Room at the Bottom

When Eisenhower-era civic leaders drunk on urban renewal laid waste to the Gateway district, they forever altered the topography of this town's hard-luck hotels and shot-and-a-beer saloons.

Our father left the mine in the north because of the extreme working conditions up there. All his brothers and sisters were down here, so he came to join the family.

As far as the bar goes, the unique feature of the bar was that they made all their drink mixes from scratch. They were fresh. At that time Lake Street was a real popular place to be. Everybody would go up there for entertainment, up and down. Even in high school we still cruised Lake Street. It was really safe.

We never did much record-keeping of Mom and Dad's stories of the Schooner. It was for them a work farm. They had a lot of work to do. It was really a well-kept and clean place. I would go up there as a youngster in elementary school and be with Chrissy while she was cleaning the rooms.

Wing Young Huie

We would clean the bar on Sundays. My parents were such cleanaholics--that Scandinavian thing. Every bottle off the back bar, every bottle got wiped, every bottle, every week. Every glass got rewashed on Sunday. The back bar got spit-shined. You just can't imagine.

My husband, when he was in college, they would take the chairs and they would pay him to actually scrape off gum and tar, and they would clean the rungs of the chairs. They really worked at keeping it clean.

I think some of the men must have stayed for a long, long time. There was that one old guy who had that painted-on mustache. He had lived there for a long time. The men couldn't keep their rooms locked, because we had to clean. And family lived up there, too. My aunt Annie lived up there. The owners lived up there until 1941. There was always someone living there. Chrissy lived up there.

But they were mostly bachelors. It's so different. That whole area isn't at all what it was. Families moved out of that area. When we were there, it was real stable.

In the bar, they always had mature women for their waitresses. They didn't have anyone who was young. The women who worked there were like moms to the men.

"Mike" has been threatened too many times to want his name or the name of his hotel in the paper. He came to the United States as a young man. Now he owns a hotel in St. Paul that rents rooms by the night and the week.

Most of the people who stay is the construction workers. Like four week, five week, six week, eight week. Some of them stay longer because it's not expensive. If you stay on a weekly basis it's pretty cheap. It depends on what's in the room and the size of the room. It's not expensive. It's between $85 to $115 for a week. They share a bath.

What are the rules? Be quiet. No loud music. No alcohol. No prostitution. No weapons of any kind. I just inform them right in the front, if they will break one of our rules, they will be history. Immediately. You kick them out. You kick them out by yourself. You kick them out with the police. You give them one warning--second time they're out. If they refuse, we ask for police service. See, we are not landlords. We are innkeepers. It's different.

Most of the people are single men. Some of them are between separation and divorce. The place is cheap if you compare it to the apartment. You can get a cheap apartment for $270 or $280. But you need a machine gun sticking out your window to protect you. You need security guards walking 24 hours a day and four guard posts around this place. Some people can't take it any more.

Some people skipped out of apartments for whatever reason. We don't ask questions. But we ask them to follow the rules and pay on time.

We get a lot of good people from Canada, from Europe. We get them from Australia, Japan, Korea. Most of the people from Europe are used to this type of facility, because same thing in Europe. That's what I've been told. Travelers, students coming to the U of M from other countries, all over the world.

I've gotten it all. I had one gentleman, construction worker. The company called to set up a room for him. He came. Very nice gentleman. And he went drunk completely. Walk out naked in the hallway.

We had one person who came here, an extremely quiet person. Then we find out he was sent from a mental institution. He was released. We called the police because he claimed he was an FBI agent, that he was doing a sting operation. He was crazy. Started screaming for two hours. We asked him to leave.

You see a lot of bums come in. That is a problem. They sleep under the bridges, and God know where. They're dirty, their rooms aren't clean. It's more expensive to clean up after them than to rent a room to them.

I've been here 10 years. I lost my job. I had to buy myself something. It was '88--not the best year. I received my pink slip at Christmas time. I was high-paid. I was project engineer. I could not find myself a job. I had to borrow money from everybody I knew to get the down payment. I'm still paying for it.

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