shows featuring scantily clad chorus girls, singing waiters, jugglers, acrobats, animal acts and the works," Everett Cain remembered. Ace's brother Jim owned a liquor store next door.
By the mid-1940s, Ace moved his operation to 1369 N. Western Ave. (corner DeLongpre) in Hollywood, where his club was named simply "Ace Cain's." It was rebranded "The New Ace Cain's" when it went topless in about 1946.
Ace's son remembered that business slowed after World War II, so Ace sold his Western Avenue property to the federal government for a post office. He then opened a liquor store and hotel in Santa Monica, but they were short-lived.
He would make one more move.
The Rocky Springs Country Club was located at 27009 Sand Canyon Road, at the northwest corner of Sand and Sultus Street, on what apparently had been vacant land. L.A. County Assessor records indicate Cain built the main, 2,976-square-foot structure on the 2.19-acre parcel in 1953. (See parcel map). Cain filed articles of incorporation for Rocky Springs Country Club on Feb. 18, 1955. He also made his home in the canyon.
"His club achieved a dubious reputation during his remaining years because of the 'very friendly' women — ex-models, ex-show girls, etc. — (who) frequented his establishment," his son said in 2002.
We've forgotten whether Cain's "resort," as he called it, or "Ace Cain's," as others called it, had already shut down by the time he died May 18, 1973. In any event, VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 6885 bought the property and remained there for about 20 years until a dispute with the Sand Canyon Homeowners Association over excessive noise, "overnight camping" and the lack of an operating permit compelled the Santa Clarita City Council to order the veterans out. A Superior Court judge upheld the decision. In 1993 the VFW sold the property for $295,000 and the building was converted to a 3-plus-3 residence. The group moved to a 2.25-acre property that it purchased for about $200,000 at 16208 Sierra Highway, just up the street from the valley's other foreign-war veterans, VFW Post 6110.
As for Ace Cain, he rests at Eternal Valley Cemetery in Newhall.
LW3039: 9600 dpi jpeg from digital image of original shot glass purchased 2017 by Leon Worden.