Goodbye to the Anna Louise Inn
Memories are sometimes bittersweet but only because they ARE memories
Today was one of those days that you just thank God you are alive! And today one of my dearest friends and I went on a journey, back in time, to where we first met.
Judy and I met at the Anna Louise Inn in 1969 when she and I both lived there. Me, right out of high school, transitioning from my grandfathers home where I lived off and on during my high school years because of a tumultuous relationship with my mother and Judy, fresh out of a marriage that didn't work out.
We were an unlikely pair only in that there was a 10 year age difference between us. But despite that age difference, we were amazingly alike and clicked almost instantly.
Most people would say that she was like a mother to me, but in reality, Judy was the older sister I never had. She gave me advice based on knowing where I fit into the world, which most mothers wouldn't be able to do. She looked out for me, protected me, fought for me, defended me and loved me. That wasn't always an easy thing to do back then because I didn't believe that I could be someone worth loving and I had a tendency to not trust people who got to close to me. Blame that, I guess, on the relationship my mother and I had. But, Judy saw thru all of that and despite everything, found something in me, worth loving, that I didn't even know I had.
Ultimately she was my matron of honor when I got married and she was with me when my first child, Shannon, was born. She was the first person I called that day, in the hospital, when they told me that Shannon was likely a Down Syndrome.
She may never know the strength she gave me during that time, but I will remember it for the rest of my life.
Everyone should have a friend like Judy. Today, we picked right up where we left off more than 25 years ago.
The Anna Louise Inn in downtown Cincinnati was a home for young women built in the early 1900s. It was designed for people just like me and Judy who needed a temporary place to live while going to school, working or just until a direction was found. It was a simple system. The rooms were dormitory style similar to what you found in college dorms all over the country. You paid a weekly rent which included a meal ticket, if you chose that. It was safe, clean and the perfect answer for any woman who needed to get her bearings before venturing any further into the world.
Oh the great times we had there! There were 4 house phones on each floor. Cell phones had not been invented and private phones in your room just wasn't offered. If a phone rang, we would all run to answer it and then yell out the room number for who the call was for. If you didn't come to answer your call, the switchboard operator at the front desk, whose name was Loretta, but whom we fondly called "Mom" would take down a message and when you came in, you were given your messages. The systems were simple and they worked.
I felt free for the first time in my life and I loved the feeling of being responsible for myself with no one to boss me around or make unreasonable demands or to question every move I made. I had my first real job on 4th street, across from Pogues garage and next door to Pigalls French Restaurant. The place was called Ohio Financial. I walked to work every day up 4th street and then back. It's a good, long walk and I marvel at the fact that I did it everyday, rain or shine and now Im lucky if I can walk to the corner!
Theres a difference in being 19 and being 63 and I know the difference!
If you're old enough to remember the Mary Tyler Moore Show, I look back at how I felt and acted in those days and Im convinced that the show should have been made about me and been called the Sallie Anne Raymond Show!
It was the high life for us, back in those days. Not a care in the world, a roof over our heads, enough money to enjoy living in what we thought was the big city and the freedom to enjoy it all. We came and went when we wanted to, did all the girl things that girls living together do and enjoyed every, single second of it.
There was a group of us that I can remember...myself, Judy, Joanne, Peggy and Nicky. We ate dinner in the dining room or walked uptown to have dinner at Caproni's or Gregory's Steak House. That summer was the summer Riverfront Stadium was being built and we would go up to the 5th floor which was where the laundry was and while waiting for our clothes to finish drying or washing, we would go up to the roof and ogle the iron workers as they climbed around the stadium.
Many of you know that Western Southern Life has now bought the Anna Louise Inn and have plans to gut the inside and to renovate it into a "boutique hotel". I hope those are the only plans they have and that this dear, old Cincinnati landmark isn't yet another victim of "they put up a parking lot" mentality.
So today, Judy and I made our pilgrimage, if you will, back to the Inn to tour the inside, which has changed dramatically and yet oddly, not changed at all. Sometimes when we "go back" nostalgia has a way of kicking us in the gut. Not because the memory of that time is bad, but more because the memory of that time is filled with joy and happiness and good feelings. That's exactly what I felt today and Im sure that's exactly what Judy felt today.
This area known fondly as the "bottoms" is also the place of my birth. My entire family on my Dad's side lived in that area, so there is also that to remember and walking thru the Lytle Park area today was filled with so many memories of my early childhood and what that entire area was like back in the 40s and early 50s.
I was only 5 when we moved because of the inception of Ft. Washington Way and ultimately Interstate 75, but I well remember those streets and that park and the many, many businesses and stores and buildings that are long gone. And I remember all of those dear people who are now all gone, but who filled my heart and soul with so many wonderful memories and who made those days the best days.
Today was all about reminiscing and remembering...so many days, these days, are. But it also reminded me of what a happy, young girl I was back in those days. I didn't have the best life after my Dad died and there were definitely moments when life with my mother was downright awful. But I know that Ive been able to put all of that to rest and remember the good.
And oh! there was so much good