I have decided to write about someplace famous. Actually, it is famous to only a select few, those who resided in the very tiny town I grew up in. No, it is not a museum, nor an art gallery, or a monument, hummm...perhaps that is wrong, it may ,in fact, be a monument. It was, the local hotel and restaurant.
I wish I was technological enough to figure out how to post pictures, as this hotel has an amazing history.
The town I grew up in, was really born because of mining. I hear about folks heading off to Barkerville, and all the stories they tell of the historic buildings, and the "actors" that play in this town. Well, perhaps those same people who do not understand why I am always bragging about the place I grew up in, can get an insight now. I grew up in a place that was a functioning Barkerville. The buildings all had false fronts on them, the roads were gravel, the sidewalks were wooden. We had the Drugstore, with the "sundae fountain bar", we had the General store with the wooden floors, and the horse snow shoes on the wall. We had the local Grocery store with the boy who would haul the ladies paper bags full of groceries home in his wagon. We had a restaurant called "Bonus Nick's" and a Ladies Clothing store called "Marie's". We had the old "Marmot" an enormous wooden building, with a "porch" that ran the length of it. The old "Empress" was always empty when I was growing up, but in the past, it had been a sight to see, with a fancy Ballroom.
By far, the most interesting place, to me, was the King Eddy. The real name was the King Edward Hotel. Oh, it was massive, centered right in the middle of town, with a restaurant attached. It had a porch as well that ran the front of it, with hitching posts. In one window, there was a barber chair set up, and one of the local women would cut men's hair, so if you were lucky, you would catch a glimpse of this excitement. It was two stories, with a bar that had a Mens and Ladies entrance. I am sad to say, I never set foot in this Bar, but I bet it was filled with stories of Miners and Painted ladies, who had arrived in this tiny town, hoping to make their fortunes.
The hotel was used to tell everyone where to meet. All the events of the small town were "Down by the King Eddy". Santa Claus used to arrive in advance, in a helicopter on the street in front of the King Eddy. The July 1st Queen always drove down the road, past the King Eddy. As Kids we would be able to walk as far as the King Eddy, but not in front, because kids just didn't hang out uptown.
Now, keep in mind, all grownups in my childhood, were Mr. or Mrs. something. I am from the old school, when you were almost frightened of adults, if you goofed up, they might just speak to your parents, and then you would get a spanking, for being rude. It was simply safer to just cross the road when you came upon a grownup, and we did this. Gosh, as a child I longed for the day when I would be the grownup, and children would scatter, in respect to me. Hah! That never happened, somehow all that respect went out the door with my generation.But, perhaps the reason we did not go past the side of the hotel , was that you were certain to run into a Mr. or Mrs. out front.
When Mr. McLeod senior passed away, his son took over the King Eddy. He built onto the original building, and added more rooms. I remember this section lasted for a short time,then, suddenly one night, the King Edward hotel burned to the ground. Oh, we had many buildings burn, most of the false fronted original buildings in town were destroyed over a few years, and sadly, the Barkerville look to the town changed.
The new King Edward was finished the year I turned 15. It was lovely, all brand spanking new, and so modern. I saw a notice that the hotel was looking for a weekend front desk clerk. For some reason this just seemed like a dream job to me. But, I was 15, people didn't hire kids under 16, right? I clearly remember my mother telling me to sit down, and write the owner, and let him know how much I wanted this job, and that I would be willing to go in, and learn for free, if he would give me a chance.
This wonderful man gave me my very first job, and paid me right from the start. He was the best boss anyone could ask for.(I have mentioned this in the past) I met an amazing group of people throughout my years at the front desk of this hotel, but perhaps, only one held a candle to my boss, and that was his good friend Adam O.K. who would run the hotel when the boss was away.
The King Eddy was the place every teenager worked. It was the place we would hang out after school, eating fries and gravy. It was the place the friend who was waitressing would "steal" saltshakers from, so we could go hide out at the park and play 21 for shots of tequila. It was the place when we turned 19, we would get plastered and make fools of ourselves. It was the place we would drink until last call, and find someone willing to drive us over the border to Alaska (15 minutes away) so we could continue drinking until 5-6 in the morning.
To this day, each and every person I connect with from my past, has some memory of the King Eddy. Most of those stories will never be written,and some are likely best forgotten. It was a place to go with old friends, and a place many of us made new friends.The moment you walked in the door, it was like putting on a pair of favourite slippers, just cozy, and welcome. You knew everyone who worked there by name, and everyone sitting at the other tables. You just belonged.
Sadly, times have changed, tourism is the main goal of almost every place in the world. To make things appeal to visitors there must be some sort of rule book. Little towns all appear cookie cutter, flowers, parks, boardwalks, and signs, signs, signs. I return to the old hometown, and no longer get that feeling of comfort, and belonging. It has become clear, a town is not home because of the buildings, a town is built on the people who reside within them. Those people who made the hotel seem like the hub of my world for so very many years, have since passed away. They took something very special with them, and the world is a much sadder place without this. The warmth and compassion, and sense of community, has been lost.
If only we had taken lessons.