I’ll never forget the summer we had roomers. I grew up on Lake George in northern New York State. From September through June the main interests in the village were directly related to school activities or a few minor incidents worth a bit of gossip to shorten the long winter.
But July and August meant an immediate increase in population of “summer people”. These were mostly city people from what I called “all walks of life” (loving a good cliché even back then). Our lives were given over to making money while the tourists were in town.
There was a fine old hotel in our town–situated on an island and connected to the mainland by a bridge. My friend and I used to fish from that bridge using bacon for bait. But that’s another story.
The hotel was large and employed hundreds of people in the summertime. Yes, hundreds. Often these workers stayed in rooms rented by homeowners in the village. Nearly everyone had at least one or two upstairs bedrooms that could be spared to make some summer money. Ours was a big old house, too, and we decided to rent three rooms that summer.
We were very fortunate–beginner’s luck–because the first two rooms were rented by two musicians who worked at the hotel. Mrs. Glee was a good pianist and we enjoyed the free concerts she gave as she practiced daily on our old upright piano in the dining room. I can still hear the ripples of “Rustle of Spring” that she played flamboyantly, as she turned the pages feverishly.
Keith was also a musician and played piano and my mother arranged that he would give piano lessons to my sister and me for the summer in lieu of rent. They were my very first lessons. Gosh! I loved my real piano music! There were four yellow booklets for me to practice. My first piece was “Theme” by Mozart.
And my sister, who was older, learned “Jubilo” from a book called The Girl at the Piano. I thought she played it beautifully. I would show you that book, too, but in a fit of kindness recently, I gave it to her.
We were both in love with Keith who was the tall, dark and handsome type.
So to return to this story, two rooms were rented throughout the season, but the third room shifted from person to person.
One miserable night, when rain was coming down in sheets with plenty of thunder and lightning –a “good” storm as my mother would call it–someone knocked at the door. It was dark and late and we wondered who would be out on such a night.
In fact, my mother said, “Now what?” (a favorite expression of hers after a long full day)
Two women stood there with sacks and lumpy bags, just drenched.
“Have you got a room to rent?” boomed the tall one.
We did indeed, and Mom led them up the stairs, dripping, to the “north room”. The women seemed to be an entourage of sorts, with all kinds of cloth bags and whatnot.
Their boots and rubbers left puddles as they clomped up the stairs.
After they had gotten settled a bit, Mom went up to see if they’d like a cup of hot tea. We didn’t offer meals with the rooms, but Mom felt sorry for them out on such a night.
As it turned out, they didn’t want any tea, but Mom came downstairs with a funny look on her face.
She told us that the women were still all dressed, including sweaters, coats and hats. It was a rainy night, but certainly not a cold one. Mom didn’t want to be rude and ask why all the clothing. But when the smaller woman climbed into bed with her clothes on AND her rubbers on and pulled up the covers, Mom asked why she was going to bed with her rubbers on.
The woman answered, “Because I have holes in the bottom of my shoes.”
I think they left the next day, but their story—“because I have holes in the bottom of my shoes”–stayed as a family favorite for years.