Who Was Billy Anyway?
Billy's is named for a Billy who did, in fact, exist in Aberdeen's colorful past. These were times when opportunists flourished and flamboyant operators often controlled the growing towns. In an area teaming with lumbering, fishing and sailing activity around the early part of our century, baby-faced Billy stands out as a figure of considerable notoriety. A man of dashing savoir-faire, Billy was, at first, admired and respected as secretary of the local sailor's union headquartered above the Grand Saloon. Soon, however, Billy began to make up his own rules, directed by a spirit of melodrama and self-serving adventure.
Eventually, mysterious arsons, murders, robberies and shootings were traced to Billy and his overly enthusiastic methods of operation. After a sensational trial, Billy was sent to prison where, we're happy to report, he was a model prisoner. Well, none of us is perfect, folks, and Billy, in his brief but spectacular career, at least gave it his best shot.
Billy G., who occasionally likes to engage in a little social gambling (the money was passed under the able), was very superstitious about the way he ran his business and never varied from his "Lucky 7" house rules. We kind of like them and have adopted them for use today:
- Always serve high quality food and beverages.
- Be generous with the portions.
- Give the fastest, friendliest service in town.
- Operate a lively, but orderly establishment.
- Have a rip-roarin' time every St. Patrick's Day and New Year's Eve.
- Always sell the house liquor at half price on every lucky Friday the 13th.
- Encourage the customers to Share the Luck by offering a toast to Good Health, Good Cheer, Prosperity for All and a round of drinks with the first Royal Flush.
History of the Building
Another Heron Street building with a storied tradition, this one was erected in 1904 as the Crowther-Wooding Building, and was home to the Red Cross Pharmacy until 1933 when it became Evans Drugs from that point until the early '40s. The building's original name has been retained, although alterations have been numberous
Then it was Vann's Tavern for a couple of years. In 1944, it was the Derby Tavern, which existed until 1979. Two years later, it was bought by Sonny Bridges, John Mertz and Brian Kolb, and became Billy's Restaurant. It is still owned by Bridges.
As was typical of many buildings on Heron Street, the upstairs rooms were used for workingmen's housing and professional offices. In the '50s, the fabled Elnora Rooms were located here.
Former Police Capt. Nick Yantsin recalls that upstairs an enraged madam once shot her pimp. The bullethole is still in the wall there today.
The storefront has been extensively altered, but the second story is still intact, exhibiting Romanesque Revival style with detailed semi-circular arched windows and distinctive brick work.
Several businesses formerly occupied the back half of what is now Billy's, facing on G Street, though most of the bottom of that building is still standing.
The earliest occupants were the H.R. Prentice Grocery in 1910-11. Later it housed Henning Henderson's Photo Studio in the mid-'30s. Ted Meissner's Beer Parlor and Stadium Cigar Store in the '40s. It then became Lehmus & Maki Tent & Awning until 1980.