Summers at the Angie Hotel

Three or four years in a row we drove from California to Lawton Oklahoma to visit Grandma Lee, my paternal Grandmother. Seems like I was between 8-12 years old during this time. All the time I knew her, she was morbidly obese, and had one leg. She’d lost her other leg as a “young girl”, the result of an accident of some kind. We had lived with her in Houston, when I was 2-3 years old, but sometime in the sixties she moved to Oklahoma. Lawton was an Army town, with Ft Sill being the local base. Back then it was a town loaded with pawn shops and whore houses.

She owned or managed a couple of hotels while she lived there. The first couple visits, she was at a hotel called The Wolverton. The next two, she was at The Angie. The Angie was an old fashioned Hotel with a long stairway from the street up to the lobby. It was kind of a seedy place. The beds were old, squeaky, spring style beds high off the hardwood floors. My grandmother lived in an apartment on the lobby level.

I remember one summer she was to go with us out to the wildlife preserve near Ft Sill. She called up a moving company. “Send me two men who can move a piano.” When the two guys showed up, they came to her apartment. “Where’s the piano?” they wanted to know.

She looked up from her wheelchair. “You’re looking at her” (She had a sense of humor about her size)

We got to know all of the porters. I don’t remember all of their names. There was Stepp, S.D., Sammy, Freckles, and others who’s names escape me. All of them treated our family like their family. I remember one of the guys taking me to the local drug store for a burger. Must have looked funny, this lanky back guy with a pudgy little white kid. I remember Sammy taking my dad and I fishing out at some lake one summer. We always looked forward to seeing those guys.

There was a geeky guy named John who lived there and was sort of an assistant manager for my grandmother. He taught me how to play ‘House of the Rising Sun’ on the guitar, as well as The Chords for ‘Gloria’. He seemed a bit of a big talker.

An attractive blond woman named Ruthie would take my sister and I swimming at The Lawtonian, a more upscale hotel around the corner. “I have friends who work here” she told us. We thought it was cool that we could go swimming, what with the hot dusty humidity of the place.

Ruthie used to help my grandmother out around the place; do her shopping for her, and whatever else she needed. There were two or three other women who were always around, helping out. I don’t remember all their names. I just remember that none were as cute as Ruthie. One of them, (Judy?) was actually kind of scary looking. Red Hair and freckles, always smoking. She was missing a tooth. She wasn’t mean to us or anything, just kind of rough.

I think I was 11 years old on this particular trip. I got my own room on one of the floors. I don’t remember what time of night it was, but the walls were not particularly sound proof. In the next room, the bedsprings were in full squeak, and whoever the woman was in the room, was in full voice. Quite the educational evening for these young ears.

The next day, I told Geeky John about what I heard. He must have reported to Grandma, because the next night I was on a different floor. I learned later that the woman in the next room was Scary Judy. I remember wondering to myself what a guy saw in her.

So it turns out that the girls there took care of Grandma Lee during the day, helping clean her apartment, and doing the shopping. In exchange, Grandma looked the other way as they plied their trade at night. After that, it made more sense, that Ruthie had friends at another hotel. I think Geeky John was sort of a wannabe pimp, and helped drive business their way. I don’t know that any of the porters ever had anything to do with that end of things.

My sister and I always laugh about our Grandma, the Madam.




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