Top of the Ladder

After leaving school I found a job as relief elevator operator in the Roger Smith Hotel in White Plains. On my days off I would return to painting signs for local merchants.

I was up on a ladder painting a large sign on the Howard Anthes garage when some friends stopped by to say hello. With them were some pretty girls. One was especially pretty. It was suggested that we all go riding that night. I consented. The very pretty girl was my partner.

The inevitable, of course, happened. I fell in love and a simple date became a habit. We went through the usual rough era as all lovers do, exchanging philosophy and values. I don't give in easily, but I do negotiate. I had to or she would not have married me on July 27th 1941.

From elevator operator, I became a bellhop. I wore a dapper uniform identical to "Johnny" of the Philip Morris cigarette advertisement whose bellhop cried out as a page on radio "Call for Philip Morris."

I pretty well knew my duties. Jimmy Dougherity the bell captain, was a fine instructor. A smiling happy extroverted personality who made everyone feel it was a great day to be alive.

He had an Irish brogue as thick as the bog country he came from.

One thing Jimmy forgot was teaching me to page. The desk clerk called to me one day and said, "there is a phone call for Mr. Smith who is having dinner. Page him."

At the entrance to the dinning room I stood at attention in my shining red uniform with all the brass buttons aglow and called in my loudest voice, "Call for Mister Smith."

The manager, who was also eating at the time, choked on his food. Jimmy quickly led me from the room with the manager, Mr. Merrick, behind us.

God damn it, Jimmy! Teach him to page.

From then on I would walk quietly from table to table and in a low voice announce, "Call for Mr. Smith." "Call for Mr. Smith."

Pearl Harbor was bombed, The Bell Captain Jimmy Dougherity was drafted and I became the Bell Captain. With the title came Jimmy's explanation of all the little frills known to no one but the bell captain. The coat room was then my responsibility. It had to be set up for all occasions to accommodate as many as one hundred people. I also needed a check room girl. The girl became Geraldine (Willt) Coogan, the pretty little girl I dated for a ride one evening.

Jimmy told me there was good money in the tips and I was to give the hotel 10% of the take. "You are never to report more than ten dollars. If you do, you will not only spoil a good thing, you'll give me a bad reputation for the future. Remember I may come back some day."

I lost track of Jimmy after one letter from boot camp, but he was true to his words. Gerry and I made more money from the check room than I made hopping bells.

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