From World War to Star Wars: Bars, Cafés, and Cantinas

Learn how Old Jho's Pit Stop parallels meeting places from our own history.

Season one of Star Wars Rebels introduces us to a new Lothal location: Old Jho’s Pit Stop. This backwater spaceport pub plays host to our Rebel heroes as well as Imperial pilots. A simple cantina, it serves as the jumping off point for important new missions. Just as Jho’s is important to our rebel heroes, bar, cafes, and pubs played an important role for pilots and rebels during World War II.

Service members gather at The Belly Tank bar in Debden, England during World War II.

Service members gather at The Belly Tank bar in Debden, England during World War II.

Old Jho’s Pit Stop, introduced in Star Wars Rebels episode “Empire Day,” is a small cantina in the distant Lothal outpost known commonly as Jhothal. Ithorian proprietor Jho runs the place, and he isn’t particularly a fan of the Empire. Away from Capital City, Old Jho’s is the perfect place for the crew of the Ghost to get a drink, play sabacc, and even look for work.

Old Jho's Pit Stop concept art by Amy Beth Christenson

Old Jho’s Pit Stop concept art by Amy Beth Christenson.

Old Jho’s Pit Stop’s most distinctive feature hangs above the entrance where the forward fuselage and wings from a Clone Wars-era gunship perch. It’s not just any gunship: It’s the Crumb Bomber, the ship used by Obi-Wan Kenobi throughout the Clone Wars. The gunship is named for the World War II-style nose art that adorns the vehicle, portraying Salacious Crumb dropping a bomb. Helmets and other relics of galactic past dot the interior of the saloon, reminding patrons of the wartime history of the galaxy.

During World War II, real-life pilots also looked for reprieve from the combat in airfield watering holes. Throughout England, Allied pilots and crews met in small bars and clubs often built in temporary Nissen huts, the half-round shelters easily constructed during the war. Like Jho’s, these huts were heated by small stoves with stovepipes leading up to the ceiling. One such establishment was the The Belly Tank Bar, an enlisted men’s club at Debden airfield Northeast of London.

The Belly Tank Bar, like so many others across England, was the center of off-duty life for the troops stationed at that airfield. The club was named for the external fuel tanks added to planes to extend their range during missions. Its simple bar counter was painted with the silhouettes of squadron airplanes and the colorful insignia of the units flying out of that airbase. Similar to Star Wars Rebels, service members gathered at the club to play card games or checkers.

The radio was a central feature in The Belly Tank Bar, as it was for service members and civilians throughout the war. Just as Old Jho’s Pit Stop played Imperial propaganda on HoloNet News, aircrews at the Belly Tank were sure to get a fair amount of patriotic spin in their radio news updates.

Imperial propaganda plays in Old Jho's Pit Stop

Imperial propaganda plays in Old Jho’s Pit Stop.

Like Jho’s Pit Stop to our rebel heroes, bars and cafés played an important role to resistance fighters throughout World War II. A favorite public gathering place, particularly in cities in France and Western Europe, cafés sometimes served as a hub for insurgent activity in occupied countries. Resistance members plotted actions, shared intelligence, and recruited new members in the hushed corners of these public spaces. Yet just like the story in Star Wars Rebels, occupying enemy soldiers were also known to stop to check for rebel activity, placing insurgents in very real danger.

Want to learn more about Old Jho’s Pit Stop? Check out Star Wars Rebels episodes “Empire Day” and “Idiots Array,” now available on WATCH DisneyXD.

Cole Horton is a historian featured on StarWars.com, Marvel.com, and Star Wars Celebration. You can find him on Twitter @ColeHorton.

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