..looking back

30 Oct

I have a friend who watches the show “Dirty Jobs” and has gotten me to start watching it too.  It has a premise.   Basically it takes the view point that there are things out there that have to be done.  Sometimes they are “dirty jobs”.  Someone has to do them.  So if you do them, suck it up, make the most of it, make some good money and most important have a good time while you suck it up and make good money and just ignore the dirt.  The show brings respect to the people of this country who work very hard doing all the things that  the “suits” of the world take for granted.  Food, shelter and processing their poo, for example.  Yep, someone has to do it.

This starting me thinking of my Dad who was in the hotel business all of the part of his life that I remember about him, and way before.  Today Hotel Management is seen to be for the most part a “suit” job.  I was  a hotel manager for a long time and believe you me, that is a facade.  Back in my Dads day, it was a “dirty”  job.  At least that is what I think, looking back at it.  I grew up in the hotel business, and our hotel was a big ole building, tall and old and dirty.  I mean it was clean, cause my Grandmother was the Executive Housekeeper  (besides being the CEO keeping my Grandfather and Father straight, if you get my drift) but the hotel  had been build in 1904 and, well when you are that old you tend to fray around the edges a bit.  Who am I kidding, you fray a LOT.  Plus the fact that it was located downtown  in a city where tobacco was king and the air was permeated with the smell of cigarettes being made.  Those towering tobacco plants belched their waste at night so no one would see the  smoke and suet and dust and dirt blowing on the wind and covering everything close by with silt.

I remember the men and women that worked for my father.  They always seemed old and frayed a bit themselves as if the building itself cast a shadow on them. They worked hard and were as much “family” to my father as my brothers and sisters and I were.  These people were the window of the world to me when I was young.  I was taught to answer the telephone, ( think Lily Tomlin, One ringie-dingie type switchboard), operate the elevator, (think Porter in the “Call for Phillip Morris” commercials), fold laundry with a snap and count change for a dollar.  Tall orders for a 5 year old.  I had a blast naturally.    I learned to do “payroll” when I was 8.  Every Friday my father would count out the $5 or $ 6 dollars the clerks would earn (they got their rooms free)  and I got to put the money in those little brown clasp envelops and write their names on them and take them to their rooms.  Off I would go on my tricycle,riding the hallways, Wells Fargo in Keds.  Think,  kid in “the Shinning”  sans ghosts.  It just didn’t get any better.

The people that stayed there were hard working folk. Two bucks got you a room with a bath down the hall.  Three got you a sink in your room.  Needed a little sip of something to wash the dirt from the road, well in our dry county, you only had to ask one of the bellmen, and something smooth? would be brought to your room in a brown paper bag. Lots of salesmen traveling from here and yonder.  Some of them my Dad would bring home for dinner as it was a long time between home cooked meals back then if you were a road warrior.  I remember once the Mayor of Baton Rouge stayed at our hotel.  He talked funny and I remember thinking he sounded like he was rhyming a song.  The mayor came to dinner once and cooked something cajun, I think.  I don’t really remember what it was, other than it was hot and spicy and it was good.  Strange food for a tarheel raised on butter beans and stew chicken and dumplins.

There were women that stayed at our hotel.  I never saw them much, as I didn’t go to the hotel at night, but I remember my Grandmother mumbling about “those women” cause she had to clean up after them. This was way too much knowledge for a 5 year old to process, which was probably a good thing I couldn’t quite hear what she mumbled.

When I say this was a “dirty job” my Dad had, it wasn’t that he was working with his hands, having to create things to sell or farming something for people to eat.  He had to deal with the hard working men and women that did the dirty jobs that ran this country. Back then much more so than today, the blue collar worker was looked down upon by most.  Farmers bringing their raw tobacco to sell to the warehouse, construction workers and various tradesmen all stayed at what was known as the traveling mans hotel.  Traveling salesmen were to be made jokes about, not give credit to. How hard and waring it was on them to have to be away from the  family’s they so desperately were trying to support.  The tiredness of their souls prayed heavy on my Dad.  He was a jovial sort of person, but took their troubles to heart as if to help lighten their load, and it wore him down.  Many years of having to help carry that baggage finally defeated him.  Sixty  is a young age to die but over the years,  he had aided many of those toiling  in those perceived dirty jobs, and he tried to make their “away” lives a little more tolerable.  That was only proper for a good innkeeper.

Credit needs to be given more to those men and women who work and travel the road.  Since I am now one of them, I can appreciate more what toll it takes to be a road warrior.  Being away from home, working to make a living for your family the best way you can, it qualifies as a dirty job.  The dirt and sweat may not show on our bodies , but toiling hard at your chosen profession, day in and day out, can be just waring on one.   These are the people that made our country strong, I’m glad to be among them and glad my friend told me about a show that honors the hard workers everywhere.

1 Comment

Posted by on October 30, 2009 in Southern Humor


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One response to “..looking back

  1. Beth

    October 31, 2009 at 6:14 am

    That was incredible! A real look into growing up in a family business and the affect it has on each member. Remember, a dirty job can be anything; dirty, dangerous, unusual. Your Dad certainly fit the bill.

    Great job and thank you for the insight.


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