Evansville, Indiana’s performing arts center Evansville’s Paddy’s Place is one of the last remaining venues left in the city, a few blocks away from a high school.
The venue opened in 1959 and was named for the founder of the restaurant business.
Paddys Place is the only venue in the entire city that has not closed.
That’s largely because of the work of the local community.
The Paddy and his wife, Helen, started the restaurant in 1958, and they’ve been running it ever since.
“They are the people who built the neighborhood,” says Paddy, who has had a lifelong passion for performing arts.
“It’s very hard to put into words how important that is to us.
When they opened, they did it all with the hope that other people would be able to enjoy it.
This is the place for us to continue this tradition.'” “
We were lucky enough to have the community come to us and say, ‘You need this.
This is the place for us to continue this tradition.'”
Paddy started by playing the piano, and he soon became a teacher, performing at schools and colleges.
In 1963, he and Helen began selling their piano store to John F. Kennedy Jr. at the height of the Cold War.
The two have worked together ever since, and today they operate Paddy & Sons, a family-owned restaurant.
They also run the Evansville Community Theatre, a popular show that has been performing for more than 50 years.
“When they first started out, they didn’t have a television, they had no radio,” Paddy says.
“And I didn’t know anything about radio, so I was trying to figure out how I could get a TV.”
That led Paddy to his first big break when he began playing at the local high school and then playing at colleges around the world.
“The way the radio was built in the 1940s and ’50s, they just picked up a little bit of it,” Paddys son, James, says.
That was when Paddy noticed that many people were singing and dancing to a local band called the Dixie Chicks.
He started doing some shows at schools around the country and started performing with them in the 1970s.
“I was the last one on the circuit,” he says.
Paddies son is also a pianist, and the couple started playing regularly on the Paddy Chicks touring, which lasted until 2014.
Thats when the venue’s owner decided to close.
“Paddy was in a state of shock,” says James.
“He was just a happy-go-lucky kid, and this place was his playground.”
Paddy got an offer to run for Congress.
“After he ran for Congress, he came back to work at Evansville and started a company,” James says.
But thats not how things ended up.
“In 1976, he sold PaddyChicks.com,” James explains.
“Now he runs his own company, and we dont have the Paddypacks brand anymore.”
When Paddy opened Paddychicks, the venue became a kind of community center.
“If there was anything that I wanted to do, I just started doing it, and it was like a second career,” PADDY says.
Today, the Evansland Community Theatre still has a big presence, with a small group of performers that can still play on weekends.
“Every Saturday morning we have a band and we get out and play,” James points out.
“Thats a great way to spend time.
But at the end of the day, the main reason we do that is we have families and friends here.”