We never intended to go looking for a ghost town but standing at the crossroads in Uhland I find myself in a place that appears to be totally uninhabited. One of the last outposts, something profound that easily goes by unnoticed if you don’t know to look behind the ragged façade of the old buildings.

With the construction of I-35, the old highway 21 lost its former glory and haven’t got the attention or maintenance it should. Even so, the slumbering village of Uhland is still here. The oldest building were constructed in 1893 and were added to 19 years later with an element that were used as part basketball hall for the Uhland school kids and part dance hall for the music loving locals. The sound of bouncing basket balls stopped with the construction of the new interstate but the love and need for dancing to country music didn’t.

Driving north on highway 21 it’s easy to miss to slow down and take to the right in between the old faded wooden building that was once the post office and the rusty tin barn that nowadays shelter old cars waiting for someone to fix ’em up or take them to a new home. Behind the barn, facing the old highway, sits a few classic rides for sale with grass growing tall and wild around them. The sky is stacked with grey clouds and the temperature is close to freezing. The once so lively main street is now deserted and the few remaining buildings are in various degree of decay. This ain’t a place you just stumble upon even if the sign above the entrance to the honky-tonk clearly declares: Club 21.

A small crooked wooden house lies behind the old tin barn and the yard is filled with miscellaneous debris like rusty old tractors, engines, tires and hunting trophies. All of it scattered around and exposed to rain and shine, slowly withering away. To some people a romantic setting to other a livelihood. The damp cold makes it self present and literally penetrates the bones so I take refuge inside the dancehall. The large bar that extends along the long side of this windowless dark room is completely empty of guests. I order a beer and take a seat in the corner next to the heater with an attempt to get my circulation going. The owner is busy preparing for the evening, refilling with fresh beer barrels, bottles and snacks. We talk a bit and he doesn’t hesitate to open the doors to the dance hall and asks me to feel at home and to please take a spin to check out the premises.

Behind a pair of wooden doors on creaking hinges and with peeling paint, I find the dance floor and the stage. The air is still and raw and my breath hovers around the room like an unblessed spirit. The wooden beams are laid bare stretching towards the sky and the ceiling height increases by fifteen or sixteen feet up towards the cam. On top of it all sits three fans in open air. In addition to the well-worn dance floor are a number of booths whose upper floors serve as a VIP shelf according to 1930 standards. The dimly lit rooms are a difficult forced maze of small spaces and nooks. Here you’ll find all the vital ingredients for a thriving honky-tonk such as jukebox, pool tables and a stage for the orchestra.

The bar has, with the right number of bartenders, the capacity to hold a fairly big crowd of country music heads busy. However, I ‘m more doubtful that the minimal kitchen, located in a corner by the bar, can provide burgers or other dishes on any greater scale. But people don’t come here mainly for the food. They come here to dance and listen to music, meet like-minded people and have a talk over a few beers. I notice the walls are so thin I can hear the lowing of the cows in the pasture behind the honky-tonk and I decide to take another look at the exteriors. Out front I’m again met by a drizzle and the compact grey sky. There’s a dense haze over the tree tops and it’s still chilly. I stroll along the old main street down towards Plum Creek.

On August 4, 1840, hundreds of Comanche Indians poured down east from the Hill Country in a raid that later was to take them all the way down to the Gulf Coast. They crossed Plum Creek right where I’m standing now. The raid was an act of revenge for the despicable attack the Texas militia had carried out against a peace mission down in San Antonio the year before. The Indians suffered a disastrous defeat here at Plum Creek. Today it’s difficult to imagine any activity on a larger scale here. It’s a sleepy little place, dead quiet and still. I look toward the ruminant livestock in the sprinkle and start thinking about the living situation for the farmers around here. It can’t be easy fighting the big producers or fight against cheap meat from countries such as Argentina. Life as a farmer ain’t never been easy. Crop failure, drought, disease, and Indian raids have required tough men and women to survive out here. One can easily understand why places like Club 21 has been, and still is, important recreational spots for people living in this part of the world.

I stroll back towards the crossroads passing the front porch of the dancehall and continue up to the former post office. The building is now being used as storage for old neon signs. I take a peep through a dusty window and get a glimpse of real works of art made with solid craftsmanship. Beautiful signs telling the stories of old motels, bowling alleys and burger restaurants. With their once futuristic designs, bearing a witness of the incredible confidence in the 50’s, the signs are solidly packed into the spacious room. Some of the artwork’s to big to fit in the room so they’re stacked outside against the building’s long side. Around the corner stands a sign shaped like a giant sombrero begging me to remember Don Rodrigo’s Tex-Mex restaurant.

The entire crossroads gives you the feeling of being at a place where time stopped a long time ago. But time never really did stop here. It was the world outside that just kept rushing on in an increasing tempo, as a long way from the memories and traditions of the hard old times it ever could.

Note: Club 21 burned to the ground on October 24th 2010 and is currently not being rebuilt.

Posted by:C.C. Ekstrom and Olle Florstam

In 2009, photographer C.C. Ekström and writer Olle Florstam set out a collaboration under the label of AOG to capture the spirit of Texas honky-tonks. On their journeys together they have soaked up atmosphere, swirled in saw dust and spilt out beer at more honky-tonks then they could ever dream of.

7 thoughts on “ Club 21, Uhland, TX ”

    1. Hi Karen!
      Thank’s for visiting our page. Club 21 is located north east of New Braunfels, If you’re into Honky-Tonks you should pay it a visit. But since you found it trough our site i think you already have…

      Hope to hear from you again.
      /C Photographer

  1. In case you hadn’t heard, Club 21 burned to the ground on October 24, 2010 really early in the morning. Two cars struck the bar in the kitchen area and it torched the place. It was a very sad day here in Caldwell County.

    1. Yes we did hear about it. That’s why we decieded to share our humble experience of the place. It’s truly sad what happened, one can only hope that there is some way to restore what was once there and that all other places lika that in Texas get the attention they deserve. We truly admire people like Steve Dean and everyone involved with the Texas Dance Hall preservation Inc.
      / O. Writer

  2. You know club 21 burned down 🙁 really sad

    1. Yes we know. We never made it to any dance and feel really bad about that. Now there’s wildfires all around Texas and many of these old buildings are in danger. We’re pretty worried here at AOG and feel it’s time to get on the road again..

  3. We used to go dance at club 21. I always thought it was so funny that the older couples who showed to dance had reserved tables, but they never sat down. They danced all night long.

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