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Interview with: Rosalie Clements
Interviewed by: Louis J. Marchiafava
Date: February 12, 1977
Archive Number: OH 387
LM: Ms. Clements, I’m very happy to have you here today to talk to us about your experiences at The Shamrock in the early ‘50s, and I think an appropriate place to begin the interview would be to ask you how you first became employed there and in what capacity?
RC: (00:24) Why don’t you give me some kind of high sign then when you want me to start that? Okay, well the first thing I heard about The Shamrock was a big piece came out in what was called The Houston Press at that time. We had The Houston Post and The Chronicle here in town, but The Houston Press was kind of a scandal sheet. It would press anything out they wanted to and use and sometimes it was good and sometimes it wasn’t. And so The Houston Press announced one day that there was going to be a $22 million hotel built way out on the edge of town and there would be a helicopter that could take the people to and from the Hobby Airport. It would land on the lawn of The Shamrock, and that was quite an inducement because people had a long ways to drive from all over Houston to get to go to the airport. And then no one hardly believed, particularly the businessmen did not believe and they scoffed at the idea—and Jesse H. Jones, who at that time, owned every other hotel in town plus The Houston Chronicle, had quite a bit to say about this was just a big joke and it was just another one of Glenn McCarthy’s bright ideas.
But he had a lot of people in mind and his thing was pretty well planned about what he was going to do before he announced it, so to begin with, he didn’t start the work on the hotel. He started work on a Houston ship channel, and Jesse H. Jones objected to that because he owned property on both sides of the channel nearly all the way from here to Galveston. But anyway, the work took place. They widened the channel. They took the curves out of it and they deepened it, and then they lit it up so big-time ships could come right to the foot of Main Street—what is Main Street yet today; it’s Allen’s Landing now, but that was a long time ago.
(02:14) So then he began work on the hotel, and so I answered a little ad in the paper that they needed some help out there and they didn’t say what kind; they just needed all kinds of help. They needed dishwashers, wine stewards, waitresses, telephone operators, bus boys, the whole bit for the big hotel. But he said, “This hotel is going to be unlike anything else in Houston, Texas because all of the hotels that have belonged to Jesse H. Jones smell like Lysol or old folks’ homes or something like that, that needed a real good cleaning up.” And Glenn McCarthy traveled extensively and he was a very bright man, and quick, and had a temper and seemed to carry a chip on his shoulder, so every time anybody would say anything about he would not put the hotel up, there was a fight, even before the first ground was laid.
(03:11) So then finally, it got to the stage where they were laying the cornerstones and I went out and watched the picture of he and his son laying the cornerstone and I thought what a great thing that would be for Houston, that one man had the guts and had the idea and had the initiative and really wanted to do something for Houston, Texas--and any number of big concerns of Conoco and all of the big oil companies and Philco—and I can’t think of them, just dozens of big companies that I knew of—refused to come to Houston, Texas because there wasn’t a decent hotel to get into. They could not hold a convention and they couldn’t hold a big-sized banquet like they would like to. The food was improper. The wine stewards didn’t know a bottle of wine from a bottle of soda pop, and the way the food was handled was all very distasteful to Glenn after he had been traveling around for a while. So he decided to have the best linen, the best silver, the best china, the best help, the best furniture, and the very prettiest hotel that money could buy.
And he came darn near to doing it on his first wish. He decided that he would make it with $22 million, but when he got up to the next—about the third from the top floor—he ran out of money and he had everything below that furnished, but it so happened that the presidential suite and Glenn McCarthy’s suite and then a guest suite was on the very top floor, and these were supposed to be—these showthings of the hotel. So you had to postpone a little while and kind of hold things up, and that slowed the opening quite a bit before he had that.
But in the meantime, he hit on the idea of running a contest and having the name and he was going to give $500 to the boy or girl—and you had to be under 18, I think, to name this hotel—and he had children himself, one small boy and four daughters—and he wanted a group of children to start naming the hotel, and when the name was chosen, whatever name it was, the prize would be the $500. And so you had to tell why you named it and where you got the name and how come, so one little Irish kid—I can’t remember his name, but it’s in the newspapers here someplace—and he decided to name it The Shamrock. He said he thought a shamrock was a pretty thing, was a beautiful design, and many, many times after that, he’s sorry he ever named it The Shamrock, but The Shamrock was what it became at that time. And I remember one instance where a businessman who was pretty pushy, just refused to be neglected and pushed out like some of them were, and incidentally, Glenn called all these people that tried to see him all the time, all together, all at once, and rushed them in his office when they’d see him come in the building and there was no way he could slip in the building and slip out without being noticed—and so this gentleman saw him just at closing time one weekend, and he had a little frozen package about the size of a quart of ice cream that we would get nowadays, and he unwrapped the tinfoil and all over, and he just put it on Glenn McCarthy’s desk and he said, “You just have to look at this.” He said, “It’s very essential. You just have to see it.” (s/l Colleen??) said you can’t run the hotel without him. He was so insistent that the secretary let him stay there just for a few minutes, and she says, “Well, okay. He’s on the phone right now, but I’ll see that he sees it in just a few minutes.”
(07:04) So in the shuffle that weekend, the little package was forgotten, and it happened to be a pound of butter that was frozen with a shamrock right through the middle of it, so every time you sliced a piece of this butter, why, you’d have a little, teensy colored shamrock all butter, though, in this package. So when he left the building, he was still conscientious enough to know that one wing of the building—for instance, these top floors were not air-conditioned at the time; you could shut off the air conditioning to anyplace that was not being used—and so suddenly, he got very thrifty so he got to where he would even turn off the air conditioner if—and that was one main way they could tell that he was going to go on a hunting trip or a fishing trip or something, be gone for several days. If they went by Glenn McCarthy’s office and his air conditioner was off and all the lights were out, well, he was gone and would be gone.
So this particular week, he was gone, but the butter was there, and the hot sun and where it was placed on the desk was just right for a window shaft of sunlight to come down through there and it melted this butter and it ran down in through the desk and into the drawers and ruined about six months of paperwork with this butter.
LM: During this time, the early period, in what capacity were you employed at The Shamrock?
RC: Well, at first, he told me that he wanted me to just keep the gypsies off of him. That’s what he called them, and I had kind of a flunky job. I had to try to encourage the girls and help go through them and help hire them and help try to find out if they would be better in the linen room or if they were nice enough and quick enough and young enough to be put on the Pine Grill—that was the big coffee shop in those days—or would they look nicer in a uniform on the elevators, or just exactly where to put them.
And so after this, we got more or less settled and we lowered the skirts for the girls and then had some more arguments, and then they would lengthen the skirts and the whole thing had seemed to be—that I keep in mind throughout the whole Shamrock opening—was that they had two factions: the dumb Southerners and the damned Yankees. And Glenn McCarthy made the mistake—it might not have been a mistake, that may be the wrong word, but he decided that a bunch of people from the Waldorf Astoria who were hotel-oriented and hotel-minded knew more about opening up the hotel even in the South, than any Southerner did. But the dumb Southerners objected to the damned Yankees coming down, so if you caught six men, standing and talking together, well, five of them were assistant managers, supposedly; that was a joke going around the hotel. So every time I wanted to get something done, I’d pick out the likely one.
(10:03) For instance, the girls said that they just wouldn’t come to work if they had to wear skirts that long and look like Mother Hubbards. So I got the okay to raise the skirts, so we got them up nearly to the girls’ knees, and then this dumb Southerner came along and he said, “What in the world have you done to these costumes?” He said, “Put those hems back down. We’re not going to let those girls out on the floor that naked.” And of course, they were not used to that type of thing because they hadn’t traveled and they hadn’t been around and it was just two different factions, and so that just went on until the hotel got genuinely, completely slowed down because of the damned Yankees and the dumb Southerners.
(10:46) So finally, it was time to—my job more or less dissolved as the hotel opened, and so then Glenn McCarthy and Bill McCarthy said, “Well, we’ve got a job for you if you’ll take it. There’s a nice little room on the mezzanine floor that we’d like to have as a dressmaker shop, and it’s just for you. You can take your own work in there, do whatever you want to, charge whatever you want to. There will be no rent paid, and you’ll be the boss, and any complaints that come in and go to the telephone office I’ve arranged for a girl, a certain girl to speak to you as though she was the secretary and that she was talking to the boss and just you three can clear it up, whatever it is, but it’s going to be your baby.” And I said, “Well, okay,” and I was scared to death after I’d done all this other work. I’d worked on the tuxedos and the uniforms and even little—what was little Johnny’s name that had the silver buttons on it? Phillip Morris, Johnny, little Johnny was there and we did his costumes and I don’t know how many movie stars, and I designed and made the dress for the manager’s wife for opening night. That was the biggest project I had, and it got lost about 20 minutes before the big opening and we couldn’t find it; like to have tore down the hotel, and there had been different people in her suite trying the dress on and looking at it and admiring it, and some of them did and some of them didn’t like it, but most of them liked it, and one of them liked it so well, it disappeared after all the work I’d put on that dress.
So finally, she found me down in the lobby trying to help roll up the rugs, and the housekeeper said, “I have never seen such a mess in my life.” These people have been out to the oil field and a lot of them were movie stars and some were just businessmen and some were men-
LM: This was on opening night?
RC: (12:44) Yes, from up north, and they came to The Shamrock, but Glenn took them out to the oil fields where he had gotten a lot of his money. Out around South Houston, some of the fields are still working, the pumps are still going.
So here they come tracking in on these beautiful carpets, and the housekeeper just came unglued. She said, “That is the most asinine thing I have ever seen in my life. Look what they’re doing to these rugs!” So then we helped roll up the rugs, so that’s where they found me. So then finally I found Tony the tailor and I said, “Did you or did you not press the dress for Mrs. Glenn for opening night? He said, “Yes, I’ve got it.” He said, “It’s over in the shop.” And I said, “Well, for God’s sake, get it up there to her right quick because she thinks the dress has been stolen.” And that was just one of the little things that happened.
And then right in the middle of the big performance, somebody stepped on the cord and it disconnected the long extension cord, and Dotty Lamour was just singing her heart out and nobody was hearing it. And then had another big question about Jesse H. Jones: is he going to come to Glenn McCarthy’s party? And the question came up, well, was he invited to the party? And they said, why no, he wasn’t going to invite him, so somebody with a little bit better judgment or at least got the better of Glenn, said, “We don’t think that’s right or nice and we’ve lived here and we think you should at least invite Jesse Jones to the party.”
So we didn’t get an answer from Jesse Jones until just the last minute and he wanted to reserve a table. So he reserved a table, but he didn’t show up until the show was just going on and he made his grand entrance and he stayed about two minutes and he couldn’t get served and he left. And so did a lot of other people leave because they could not get served and couldn’t get seated, and the ruckus that was going on—this undertow—the thing—it’s hard to understand unless you were out there and could actually see it, was if you were standing at the desk and you were from say, Cincinnati or Chicago or Philadelphia or New Haven, Connecticut or someplace, you and your crew or you and your family or troupe of businessmen or whoever you were with—six or eight of you, maybe—were asking for rooms. Where had there been a Southerner at the desk when you asked for those rooms, you would be told you would have to wait, just be seated, we’ll let you know if we have any rooms, just keep them there and think maybe they’ll get tired of waiting and go eat something, or even if they don’t, well, then, they’ll wander away without any fuss. But they were were not so easy to rebuff. They stayed. So it just got to be the thing; if you were a Yankee and a Yankee was behind the desk, you could get board and room. If you were a Southerner and a Southerner was behind the desk when you came in with your party, well, then you could get waited on, and it was just that ridiculous. And then there were fights. They had-
LM: Still on opening night?
RC: (15:54) Well, this was still on opening night and these people came in, and it was heard by a lot of people that if you wanted to get in, even though you had made a reservation months in advance, there was no rooms. Everything was taken. But they were not taken; it was just this little undertow and this little fuss between the North and South all the time that went on. And it got to be pretty ridiculous, but it was the truth, and that’s the way it happened.
And then some of the entertainers never got on the air at all, and then somebody sneaked out about the time the one Olympic-sized swimming pool that had ever been in Texas got opened up and all filled up and ready to go that night with a big tower and the diving boards and all the beautiful dressing rooms and everything and they colored it a blue that was not noticeable enough for swimmers or the naked eye to see. So as night went on and all the bright lights and it got a little darker and darker and the swimmers came out to dive in, the first ones that came up were four girls and they did their beautiful little dive all at once, a certain kind of a sequence they had worked out, and they all came out just as blue as the sky. So then they had to empty the whole pool.
LM: Who put the coloring in?
RC: They would like to know. It was never known. I got in on a lot of this stuff because somebody sent me—early in the game, they sent me the three little monkeys: hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, and since I had the run of the hotel, well, I was kind of a grandma to the entertainers and big brother and big sister to some of them. And then all the women there, they wanted to get something done and get it done real quick knew that I could sew it faster and with my little 11-pound electric portable, I’d run up to their room and hem a dress. Maybe it was $125; maybe it was just $95, but they had just been to the style show downstairs and they wanted that dress, they bought that dress, it fit them like socks on a rooster so they wanted to wear it that night at nine o’clock to the dance and they had about 30 nice old ladies down in the basement, sitting there sewing, but they’d just fool with anything til they’d get what dressmakers call—it is a term of theirs you’ve probably never heard of, but it was (s/l “butt sprawl”) is what they called it, because they would just play with the dress and stretch it and iron it and fool with it until when the customer did get it, nine times out of ten, it didn’t look like the one that they bought. But the style show was a big thing and a new thing there, and Glenn McCarthy was determined that if a woman wanted to buy a certain type dress, she would be able to get it at The Shamrock because he was going to have them imported from all over, and he really did, and that caused a lot of women to come to Shamrock who would not have come there at any other time.
(19:08) And one woman that I was introduced to, a tall, good-looking brunette with big—oh, she had just peaches and cream complexion, just a doll, and pretty blue eyes and she was standing behind me in the elevator and I had an armload of evening dresses and I was going up to some floor, and somebody said, “Hey, Rosie, I want you to meet this girl. We got you a new customer.” And I turned around and was looking at somebody at my own eye level, I thought, and I was hitting them right about here, so I turned around and looked up and here she was, the tallest woman I’ve ever seen. And so I thought, boy, she’s going to be a good customer because nobody in the world can fit her. She’d have to get her clothes tailor-made. So her name was Mary Margaret Marie McGillicuddy McGowan. I’ll never forget it. And I said, “Why in the world have you got such a big name?” and she said, “Well, it takes a big name for a big girl.” And she said, “Glenn McCarthy said for me to look you up, that you would sew it and make anything that I wanted and make it just like I wanted and would get it on time. If I said six o’clock, I’d have it ready by six o’clock.” I said, “Well, that’s right, ordinarily,” I said, “But you see what I’ve got here right now, and these are ahead of you.” I said, “What did you have in mind?” And she says, “I have a formal that I want to wear tonight before all the lights are flickered off, and she said it’s (s/l moudlin de soirée) and it has about 15 yards around the hem and has two petticoats and I would like to have it—and I’ll have it pinned up. I’m just going to send it down to your room. You don’t need to come to my room. I’ll send it down by bellhop, and you just cut the lace off the underskirts and tack where the pins are, but hem the outside piece, just about six layers of skirts but just hem that one.”
(20:52) I never had done clothes like that, and I said, “Okay, if that’s the way you want it, that’s the way it’ll be.” So sure enough, here came down this most gorgeous dress and I fixed it for her, and every time I charged her a bill, if I charged her $75, the tip was $75, and I asked the bellhop about it and he said, “Well, it’s a good tip. Every time I go there, whatever she asks for, I always get it as fast as I can because she is one of the best tippers in the hotel.” And before long, I was making more tips—or as much tips as I was seller, and I had two kids in college at the time; Jesse and Joyce were going to Texas University. And then in about three months, I was making more money than my husband at the Shell refinery.
So I got all the work I wanted and more, too, but this one particular blonde kept kind of interesting me in some way and then other days I’d forget her for two, three days at a time. Then, one day I came in from lunch and here she was, walking right through the lobby, and she had a great big electric typewriter under her arm and had a blind man by the hand, and I thought, for heaven’s sake, what’s going on now? So she went up to the room with him, took him into her room, and none of us had been in her room. The bellhop had never been in the room. I had never been in the room. The maids were told to leave her room alone, and she liked to take care of her own linens and everything.
LM: She lived there?
RC: (22:21) Yes. She lived there for quite a while. She had a beautiful suite. And these costumes kept coming down, beautiful Irish linen. All the suits were hand-tailored and just handsome, and the only thing that had—maybe the button would need to be set over just a little bit or just some minor thing. And so actually, there was no reason for me to go to her room and I didn’t care particularly because it took my time. I had to close up my little shop and I didn’t have an assistant at the time, then no one would be answering the phone, and then by the time I got out, caught an elevator and got up and got through with it and got down, I would have lost at least an hour or maybe an hour and a half.
LM: What was her role there at the hotel?
RC: (23:04) Her role was just a visitor. She claimed that she was a toy salesman from New Jersey, and so I just took her at her word that’s what she was. So one day, I met her on the street corner, and she said, “Hey, would you like to do something here with old Merc?” And Merc was a brand new Mercury with this little zipped top—you know, when it first came out, had a little roll-back top and you’d get the sun shining through there. And I said, “Yeah, what?” I said, “I’m all the way to town now.” See, like I said, it was so far out there in the country, there was not even a dime store and I had to go clear to Houston just to get a spool of thread or clear down to where Sears & Roebuck is now. So I said, “Well, I’m going to town for some buttons to put on your coat.” And she says, “Well, here. Just take old Merc.” And so when I got back to the hotel late that evening, well, she got out right then she was a certain place she wanted to go so she jumped out and went shopping there, and so when I got back to the hotel, there was a big envelope with $100 bill in it, a brand spanking new one, and a note says, “Please take care of old Merc. I’ve been invited to Guadalajara with friends over the weekend and I may stay longer or I may go on South to Acapulco, and if I do, I’ll let you know where I am. The dress fits fine and everything’s okay, but just take care of the car til I come back.” And I had a little old Ford, so I was tickled to death to get to drive this Mercury, so boy, I just drove the wheels off that Mercury, until one day, I came to work one morning about 9:30 or 10:00 one Monday morning, and there was cops all over the place, and here was this poor old blind man tapping down the hall and he said, “Did you happen to find out what happened to Ms. Alda?” And I said, “Who are you talking about?” and he said, “The lady that taught me to type.” And she had taught him to type on this electric typewriter so he could make a better living for himself and was very kind to him, and she told me that he was a friend of her father’s. And I said, “Well, I don’t know, maybe your father knows where she is.” He said, “My father? I have no father,” he said. “I’m an orphan.” And so I began to put two and two together and get about nineteen, and so it finally dawned on me what she was, then.
LM: What was she?
RC: (25:23) And so after talking to several more people there in the hotel, this girl in the drugstore said, “She sure buys a lot of shaving material.” And then the girls at the style show said, “She comes in for all the style shows and buys the chair right at the front row, especially if it is lingerie or bathing suits or something like that.” And so I didn’t feel too surprised that she got me, too, like she did everybody else in town, but I got to thinking about this $100 bill. So I ran in there and got my $100 and looked it over, and I felt over it, and finally, I took it down and showed it to the man on the desk and he said, “It’s a good hundred. Why? Where’d you get it?” And I said, “Well, a party here in the hotel gave it to me and I just wanted to know.” And he said, “Well, it’s a good hundred, as far as I can tell. I don’t see a thing wrong with it.” And I said, “Well, you keep it anyhow, and just be sure, and I’ll check with you again later on this evening,” and they were still hunting Mary Margaret Marie McGillicuddy McGowan about dark. They hadn’t found any trace of her, and it turned out she was a woman impersonator and she—all the big society hotels and loveliest places in Nice and Rome and Switzerland and no telling where else had been looking for her. She made her own money. She made her counterfeit money. She stole cars, she stole booze, and she sold dope, and just—you name it, she did just everything in the book and was really living high. But there was a bunch over there in that hotel that were really fooled. She would pass these bills—they were mostly twenties—and they were so wrinkled up and dirty, I don’t know how she got them to looking like that, but I guess they know how.
LM: She was a female impersonator, you said?
RC: (27:14) Yes, she was a female impersonator, and that’s why she never did have me come to her room. I couldn’t have stripped her and dressed her like I did any of the other women that I’d did this to all the time because then I would have known, you know? And then when the girls in the drug department said she sold all this shaving material, well then that was kind of funny, and then she bought a couple of—three bathing suits, but she never was known to go in the pool. She never did go swimming. Just people like that, you’d meet them every day, just one right after another.
I had one woman come in; she was about I guess 35 or 40 and she carried a little Chihuahua dog all the time everywhere she went, and we called her “The Daily Clown.” You could set your watch by this woman. She came in that lobby at eleven o’clock every day and she had this dog and she walked over to the drug store and she’d lie this dog up on top of this stack of where the newspapers were put in this rack, and the dog never did move but she talked baby-talk to him all the time, and that was kind of sickening for a woman that old and that big, and the dog never did make any noise or anything, so finally one day, I got pretty close to that dog and I looked at him. I was going in there for something in the drugstore, and here was this hair coming off of the dog and it looked just exactly like her hair that was dyed. It was about the same color. And I got to thinking about this woman, but she’d roll her silk stockings way up above her knees, wear high-heeled shoes, and then she’d roll these silk stockings and then she’d wear shorts and there was quite a bit of hide showing between where this roll where silk stocking stopped and where these big dollar-dots, that big, started in these polka-dot pants that she wore. Then she wore a real tight-fitting sweater and a huge picture hat with big flowers and roses and stuff and all this on it, and she really was a funny-looking thing. We called her “The Daily Clown,” and we went so where it just got to be a saying around the help, that, “Did it happen before the Clown came in or after?” Just one of those words. So finally, somebody said something to her one day and touched the dog, and she screamed and hollered and called for the house detective to come in there quick because that woman was annoying her dog. This dog was dead and had been dead for years. Her husband had given it to her, and she’d had it stuffed and she kept this dead dog with her all the time.
LM: You worked pretty closely with Glenn McCarthy himself, though?
RC: Yes. Well, yes and no. Ordinarily, when he was in town and there was some things he wanted done, like if he wanted half a dozen green shirts made right quick, well then, I saw him every day.
LM: You made shirts for him?
RC: Oh, yeah. I made a lot of things for he and his wife and the kids.
LM: Did his wife ever visit the hotel?
RC: She visited the hotel a lot, but she wasn’t real crazy about the presidential suite. You know, the suite that they had fixed for their own private living quarters, and she would not let her grown daughters stay in the hotel.
LM: Why was that?
RC: (30:27) Well, there was too many salesman and too many shady characters and too many just general public that she frowned on. She just didn’t—and they, at that time, had a gorgeous home here in town and she didn’t see any point in letting the kids stay all night over there because they had a room at home and that’s where she wanted to check in with them and she was lots more strict on them than Glenn. But Glenn’s little boy one day sneaked out from school, and one of the school teachers caught him at it and they had been suspecting that he was going away to picture shows or football games or something in the afternoon, and sure enough, there was Glenn Junior and he would call a cab—he always had a pocketful of money—and he called a cab and he left the schoolhouse and went to the show and he’d time it just right to when he could get out of the show and call this cab again, and this cabbie was in on it, too. He knew what time to be there, and so he’d pick up Glenn McCarthy’s son and rush him back out to the hotel. That’s when he wanted to meet his daddy and just play hooky in the afternoon.
So one day, he found out about it, so when opened the door to step out, Glenn McCarthy was there and he got him by the arm and he took him in the front lobby and there was quite a bit of commotion and he sat him down in the corner and he said, “Now, I’ve been hearing things about you.” He said, “You’ve been rude to Ms. Rosie.” [end of tape 1]
RC: [beginning tape 2] “Operator couldn’t get your party quick enough and you’re not supposed to be putting in long-distance calls from the hotel. You make your calls if you have to make any from the house,” meaning his home where he lived. “And this playing hooky from school is going to stop. You’ve already failed this grade and you’re going to have to take this grade completely over again.” And he said, “And besides that, you’re going to have to apologize to all of these people in the hotel that you’ve been rude to.” And he said, “You’re not leaving the building til you do it.” And he kept saying every breath that he wasn’t going to do it; he wasn’t going to apologize to anybody, and he said, “Well, you can just sit right there in that corner then, night and day, until you do it.” And he made him do it.
LM: Glenn McCarthy has a reputation of having had a violent temper. Did you ever witness it in the hotel?
RC: (00:53) Yes, I’ve seen several things that he didn’t like. Some of the movie stars annoyed him who would stay there for a long time and then when they’d get ready to check out, they’d say, “Well, I don’t owe this bill. Glenn McCarthy said I was welcome here anytime I wanted to,” and they misconstrued what his term of “welcome” meant and what the actual pay was or what the actual bill was, you know? And so there was quite a few deadbeats.
LM: Do you remember any in particular?
RC: And there was quite a few fusses. Well, I got called one Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t even supposed to be on duty, but I was down there because there was a convention in town and I had a bunch of work to do, and so they called me to the sixth floor rear to come in a hurry and bring Band-Aids, button, thread, scissors and tape and whatnot. So I went tearing up there to see what was the matter, and to this day, I don’t know exactly what happened except it was the dumb Southerners and the damned Yankees at it again, and there was bloody noses and pockets ripped off and buttons torn off and neckties—oh, but then here in the corner was a service with hot coffee in an urn and teacakes and all this being served and the cups and all, and I went in and was just scared to death. I had no idea what was going to happen next, and so I thought, well, I’d better get in charge of this situation myself right now, so I said, “Shame on you all! You look like a bunch of little bitty boys. Every one of you look like you need a spanking!” I said, “Get those bloody clothes off and throw them in there in that bathtub and if you want me to help you get this mess picked up,” I said, “get the blood off that stuff as fast you can.” And all the sudden, I heard myself just bawling these men out and I never knew them! Never saw them again except the ones that worked there, and there was about three or four of the damned Yankees and three or four of the dumb Southerners and they were arguing with some people who were trying to beat their hotel bill that was in thousands of dollars. They’d been there for weeks, you know? But if it was a Southerner that was trying to escape, this Northerner would not let him out of there, and vice versa, it was the same thing. And so I think that’s what the argument was about, but I let on like—and they just looked at me kind of funny, just like mama’s caught us in the cookie jar, you know? It gave me that kind of effect after I started bawling them out and I said, “Now I’m going to have to get this stuff straightened up,” but I said, “You’ve got to help me. That’s blood’s not going to wash out of there and it’s not going to come out easy unless you put cold water on it.” I said, “Order some ice, get it up here and finish that coffee and get it off that thing.” I said, “Look at this broken chair leg here!” I said, “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Just look what you’ve done here.” And I just bawled them out good and proper, and so they just started going around, picking up the things and hunting for the lost buttons and the things that I could repair right then, I did it right there in the room.
(03:46) And one handsome coat this man had on was out of the most beautiful mohair you ever laid your eyes on. I never shall forget he was from Persia and he had a big L-shaped slit in his patch pocket on that side of his coat and it was the only nice suit that he had with him and he didn’t want to wear it on the plane looking like that, with that flap hanging down. So he says, “You’ve got this”—kept trying to say the word “Band-Aid” to me, and I didn’t realize what he meant for a long time. He said, “The sticky one, the sticky one with the tape.” And so finally, one of the other fellows there from up north said, “I think he’s talking about a Band-Aid, Ms. Rosie.” He said, “Have you got a Band-Aid?” and I said, “Yeah, I’ve got one in my purse.” So I got into my purse and hauled out this Band-Aid and sure enough, we take his coat off and we pulled all these hairs over just as softly and carefully as we could, and we Band-Aided that beautiful suit so he could wear it and you could hardly tell when it was pressed down flat that that Band-Aid was in the pocket and he swore he wasn’t going to use it. He was going to use the other pocket, he told me, but I said, “I don’t know how long that Band-Aid’s going to stay there.
LM: He was a guest and he had been involved in a fistfight?
RC: Yes. He was based in the hotel and had been in one of the fights and was trying to pay his bill. He had the money and was going to pay his bill, but this Southerner was not going to let him because he was a friend of one of the Northerners who had said that Glenn McCarthy said he could stay there any length of time; he was a guest.
LM: You mentioned before the interview that there were a great many prostitutes there during the conventions.
LM: Were they hired by the hotel?
RC: No, they were not hired by the hotel. Well, as far as I know; I don’t know that much about his business, but I did know that they were always there and they didn’t get out of bed until about oh, three or four or five in the afternoon, and then they’d call me, “Rosie, what room am I in? And you know what size I wear. Go to the smart shop and buy me a dress. I think I want a red dress tonight, and don’t make it over $200 and bring it on up, and if it needs any altering, well, we can do it right up here,” and blah, blah, blah. And I was so naive when I first went to work there, I didn’t know who these girls were and what their games were, but I know they had some hellacious fights because I’d have to go by the drugstore and pick up all kinds of makeup to hide the black eyes and the scratches and the different things because it was-
LM: Who paid their bills?
RC: (06:25) They paid their own bills. They had plenty of money. Oh, money was no object. They’d tip me handsomely. So it finally dawned on me that these women were the ladies of the night, any night, and that I should get me some better customers. So I thought, well, let me see, I’ve been making all these tips and I got these two kids in college and I had set a goal that the first month that I could make more money than my husband did at the plant, then I was going to quit, which I did not do. But anyway, these girls would come in and they’d say, “I’ve got to have a dress. I’m going to have breakfast with so-and-so,” or they’re going to have a meal sent up or something or something, but these women had no idea where they were, what room they were in, who they were with last, and cared less.
And then the next night, it was the same thing over again and they had the most beautiful complexions you ever saw. They never did get out in the sunshine. They were just professional streetwalkers; I guess you’d call them, and gorgeous women. Had a marvelous sense of humor. Some of them were funny as they could be, just great. One of them called me one day on the eighth floor and I never shall forget. They had big, glass-topped tables like this, for coffee tables, only they were much lower, and she had on high-heeled shoes and was standing there in an evening dress that I had made for her, and she wanted to wear it that night but about six or eight inches of it just up and down, crooked, hung off the edge of the table. And I had some electric scissors, so I told her, “If you’ll be still, I can cut it,” but I said, “I haven’t got time to hem this thing.” She said,” Just turn it up with some little gold safety pins,” and I said, “No, I don’t do that kind of work.” “Well,” she said, “use a Band-Aid on it then, get some tape.” She said, “I’ve got to wear this dress tonight.” I said, “You’re not going to wear it at all if you don’t be still. Now just stand still.” So I had to plug the electric scissors in different places because the cord was just about eight feet long, so I finally got this hem cut off all the way around and just as we were finishing, two fellows came in next door and you never heard such slang and such cussing and such carrying on. She said, “Hey, they’re back. Listen to this, get me down off of here quick.” So I held her dress up and she jumped down off the table and we both went over and listened to the wall to hear what this guy said, and one of the fellows said, “Boy, look at this one here. Ain’t this a dilly?” And this guy said, “Yeah. That sure looks like a good one. You must have killed fourteen people to get to here.” He said, “This is the best one I ever saw.” And then he said, “What do you want for this thing, anyhow?” and he says, “Five grand.” He said, “Five grand? I can’t take this damned thing home with me.” He said, “What do you mean, five grand?” he said, “You’re not supposed to take it home, stupid. Take it to your club.”
(09:13) So boy, we were just listening and we were pinching each other and standing there, trying to find out what all this was going on in the next room. She said, “Let’s wait. When they leave that room, we’re going in there.” I said, “Oh, no. I’m not going in there. I don’t care if they’ve got a herd of elephants in there. I’m not about to go in that room.” And she said, “Now, there’s something on in there,” because, she said, “I heard him tell the maid not to do anything to his bed, his room, to just stay out of there. That his room was okay and said he just comes in on weekends and he carries great big suitcases in here and he comes in on weekends,” and said, “I’ve been rooming next to him all this time,” and she said, “I don’t think I’m too bad to look at, but he doesn’t pay me any mind.” And I said, “Well, he’s got something better than you got, maybe.” And she—that was more intriguing—she didn’t like that, and she says, “We’re going in there,” and she says, “Call the maid.”
(10:05) So about this time, this fellow said, “Well, all right then. I’ll take this one. By god, I’m going to have to write you a check. I haven’t got enough money and you can just buy my lunch, too,” he said, “We’ll make it big enough for that.” And he said, “Well, who’s going to cash your check?” He said, “Well, I’ve cashed checks down at the desk,” he said. “They’ll cash my check for five grand.” And he said, “Oh, well, come on then, if you’re that stingy, I’ll buy your dinner, but let’s wrap this thing up so we can have it ready to go when we come back.” “No,” he says, “I want to pull my shoes off first and my socks and just walk around on it first,” and he said, “That’s just too good. I’m just going to step on it.” He said, “That just beats anything I ever saw.”
And so then, there we were again, we couldn’t get around the room, and so finally, he says, “All right then. Pull your socks off, pull your shoes off, step on it, just walk up and down.” He said, “While you’re at it, step on that one over there in the corner. Ain’t that a dilly?” He said, “Boy, that is all right.” And so they kept on talking and cussing and fussing and sounded just about like two drunks would. And so when we finally got the maid up there and these two guys went and got on the elevator and we’d tipped the maid and made her just open the door. The maid wouldn’t even look in the room much less go in there. Well, we both went in right quick and shut the door and here was boxes—just stacks to the ceiling. The bed hadn’t been used. They were all under the bed. They were just everywhere, and we opened one of them and it was gorgeous bath mats and they were all made out of artificial boobs. They had little black ones and brown and tan and real pink and some looked like it was the breast of a hundred-year-old woman and the other would look like a girl of about sixteen, and these things were all glued together some kind of way and made a bathmat, and that’s what this guy was selling. That’s how he was making his living, and so he didn’t stay in the hotel. He couldn’t care less about The Shamrock hotel. He had a home here in Houston and a wife and kids, and this was just a little sideline of his he brought there on Friday and Saturday and Sunday and sell his rugs and they were bath rugs, and so he took and sold them right along.
(12:23) And the other thing, quite by accident, I met a very prominent businesswoman here in town, and she said, “I read part of your story the other day,” and she said, “I want you to know I saw one of those rugs you were talking about.” I said, “Oh? You did, huh?” She said, “Yes. I know somebody that’s got one.” And I said, “Well, you think could buy him off of it? I’d like to have one just for fun.” And she said, “No, he wouldn’t sell it for anything. It’s a friend of a friend of my brother’s, and so they don’t know that I saw it, but I was over there at his apartment. I had to go with my brothers to pick up something,” and said, “I went on to the bathroom,” and said, “Here was that rug. It will sure take you by surprise when you see one of them all laid up, for five grand.” Those were some rugs!
LM: You mentioned before—I think you mentioned to Mr. Carlton before--that there were acts of sabotage committed at the hotel?
RC: (13:21) Yes, there was. There was a lot of different things. Well, let’s see. One in particular that was kind of odd and I don’t know I come in and get right in the middle of it, but I was waiting on some floor or other for the elevator and the maid was working up and down the hall with a vacuum cleaner, and some woman stepped off the elevator and walked over pretty close to us and she asked the maid if she could have the key to her room. She said, “Doggone it, now here I am up here again and I’ve forgotten my key.” And so the maid said, “Oh, well, think nothing of it. I’ll open the door for you.” And so when she opened the door, this woman’s husband was in the bed with the most beautiful redheaded nude woman you ever laid your eyes on, and he was in the nude, and they were quite busy. And so she opened up her little purse; she had a cute little old beaded bag and she jerked this thing open, pulled out this revolver and she shot him, and she just winged him a little bit; just got him in the arm. And of course, this redhead jumped up, stark naked in the nude, and ran to the bathroom. And then the wife, then, after she did that and the fellow was screaming bloody murder and he was lying there in the bed and the blood was going all over everywhere—why, the wife decided to climb out the window and kill herself, and she was on the seventh or eighth floor, sixth, somewhere. Always something happening from five on up. Businesses offices were from five down, and so all these residential rooms were above that, and so I don’t know how it come to me to throw the evening dresses down then, but I dropped them and I think what excited me most was when the gun first went off. I thought, well, somebody’s killed somebody and there may be another killing, and I’d better try to stop it if I can. So I threw all these dresses down out in the hall, ran in there and got the gun and threw the gun out the window. I don’t know how I come and do it, it had two or three handprints on it, see, and I just threw it out the window and was pulling this gal back in when Neil Pope and—oh, I forgot the other detective’s name who was out there—came in. Somebody had heard the shots and called and either the elevator boy or the people who were waiting to get on the elevator said there was a ruckus going up in 609, said, “You’d better get up there. I think somebody’s killed somebody.”
(15:54) So here’s the girl in question, jumping up and down. Her clothes were in the other part of the room and she’s in the bathroom in the nude with nothing to put on, so I got her clothes and threw them at her and I said, “Get these things on and get out of here and don’t come back.” And then, by this time, the fellow was trying to make up to his wife, trying to explain to her that there wasn’t anything to that; that was just a dream. He said, “Just play like you didn’t see it, just forget it.” And said, “I’m not hurt. It’s just my arm,” and said, “If you don’t be quiet,” he said he was going to do something drastic to her for shooting him. And so by then, the officers were in there and the ambulance driver came along and they picked him up and they got some clothes on him and the husband and wife left, arm in arm.
LM: At one point, some people, whoever it was, put some tar in the air conditioner, in the heating system?
RC: Yeah. That was with one real busy convention. I’ve forgotten who it was, but there were just worlds and worlds of people there that weekend and they had some rubber and I don’t know whether it was off of old automobile tires that had been used or what, but they got quite a bit of it and they got it placed at strategic spots and points where they could put it up to be the smelliest, where it was hot and was near the blower of the fan or the heater or something in the air conditioning so it would just stink up the whole hotel. And nobody in the world could have stayed in the hotel that night. They just all had to leave. It was just pretty sad. I’d probably still run out of there myself that night and it was pouring down rain and people had to check out and take what few clothes they had and go someplace. They just could not stay at The Shamrock.
LM: Who did it, does anybody know?
RC: (17:54) They never did know. But it was some team of people, they think, who was a rival of the other hotel, and there’s always little happenings like that. They had a big banquet a few nights before that and Glenn McCarthy had been around to The Rice and The Cotton and The Texas State and The Lamar, The Sam Houston—all of these hotels that belong to Jesse H. Jones and he would hire the best wine steward and the best waitresses and the best chefs and he just hired the cream of the crop of these other hotels by paying them more money, giving them better vacation times, dressing them up. Oh, boy. He really did dress these chefs and waitresses up and furnish their uniforms. You know, they had to furnish them there and had to keep track of them and it was a sad affair, and all the other hotels in town.
Well, when Glenn McCarthy got them all out to the Shamrock, well, that was a whole new kettle of fish. They were on their own. They were kind of their own boss. Nobody was screaming at them or looking down their collar all the time and it was a cut and dried thing. If they were five minutes late, nobody said anything to them, and so it was just a delightful place to work because Glenn had not ever run a hotel before, and the only person that was there constantly—it was just her and here constantly—was the housekeeper, and she was the sweetest lady you ever want to meet. Her name was Hudson, if I remember right. Hilton—no, Hudson, I guess. I was thinking about the Hilton Hotel. It was Ms. Hudson. No, that’s still not right. Something—Ms. Hamilton. Ms. Hamilton was her name. She said, “Just look at that silly ass. Now here he comes with that hat that high. Did you make him that hat?” I said, “Yeah, but he tips good.” She said, “For God’s sake, don’t make a hat any taller than that.” He was Little Louis; he was from a French restaurant in New York City and he wanted to look taller, and so I just made him a bigger hat. She said, “Well, don’t make him a hat any bigger.” She said, “That looks like a clown. That is really ridiculous. Tell him to get some high-heeled shoes and put on if he wants to look any higher.”
And then the next waitress would come along and she’d say, “Did you hem that dress?” and I’d say, “Yes, I hemmed that dress.” “Well, who told you to?” I said, “The Northerners.” She said, “Well, there’s going to be a meeting. We’re just going to have a conference. This can’t go on.” She said, “Those girls cannot sit—you know what these people are doing?” She said, “They’re throwing coins on the floor for these girls to pick up so when they reach over and stoop over to pick up a coin, everything in the world they ever did want to see they could see just from this girl stooping over,” and said, “We can’t have this kind of stuff in this hotel. Don’t make the dresses quite that short.” I cut them all back, took the hems down, let them get down there by itself, and then here comes the other side and they tell me, “What did you do to those hems?” And so I had 15 bosses, besides Glenn McCarthy.
LM: Why didn’t Glenn McCarthy settle all that?
RC: (21:03) When it got that bad and about 15 or 20 things going at once, he disappeared. He’d go fishing and nobody would know where he was for a week at the time. But if you wanted him to know something, all you had to do was write it on a piece of paper, and if you wanted an answer, you signed your name to it, and he had a big concrete box—a big mailbox. All the mail chutes came down and was picked up from the mailman in the basement except this one place, and if you wanted to fuss about something, if you wanted to brag on something, if you wanted to tattle on somebody else or whatever you wanted—if you just put it in writing and you put it in Glenn McCarthy’s box, he would answer it. And lots of times, he’d do something about it immediately and it was remarkable, the things that took place for both sides: for the damned Yankees and for the dumb Southerners, too, that Glenn McCarthy didn’t know and didn’t like and didn’t care a damn about. He just wanted to get the air cleared. He wanted to get it quiet and just run a nice, clean, respectable, high-class looking and acting hotel, which was hard to do. Just imagine two different people pulling in opposite directions all the time. It was just almost an impossibility, and that’s actually what they called them, “the dumb Southerners” and “the damned Yankees.”
LM: At one point, didn’t someone cut down all the palm trees?
RC: They cut every one of them and then they put the dirt right back up around them. They stood it up nice, and that was during one of the big swimming meets and we had a gang of guys in here from Florida and another bunch from California, and the bunch from Miami decided that the palm trees on the north side of the pool didn’t look as pretty as they should and so that fuss is the one that had been named their trees, the ones from Miami. So sometime during the night, this other bunch from California went over and they completely ringed them and just kept going. They had little parties and would be sitting around each tree, and then they’d move over to the next tree and then they were entertaining each other until somehow, right there with everybody looking and nobody suspecting anything like that, they cut the trees completely in two--cut them off. And it was a still night, just if you’d had the least bit of breeze, they’d have all toppled into the pool that very evening, but they didn’t for some reason. Just enough of them there so they’d be sure and die. So the things rocked along for about two or three days. Then came a blow. Bang, all these trees—the whole push from one side through fell down and some fell in the pool and some fell in the sidewalk and one or two of them almost hit one of the customers and that was a mess. And so they were afraid then that before the Olympic team got away, that the California boys were going to be up to something, that they were going to cut down trees or they were going to poison them or they were going to do something to them. They didn’t know what in the world was going to happen, but they suspected something. They just knew that something was going to happen to those trees because this other team on that side was torn down. And so sure enough, the team on this side, they stayed there in perfect health, but they kept one of their men right by all night. He slept out there. He stayed right by it, and they’d walk up and down and they took turns guarding these trees and they just felt sure they had everything cured. But we later heard that they killed it with the most outrageous poison you ever heard tell of with blowguns, and I don’t know how they had enough to do it, but they were sitting off up here in the different rooms and around the places in the pool, and they would just shoot these guns with this awful poison into the tree. And then, they didn’t all fall down before the Olympic stars left, but they did within the next two or three days, and they were satisfied in knowing that they had killed the other row of trees.
LM: Why were they doing this? Who was doing this?
RC: (25:08) Just the two teams.
LM: Oh, I see.
RC: Just the two different Olympic teams because one bunch of them—the California gang decided they just didn’t like those palm trees from Miami. Somebody just discovered, now that tree there looks like it’s from California, but this one doesn’t. It looks like it might be from Miami. And so that just started it, and it was just some more of the dumb Southerner-damn Yankee routine, only this time, it was east and west. It was just one of the things that happened and it was always something every day. When I went out there, it was some kind of new catastrophe.
But they had a real smart guy there named Andrew Kevin(??) and he ran the men’s store—the most beautiful men’s clothes you ever saw. Pretty saloon pipes with the leather bow, $20 or $30, and then they’d have this cashmere and wool and oh, just gorgeous, the important thing. The neckties were very handsome. And the shirts, oh, boy, they’re just as soft as a baby’s skin, really, and everything. Just some of the prettiest men’s clothes you ever laid your eyes on. And he took a shine—the guy that was in charge of the shop—he fell in love, so they said, with a girl who designed the costumes for the hotel, and her name was—(inaudible), oh I can’t think of it, but anyhow, she bragged on his clothes all the time and so every time she saw him and he was in a new suit. He was probably wearing them, cleaning them, putting them back in stock. Well, I have seen him with 45 different suits myself. New wristwatch, new tie, new belt, new shoes, new socks, everything to match.
So one night, they got a little bit too much to drink and they were having a pool party and my room was right up on the mezzanine and I could see the goings-on down there, and I thought, boy, that is getting a little loud and something’s going to happen.
(27:12) So about that time, I saw him just take a run and go at her, and she was in the most gorgeous evening dress and it was almost ten o’clock, and the dance was supposed to start at 9:30 but it never did start til about 10:30, and see you’re well the hell and gone out in the country, and it’s going to last until two or three o’clock in the morning. It’s not like the other hotels around here in town, you know?
And so finally, he ran at her and just gave her a great big push like that, and pushed her in the pool, all dressed up. She lost her sunglasses that she had on; they never did find what happened to them, and ruin a watch that was an heirloom. They found her watch, but they never could find some of the parts to it. It came apart. It broke. She was trying to hold it and swim and get out, and I think she must have torn it herself. But anyhow, it goes without saying that broke the engagement, and she had designed little Johnny’s suit, little tobacco-boy, and several of the tuxedos and the page girls—nearly everything that everybody from the telephone operators down to front doorman had to get an okay by this girl before he could wear his suit, and they were really beautiful suits, but everybody had too many. They had more clothes than they needed, more clothes than they’d ever had in all their lives. For instance, the tuxedos, they had a solid white one just for weddings, and then they had a green one that was just solid green that they wore ordinarily. And then they had a green one with darker green pants with a green stripe down the side that they wore with a gold coat, and it was for a special occasion. And then they had a tuxedo with green with a black stripe down the leg and the coat was satin and it went for St. Patrick’s Day or something like that. Anyhow, they had a whole bunch of different ones and so Glenn McCarthy was pretty mad. I believe that was the maddest I ever saw him, for this Kevin McAndrew(??) having pushed this girl in the pool.
So when he sobered up, somebody got him up and then--and right after he did this, he went around and he went up this spiral tower and it goes up to where you dive off the very highest, and he dove off into the pool, and the next day after they sobered him up and got enough coffee in him, nobody in the world could make him believe that he went off of that high tower, and it’s about 25 feet, I think, at that time; I don’t know how high it is now.
(29:57) Anyway, so as the scuttlebutt had it then, that the damn Yankees and the dumb Southerners was just too far apart and something was going to have to happen, so she was the dumb Southerner and he was the damned Yankee with the men’s store, so they decided they’d have a business meeting and they were going to put a whole bunch of these papers out around on the walls in different places and it don’t make any difference which shift you were on and when you come to work, you were supposed to read what was on that shift and you were supposed to do what it said on that shift. Well, that didn’t serve a damned purpose of any kind. It didn’t help a darn thing, and all of them were torn down if they didn’t agree with the damned Yankees in case the dumb Southerners saw them first, well the damned Yankees would just go tear them all down and put up some more, so that didn’t help anything. And so it was just like that. It just looked like it was an unending game of let’s do this and let’s don’t do this and let’s do that and let’s don’t do it that way, let’s do it this way, and it just went on continually, and it kept the hotel just enough where every day, I wanted to find out what was the newest thing, what was going to happen next.
The Marx Brothers came out one day and you know how Harpo would run after the blonde real fast and he had on this long coat and he’d have these funny-looking eyes, never would say a word, and they had this all staged, but every day at noon the funniest thing you ever saw. And here she was, this girl, this blonde with this little-bitty baby and this little baby was just screaming bloody murder and had this little doll wound up, and all these bellhops and everybody would just disappear. They’d just go stand behind a pillar or a palm or something and they couldn’t find them. So here she stood. She had a camera and she had this baby and she had a box and had all this stuff and nobody was helping her, so finally old Groucho came up. He offered to take the little baby. [end of tape 2]