• NYE: Little Miss Judy’s Believe it Or Not

    New Year’s Eve at the Grand Oglethorpe Hotel
    I have to admit that this one of those stories that I wrote and every time I re-read it I re-live it! I am so happy that my memory banks are still intact.

    Photos by Jerry Helmey (my mother)

    Yes this is me sitting on the stern of Daddy’s wooden boat “Miss Jerry.” My mother most likely was taking the picture, because daddy would have never thought of putting the hotel in the background. As you can see it pretty much looks the same way today as it sits on beautiful Wilmington River. However, unfortunately it’s no longer known as the Grand Oglethorpe Hotel! However, for me it will never be anything else!

    New Years Eve at the grand Oglethorpe Hotel

    My father used to go to their New Year Eve Party every year. And to get the story started I must state my grandmother lived and worked at the hotel. So therefore he could drop me off and then walk right into the main lobby of the hotel and right into the famous Emerald Room. This was the hotel’s ballroom, which was definitely unbelievable to a 7 year old. I really don’t know where to start in regards to this story, because there is so much to write.

    Firstly, let get this part of the story out of the way. My grandmother on my mother’s side worked at the hotel in linen services. I guess that’s what it’s called. She worked down under the hotel taking care of making sure all the linens were washed and pressed properly. Yes, I said, “Pressed properly!” The linens were ironed back then for the hotel beds. And each bed had to be made up a certain way, but to this day I never understood why. All I know I couldn’t help do this part. However, I could fluff the pillows, which was always my job. My grandmothers’ room looked like a hotel room. It didn’t have a kitchen, because all meals were picked up at the hotel’s kitchen. I can’t remember whether I liked the food or not. However, what I do remember is individual pats of butter, small helpings of all type of jellies, and everything on a separate covered plate. All plates, coffee cups, and tea glasses set on what my grandmother called a “dolly.” We basically had the time of our lives picking up the food, coming back to the room, and eating off of a tray. It was great!

    At the age of seven I wasn’t allowed to roam around much, but when I was I made tracks. I found out quick that from the linens services you could get almost anywhere. It was an adventure from the word go. Once everyone met me my travels broadened. I could run to the kitchen grab a piece of toast; butter it up with an actual paint brush, and get back to my mission. Before I go any further I have to tell you about this toaster. It reminded me of a sideways merry go around. The white bread was put on the track and as it went up the burners inside toasted one side and as it came down the other side of the toast was cooked. It really never stopped. As the toast came around it was taken off, buttered, cut in half, and put on a saucer. After a while I would just run up, pick out my piece of toast, paint it with butter and off I would go. Life was good especially while eating on the run!

    I’ll never forget the day I found the ballroom, which was called the Emerald Room. It had dark green velvet curtains that seemed to go forever from the ceiling to the floor. It was a big room and on this particular day there were men with white hats chipping away at large chunks of ice. There was certainly a lot going on. The tables were being set along with colorful party hats, horns, and swing around noisemakers. Not only that, streamers of all colors was being draped from one end to another. Balloons were being tied everywhere; it was festive for sure! Being a child my main goal was trying to get one of those noisemakers. Sure enough a nice gentleman also dressed in white fixed me right up. I now had a hat, horn, and noisemaker. However, I was instructed not to blow the horn or swing the noisemaker in the hotel. I am sure glad he told me that, because my plan was to parade through the Governor’s Lounge and see how much attention I could get.

    Photo by Jerry Helmey

    This is me once again trying to either hold up or just plain shoot at some one. I have always been fascinated with guns. In this case “cap guns.” I have to tell you while I am writing this I can smell the smoke that a cap gun made when fired. It’s funny what you remember. As a child, during my cap gun phase I fired off roll after roll. I shot at everything from the trees to the ground. As you can see in this picture I was dressed for cowboy success! The furniture in this room came from the Oglethorpe’s Hotel Governor’s Lounge. And it is still in my house!
    Since I mentioned it I might as well tell you about the Governor’s lounge. This room was situated on the ground level floor of the hotel. It had lots of windows so you could see outside while sitting down. They should have called it the Lounging room instead, because there were chair and sofas all over the room. Heck, I could jump from one to another without even touching the floor. As a child I didn’t understand what all the sitting was about. However, this room was sure was used a lot. It was always packed full of people drinking and smoking big cigars. As far as watching, this was the easiest room to get to. You could just walk in from outside, shoot right behind the sofas, and never be seen. I ought to know, I made a lot of strategic moves in this place working my way through all the furniture.
    Apparently the day that I received the party favors it must have been New Years Eve. I remembered daddy had dropped me off earlier that morning and said he wouldn’t see me till tomorrow. Believe me, there was no crying here. Don’t get me wrong I love my father, but just thinking about running around the hotel was pretty darn exciting. After all I had to make the best out of what I was handed. My daddy used to say just like bre’r rabbit did “Please don’t throw me in briar patch!” Well in this case, I was like that old rabbit; I wanted to stay at the hotel.
    Since I couldn’t really do much with my party favors I decided to take them back to my grandmother for safekeeping. As soon as I dropped my goods off I headed back to the Emerald Room, because I wanted to see what those big block of ice looked like now. To my amazement they had carved two ice swans, which pretty much had me mesmerized. If I had known the word “unbelievable” I probably would have used it.
    The next day my father picked me up. When we got into the car on the seat was a party hat, horn, and a swinging noisemaker. I acted surprised when he handed them to me and also when he told me about the swans that were made from ice. As I listened to him talk about things that I already knew I was happy to know that he had not missed out on anything either!

    Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays! Captain Judy