Just joining me? Read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here!
Although I was again seized with anxiety about picking up and moving, especially after being in Texas for only two years, the move to Knoxville in general was very exciting for our family. My dad got a job as the General Manager of the Holiday Inn near the UT Campus as the entire city was preparing for the 1982 World’s Fair, whose grounds happened to be walking distance from the hotel. (We got Season’s Passes and were regulars at the Fair. I may have to blog about that sometime. It was amazing. In fact, the UK pavilion is where I purchased my bone china thimbles featuring Prince Charles, Diana, and Prince Phillip. Still haven’t found the Queen Elizabeth thimble…)
Just like when we moved to Texas, my parents didn’t want to rush into buying a home until we were very familiar with the area, so we moved into an apartment-like room suite on the top floor of the hotel, overlooking the pool. We had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen. Being on the top floor (I think there were five or six floors), we got to ride the elevator to and from our living quarters, which was a pretty cool feeling. Being on the top floor also meant that it was a pain in the rear whenever Dapple and her two pups (Willie and Sandy) had to go outside, because we had to ride the elevator to and from our living quarters.
I remember more about this hotel than any other, not only because we lived there for a long time (several months, I think), but also because I was thirteen, and I guess just the right age to lock it up in my long-term memory. I don’t have the correct chronological order on everything, so I’ll just list what I remember in random bits:
1. I received the best prank call from one of my new friends while living at that hotel:
Her: “Hello, we are taking a survey. Do you have a few minutes to answer some questions?”
Her: “Are you Russian?”
Her: “Are you British?”
Her: “Are you Spanish?”
Her: “Are you Finnish?”
Her: “Well, I am.”
Isn’t that an awesome prank call? I love it.
2. When my mom took me to the Middle School (Knoxville had one of the more progressive school districts in the country, apparently: switching from the Junior High School concept to the Middle School was a new idea during this time.), we stood in the office, figuring out which classes I would take. When we found out they offered German to eighth graders, my mom and I literally jumped up and down, shrieking with excitement. Whenever I think about that, I feel giddy all over again.
3. Though we had a kitchen in our hotel apartment and mom did cook, my sister and I preferred to eat the food from the restaurant. This fact has NOTHING to do with the cooking skills of our mom; she’s a fabulous cook. However, when you’re a young girl living in a hotel and can get whatever you want prepared for you by the hotel chef, it’s a pretty exciting thing. I have to think that our mom preferred it, too, since it was going to end as soon as we moved out.
4. Although I just mentioned that we could get whatever we wanted, prepared by the hotel chef, I have to admit that I ate a cheeseburger with fries EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. In fact, sometimes I ate a cheeseburger and fries for lunch AND dinner. The restaurant staff saw me coming and would ask if I wanted “the usual”. On the weekends, I used to delay breakfast for so long that by the time I got downstairs to the restaurant, they were serving lunch, and “Oh darn, I guess I missed breakfast…how about a cheeseburger?” I ate so many cheeseburgers and fries during our time there that I can still, if I close my eyes, see exactly what the plate looked like as it was brought to the table, and I can still remember how deliciously they smelled and tasted. In fact, I would pay a lot of money (if I had it) to have one at this very moment. With catsup.
5. By the way, the privilege of just “signing” the check at the end of a meal in the hotel restaurant was something that was very exciting for me. Imagine that for a second. I KNOW, RIGHT??
6. Dad’s front desk staff included a young man named Dan, who was a student at UT. I thought Dan rocked. He was SO cute, and very nice to me (as was everyone who worked there). Eventually Dan started working in group sales part-time, and stayed at the front desk part-time. I would often stop to chat with him, as a thirteen-year-old girl–who was gaga over a guy six or seven years older than she–does, and he never let on that he was probably very annoyed that I was interrupting his work. One day he gave me his hardcover copy of Roget’s Thesaurus, which I still have and use all the time.
7. We used to, whether we ate in the restaurant or not, order desserts from the restaurant at night, from our rooms upstairs. We often went downstairs to retrieve them ourselves, so as not to be a burden on the restaurant staff. One night, Dad was working late and I ordered ice cream sundaes for my mom, sister, and me. I hopped on the elevator, walked through the lobby (saying hello to Dan at the front desk on my way to the restaurant), retrieved a small tray with our sundaes on it, and walked back through the lobby. I walked with confident strides, holding onto the little tray with both hands. Suddenly, I tripped. The sundaes (in those tall glass dishes) went flying, shattering all over the lobby floor. I was mortified that this had happened right in front of Dan, who rushed out to help me pick up the shards of ice cream-coated glass–and my self esteem–off the floor. He called the restaurant to order us three new sundaes and insisted on cleaning up the mess without my help, so I took the walk of shame back to the restaurant. I felt awful about the whole thing, not only because of how embarrassing it was to trip and make the mess in front of Dan, but also because I was ashamed that I, the GM’s daughter, made more work for the staff.
8. We spent LOTS of time at the pool. Whether it was just us swimming or we had friends over, we alwaysalwaysalways had cheeseburgers brought out to the pool. This should come as no surprise to you if you read number four.
9. Probably my best memories of living in this hotel (other than the World’s Fair and the cheeseburgers) were the endless hours Julesie and I spent in the video arcade, just off the lobby. That’s right, we lived in a hotel in the 1980’s–at the height of the video arcade craze–that had an arcade. Not only that, but my sister and I learned the schedule of the guy who came to empty out all of the quarters, and when we appeared in the arcade when he was making his regular stop, he used to set up the machines for free play for us. WHEE! At that time, there was nothing better. We spent hours and hours and hours playing Pac Man, of course, as well as Centipede. We loved Donkey Kong, too. For some reason, I played (and still do, on the rare occasions I find a real arcade machine these days) Donkey Kong with crossed arms, maneuvering the joystick (which is on the left) with my right hand and hitting the jump button (which is on the right) with my left hand. Don’t ask: I have no idea why.
The arcade also had Qbert, Defender, and Galaga; one of our favorites was, of course, Burgertime.
As it was the heyday for video arcades, SNL produced a fantastic short film, a “mockumentary”, that came out right around the time we lived in the Knoxville Holiday Inn and spent most of our free time playing games. I was so thrilled to find it, and wanted to share it with you. It’s totally worth the watch.
After we moved out of that hotel, we still went there to visit Dad while he was working, and of course we tried to time it around lunchtime. Cheeseburgers, you know.
That was the last hotel I lived in; Dad later transferred to another Knoxville Holiday Inn, and he worked there until I graduated high school, went off to college, and got married.
It was totally fun to have these experiences; not too many people do. My sister and I didn’t act like we owned the place, like Eloise, but we definitely had freedom to go practically wherever we wanted to, even behind the scenes in the kitchen. By the way, if you have never seen the movie “My Bodyguard” (not to be confused with the Whitney Houston flick, “THE Bodyguard”), you must. It came out in 1980 and was not only filmed in Chicago, but also, the main character lives in the hotel his dad manages. Also? It’s Joan Cusack’s first appearance in a movie.
So there you have it, my Hotel Diaries! I don’t know about you, but I need a cheeseburger.
©2011 Suburban Scrawl