7/15/11

THERE IS ALWAYS A STORY WITH THE PHOTO

A little girl in Wellington, Kansas in the early 1960's and her first visit to the historic Antlers Hotel:

I was waiting eagerly to be old enough to go to Kindergarten when the photographer came to town and set up shop on the 4th floor of the old turn-of-the century hotel on a corner downtown. It was an elegant old Victorian hotel named, I was told, for the huge rack of antlers over the registration desk. I was so excited as we walked down the sidewalk past the shops and the magic of so much going on. Cars glided by, trucks rattled to a stop at the blinking lights, and people hurried past us on their way to their own adventures.

Climbing the front steps and entering the lobby was awe inspiring. Everywhere was the shimmer of old, polished wood. There was an exotic feel to the place with the old Persian rugs, the leather furniture, the wood railing leading upstairs. There was an aroma of pipe tobacco, perfume and beeswax used to give the wood that sturdy shine.  Strange people milled all about, mostly men reading newspapers, but a few women carrying shoppng bags from the department stores downtown.

This is the
photograph
 taken
that day.
Whispered comments had mother giving me sparse definitions of new terms like "salesmen", "bachelors", and "travelers".

We climbed the thickly carpeted stairs until we reached the desired floor. I had never seen such a long hallway before. It seemed to stretch forever. On each side were doors with shiny brass numbers. Hurrying down the hall, we did not want to miss the appointment, mother knocked on one of the strange and mysterious doors.

A man, gently stooped with a kind smile, ushered us into the room. It was a bedroom, I realized, even as I noted the man had set up a big screen to hide the bed and all around were cameras, lights, and strange bits and pieces of photographic equipment. The adults talked  about the photos and other small talk - just what I could not say.

I was soon being placed on a leather covered stool, told to look here, smile now, and pose this way and that. My mother looked through the camera, smiled, and nodded at the man's comments. Then the adults talked the business of payments and mailing the photos and other details of no concern to me. 

I was too interested in the little stool that spun around and around....

Settled on the stool, now still, the man made last minute lighting adjustments and then took several pictures of me in my blue gingham dress with my still toddler blonde hair falling to my shoulders and we left shortly after that. I skipped down the hall with a lollipop and my mother clutching a receipt for the promised image.

The hotel closed, the schools brought in photographers, and things changed all over. Sometimes, though, I do remember that soft spring day in my pretty dress walking down a sun washed hallway heading to an adventure, and had I known it, a fading bit of Americana
.

-- Marilyn A. Hudson

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

i was born in wellington in 1951 and remember the antlers real well. i will always remember the men outside sitting around smoking cigars and pipes. i think alot of them were railroaders waiting for their call to leave on their trains. good memories....

Sierra said...

Thank you for such a vivid description. My great-great-grandfather painted the murals in the Antlers hotel. This helps paint a picture of what it looked like.

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