Shaken, Not Stirred: Hotel people, part 1.

December 11, 2016
Jim Bond

Jim Bond

Shaken, Not Stirred: Hotel people, part 1.

#ShakenNotStirred.

A blog by Jim Bond.

They are a special breed. A group for whom I have enormous respect.

My initial foray into this unique world arrived shortly after my graduation from high school. It was the summer of 1965, I had just graduated (in the southern tradition) from a prestigious military academy in San Antonio, Texas. My plans included a fun summer of working and partying before entering North Texas State University in Denton, Texas. I was living in glamorous Dallas with my father, who had given me a new car for graduation. I’d mention the make and model but it’s a little embarrassing. Suffice it to say, it was an expensive, iconic American car.

But I wanted a job for the summer. Somehow, I came across an opening at the Circle Inn Motel at the Harry Hines traffic circle in Dallas. It was not a luxury hotel. As I recall, a double room was $6, plus 7% tax, which amounted to $6.42 for an evening’s stay. I made minimum wage, which was $1.25 an hour in those days.  Convert  that to today’s dollars, maybe $10-12.

It was surely an eye-opener. The Front Desk Manager, whose name I’ve long since forgotten, was an intellectual, a grad student at SMU, as I recall. When I say he was an intellectual, I refer to the fact that he led me to the works of Ayn Rand. For the three months I worked there, we would often ask one another: “Who is John Galt”?

I don’t remember much of the experience, save the fact that there were dusty, plastic potted palms in the lobby. And many examples of watching freshly washed convertibles pulling into the covered porch outside of the lobby. A 20s-something man exiting the car in a sharkskin suit (popular in those days), leaving his equally elegantly clad escort in the car as he entered, stretched, and said: “Been on the road all day; have any rooms available?”.

My mother raised no stupid children, I quickly caught on.

Next came another hotel, in Denton, Texas, where I was a journalism student at the university. I was the overnight desk clerk and night auditor. Since I was not mathematically inclined, I fatigued easily. Entering debits and credits took such a toll that I would hit the hotel restaurant’s refrigerator for a fresh slice of lemon meringue pie to give me the energy to do homework after the hotel sums were completed. That job lasted a few months.

Many years passed and I again entered the world of hospitality in St. Louis, Missouri, at one of the most prestigious hotels in the country, the Hotel Chase. The ‘Chase’ had played host to dignitaries, presidents, kings, and assorted celebrities since the 1930s. I took a free-lance job in promotions at the hotel. I was there a couple of times a week to make phone calls, write press releases and take care of other publicity. 

In a fascinating turn of events, as a free-lancer for promotion with the hotel, I would sometimes be called upon to show celebrities around town.

But perhaps the most interesting element was getting to know people in the lodging industry; front desk people, housekeeping, those in entertainment, food and beverage.

It is a world filled with fascinating, honest, close-knit, salt-of-the-earth people, many very bright and most, very dedicated and loyal. Some, glamorous. Folks who, by and large, may have been damaged by life, and the decisions they’d made. But then again…aren’t we all? Many of us have taken immature paths in life, based on emotional responses.

When I say honest, I refer to a pervasive integrity of dealing with each other and a dedication to serving the public. Naturally, there was a small element of those sneaking a few hundred dollars worth of steaks out of the employee’s kitchen entrance; of accessing a passkey for a liaison. Generally though, this small percentage didn’t last long.

Ultimately, I moved away from St. Louis to pursue other interests. It would not be until the mid 1990s that I would be a part of the hospitality industry again, this time as a regular guest at a mid-range hotel as part of business travel.

Over time, I became accepted as one of them. My inclusion in this camaraderie gave me access to some very funny stories to be shared next week.

I’m glad I am now among the ranks of ‘Hotel People’.

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