Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Old Hotel

Since it is Halloween week, I'm going to tell you a little story.

When I was a girl, my dad's first shop was on the downtown square of our small, midwestern town. The red-brick building had once been a hotel.

He displayed televisions for sale on the main floor (the old hotel lobby) and had a shop in the back where he worked on TVs and kept electrical supplies. My mom answered the phones, assisted with sales and handled the books, so we walked there after school.

The first floor didn't hold much interest for my sister, brother and me. But the second floor was more intriguing. Hotel rooms were located on that floor and they were still furnished!! It was at once creepy and fun to be up there, amongst the 1930s-1950s decor.

Many of the rooms were completely set up, as if expecting a guest at any moment. However, the rooms had been abandoned for so long, there was a thick layer of dust on everything. Sometimes, the crumbling drapes in a room were closed and we had to turn on a lamp to see. Other rooms had drapes and sheers pulled back and thin late-afternoon sunlight streamed in through the wavy, dust-caked windows.

The furniture was unique in each room some with iron headboards, some with wooden, and some more recent ones that were white-vinyl covered and quilted with brass tacks. I think it was never a particularly elegant hotel, but I believe it must once have been a good, comfortable place to stay.

We played hide and seek, running through the maze of hallways, tromping on faded, flowered carpets that lined the creaking floors. It was quite a thrilling thing to come around a corner and see a long hallway lined with doorways, and wonder if a sibling (or a ghostly someone else???) might jump out at you as you moved along the wall. Can you say "redrum"?

Sometimes, we would scare ourselves to death. We'd hear a spooky noise or see an erie shadow and come skidding and scrambling down the stairs and back into the land of the living. Mom was not amused, especially when there was a customer in the store.

A child's imagination is a powerful thing and I can tell you I nearly jumped out of my Mary-Janes more than once up there.

There had been a cafe at one point, too, and there were stacks of restaurant ware and kitchen equipment heaped on the furniture in one room: plates and bowls, coffee cups and saucers, mustard and ketchup squeeze bottles. We often played restaurant, serving imaginary meals and crooking our pinkies up to sip imaginary coffee from the old cups. That is, until a chill would run up someone's spine, and we'd all go screaming and tripping down the stairs again.

I loved all those dishes and I think this was where I first fell for restaurant ware. I have collected a few pieces and about 8 years ago, we purchased a set of new Buffalo china, which we use every day. Yes, they still make it!

Feeling nostalgic today, I searched out some vintage restaurant ware, especially the Buffalo china. I will share what I found with you in the next post.

But, back to the story. The business thrived and Dad and Mom later moved the store to a better spot. It was modern, spacious and well-lighted. All very nice for the adults, but, we kids never quite accepted the new place. There were no shadowy corners or dark hallways to poke around in and worst of all, not even one tiny, spine-tingling chill in the whole place.

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