Junior’s is a restaurant in the basement of the Oil Center Building. Junior’s was opened by legendary Oklahoma City restaurateur Junior Simon in 1973. It soon became an oily hangout and more oil deals were likely consummated there than in any boardroom.
I ate at Junior’s for the first time in 1978, shortly after meeting my second wife Anne. Anne was the accountant for a little oil company that had an office in the Oil Center. She had once worked for Carl Swan, one of Junior’s original partners.
Junior’s, at the time, was a private club as Oklahoma had yet to pass a liquor-by-the-drink law. You were supposed to have your own bottle (with your name on it!) to get a drink at a bar. It was rarely required and you could get a strong drink almost anyplace, at least if someone there knew you. The practice was known as liquor-by-the-wink. You could also get a “roadie” (an alcoholic drink in a plastic go-cup) to tide you over on your trip home.
Junior not only knew every one of his clientele by their first names, he knew the names of their kids, friends, employers or employees. I don’t recall ever seeing him without a smile on his face.
Since Junior’s was a club, Junior billed his members once a month. I had a medium-sized oil company and often took clients there for drinks, and dinner and my monthly bill almost always ran into the thousands. When my oil company went belly up, I owed Junior more than three thousand dollars.
“I’m broke,” I told him. “But I’ll pay you a little every month until I get it whittled down.”
Junior smiled and put an understanding hand on my shoulder. “Eric, I know you will. Just do your best and I’ll understand.”
It took me more than two years to finish paying my Junior’s debt and I felt like a giant weight have been lifted off my soul when Anne and I finally did. Junior didn’t make a big deal about it. He just smiled, nodded and patted me on the shoulder.
I was in Junior’s the night Penn Square Bank went under, just one of my many memories of the super club that would fill a small book. Mostly, I remember Junior Simon – the best restaurateur the State of Oklahoma has ever seen, and a fine gentleman to boot.