Press "Enter" to skip to content
Hollie Shotwell, co-owner (Back Right), visits regulars at The Joint, which include Raymond Kelso, the late Max Hess, Tex Whitson, and Dianne Foucher. / Laura Austin File Photo

The Joint, Randsburg serving up hospitality since 1955

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer–    The Joint, Randsburg, will be a hub during Old West Day all day tomorrow, September 16. They set up a bandstand next door and keep the music going. The streets will be filled with food, beverage, and goods vendors. Entertainers of all kinds will be on hand. Feel free to wear your Old West costumes and boots for dancing on a dirt floor.

Folks today know The Joint to be a friendly saloon with a long history of family ownership. When it was time to pass the baton, Neal Shotwell, Jr. and his wife Hollie were considered the best to carry on the family legacy. “Our motto is when you walk in the door, we say, ‘Welcome home,’” says Shotwell.

As it is with all of the buildings in this Living Ghost Town, The Joint has a long history. It wasn’t always a saloon. The building was built in the early 1900s, with the first business recorded as Steam Bakery in 1905 by Henry Rott. In 1907, Mrs. H.O. Lidy purchased a half interest and at some point, it was named Randsburg Bakery. It was subsequently The Rand Cafe and Bar and then McMurrays until it was sold to Ray and Olga Angelina Shotwell Guyett.

In the back corner is a horseshoe-shaped red Naugahyde upholstered bench and table. “I’ve always called it the doctor’s booth because an old doctor out of Ridgecrest used to come up there during the heyday. He’d sit here and all the locals come to him for their ailments,” says Shotwell, who prefers to do his business at this table. “I’ve always just called that the doctor’s table or the kids’ table.” It is the kids’ table because when Shotwell was a kid, running around and helping, he was only allowed to sit back there at closing time. Lots of business, other than doctoring, has taken place at that table, including real estate transactions, car deals, and gold weighed, traded and bought.

The Joint is a hub year-round, not just during Old West Day (it was once a two-day event called Old West Days). Their regular open days are Thursday through Sunday, but they open on Monday holidays, and during November, they sometimes stay open seven days a week for two weeks except on Thanksgiving Day. “Sometimes we show up a little later and sometimes we close a little earlier.” Thursday nights are unofficial town meetings where local stuff can be discussed. “It’s always been locals, Locals Night Pool, a potluck pool day. The old timers shoot pool for bragging rights, and they’ve been doing it for years. Thursday afternoons and Thursdays are usually busier than Fridays,” he says. The Joint frequently hosts local bands to entertain on weekends.

Old West Day launches the season for the town and it lasts until the end of May until it gets too hot.  “The desert is surrounded by little campgrounds. People from all over the United States drive out here and camp out. They love the off-roading.” This is their major industry: “Since big mining went under years ago.” As an aside, he adds, “You think with the price of gold it would kick back up more; but, will we survive off of the Harley guys and off-roaders.”

The summer also pulls in some tourism, “A lot of people want to fry an egg in Death Valley and they want to visit these little ghost towns and they come in here and go back in time. It’s like a museum. Everything’s original.” The Joint has had a few minor changes, “But, what you see is what you see. It’s got duct tape on the chairs and got the old bar that’s original. When I clear-coated the bar, a buddy helped me out. I said, ‘Don’t sand off one cigarette burn off this bar because that’s history there.’ Behind the bar, you see these long cigarette burns on the back bar where my grandpa had his Pall Malls and just left them burning next to his gold scale.

“If it weren’t for tourism, we’d be dead. We’d be like Bode.” There are some real problems they are working to solve. The Rand Water District put a locked gate across the historical road from Johannesburg to Randsburg. Now, riders have to go the long way around to reach town without going on paved highways. Shotwell knows that small businesses would really struggle to survive without off-road access. It seems the Bureau of Land Management is on their side, so hopefully, there will be a resolution soon.

Shotwell rounds out some of the known facts about the building. “One section of the building is all eight-inch Adobe that was put in originally for a German steam bakery. And everybody knows that Germans are pretty smart. Steam is very efficient—lack of water, lack of fuel. Water can go a long way if you pressure cook and steam bake.

“My grandpa came up here right after World War II. He was a big Irish guy and a Hard Rock miner trying to find gold after the war. He was a decorated United States corpsman. His last tour of duty was at Iwo Jima. He was tough. He and his brother came up here to find gold.

“My grandma came up here to work for her brothers, the Rizzardini family. They had one of the first Economy Markets. They sold anywhere from dynamite, salted pork, beef, and fresh vegetables. That’s how my grandma and grandpa met. Then, right before the Korean War, Asia cut off tungsten. Tungsten is the highest temperature-rated metal there is in the world. It’s used for artillery, aircraft mining, drilling, and all kinds of stuff.  So they needed tungsten. So my grandpa knew right where to go. Anywhere you can find silver, you find tungsten. So with one claim that he sold, Anatolia, an excellent big silver mine, the money from that claim he used to buy this place. He named it The Joint in 1955.

“It was the Rand Cafe just prior to that. There used to be a grill and he was the cook. He was a Navy guy. My grandma cooked but that was his thing.  He had a card room in the back and got accused of bootlegging. Anybody that survived that kind of trauma and war and hard rock mining and running a bar, there’s always somebody pushing them around. He wasn’t scared of anybody and he treated women with respect.

“He died in 1968.” Grandpa got rid of the kitchen and added pool tables, a player piano, and a jukebox so it would be trouble-free for his wife when he was gone. “My grandma ran it from 68 till 2012. She was two months shy of 101. When she hit about 98 years old we all kind of had to step in because she started getting a little dementia and but up until she was 98 years old, she walked to work every day. She never drove a car. She never had a credit card. She didn’t drink. She didn’t smoke. If you cussed in the bar, she’d throw you out.”

Shotwell was born in Ridgecrest. He moved away, went to school and came back in 1987. He tells us, “When I was a little kid growing up in here, we got to empty ashtrays, take out the trash. And then she’d make us Shirley Temples and Roy Rogers. Where we are sitting (the red horseshoe-shaped bench) was where the kids sat at night. We got to shoot pool and we ran around like desert boys.. And throughout the years, I just always was up here helping my grandma. I knew it was a money pit when I took over.”

Neil and Hollie will continue doing all they can to keep this Living Ghost Town alive and available for all to enjoy. Neil credits Hollie for a lot of the effort in planning Old West Day and James and Kristen Bell of Bells and Whistles for bringing onto the stage and helping organize.

Last week’s News Review can be found online at You can read about Old West Day and the bands that will be playing. Apologies to Bryan Callende and Donnie Pryor for misspelling their names. The Pryor family moved to Randsburg in 1943, not the 1920s.