The establishment of the Gold Coin

Charles Greenamyer leased the building from John Trabucco and opened the Gold Coin Club in the south half of the Fremont Adobe complex. The name for the club came from a Greenamyer family-owned mine located west of Bagby in Mariposa County. It is rumored that much of the capital used to establish the original Gold Coin Bar came from the Gold Coin Mine—and is how the saloon got its name.

Greenamyer brought Don Turner into the Gold Coin saloon as a partner. The remodeling of the Fremont Adobe building for this purpose was significant in that only the south half of the main building, and the back three-story portion, plus the added building in the back, were involved. The exterior was stuccoed, with cathedral arches installed over the front door and window and the ceiling coved and painted in the Art Deco style of the time. The hotel rooms in the back of the building complex were converted into a dining room with the downstairs, or basement rooms, becoming card rooms.

Early gambling

Gambling became the popular attraction at the “Coin” during this period. Card tables, slot machines and punch cards were all available. During that time, Coin partner Don Turner was married to the daughter of Sheriff John Castagnetto. There was a casual attitude throughout the Mother Lode toward gambling; while the Gold Coin was the center of activity in Mariposa, punch cards and slot machines could be found at the Bear Creek Lodge in Midpines and the Jeffery Hotel in Coulterville; punch cards were even available at the Mariposa Drug Company in downtown Mariposa.

It was only after World War II that the State of California insisted on the end of gambling and, after the death of Sheriff Castagnetto, the new Sheriff, O.M. Whitley, instituted a local program to end machine and punch card gambling in Mariposa County. Card games continued at the Gold Coin, however, until the early 1960s. Whitley was a well-liked and respected sheriff who gently but resolutely moved the slot machines to the County dump.

Eighteen-year-old Ed “Baggy” Greenamyer was a card dealer. He recalled the various local gentlemen who frequented the tables. After gambling was shut down, the same gentlemen continued their habits at private homes throughout town. Many of them were town leaders, merchants and ranchers.

The Gold Coin dining tradition

The dining room of the original Gold Coin was noted for its steak dinners. There was a private entrance to the dining room so that families would not have to pass through the bar. The bar, however, could be noisy and fun even during the years of the Great Depression. The Gold Coin Café was added to the original building around 1949, and was a favorite local eating place until the Fremont Adobe Building was closed in the late 1980s. The Gold Café also served meals to the “temporary” residents of the old Mariposa Jail, just up the hill, for many years. Many old-timers remember the County jailer marching the prisoners down the hill for their meals at the Café.

Leroy Radanovich