Friday, August 22, 2008

Jayhawk Hotel & Theater

I remember the first day I walked into the Jayhawk Hotel, looking for a job little did I know I would change it’s history. I remember looking at the newspaper that morning looking for a job then I saw a add that said the hotel need help, well I took a fast look and headed for town. After entering the hotel I didn’t know what to do, being a young man of ( 19 ) I know little of the real world even though I had three other jobs before this. Well I went up this desk and stood and waited, before long a big Africa American in a dark blue uniform came up and asked what I wanted, and I told him I was looking for a “Bill Carpenter,” about a job well he said he never heard of him. Well I said there was and add in the paper for a job at the hotel and to ask for him. Well after a moment he said. “No it’s not Bill Carpenter, it’s the Bell Captain and that’s me.” Boy did my face ever get red, well he said he didn’t have time right then as he was to busy as the Legislatures were comeing in, a lot of the State Legislatures stayed at the hotel when they were in session.

I don’t believe he really wanted to talk to me, but I sat and waited and waited then after three hours he saw I was still there and said. “Any one that’s willing to wait that long to see about job and not knowing that he will get it, Well you got it.” I found out a few days later why it was so hard to get the job. The hotel open in 1927, and in all that time there has never been a “ White” bellman, I was the first. Now I could go and tell all kinds of story’s about the hotel like the time I stepped all over Governor Dockings feet, be cause he was too full of drink to get out of the way. Then there was all those cheese and pineapple party’s I sat up for Senator Bob Dole, before he became a Senator, and yes it was “ Dole pineapple.”

Like I said, I could go on and on, but this about the Jayhawk Theater as well. There were two ways to enter the theater, you could go in on the 7th., street side on the north side of the building or the one on Jackson street on the west side of the building, both had marquees. The ticket both on Jackson was outside the one on 7th., street was inside, as you entered you would pass four swinging doors, that lead to the hotel lobby, then you would come to the main ticket booth. After buying your ticket you would go up a flight of stairs down a hall way turn right and you were there. If you entered on the Jackson side you would walk a long hall way and as you did you would pass the show windows of the Crosby store, you could even enter the store from the hall, so you didn’t have walk all the way around. After passing the windows you had a flight stairs then a short walk to the Theater.

When I started working at the hotel ( 1966 ) I would go in at the 7th., street door the old marquee still hung over the door, although it had changed over the years. The sign now read Jayhawk Hotel, but there still were signs of the old theater still there, above the marquee the was a seven story sing that read in big letters Jayhawk that at the bottom of the in small letters it said theatre. When I worked the night shift ( 11 p. m. to 7 a. m. ) and it was slow I would go out into the hall way and go into the show for a while then run back hoping I wasn’t missed.

I worked at the hotel for 10 years, after I left I took a job across the street at Wolfe’s Camera shop, but then that’s another story. One day about 1982, one of the boss said they were going to take down the old historic sign down and we could watch if we liked. The company that was taking down the sign was the champe or champman demolition co.

The head man himself was doing the cutting of the sign braces, he stood on a platform held in the air by a crane eight story’s high. All the workmen and us were all laughing at him to be careful, when all of a sudden the sign give away, there had been to much pigeon droppings in the sign. It was a good thing they had a cable around it, they were all upset because they were trying to save the sign as it was a important historical part of Topeka’s history, but now that would be impossible?, the following pictures tells the story.

Note. For those of you who would like to know more about the old theater can go to this site it’s full historical information old pictures and more: to get into the pictures go all the way to the bottom of the page.

Note. All the pictures were taken by this author.

Last note. By pushing on the pictures you will get a full screen view, the last photo will not enlarge.

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