By Ellen Coffey
I recall as a child passing the Wade Hampton Hotel, on Gervais Street, located across the street from the State Capitol grounds.
The Capitol lawn was much like a park during WWII. Mom, baby brother and I went almost every evening to feed the squirrels and pigeons. We often watched the hotel doorman, bellhops and shoeshine men from our park bench across the street. In those days the military wives and families enjoyed the Statehouse grounds.
For more than a century you could have seen personnel moving about, in and out of the glamorous hotel lobbies of larger cities.
We hear a lot these days about folks in uniform, but very little is told of those who served in social civilian capacities.
Brass buttons on a short cropped three vested red jacket, worn over a crisp white shirt with a black silk bow tie.
Shiny black shoes, slacks and a small round black hat, called a drummer boy hat, identified the hotel bellhops. That man would usually have been of slight build and weight because of elevator weight capacity. One famous bellhop from the grand Hotel New Yorker, stood barely 4 foot tall. He was Johnny Rovintini, the radio spokesman for Philip Morris cigarettes. He was also the most photographed individual on the planet and more recognizable than the POTUS or Uncle Sam himself. In the 1930’s He did radio commercial advertising, yelling “Call for Phillip Morris” wearing his Bellhop uniform. His picture was on Magazine covers, billboards and post cards. He was the radio voice that the world knew. Bellhops manned hotel elevators and would call out on each floor “Going UP” and Going DOWN. Buildings grew taller, elevators changed. Soon fewer
Bellhops were needed. Folks soon pushed their own elevator buttons. Wearing a similar uniform was the familiar doorman.
Oops. My space is up.
But there’s much more to come another time about the grand doormen and the hardworking shoeshine guys.
I suppose I knew a bit about the bellhops because my Uncle John Frank and Hubby’s cousin, Sonny, both worked as bellhops for a short time at Columbia’s Wade Hampton Hotel.
I wondered how many readers recalled the Bellhops of bygone days who manned the elevators, Y’all.