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Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Day The Red Heads Came To Town

     This post could be in the running for my all time favorite. Wait, I know that I've said that about a half-dozen times, but this could rank up there among the best.  So, the blog title says, "The Day The Red Heads Came To Town." That doesn't mean a we had bunch of Lucille Ball wannabes roll into town, or rampaging redheaded step-children ringing doorbells and running away. Nothing like that.

     I was perusing through the old Hotel Guest Registration sheets when I saw the word, "Red Heads" in quotations.  I suspected this had to be a big deal...and it was.  

Below: These were the Red Heads.


     Now, to you and me in the year of 2016, we're thinking, what? Who the heck are the Red Heads? Back in the day this was  



     They were The All American Red Heads, Women's Professional Basketball Team. They toured and performed professionally all over the country from 1936 to 1986.



     Below: This is who signed in at the Commercial Hotel, aka The Josephine Hotel. They were here around mid February, around the early to mid 1950's.




     To give you some idea of how big of a deal The Red Heads were, They were the female equivalent of the all-male Harlem Globetrotters. Like the Globetrotters, they were stellar at the game of basketball but also delightfully pleasing entertainers.




Some of us who grew up in the 70's remember the Globetrotters and especially the star players such as: "Meadowlark Lemon" and "Curly Neal." They were huge. Take a look back at that hotel register. See the names Zethel Keith, Jessie Banks, Katherine Pitcock.  They were the mega stars of The Red Heads. These particular woman were the equivalent to Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal.

Below: Jessie Banks is the top right, Katherine Pitcock is to her left. And I believe Zethel Keith is at the bottom left. Sorry, the bottom is cut off in this promotional poster.


Here's how it got started. In 1936 C. M. Olsen recruited and hired seven female players who had all played on various basketball teams that were part of the American Athletic Union.  The women were great players, one of them was 6-feet tall, and two of the seven women had red hair. (After the first few years, Olson or team members must have turned to dye or henna treatments as later descriptions of the team report them all as red heads.) They were also reported to be attractive.

The game the Red Heads played was according to the rules of men's basketball.  Their competition was always a local men's team. Like the flyer above said, "Always playing Men and Always Men's rules." This was a real exciting attraction.


On the road:

The first year the team played 133 games in six months, traveling to nearly 30 states. After that the requests poured in, and Olson established a schedule where he would book the team for six solid months and then they would have time off until the following season.


The All American Red Heads traveled cross-country, playing to packed houses almost every night; occasionally they played double-headers.  A reporter for Life magazine (4/1939) writes that audiences paid 25-40 cents to come to the games to "see female muscle seriously pitted against male muscle." The Life reporter described their "circus like shooting" and "rough style."

Below: The Red Heads show off their dribbling skills.





Over time, the women perfected a system. They would try to start the game strong and get ahead; then they would ease off and do more fancy dribbling and trick shots.  This was accompanied by a good amount of flirting with the opposing team, with the referees, and with the audience. Toward the end of the game, they would reapply pressure with the intents of bringing in the win. The system was entertaining and very successful.  They won more games than they lost with a 70 percent win rate for most years.

Off court, the women who signed on to play for the Red Heads also agreed to a strict behavior policy. Olsen knew that impeccable behavior in public-- including no smoking or drinking-- was vital to their image.




The popularity of the team grew exponentially.  In 1948, Olsen sold the team to Orwell Moore, a basketball coach whose wife played for the Red Heads for a time. Moore hired a second team of Red Heads to travel; by 1964 until 1971 he had three teams touring during the season.

Below: A "Red Heads" uniform. There were many different versions over the years. This is just one example.





From old photographs, the first uniforms were navy-- very short and short-sleeved shirts. Later a freelancer for the New York Times wrote a reminiscence of when he was in the Army and played against Red Heads I the mid-1950's. He describes their uniforms as "skating-style skirts" that were very short, midriff blouses, knee highs, and red sneakers.

Below: Another example of uniforms worn by The Red Heads.





The fact that the Red Heads played the men's game with the men's rules makes them even more remarkable. John Molina says it best: The Red Heads dribbled, juggled, danced and laughed their way into the hearts of audiences."

Well there you have it. The day the Red Heads came to town. Pretty exciting, huh? Actually, I would have loved to see them perform.  I can't think of a place where this game would have taken place in Union Springs. Then again, I didn't grow up here. I know that over the years many buildings have been torn down and this game could have taken place almost anywhere, even one of the local school gymnasiums.

What a delight to know that yes, to Union Springs they came. Celebrities, Athletes, Entertainers, and maybe even a slimy politician or two came right here, to The Josephine Hotel in Union Springs, Alabama. If they came once before, they could come again. Who knows.

This concludes another fun and informative post. I enjoyed both learning and writing about it. In an upcoming post, another famous group of folks who came to Union Springs to entertain who also stayed at the Josephine Hotel.  It will be another must read so stay tuned.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Puttin' On A "Silas Green Show"

     Here's a great piece of history you don't hear much about. I just thought it was so interesting that I decided to devote an entire blog post to this topic.  As I was flipping the pages of the old Hotel Guest Registers from back in the 50's, once again, a name caught my eye and stopped me in my tacks. I saw the writing on the sheet, "Silas Green Show." "Hmm", I thought to myself. "There has to something to this."

     The Silas Green From New Orleans was an African American owned company and ran a variety of tent shows, which in various forms toured the southern states between 1904 - 1957.


Below: See the Hotel Registration Sheets. The Hotel was called the Commercial Hotel at the time of this sign in. I found where they came here two times.


Here's a little history about the Silas Green Show. Eph Williams, (1885 - 1935) was the only black circus owner in America.  He has set up his first circus in Wisconsin in 1885 and by the mid- 1890's owned 100 Arabian Horses and employed 26 people. His circus business collapsed around 1902 but soon afterwards he acquired the rights to Silas Green From New Orleans.

He set up a new company, "Prof. Eph Williams Famous Troubadours," to tour the tent show. It played one-night stands throughout the South, and became one of the longest-lasting tent shows in America.  Williams managed the show and continued to perform house tricks, alongside musicians such as Bessie Smith. buy 1928, the troupe comprised of 54 people including a 16 piece band and 16 girl dancers. The main show tent had a capacity of 1400 people.

Around 1922, Williams sold half the share in the show to Charles Collier, who took over sole ownership after Williams' death in the mid-1930's.  The show continued to tour until the late 1950's, and in later years was sometimes billed simply as the Silas Green Show.


At the time of our hotel guests it was the mid-1950's.  The folks that checked in here I believe were the front people. They would have been in charge of arranging a place for the tent to be set up. Arranging printing of tickets, printing of signage, posters, and advertising for the upcoming events. These shows were very well done, professional, and highly entertaining to both black and whites in the South.

Below: Even though the show sometimes was know to be slightly racy, it was billed as a "clean" family show.


Below: Silas Green Show Tent set up.


Below: Advertising of the Silas Green Show. Note just below that, "Always a good clean show." They did their best to create a show that was professional, fun, and entertaining for the whole family.


Part revue, part musical comedy, part minstrel show, the show told the adventures of short, "coal-black" Silas Green and tall, "tannish Lilas Bean. In 1940, Time Magazine said of the show:-
"This year their troubles start when they go to a hospital with suitcases labeled M.D. (Mule Drivers), are mistaken for two medicos, end in jail. The show is garnished with such slapstick as putting a patient to sleep by letting him smell and old show, such gags as "Your head sets on one end of your spine and you set on the other." Silas gets broad at times, but never really dirty.  What keeps it moving are its dances and specialty acts, its gold-toothed but good-looking chorus."

I would love to know if anyone in Union Springs remembers going to one of these shows. It had to be very entertaining.

It is without a doubt interesting to know that Union Springs had shows like this come to town. If anyone remembers this show please let me know.

That will conclude this post. Be sure to check back soon. I will be posting another great and entertaining group who came to Union Springs and stayed at the old Josephine Hotel, which was at the time, The Commercial Hotel.  So stay tuned.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hotel Guests of Country Music Fame

     If you're a country music fan of the golden era in the days of the Grand Ole Opry, then what you're about to read will tickle you pink.

     Lets start with Jimmy Self & The Southern Playboys. Even as a classic country music fan I can honestly say I didn't know who he was. However when I saw his list of singles I did know a few.  So it's like I knew of him, sort of.

Below: Jimmy Self with Guitar on the right.


 


   When I was combing over these old hotel guest register sheets something caught my eye. Below you can see how Jimmy Self signed in.



   He signed in as Jimmy Self 8 Southern Play Boys and then WSM Nashville, Tennessee. Any self-avowed classic country music lover knows what WSM means. It's only the most famous radio station in the whole dang world that's all. Also it's the home of the Grand Ole Opry. Everybody knows that in the glorious golden days of the Grand Ole Opry, the broadcasts from Ryman Auditorium were on WSM in Nashville, Tennessee. When Jimmy Self checked in with his band they checked into rooms numbered 19, 20, and 22.

     So who was Jimmy Self? Jimmy Self (sometimes spelled Selph), was born June 23, 1915 and died December 28, 2000. He was a versatile American singer who was a country music, rockabilly, and bluegrass musician and occasional vocalist whose career peaked during the late 1940's through the 1950's.  He could play the guitar, drums, accordion, and steel guitar. 

     Self's first release, "That's Why I Worry", was in 1947 on the Majestic Label. He was a member of Curley Williams' band, whom with he recorded several albums.  He also appeared with Dottie Dillard.  On the Coin Label he released titles including "Tom Catin' Around" (1956). He was also a drummer for Hank Thompson and a singer with Milton Estes and the Musical Millers. Self also recorded on the Bullet Record Label, "Dream Castles Shared With You" and "Times A-Wasting, Little Darling". Self's vocal releases included "Say You'll Be Mine" and "Oh Babe". He appeared on and toured with the Grand Ole Opry beginning in the mid-1940's.

Below: Pictured here is Jimmy Self. Of course, when he appeared here in Union Springs he would have been younger than pictured here.


     In 1955, he was a member of the house band on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee (Originally known as the Crossroads Boys) with Grady Martin, Bob Moore and Bud Isaccs before he returned to Nashville, Tennessee.  As a Nashville and Hollywood session musician, he backed Red Foley, Don Gibson, Webb Pierce, Ray Price, Molly O'Day and The Browns.

Below: A good example here of the type of signage and promotional posters that would be posted all over town to let folks know about these upcoming tours.





When Jimmy Self came to Union Springs, he was touring on behalf of WSM Nashville, Tennessee. That is a big deal. WSM and The Grand Ole Opry constantly had many country music stars both big named and rising stars out on tour under the name WSM or The Grand Ole Opry, who broadcasted from WSM. That was how the radio station kept its name out there. This was also good for sponsors of the radio station. Seeing how it was a National Radio Broadcast, it was highly beneficial to have its biggest stars on the road singing for WSM so you and I would keep listening to their broadcasts all the time and buying the products that they advertised.
There is no doubt Jimmy Self left a mark on this industry with his music, skill, raw talent and reputation that will forever be remembered by people who find his music, or read about him. Now Union Springs, Alabama can be proud it hosted one of the greats.





Wow. If this were the only interesting thing to have found in the old hotel guest registers I would have been completely satisfied and rewarded for my efforts. Fortunately there is more.

While were on the subject of WSM and The Grand Ole Opry I stumbled upon these names about a hundred pages after finding Jimmy Self, and once again I found myself giddy over this discovery.




Let's take a look at the Hotel Guest Register below.



     Again, I caught those three letters W.S.M. Nashville. This group of performers were touring and performing together on behalf WSM Radio.  On this particular occasion, the hotel clerk wrote in the names, and on who's behalf they were here and of course, the room assignments. There were 6 guests in total. Miss Helen Raney,What looks like Tiny Turner, Cousin Wilbur, Floyd Etheridge, Jack Thompson and Dempsey Watts. As you can see, Miss Raney stayed in #35 This Tiney Turner also had a room to himself. Cousin Wilbur and Floyd Etheridge bunked together in #3 and Jack Thompson and Dempsey Watts to also be bunk mates in room #32.

     When groups of entertainers toured from town to town, WSM show promoters would arrive in ahead of an up coming show.  Posters like these would usually be put up around the town and ahead of the show.


     Of course the above names were much bigger than the ones who appeared here in Union Springs. But make no mistake about it, when a group of performers are put together by WSM or The Grand Ole Opry, they put on a show that would have been quality entertainment.

     So, who were these folks? Well, I began trying to find information about each of these people. I didn't have much luck on four of the six. But I did manage to find some pretty good information on two of them that I felt worthy of mention.

     Let's start with the fact that both Bill "Cousin Wilbur" Wesbrooks and Floyd Ethridge both toured with the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys. Both Cousin Wilbur and Floyd Etheridge were the Blue Grass Boys. Ok... and a couple of others.


     The guy riding his bass fiddle is "Cousin Wilber" and the tall guy on the far right is Floyd Etheridge. The guy playing fiddle is Arthur Smith. Then of course, there is the great, Bill Monroe.



     Now lets get them individually. Bill "Cousin Wilbur" Wesbrooks was a Bassist and Comedian. He was considered everybody's cousin which was also the title of his autobiography. "Everybody's Cousin". It is now out of print now, but some copies are still floating around here and there. 

     Cousin Wilbur appeared on all of Bill Monroe's Victor recordings. After "Stringbean", David Ackerman, joined the band, both Cousin Wilbur and Stringbean would perform comedy routines together. After leaving the Blue Grass Boys in 1944, Cousin Wilbur continued on the Opry as a solo performer. In 1947 He married Blondie Leatherman and they began performing as the Cousin Wilbur & Blondie Brooks Show.

     As for Floyd Etheridge, he began touring with Bill Monroe in 1943. He left for a period of time some years later to pursue other opportunities.  He later rejoined the Blue Grass Boys in 1949 and stayed for a while.  He pursued various other projects until he no longer wanted to be on tour and left the Blue Grass Boys. Later in life he continued to play in a band and played in venues closer to home and family.

     I haven't the foggiest idea as to why these six people checked into the hotel in the 1950's representing WSM Radio Nashville, Tennessee. It probably was to entertain at a venue somewhere in Union Springs. I think it is so cool that they were here and stayed at the hotel.

     I  suppose I will conclude at this point. Now you see why I wanted to divide up all of my findings in my study of the old Hotel Guest Registers? These sheets aren't just a bunch of names. They are celebrities, entertainers, business people, educators, newlyweds, auditors, vacationers, and those simply passing through and needing a place to stay. I've got to hand it too Dr. Robert Fleming for his vision. He saw a need for a hotel right in the middle of downtown Union Springs and made it happen. If only he could have known that like the quote from the movie, Field Of Dreams-- "If you build it, they will come." he too served a purpose. If that building could ever be restored back to a hotel, a real hotel or B & B, it would serve a great purpose as it did for so many years.  If you restore it, they will come.  And when they come, it will bring prosperity to so many businesses on Prairie Street and to all types of businesses all over town.  Since the building is for sale right now, there is a very good chance that someone will come along and see the potential for restore the building. The Josephine Hotel deserves to live again and someday I believe she will.
  
     Be sure to check back soon for the latest blog post and the continuing discoveries of my on-going research.














Monday, August 29, 2016

Famous People Slept... Here?

     Did famous people sleep at the old Josephine Hotel?  You bet they did.  Now that I've had plenty of time to study the old Hotel Guest Registers I can give you an astounding YES to that questions. I've got the proof too. Keep in mind, the Hotel register pages I have only represent a small segment of time that is from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960's.  The hotel was open for 60 years before and some 60 years after my study. Who knows who may have graced the threshold of The Josephine.

     As I mentioned in my previous post, there were a few guests who stayed here who were famous or became famous. Several people who stayed here during the period of this study were performers, entertainers, and those who represented the entertainment industry. In this post you'll learn about two such types. One who was becoming famous and the other who represented the entertainment industry.

Let's start with Jack Hayes. See below his signature on the hotel register. Jack Hayes and Party - Then under the residence column he writes Los Angeles California 8417 Beverly Blvd.


He actually wrote the word Buld instead of Blvd. But that's not exactly a mistake. The building that is there was his office and studio that was located in a multi-story office building on Beverly Blvd. When he was here at the Josephine it was the Commercial Hotel at the time. The date of his stay here was around 1955.  He came with at least two or three in his party because they got two rooms. #9 and #10. Now, just who was Jack Hayes?




Jack Hayes born February 1919 and died in August 2011. He was a pretty famous orchestrator and composer, who at the time he was here hadn't yet reached the level of fame that was to come. As a composer and orchestrator he worked on over 200 films during his 60 year Hollywood career.

Hayes began his career early in radio writing music for radio programs. Then at the beginning of the1950's he began orchestrating landmark films like "The Magnificent Seven", "To Kill A Mockingbird", "Breakfast At Tiffany's" and many, many more.

He was such a meticulous and highly skilled orchestrator for such top composers as Elmer Bernstein, Henry Mancini, Randy Newman, Quincy Jones, Marvin Hamlisch, and Burt Bacharach.

Hays was Oscar Nominated twice for adapting the musicals "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" in 1964 and for contributing to Jones' score for "The Color Purple" in 1985.

Hays also composed TV scores including such Westerns as "Riverboat", "Wagon Train", "The Virginian" and "Gunsmoke".

Hayes' solo TV composing credits included "Quincy M.E. and "Laverne & Shirley".

Hayes penned arrangements for singers including Donald O'Connor, Pearl Bailey, and Barbara Streisand.



Michael Giacchino employed him as an orchestrator on nearly all of his films starting with the animated Disney film, "The Incredibles". Some of his last credits were, "Star Trek" and "Up".

Jack Hayes died of natural causes in 2011.  He was 92 years old. Like I mentioned before, when Jack Hayes stayed at the hotel he hadn't even begun to reach the pinnacle of his forthcoming success. It is hard to imagine what a future Oscar Nominee might have been doing in Union Springs, Alabama.  It could have had something to do with Bird Dog Trials out at Sedgefield Plantation. He could have just been passing through, who knows. Either way it's exciting to know that he was here.

Now, I will introduce you to the other visitor to the hotel who was here in the mid 1950's. The name was J.C. but I can't make out the last name. He or she was with "American Barn Dance". The name was written in by the hotel desk clerk. Through much of my study of these sheets I noticed that sometimes the clerk would write in the name. You can tell below when you see that the handwriting is the same as the person just above American Barn Dance.



So, what in the world was American Barn Dance? It was a television show that made its debut in 1953. From what I can tell the show changed it's format a couple of times and later in 1955 to 1959 did shows from all over the country. They would take a crew to a location, set up the band, and the staring singer, and the crew, invite a lot of people to come out and dance. The crew would tape it and the studio would edit in that segment along with other segments from other towns and air the completed version on television.



As you can see the backgrounds look similar but different in each segment that aired. So what this "J.C." was doing here may have been as a scout sent to look for a location to set up the show. When a suitable location is found they send for the crew to come set up. Advertising goes out, excitement builds, people dance, a dog barks, and it a real wing ding of a time.

Did they actually come? Did the folks of Union Springs get to two-step their way on to the television? I can't answer that because it was a little before my time. But perhaps some of my readers may know. It would be great to find out. What I do know is that they were certainly staying at the hotel. And that is something.

Now, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I must end this post here. I have so much new material that I don't want to make the blog posts too long. I promise, it will be worth the wait to see who else visited Union Springs and the hotel. So stay tuned.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Josephine Hotel - A Look At The Old Guest Registers

     I could hardly contain myself. After asking the current owner of the Josephine Hotel in Union Springs, Alabama, if I could have a look at the ominous thick stack of old hotel register sheets. I nearly fainted when Joyce said I could take them home and study them if I like. To me, this was like winning the lottery. 

      As I wrote a post here on my blog in 2014, this partially  damaged pile of Guest Hotel Registers was found in an old wood chest in a closet that is located under one of the back staircases leading from the 3rd floor down to the second. They had been there since at least the 1970's but only found in the 2000's when The Perrins bought the building. Most of the pages are in pretty good shape. The pages were not in their binder that they would normally be found in like the example below.

Below: This is an example of how the Hotel Register pages would be in a binder with the date shown on front. This example is not of The Josephine Hotel.



     Clearly this is a very good example.  But for whatever reason, the previous owners pulled all the pages from the book, leaving us to guess from what years these precious pages of the past would be.

Here's the stack I actually brought home to study:




     Well, I knew I had my work cut out for me. But heck, I thought it would be fun. Joyce had always planned to sit down and go through them thoroughly and see what all was in there. But by always being busy and on the go, she just didn't have the time.  So, since I am always blogging about the building why not see for myself.

     My first objective was to try and determine a date since they weren't in the binder with the date on the outside. At first I thought I would have a hard time with that, but it turned out that the first clue was in the upper right hand corner where the form has a 19--,
the dash is to be filled in. About half of these sheets are like this. Then there were occasional dates written in on the pages where the guests signed in. It was ultimately determined that many of the 19 dash pages were from the mid to late 40's. Another clue was the constant blobs of ink dripped, splattered, and spilled on.  That's because in those days they used a pen and ink well. See below what I mean by that.

Below: In many hotels up to the mid 1950's you would find these at the clerks desk. This is the most common pen and ink well.



Sometimes higher end hotels would have something like this example:

     Later on while going through the pages I saw where the 19 - dash changed to a 195-- This told me that it was the 1950's.



There were hundred of sheets and I actually looked at every single page, front and back, line by line, and name by name. It took every bit of 22 hours to comb through the hundreds of musky smelling pages.


Below: Another indicator I used to determine the age of these registers was the private baths. Somewhere around 1903- 1905 the building underwent a renovation. Prior to the renovation there was one or two bathrooms on each floor to be shared by everyone on that floor. But more bathrooms were added and some would be private and some were shared.  It was like one bathroom that had two doors.  This was good for families with children. Parents would have a bathroom that connected to the next room for their children or other family.


  The results of my study of these Hotel Registers have rendered multiple surprises and I can honestly say it was worth all the time I put in to my search. There are were so many interesting surprises that I will have to break up my future blog posts in order to keep from making them so long. 

     I would have loved for these pages to have gone all the way back to the earliest days. Having those from the 1880's and 1890's when the hotel was actually in it's prime. The hotel was so beautiful in those days.  The d├ęcor, furnishings, amenities, and the restaurant in the building were first class. The hotel was called The Commercial Hotel at the time of the 40's, 50's, and 60's hotel registers I studied.
Much to my amazement the hotel stayed quite busy. Having a hotel right in the middle of town was so convenient to travelers who were in town on business.  I couldn't believe how many people came to Union Springs on business. Let me give you a few examples:

Mr. and Mrs. G.D. Anderson of Dayton, Ohio signed the hotel register sometime in the early 1950's.  They were a husband and wife team who represented a high-end clothing line called, Rolands Originals.  I looked it up. This company made women's suites and jackets. So I am thinking that this couple would have been making a sales call to one of the shops or boutiques in Union Springs at the time. Or perhaps a visit to one of our residents whom they may call upon to show their latest line. I found some example of Rolands Originals here below are just a few.



Pretty cool, huh? Well, there were other representatives who came from all over to do business right here in Union Springs. There was a man named, W. S. Bethell, who traveled here from Birmingham, Alabama. He was a writer for a magazine called "Progressive Farmer".  I noticed he came here quite a bit. Bullock County was known for it's cotton farming, as well as other types of agricultural farming. He was probably here to write stories or interview farmers, or talk with the kids of the local 4H Club.

Below are a couple of examples of the magazine from the same era as the hotel register sheets:



     Next we have someone by the name of H.B. Woodward Jr. of The University of Alabama who checks into room number 10. I did some basic research on the University of Alabama's website and learned that in the 1950's, Mr. H. B. Woodward Jr. was in fact a faculty advisory board member for the Fraternity, Alphi Xi. There is no telling what he would have been doing in Union Springs. But he wouldn't have signed under the address column "University of Alabama", if it weren't for school business.




     During my study of the guest register sheets I also noticed on a regular basis a check in from the Orkin Pest Control man. Yes, on a Monthly basis it was quite normal for the Orkin man to check into the local hotel and service all his customers on his route over the course of a two or three days.  I found an old Orkin statement mixed in with the guest registers where he also serviced the hotel too.  $10.00 to service a three story building? Wow, what a deal!




Another interesting couple of guys here on business. T.J. Bain and Charles Mayo checking in and here as representatives of Hallmark Productions. Oh, this I had to research. It turns out that beginning in the mid 1940's Hallmark was beginning to expand its brand. This is when you would see more prevalent card displays and this was the time when they came up with their signature slogan, "When you care enough to send the very best." That slogan carried them into the next phase of branding and brand recognition during the 1950's. Hallmark approached NBC in 1951 about sponsoring and original night time opera, "Amahl and the nighttime visitors".  It was a huge success and the name Hallmark has been a household name ever since. To date, the Hallmark company has won 81 Emmy Awards, thanks in part to it's humble start in 1951 and to it's own cable channel today. These two men were most likely into town to service accounts at the local drug stores.


One thing I noticed over and over were men who checked into the hotel on a very regular basis. At first I was like, "What in the world does C of GA/ RR, mean?" I mean if anyone brought business to this hotel, it was these guys.  Well, I figured that out pretty fast. C of Ga/RR means Central Of Georgia Railroad. Aaahhh, I see. Well that makes sense. The train came right through here. I believe this was a stopover point for rest for the crew who would switch out here in Union Springs. That makes sense. This was great for the hotel. They always had a steady flow of crew checking in for rest. The hotel was so near to everything they could need. Restaurants, laundry, drug stores, or whatever they wanted to do for fun.




These examples I've given of the many company representatives who came to the town of Union Springs were just a snippet of the many, many who came here in hopes of making sales, expanding their product lines, or just making sure their customers where happy. Whatever the reason none can top these two guys whom I found in the midst of regular hotel guests. Nothing could have prepared me for the bona fide belly laugh I got from Hobo Ben and Ben's Buddy. Yes, from what I could make of what might have happened is this... One guy who drives for a company called Manifest Freight and the other drives for Red Ball Express. So, they are truck drivers, who may know each other or have just met, I don't know. But these two go into the hotel sign in and between the two of them can't pay the rate of the room. Both are determined to find a place to sleep and looks like they struck a deal with the hotel clerk for a place to lay their weary heads. Hobo Ben gets the lobby couch and Ben's Buddy gets to sleep on the floor in the lobby. Well, that's one way to get a good nights sleep. But let's not underestimate the compassion the hotel clerk had shown the two sleepy truck drivers. Here's to Hobo Ben and Ben's Buddy who ignite the eternal flame for kindness and compassion right here in Union Springs... or something like that.


In conclusion of this post, a reminder, that this was just the beginning of my blog posts about these incredible hotel guest registers.  The upcoming posts are going to be worth watching for and worth the read. So stay tuned.