Monday, May 26, 2014

My First Bordello!!!


This three day holiday honors our fallen dead, and well they should be remembered. For many people it also marks the beginning of summer. Oh my, where did spring go, I wonder? The days race by faster now like rodents in a cheese factory!

                                                      Old high school in Stark, Kansas
DH went to a small rural school and they have  held an all school supper and meeting for as long as I can remember. I went the first time as a “date” in a white knit dress. I was so proud of that dress (it took all the money I had left from my freshman college year at $23), and I wanted to look fine for the evening. First thing that happened was the waitress poured brown gray down my shoulder. I shouldn’t have worried; half the gym was full of overalls and snap button shirts. But I was young then as was much of the crowd. The oldsters were revered and recognized for their longevity then.

This weekend DH and his classmates celebrated their 50th Class Reunion. THEY are the oldsters now! Sadly, the gym was full of more gray hair and double chins than ever before. Most were farmers with sun burnished faces and tractor cap tans. There were a few men with long flowing white hair, an earring or two, and even a partially concealed pony tail! Since the school closed for consolidation in 1967, there are no new classes coming along. So each year the room of guests shrinks.

                                                  Boston Mountains of Arkansas

The next day we were tired but wanted to drive somewhere in the opposite direction. Usually we never travel on Memorial Day weekend, but this year we needed to see something new, to have a shot in the arm with some mental arousal. So we headed south down into Arkansas. Living in a corner of this state, we are fortunate to be able to cross three state borders in 30 to 60 minutes. In about 90 minutes Sunday we are on the edge of the Boston Mountains. These are not the jagged and high Rocky Mountains, but are beautiful mountains and valleys crowded with hardwoods and cold springs. The green of spring was lush here as we passed out of fields with short corn and new wheat on the prairie flat lands for the mountains with forest  leaves not yet withered from summer heat.

We went straight to Ft. Smith with no stops before turning around. There were two things I wanted to see in Ft. Smith, a town that once was a real drawing card on the western frontier. It is only a few miles to the border of what was once Indian Territory. This is home to U.S. Marshalls ( think Frank Dalton and Wyatt Earp) and outlaws (think James gang and the Rufus Buck gang)  alike. This is also where Judge Isaac Parker, the Hanging Judge, had about 80 criminals hung from the gallows.
                                             Jail and courtroom in Fort Smith federal building

Originally Ft. Smith was a military post. Then when the fort buildings housed federal offices, two huge rooms in the basement contained accused men, about a hundred at a time. The smell of unwashed men and poor sanitary conditions hosted a smell so bad that it drifted up through the floor! We stood in that room…I did not like the feel of the rooms.
 

Upstairs the reconstructed court room of Judge Parker was amazingly beautiful for the times. The walls of the building were nearly a foot thick. The doors were as wide as a small wagon. This was so the original troops housed at the fort could muster out two at a time and loaded in full gear quickly. I was astounded by those wide doors.
                                                Gallows...hung about 80 men under Hanging Judge

We went out to see the gallows. They are fenced in because people were handed out tickets to watch the hangings. Everyone wanted to see, like a circus. So the numbers were limited to the size of the gallows yard. The hangman took his job seriously. There were 13 steps up….13 rings on the noose…turning the noose to the side of the neck gave more chance to snap the neck making death an easier thing for the sentenced people. No ropes hung there on Sunday because people visiting in the past had been stupid causing accidents with the ropes and floor. On certain days the ropes are up but only when a Ranger can watch people!
                                                 Miss Laura's

Then we moseyed a few blocks down the river bank to Front Street where all the houses of ill repute used to be located; this area was called The Row then. The people of Ft. Smith wanted all the vices lined up in the same place, away from the bulk of the good, non-sinning citizens. Here now the only house left is Miss Laura’s once owned by Laura Ziegler in the late 1800s. The bordello is painted the same green with cream trim that it wore when business flourished. It is now the city’s visitor’s center, and it was an incredulous site for this writer’s mind to visit! Miss Laura ran her house with only quality circumstances. She paid for regular health screenings of her girls. No man was allowed to see himself upstairs without a girl escort. She came to the bottom of a lovely staircase to get him, and she had to be fully clothed to do so. There is still a side door where certain patrons entered when they were trying not to be seen.
                                                Miss Laura's parlor
The girls took one third of the fee which was a day and a half of the common man’s wages. The girls did 35 to 38 jobs a week. DH figured up the girls made the today’s approximate equivalent of $3800 a week for their “work”. Laura borrowed $600 to build the house and in 1911 sold it for $47,000 dollars. She was quite a business woman.

                                                           If only these stairs could talk!

Miss Laura’s of Ft. Smith is the first bordello ever put on the National Historic Register.

10 comments:

Sioux said...

Claudia--You two had quite a trip. Thanks for taking us along...

Linda O'Connell said...

Wow! What an interesting post. I loved going along on the virtual tour.

Elephant's Child said...

What an incredible post. And I warm much more to Miss Laura's work than that of the hanging judge. I particularly loved her concern for the health and safety of her workers. Thank you.

Elephant's Child said...

What an incredible post. And I warm much more to Miss Laura's work than that of the hanging judge. I particularly loved her concern for the health and safety of her workers. Thank you.

Lynn said...

Some rather interesting things you saw! That hanging thing kind of creeped me out - did you feel any kind of negativity from that? And the Bordello looked like a cool place. And you sounded pretty funny about the reunion... more gray hair and double chins. Oh, and your poor white dress! Sounds like you both had fun this weekend.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

You pack so much into your trips! Thanks for sharing all that history. I understand what you mean about not liking the "feel" of the rooms. It may sound silly, but I believe buildings hold onto things like that. When my husband and I were house hunting many moons ago there were a number of houses that I discounted the minute I stepped through the door because the "feel" was horrible. Happy to say the reverse was true with the home we ended up purchasing. The second we walked in we knew we were home.

Susan said...

Hi Bookie...ha ha ha ha ha I had to chuckle over your comment on my post. Had to rush right over here! ha hahahha Loved that couch and lamp in the "whore" house.

Imagine that was quite a tour!

Thanks for your visits and comments. I appreciate them SO MUCH. Susan

Marylin Warner said...

You had quite an adventure, Claudia!
As much as I enjoyed the court house, the gallows and even the house of ill repute, I LOVED the gravy-on-the shoulder-of-the-white-dress story. Stark, KS, right??? I've been there probably in the early 1960s because the h.s. was still active.
As far as Miss Laura's--and your comment, if only the stairs could talk--frankly, my interest is if only the walls could talk! ;)

BECKY said...

I just love how you share your trips with us. What a fun and interesting day! And your photos look like post cards....just perfect! I'd say the part that made my mouth drop open was this: "The girls did 35 to 38 jobs a week." ZOWIE!

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