The Drift Inn (originally spelled Drift In) was built in 1929 with wood brought down the beach from Toledo. Guy Freehouse owned the place and so it was usually just referred to as “Guy’s Place.” During prohibition, the bar downstairs "shut down" and became an "ice cream parlor." Upstairs, though, one could still drink, dance, and play cards. It was also the center of the community, had pot-lucks, and was the place to bring elk and deer to be cured.
Lester Blair bought the establishment in the 1960s and named it the Drift In. continued the partying and flaunting of laws. Draft beer was 35¢, wine or a game of pool was ¢50, and the only food sold was pepperoni sticks and Snickers bars. Lester allowed people to open a tab that was often not paid for months, years. Or never. He had four black accounting books, almost all full of debts owed to him.
Lester was an amateur boxer, and in the early years, there was a boxing ring upstairs where he encouraged fellows to "work out their differences." If anyone tried to interfere, Lester would get in their face and tell them to back off. He loved a good fight. He also loved women. And they loved his sweet pink powder room.
Lester left home at 14 and worked at a mill during the day, and ran the Drift at night. He became the father that many boys lost, forgot, or never had. He was a hard-drinking, hard-working, tough SOB who provided a community living room for young boys to grow into men. He stood up for them, expected them to stand up for themselves, to honor women, and forgave them their frailties.
The Drift was scary to many. Some would cross the street rather than walk past it. Smoke billowed from the door when it opened, and when you looked through the cracked-wavy glass window, the place was dark, hazy, and smelled terrible. It was the infernal boys club. Though women came too. Some of the boys resented it when Lester would insist everyone curtail cussing around women.
Lester's customers included great pool players, people from every walk of life, hippies, rednecks, suits, rich, and poor. It was tantalizing, cobwebby, and simple with textures of lives that belied the surroundings. It was a place that left no one untouched who dared go in. It was magical, an amazing display and acceptance of humanity.
According to Ken Keseys' family, Kesey wrote "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" while hanging out at the Drift, and that the Drift was the backdrop and inspiration for the book.
Lester "lost" the business when OLCC shut down him for serving alcohol to a minor. The OLCC gave him a choice: pay the fine and stay open or don't pay the fine and don't serve alcohol for 30 days. Lester chose neither and sold the business to his closest friend and confidant and kept running it himself.
In 1999, after Lester had mini-strokes and couldn't remember if customers had paid him, his brother and niece took him to live with them. He died a few months later. They found $20,000 in quarters in the trunk of his red sedan which had always been parked in front of the Drift. Most of the money Lester made was from the pool tables.
Linda Hetzler and Gary Thomas bought the Drift Inn for $75,000 in March of 2000. The building was in terrible shape, the floor was rotten, the walls were falling down, the roof sagged, the electrical work was dangerous, the plumbing leaked, there had been a fire upstairs a few years prior, and there were legal questions about whether the place could even be reopened. Many in town wanted it closed forever.
People wrote letters about how the place was a business of "Ill Repute" and that people who frequented it had pooped, peed, and smoked pot on neighboring property. As Linda once said, "Ha, they didn't even know the half of it. But it wasn't my place to tell them. This was a historical landmark!"
The city told Linda and Gary that for the Drift to maintain its grandfather clause, it had to reopen in that year.
They hired contractors, builders, roofers, painters, woodworkers, most of whom had frequented Lester's Drift, poured their heart and soul into making the new Drift Inn beautiful, and had their grand reopening party on Halloween 2000.
As businesses and buildings came up for sale, Hetzler bought them until she owned the entire block, including the Yachats Mercantile, what had been the Yachats Clinic, and what had been the Suds R Us Laundromat.
In 2019, unable to find people to regularly service the washing machines in the laundromat, she turned the downstairs into an art gallery and the upstairs into hotel rooms.
Burd and Joni Bicksler purchased the laundromat in 1996 from Fank and Virginia Leichleiter. The Bicksler's also owned the Burd's Nest Inn Bed and Breakfast that is less than a mile away on the Yachats River Road. Their B&B is easily identifiable due to the roof with ten different colors of tiles.
MORE INFO TO BE ADDED LATER
The Drift In a.k.a. Guy's Place
The Drift In a.k.a. Lester's
The Drift Inn
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