The Bomb Shelter In My Grandfather’s Hotel

My grandfather Livingston, (your servant being named Charles Livingston McCain), was a self-made man. He left home when he was sixteen with a lot of ambition, a winning personality, unbreakable honesty, and a twenty dollar gold piece his mother gave him; all the money she had. Grandfather went to Charleston and enlisted in the 4th South Carolina Regiment of Volunteers and went to Cuba to fight in the Spanish-American War.

After his return he began his business career in Orangeburg and over time he acquired various businesses, one of them being the Hotel Eutaw. In the 1920s he and a group of local businessmen built the hotel and overtime he ended up owning the whole thing. Even in my childhood there were still billboards on the outskirts of town which said, “Hotel Eutaw. It’s Fireproof!”

I imagine that burning up in a hotel fire was a big concern in the 1920s and 1930s and he stuck with that advertising slogan until he died and the hotel was closed down and sold. However, it was built of heavy stone and brick, like buildings of that era, and the basement made a perfect “fallout shelter” and so it became.

I used to sneak down there and look around. How was this shelter equipped? It wasn’t. There were some empty plastic barrels with the Civil Defense logo on them. Theoretically, these would be filled with water before the big one dropped. At the time the barrels were filled with water, the shelter would have been stocked with that really disgusting US government yellow cheese. Should we have spent our last days in the basement of the Eutaw Hotel before dying of radiation poisoning, we would have survived on water from not-very-clean plastic barrels and US government cheese. Not a heroic ending.

Richard Harding Davis: The Gibson Man

RH Davis in 1903

While the Gibson girl was the produce of Charles Dana Gibson’s imagination, the jut-jawed Gibson man, who set the standard for masculinity in America, was the famous war correspondent, Richard Harding Davis. A brilliant author, journalist, magazine editor, and war reporter, Davis was one of the more glamorous figures of the era, particularly among writers. He traveled extensively and wrote prodigiously. No one thought him a dilettante. In fact, he died of a heart attack just before he turned 52, probably brought on by overwork. Of all of his work, I have only read Gallegher: And Other Stories. It’s been many years but I certainly give it three stars and it remains a classic.

Perhaps Richard Harding Davis is best known for his war reporting from Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Much of the mystique and outright myth about Theodore Roosevelt and the “Rough Riders” is traced to Davis. This embellishment of Roosevelt’s war record was most helpful in bringing him the national exposure he needed to both be elected Governor of New York and later to be selected as Vice-President on the Republican ticket in 1901. Teddy Roosevelt, for whom the “Teddy bear” is named, became President which he did when William McKinley was assassinated in 1901. Theodore Roosevelt, was only 42 years old when he became President of the United States, the youngest man ever to hold the office.

War Correspondents from the Spanish-Cuban-American War in Tampa: Stephen Crane (seated, white suit), Richard Harding Davis (second from left, standing).

[Images courtesy of Wikipedia and Latin American Studies.]