Well, I am certainly aging myself when I tell you what the hotel was like when I first worked here over the summers while going to University. It was quite a different time in the hotel biz!
My brother knew the General Manager at the time, Don Blakslee and of course, that is how I landed this summer job taking reservations. These would come in by phone or telex machine or snail mail and there had to be two of us in the summer, as that was the ‘busy’ time. My job was to take the reservation request down on a little card – 3 inches by 5 inches (I still have some of these) . It was simply the name of the guest(s), phone number, single or double and dates. No credit card was taken or email address etc. No confirmation number was given, just my name. I would send a confirmation form by snail mail, if requested. Then, to keep track of reservations, each day of the year had a sheet starting with the number 365 and down to 1. At the end of the day you would tick off a number for each night of their stay. There was no distinction between singles or doubles… that would come later. Then the card would be filed by date order in little file boxes. So simple!! With 10 more rooms than we have now, it was an incredibly simple process with only two of us in the reservations office. As you can imagine, it is so much more involved now.
Mr. B, our General Manager, as we called him, lived in the hotel with his wife Joan and their two sons, Pat and Jim and their dogs; first Casey, then Toby. The dogs would keep us company in the office during the day and our guests loved seeing them when they arrived. Joan and the boys would be in and out through the day and we all knew them well. It was very much their home and it has always felt like home to me too. Believe it or not, Mr. B is still in the wings, not as our GM, but certainly as an ambassador who loves to share the many stories of his time here. I returned to this wonderful place that I call home over 10 years ago now, but as the Director of Sales.
I am telling you this, as this coming year we celebrate 75 years of being the Lord Elgin Hotel. Our early story is a fascinating one. We are having it all put into a wonderful publication that we will be sharing in 2016. The more I learn, the more excited I am to share this story. So stay tuned. And..if you have a few tales to tell about your time at the LE, we would love to hear them and share them too. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The world is such a small place. I discovered recently that the son of one of our long time clients attended McGill University in the music program and he is now a member of our very esteemed Ceremonial Guard – the same that marches by our hotel each morning. His name is Dustin Finer and he has his own web-site: http://dustinfiner.com
Even more coincidental is that he is a good friend of the son of one of my best friends who lives in Kelowna who also attended McGill. I asked Dustin if he could talk about his experience here on our blog… and he was kind enough to say yes. Here is what he said.
AM: How did you find out about the Ceremonial Guard?
DF: When I was at McGill, a fellow saxophone player was part of the band and told me about it.
AM: How many years have you been participating
DF: This is my third year.
AM: What instrument(s) do you play
DF: With the Ceremonial Guard I play alto saxophone. In other settings I play other saxophones as well as flute and clarinet.
AM: What is your favourite part about being a part of the CG
DF: It’s great to be able to perform for a large audience every day.
AM: What is your least favourite part?
DF: We have a fairly demanding training phase at the beginning of the summer, but it’s worth it to put on a great show!
AM: What other obligations do you have apart from the ceremony each day.
DF: Occasionally we have rehearsals for other gigs.
AM: What is your favourite memory as a Guard
DF: Canada Day is always a highlight!
AM : How long can one participate ?
DF: As long as they are invited back! The Band Sergeant Major has been here for almost two decades.
AM: What will you take away long term about this experience…does it make you feel differently about Canadians /Canada/ Ottawa?
DF: I’ve gotten a lot of great playing experience. It was also how I became a part of the Canadian Armed Forces. I am now part of a military unit in Montreal whose band I play with during the rest of the year. It’s been great to get to know the city of Ottawa and I’m certainly more proud to be Canadian.
Thank you Dustin for sharing and for being a part of such a great tradition!! We love hearing the band each morning… means summer is here and I celebrate each and every summer day!