Even though it needed to go long ago, I still felt a slight twinge of regret when I drove into town Thursday and saw that the demolition of the Parker Hotel was finally underway. I guess there’s something kind of sad about a structure that has been there all your life — and for well more than a century before that — finally giving way to Father Time.
Anyway, I don’t have a lot of intricate memories of the Parker Hotel like the ones from the late Vince Golden expressed in Friday’s paper, but I do have a few.
I suppose my first memory of the Parker House Hotel (my understanding is that as you are looking at the front of the structure, the portion on the right that’s being torn down was the Parker Hotel, and the other part that’s still standing was the Parker House) is when I saw an uncle standing in front of it waiting for a Greyhound bus to take him, eventually, to Vietnam.
That was pretty sad, with lots of his family gathered around and such, but for some reason he was rejected by the military and was back home before long.
Not long after that, I started getting regular haircuts at the Parker Hotel. Yes, there was a barbershop there. You entered it from the alley on the right side of the building, turned a sharp right as soon as you opened the door, and took a few steps down into a very tiny basement room where two barbers worked. It was compact, and I never liked the place much. But they gave kids a piece of bubble gum after the haircut, so I tolerated it, even though I had no other option. I was a little kid, and I went where my parents told me to go.
Once when our church had a revival, the minister brought his son with him, and the son happened to be about my age. He was from Florida, and they visited our house a time or two during revival week. The boy had this haircut — basically a burr except for some bangs in front — that my father took a liking to. So he took me to the barber in the basement and asked him to replicate the cut.
It did not turn out well. That was a Saturday, and it seems like I didn’t take my toboggan off until I had to go to school on Monday.
I did not want the haircut to begin with, and Dad had no room to argue about the way it turned out, so maybe for the first time ever I let my father know that I thought should have a say about what my hair looked like.
That was likely the beginning of getting my hair cut for 40-plus years by John Wilbanks in Lynchburg.
Several years later I found myself back in the Parker House — the part that’s still standing. I took a job with the Schluep family papers based in Greenfield and had an office in the Parker House where the former Hillsboro Times was headquartered.
My office was fairly nice, located next to the office Jack Hope, the owner of the building, had at the time. Jack took me on a tour of the building a time or two. Its long-ago grandeur was still obvious in some places, but when we wandered over to the Parker Hotel side of the structure, it was pretty sketchy. And that was about 30 years ago.
It was in that Parker House office that I lost part of my right index finger. Or at least it started there. I have told this story before, so here’s the short version:
I was talking on the phone and fiddling with a stapler when I accidentally pushed the stapler a little too hard. A staple broke the skin at the first joint on my right index finger. But it barely broke the skin, and I didn’t think anything of it.
When I woke up the next morning my finger hurt really bad. Forgetting about the staple, I thought I had somehow broken the finger because it sure felt broken. By the time I got to work — in Greenfield that day — it was starting to swell, and eventually, my co-workers told me to go to the hospital. I did, and they cleaned the finger and gave me some pain pills.
I ended up eating most of the pills that day and night, but they didn’t help.
I went to a different doctor the next morning. She told me I had 30 minutes to dash home, grab whatever I needed, and meet her at the hospital.
I was there four or five days — on heavy antibiotics and a morphine drip. That didn’t help much either, at least the first two or three days. When I got out of the hospital I went back to work, but an incision the doctor made — about where the staple stuck me — would never heal.
As things turned out, some kind of infection ate all the muscle, ligaments and bone around where I stapled my finger. Basically, there was no joint left in the end of the right index finger. So I had to go see a specialist at Christ Hospital. They ended up cutting the joint out, then stuck the tip back on the rest of the finger.
So, I guess you could say the Parker House left its mark on me.
Now a big crane has vanquished its next-door neighbor, the old Parker Hotel, where I received probably the most hideous haircut I’ve ever had. Unless you count those mullets I used to wear back in the 1980s.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.