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Monday, January 23, 2017

Room #16 - Recognizing Sixteen Random Guests

      Before I go any further with this post I want to make mention that this particular post is dedicated to the Co-Owner of The Josephine Hotel, Lt. Colonel Allen B. Perrin, who passed away this past week, on January 15th. Allen, is survived by his wife, Joyce Perrin. Allen was also my friend whom I adored.  I will miss him very much and I know not only his family and friends will miss him, but the community in Union Springs will miss him too. This special man and his wife, Joyce have been very devoted to preserving The Josephine Hotel, as well as it's long and fascinating history. It is through their tireless efforts in caring for the building that I have had access to the building and historical documents. It was a privilege to get to know Allen and it will be my continued mission to research and learn more about this amazing place and the people who built and made it a success many years ago.
                        This weeks post begins here:

     I thought it would be fun to do a random acknowledging of sixteen guests who stayed at The Josephine Hotel. The idea is to pull and recognize guests of the 1950's decade when the hotel was known as The Commercial Hotel. Since I had the privilege of studying the old hotel guest registration sheets for a time and I chose sixteen random guests who all signed in at the hotel and all had one thing in common... they all stayed in room number 16.

Below: A photo I took 2 years ago of the exact door of the room of my study.

     I've mentioned in previous posts that this door was painted sometime in the 70's. The original color was the dark walnut stain that you can see through the crackled paint.  The brass room number plate is an original plate.

Below: On the same door I wanted to point out that many of the doors in the building still have there original ornate hinge hardware from 1880. Isn't that just gorgeous?

Below: Room #16 from the inside. It is much larger than it appears here in this photo. This is not the furniture that belonged to this room. These are just random pieces of furniture left here through the years.

Below: Just ring for service... Back in the day you'd just press the button and the desk clerk would send someone to your door.

Below: Transoms above every door in the building along with the high lofty ceilings helped to keep a nice breeze blowing through the building. This would be crucial in our hot and humid climate here in the south.

Below: The view from Room #16 you see The First Baptist Church of Union Springs across the street. A beautiful view and a beautiful building church building.

As I flipped through the stack of Hotel Guest Register sheets I separated the ones that were from the 1950's decade.

Next I wrote down sixteen random guests names who stayed in room #16, along with the cities or towns where they traveled from.

Here they are:

Mr. D.A. Rooch ---------- Edison, Georgia

W. W. Morgan ---------- Flint, Michigan

F. C. Sunow ---------- Dallas, Texas

Mr. & Mrs. Hayes ---------- Valdosta, Georgia

Ray Wildish ---------- Mt. Vernon, Illinois

H. T. Caruthers ---------- Memphis, Tennessee

Mr. & Mrs. Rich Collins ---------- North Hollywood, California

G. C. Grimes ---------- Little Rock, Arkansas

Jeff L. Cooley ---------- San Francisco, California

Bill Peters ---------- Asbury Park, New Jersey

E. A. Wright ---------- Water Valley, Mississippi

Thomas & Sarah Kiner ---------- Bristol, Indiana

A. A. Schmidt ---------- Oakridge, Tennessee

H. W. Wasserman ---------- Atlanta, Georgia

G. D. Anderson & Wife ------- Dayton, Ohio (Roland's Originals)

Mr. & Mrs. William McGraw ---------- Philadelphia, PA.

There you have it. Sixteen names of people from all over the United States who have nothing in common but that over the course of a decade all stayed at different times in room number #16.  Maybe they requested that room. Was it because of the view of Prairie Street? Was it a warmer room? Quieter? All of these folks did have another thing in common. They all came to Union Springs. Look back at those cities. Wow! No kidding? They came from all over the place. Remember, I narrowed the names down from hundreds to just sixteen names. There were so many who came from so far away. Places like, New York, Montana, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Colorado. What were they doing here?  Visiting friends, relatives? Passing through? Who knows.

One of the contributing factors were the two major railroad lines that made an indelible junction for the city. One line was the Mobile / Girard Line. The other was the Montgomery/Eufaula line.Train passengers and the crews of those trains sometimes had lay overs in Union Springs.  This was easy for me to see based on all the employees who worked for the railroads signed into the guest registers.

The other reason for travelers stopping in at the Josephine was the two major highways crisscrossing right through the middle of town. Highway 82 and Highway 29 had folks motoring through Union Springs night and day as they continue to do right now.

So what happened? For reasons I don't know, both railroads stopped coming through Union Springs. When that exactly happened, I don't know. But based on the hotel guest registers that I examined, which were from the late 1940's to 1970, I could see for my self the steady decline of guests staying at the hotel. As far as I could tell the 40's and 50's were pretty steady and the rooms stayed filled. Even through the early 60's and then in the late 60's and the beginning of 1970, it just took a nose dive. It seemed like many of the sign-in pages, which had now been converted to what looks like a large index card, where many only had a few names and some were completely blank. I don't have to be a detective to figure that out.

The owners of the hotel at the time had to be struggling to keep the doors open. When you have a retail or service type business, the people in your town can rally around you. They can raise your revenue by purchasing your goods or use the service you provide. But Sadly, there is not much local residents can do to help a hotel.

By the mid 1980's the hotel portion of the building finally closed it's doors for good. The Josephine had a long 100 year run as a fully functioning hotel. Now, the three store spaces on the ground floor have, for most of the 136 year history, have almost always been occupied as a business or multiple businesses to this day.

Hopefully, one day The Josephine will have new life breathed into her and she can once more open her doors to travelers who are just passing through or participating in the Field Trials at Sedgefield Plantation or attending the fantastic Red Door Theatre for a play or eating at the Hill Top Grill and having yourself a, "Voted Best Burger In Alabama" hamburger or try a yummy meal at 82 West, where you are sure to need to let your belt out at least two notches before leaving. You absolutely must stop by FPH Bakery and enjoy a sumptuous slice of cake or pie.  Amber's homemade scones are a must.  But don't even think of leaving without one of her delicious gourmet cupcakes. Friends, you just have to see this adorable place and experience it for yourself.  Be sure to take a tour of this sleepy little town and see some of the most beautiful historic homes in all of Alabama. Not to mention the spectacular architecture of its buildings and churches. These are just a few of the many, many things to do here. 

Union Springs will be back on the map one day. Maybe one day you'll be able to stay at the historic Josephine Hotel. Maybe one day you can request to stay in room... #16. If you do, you'll be in good company and will go down in history as one of the many who stayed in room #16.

That's all for now. Be sure to check back for the latest blog post at Oh, that Josephine.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Popular Circus Visits Union Springs

     Everyone loves a circus and it was no different on the day this circus came to town. It was around the mid-1950's when a the King Brothers Circus came to Union Springs, Alabama.

     In 1945 Floyd King bought the Bud Anderson Circus and much of the Clyde Beatty's Truck Show. In 1946 Floyd took the circus out as King Brothers Circus. In 1954 Floyd partnered with Arnold Maley and together formed a larger 70 truck circus. That is huge!

Below: Floyd King

Below: See where Mr. Floyd King checked into the Josephine Hotel, known as The Commercial Hotel at the time. (At the bottom)

Below: Floyd King and partner, Arnold Maley.

Below: Posters like this would have put up all over Union Springs, letting everyone know when all the excitement of the circus was coming to town.

   As with most circuses, there are three rings in the center and a Ring Master to point your attention to each act as it is taking place.

     There are usually horses, acrobats, trapeze artists and large elephants that come bounding into the center rings. They,(The elephants), stand on their hind legs, twirl and do other tricks to a delighted audience.

     Today we see so few circuses appearing anymore. I personally haven't seen a real circus in years or since I was a little girl. The last I can remember was in my Dad's small home town. He took me and my brother. It was so much fun. My brother was so little at the time that most of his attention was focused on his cotton candy. But I was mesmerized by the men and women who swung back and forth on the trapeze. It was so exhilarating and beautiful. I also loved the elephants and the clowns that came running around playing little tricks on some people in the audience.

Below:  A view of a main large tent.

Below: Another view of the main circus tent.

Below: A sample of a program/magazine they would sell at the circus.

Below: A specially trained acrobat who rides a horse and does all kinds of tricks. Different riders do difficult flips while standing on the horse as it runs. Other tricks may include other riders jumping and flipping from horse to horse while the horses are in motion. It really is thrilling to see the skilled performers in these acts. 

     In addition the main circus tent, there are side shows and specialty acts to entertain you. These may be inside additional tents or as part of a series of trucks lined up close together where they are converted into stages to perform their acts. 

Below: Highly skilled jugglers.

Below: Examples of how a circus truck can convert to a specialty act or for a side show.

     Sideshow Acts are usually people who look different or those who can perform very specific acts that may be dangerous. Sword swallowers or fire swallowers are kind of exciting to some. Not me. I find them hard to watch. Then there are others acts like the Worlds Tallest Man, The Fat Lady, The Half Woman, The Tattooed Lady, Bobo The Rubber Man, The Three Legged Man, and The Worlds Smallest Woman. There is always some version of these acts at most circuses. Even the Worlds Strongest Man. But my favorite might be the Magicians. They are always good for a thrill or two. Especially to kids, who just can't figure out how they did that trick. 

     Don't forget the exotic animals. See that camel in the photo below. Can you imagine when you were a kid from a small town when you would ever in your life get to see a real live camel? That's why a circus is so cool. King Brother's Circus and others like them enjoyed a lot of success over the years bringing everything they had to entertain you and expose you to something you may never, ever have the opportunity to see again. I wish they were still around. This was really great entertainment, especially to a small town like Union Springs.

Now don't forget the food... roasted peanuts, cotton candy, candied apples, cracker jacks, and the smell of that popcorn! Oh my! I can almost smell it now.

     I brought you down memory lane for a reason. Not because I  think you're some kind of nitwit or cave dweller that hasn't ever heard of a circus. It is so you can close your eyes and remember a simpler time. Happy times. In a small town like Union Springs or wherever you live, this was a time to get out of the house and go with your friends, family, neighbors and spend time together participating in a family friendly and FUN event that was so exciting, so thrilling that you would talk about it for days, and days. The circus was a place filled with excitement, laughter, and people who devoted their lives to making you smile. How cool is that?  I wish it were still that easy to bring people together.

Union Springs may have had more than one circus come to town over the years. I'm sure it did. But for this particular post I have proof that they did. They stayed at our beloved jewel of Prairie Street, The Josephine Hotel. For at least we know that during this one snippet of time in history, the people of Union Springs went to a tent with its neighbors, and together they laughed and smiled. They enjoyed the circus... together.

Be sure to check back right here to see more posts from Oh, That Josephine.