at Bluffton
1908 - 1938

Buster Keaton
and the
Muskegon Connection

Pascoe's Place

Frank "Bullhead" Pascoe Simpson
Born:   March 24, 1873
Hillsdale, MI
Died:  February 1, 1949
Muskegon MI
Minnie Mathilda Woycke
Born:   1879
Died: Unknown
Frank H. Simpson
Born:   1905
Died:  November 21, 1943, Muskegon, MI
Buster Keaton at Pascoes in Muskegon 
Comedian Buster Keaton visits Pascoe's Place in 1949
     In November of 1905, Frank "Pascoe" Simpson, a laborer in the local lumber mills, purchased the small French Mission church at Bluffton, and announced his plans to open a resort hotel on the site.  Instead, the idea evolved into Pascoe's Place, an unpretentious tavern and a Bluffton landmark until it's demise in 1960. 
     The original two-story building was moved to the Wilcox site from a location on the hill behind the Linderman Machine Co. on Lakeshore Drive (later, the home of the Norge Machine Products division of Borg-Warner Corp).  In later years, Simpson added a single floor dining area to the original structure.  Simpson and his wife lived in the apartment above the restaurant.
     In the city of Muskegon, Pascoe's was the place to go for perch.  A big, kindly man, Frank ruled the place with a firm hand.  He "fried succulent perch with perfection. His method, which involved having deep fat at just the right temperature, was never equaled."
Frank Bullhead Pascoe
Bullhead Pascoe
Pop Millard, Ed Gray and Joe Keaton at Pascoe's.
     When Bluffton was home to the Actors' Colony, the tavern served as the unofficial headquarters and post office for many of the area residents. Drawings  by Colony member William "Mush" Rawls decorated the walls of the place.  A nickel beer was the most popular drink, and upon occasion, Max Gruber's elephant, Minnie, was dispatched to taxi a patron home when they had too much.
Located on the main road to Lake Michigan Park, the restaurant and tavern remained popular with local residents and tourists throughout the twenties and thirties. But, with the death of his only son in 1943, Pascoe prepared for retirement. The establishment was sold to Martin and Marcella Bowen in 1944, and reopened after some remodeling. In 1949, Buster Keaton stopped by for some perch and a beer, during a visit to Muskegon and his old stomping grounds. 
Inside Pascoe's Place

Minnie and Frank in later years. 
     The little tavern ran into some difficulty in 1955, when the Muskegon Board of Education built an elementary school next door. However, despite a state law that said a tavern may not be within 500 feet of a school, Pascoe's Place was grandfathered, and survived.  Ultimately, a change in the traffic route to Lake Michigan Park (now known as Pere Marquette Park, or the Ovals) brought the sale of the restaurant to the Board of Education.  The site was cleared in 1960 to expand parking at the school, known as Bluffton Elementary.
Buster Keaton, on the steps of Pascoe's in 1949.
Post Cards to Bullhead Pascoe sent by Joe Keaton from the road.

Special thanks to Jerry for the images of the post cards and to Susan for Lake Muskegon's Liar!