In 1973 when I was in the scouts most dad's would take the troop hiking or something woodsy for scout trips. My dad took us 'trespassing' at Shawanga after the hotel closed. Out of all the trips, it’s probably the only one the kids remember.
The main doors were locked and the handles chained, but you could go down the side entrance to the lower lobby (the side next to Holiday Inn) and climb in through the window to the guest laundry room, then run around to the side door to the lower lobby and open it for the rest. One particular time after walking around the lobby, dining room, kitchen, guest room floors (looking for the old fashion cash register in one of the closets) and office in the main building, dad said it was time to go home. I said I was going to go to the back office and grab a box of brochures, dad said not to, we will come back another day. I didn’t listen, ran to the back office, grabbed a box and then caught up with them. Three days later the hotel was burned. He was so happy I took the brochures.
I say ‘was burned’ because the water tower, which also ran the sprinkler system, was drained. What a shame, there was so much history in that building. So many interesting things dating back to the 1930’s. Dad never showed it, but I knew he was deeply hurt when the building burned, he used to say he knew every pipe, valve and wire in that hotel. Not an exaggeration.
Back then we never thought too much about taking pictures….
George Paradice told me a story about a guest who was a 'show-off and loud mouth' who was complaining in a loud voice in order to attract attention. He was waving a piece of paper that he had a complimentary ‘choice’ room for the weekend and that he didn’t like the view, it was not a choice room, he said. Dad said ‘it’s a choice room, my choice’ and walked away.
That reminds me of an incident at the Raleigh. I was a bellhop and it was a full house checking in and out on a Sunday. In other words, it was busy. I was taking a cart out the front and overheard a guest complaining loudly. I went over to investigate and hid behind a column and saw dad standing calmly with his hands folded listening. Apparently the guest’s car was scratched in the parking lot. He finally said, well, what are you going to do about it? Dad said, it could have been worse. The guest said, what do you mean it could have been worse? Dad said it could have been my car and walked away. The guest just stood there stunned.
I asked dad later about that and he said guests often claim stuff happened their car that already existed in order to get the hotel to pay for it.
Another incident at the Raleigh dad told me about, was a guest, who said all four tires on his car were stolen and his car was on crates. Dad said, are you sure you didn’t drive it here that way? The hotel bought him new tires, but the humor diffused the situation.
At the Raleigh there were a few rooms on the first floor main building, that faced the vents to the kitchen. When I brought guests there as a bellhop, I would go in ahead and close the curtains. Dad said those rooms were a problem, especially when the hotel was full and there was no place to move them. From time to time a guest going to one of those rooms would ask dad how the view was before they went up. Dad would say with a smile, the truth, really bad you won’t like it. They thought he was kidding, but when they got to the room, they said, he was right and often did not complain.
The day after the fire, Dad drove up to the hotel to have a look. Then drove to Tony Pernice’s house, who was head of maintenance. Tony lived about two miles up the road, they were good friends. He quickly realized that Tony did not know there was a fire. Keep in mind, you could see the flames past Middletown and a there was a lot of noise from the sirens. So dad said to Tony, they are having a problem with one of the pipes leaking and can’t find the valve. Tony didn’t want to go over and fix it but dad convinced him. Needless to say, he was shocked and saddened.
My Aunt Naomi, Dad's sister, told me a story from when she was about 5yrs old:
They had two rooms on the first floor, 127 and 128 (middle of the building on the north side, same side as Panorama if it was built) with an ajoining bathoom (Grandma Dan had room 122). She said that one morning she woke up to singing, she looked out the window and saw the waiters wearing their uniforms of white jackets arm and arm marching from the staff quarters to the kitchen in the back of the hotel. She later realized why they were so joyfull, news just arrived that we had won the war (WW2). Probably VJ day, since it was in August. She also said that there was a garden on that side of the buidling and that Abby and his twin brother Lewis would ride their tricycles in that area and she could watch them from the room window.
Aunt Naomi also said that the hotel had a victory garden, but did not know where it was.
We had many first and second cousins who stayed at the hotel all summer or for long durations. Some of the parents of the cousins worked at the hotel. We were all very close because we played together and ate together. In fact we had our own table in the children's dining room which we kept as an exclusive table, the same was true for play. In our defence, we had enough cousins to fill an entire table.
On rainy days, one game we might play was hide and seek:
When you walked down the stairs by the elevator, you came out in the lower lobby. If you looked across, you would see the teen room and dance room. We used to play hide and seek in those rooms. When you closed the door, it was so dark that you could hide by standing in the middle of the room quietly in one place and not be found. You could also stand up on the shelf above the walled seating.
During the later years, a rock band would play in the large area of the lower lobby (where the shuffleboard and ping pong tables were. I recall one time that the lead singer of one of the bands wanted my cousin and I to go on the stage and sing. She was asking us during the day. Later in the day when they were playing, we showed up, she called us up onto the stage, we went up but clammed up and didn't sing. We just stood there... We were 9 years old at the time.
Dad told me this story only when I was older. After the show, Dad and Alvin would have work to do that sometimes kept them up until 3am. One night after razzing their cousin Alan Dan it somehow turned into a water gun fight from their car windows while driving. They tore up the baseball field. The next morning they got an earfull from Sam Dan and Ed Alass (Mae Dan's husband).
Sam Dan and Ed Atlas retired in the early 60's and Dad and Uncle Alvin took over. Sam and Ed had not put a lot back into the hotel over the years and many of the rooms were old fasion.
Mom told me that she and dad stayed at the hotel during the construction, winter of '57. The hotel was only open during the summer, the cottages had no heat and above ground piping. Only the public rooms in the main building had heat. They had a space heater in their cottage, no insulation in the walls and no running water, in fact they had a bucket of water to flush the toilet. She said they probably had to drive home on the weekends to bathe. There is a picture of mom with child, debie, in front of the main building in the contruction pictures.
On rainy days I would play in Dad's office. He had so many interesting things in his closet and desk. I found a water gun in his desk, when I asked why he had it, he said that the rooms in the main building could be locked from the inside and that sometimes a kid would lock themselves in at night and fall asleep. When the parents came back to the room, they could not get in. The rooms had a transom window, so dad would get a chair, open the transom window and squirt the kid top wake them up and unlock the door.
Dad liked to save things, in 2016 when we emptied the trunk of his car, we found some old overalls. We figured out what they were for. The pilot light for boiler in Holiday in would often go out and the front desk would get calls that there was no hot water. If this happened in the evening, Dad would have to fix it because the maintenance staff had aready gone home. He told me it would happen sometimes when he had his suit and tie on and he would a get call while in the main dining room. He would put the overalls over his suit, go under the buidling on his hands and knees on the dirt floor crawl space, light the pilot, then go back to dinner.
The pipes for the cottages were all above ground. My cousin Mark and I would sometimes go behind some cottages when the guests were showering for dinner and slowly turn the hot and cold water higher and lower. I told Dad many years later. Good thing we didn't do it too much.
On Rainy days a screen and projector was set up in the lobby in the corner by the teen dining room. Dad loved the movie Mackenna's Gold and we saw it many many many times.
In 1970’s dad took home an industrial sized roll of aluminum foil from the kitchen home. Mom finally finished the roll around 2015.
I met with George Paradice (bartender from the 60's until the hotel closed, see his picture in 'Guests, Senior groups') at the Villa Roma and he told me that in the 60's the hotel was so packed and popular that people actually paid to sleep in the attic. Years of wondering why there were matresses in the attic and slugs (fake quarters) plus the sign over the door to the attic and coupola on the 3rd floor said Ritz on the top of the door casing was answered. We used to dig around in the attic looking for slugs so we could play the pinball machines. The attic was not a very nice place to sleep (the floor was solid though).
Dad tought Julia the following which was something from the 40's (I never knew what it was about):
For girls who don't cry and boys with no fear
We all say
Hes ti dah pes ti dah