Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part feature on central Kenai Peninsula businesses that put their names on the line. Each of these establishments were named for their owners, were in business roughly 50 years ago, and no longer exist under the same name or at all. The first part of this feature appeared last week.
By Clark Fair
Photo courtesy of KPC Anthropology Lab. Eadie Sutton was an exotic dancer who came to Kenai in the early 1950s to create the Last Frontier Dine and Dance Club in North Kenai. Despite controversy, her establishment lasted for more than three decades. Here, as Eadie Henderson, she is seen in her leopard-skin coat fraternizing with some of the regulars in Kenai Joe’s bar.
Once of the most famous “name establishments” on the central Kenai Peninsula was not originally known by the name of its owner. The Last Frontier Dine & Dance Club, which opened its doors in North Kenai in May 1952, remained in operation for more than three decades but was rarely called anything but “Eadie’s,” for its owner and main hostess, the colorful and occasionally controversial Eadie Sutton.
Even the briefest glimpse into her history reveals how her fiercely independent spirit and the toughness of her character made her first name more recognizable than the actual title of her club.
Born on April 18, 1926, to a Russian-Jewish mother and a Greek father, Eitha Chenlikas ran away at age 13 from a hardscrabble, Depression-era home in Youngstown, Ohio, but she didn’t run far. At age 14 she created her stage name of Eadie Sutton and got her first job, dancing striptease, in a Youngstown burlesque club.
Over the next few years, Sutton parlayed this “career” into a series of opportunities. Married briefly at age 15, she traveled to and danced in Florida, Panama, Los Angeles, and finally north to Alaska.
In 1946, at the age of 20, she arrived in Anchorage and immediately secured a dancing gig. She entertained in Anchorage clubs, then in Fairbanks and back in Anchorage, when she heard that a military base was going to be constructed near the fishing village of Kenai, so she moved there and paid $8,500 for a 300-by-400-foot lot near the entrance of what would become Wildwood Station.
In the years that followed, she and the Last Frontier Dine and Dance Club, called Eadie’s Frontier Club in newspaper ads of the late 1960s, benefited from the money and men rife in an area that became known for its salmon, its soldiers and its oilfield workers.
Although her two-story business (strip joint and bar downstairs, hotel upstairs) was often decried as a brothel, Sutton was defiant: “They still haven’t proven anything when it comes down to it,” she said in a 1986 interview. “I’m not admitting it; all I’m saying is that people have had a good time here and enjoyed themselves immensely. People may have come in as strangers, but they always left as friends.”
Beyond her first brief marriage, Sutton wed at least three more times, becoming Eadie Randall, Eadie Zummert and Eadie Henderson, but, despite the sign out by the highway, her place of business never stopped being just “Eadie’s.”
Eadie died in January 2000, and the building that for so long housed her club is now home to a church.
Most of the other 1950s- and ’60s-era businesses named for their owners actually had the names on the building. Some of the other now-defunct establishments (with some assorted details) are: Continue reading