Hostel Surroundings – Kokomo Perspective


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In comparison to our forbears, travelers today have it pretty easy. Just a few clicks of the keyboard reserves a nice clean comfortable bed in which to rest their weary bones after a long day's journey followed up by a nice, inclusive continental breakfast to kickstart the next morning.

In grandma & grandpa's day there were no motels. Either they stayed with relatives along the way, cozied up in a tourist cabin, slept on the seats if traveling by automobile or checked into a hotel. The latter tended to offer the best accommodations, but was a bit pricey.

Hotels during the 20's & 30's could generally be found in the city's center, near the action. More often than not, a railway station would be located nearby, facilitating easy transition to the chosen place of abidance for passengers.

Hotels were utilized, not only by travelers, but also by those folks who enjoyed the convenience offered at the hostelries. So they located their permanent address at Hotel So-and-So. It sounded so chic.

A solid reputation was paramount to the success of any location offering public lodging. Being known as a fleabag was a certain kiss of death. Bedbugs were taboo in any instance.

One avenue used to garner favorable reviews was through the hotel's restaurant. Many became quite popular for offering world class food items. One may have been favored for their prime steaks. Another for their shrimp, clams or lobster. Rest assured, if the restaurant received two thumbs up, word spread like wildfire, nearly guaranteeing prosperity for the affiliated hotel and its investors.

Recalling when my parents wished to go dining and dancing, the opulent Claypool Hotel in Indianapolis was their destination. There was none finer in the state.

Kokomo was not without its pair of fine downtown hotels. There were smaller ones dotted around of course, but the Hotel Frances located on the northeast corner of Mulberry & Buckeye and the Courtland Hotel at 401 N. Main St. were the tops. Both served the Kokomo area for decades.

Communication was still light years away from cellphones or any satellite infused devices. There were very few telephones in the rooms if any. A lobby phone or phone booths were available for patrons in the lobby area. The telegraph remained in heavy use, thereby offices were located near the hotels

The Frances and Courtland were close to everything. The Pennsylvania Railroad station at Main & Elm, plus the L.E.&W (later Nickle Plate) station at Jackson & Buckeye were but a brief walk to both locations. If one wished to shop, simply stepping outside placed a wide variety at your fingertips. Movie theaters abounded nearby. Taverns, pool halls, churches, everything from A to Z was but a stone's throw away.

Large gatherings of business, professional, civic or fraternal organizations were often conducted in the banquet rooms offered by the pair. Floral centerpieces on linen tablecloths, fine china, iced water goblets and table service aligned atop folded linen napkins was standard for such assemblies. Often, local photographers would be hired to freeze-frame the events for posterity.

It was a storied, exciting time which surrounded the gilded edifices. During the days of my youth, a few years apart, both suffered the inglorious fate of succumbing to the flame. They were replaced by flat, nondescript asphalt. Two more places to park the fossil burners.

Although they have been absent from our local skyline for many years, I still miss those two towering old brutes. We shall never see their kind again. A lot of laughter and good times took place between their stone and brick walls. Should old acquaintance be forgot?

-That's 30-

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Hostel Surroundings - Kokomo Perspective

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