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  • Gary Gruber

The Holiday Inn

It was the summer of 1969 and I needed a job for the summer to make a little cash. I had just finished my second year of school at Wilkes College – a dreadful school and a very wasted year. My mother had yanked me out of Duquesne University after one year because she was ‘lonely’. Truth be told, she was punishing me for crushing the dream she had for me. As far as I could remember (somewhere around kindergarten) she told me I was to become a doctor when I grew up. I had no input in the matter at all. Settled science.


When I firmly announced I had decided to be a photographer, the revulsion she exhibited was monumental. At the time, she was sleeping with the Dean of Men and procured me a pre-med scholarship at Wilkes. When I met the Dean and he showed me my course outline for the year, I told him in no uncertain terms I would have none of it. My scholarship was cancelled and my mother had to find a new boyfriend.


In those days, when you needed a job, you went to the state employment agency where the personnel would grill you on your ambitions in life. At 19, I had none.


They would then scan a stack of papers on their desk and try to find something suitable: “Lifeguard at the Holiday Inn” popped up and I grabbed it. My pay was $1.70 an hour, a good haul for those days. As the manager was giving me a tour of the grounds, he let it slip that in addition to my duties sitting in the coveted chair by the pool, I would also be required to be a bell hop. I would ferry luggage to a traveler’s room, usually getting a 25 cent tip for my effort.


My friend Dave worked the 6am-2pm shift, so we had a few minutes to kibitz as I arrived. It was a fairly easy gig – I’d keep a pair of shorts and a shirt by my chair in case I got a whistle from the front desk to help someone. It was like being Superman in reverse. I was putting on clothes to help people, instead of ripping them off.


The job was not without its perks. “Tommy James and the Shondells”, a pop/rock group was staying at the Inn and needed help finding their way to their gig location. The manager volunteered me as a tour guide; they followed me to the amusement park (San Souci) that evening. In exchange I received an autographed 8 x 10 of the group and a warm thank you from the band – a genuinely nice bunch of guys.


The weirdest thing that happened occurred while I was lugging a couple of suitcases to a room. As we passed the swimming pool I saw someone in distress. I dropped the luggage and ran towards the pool. Ripping off my clothes and kicking off my shoes, I jumped into the water and retrieved the young man in trouble. After hauling him out and verifying he was ok, I ran to the waiting couple, grabbed their luggage, and continued on the short trek to their room.


Now that’s a super man….

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