John Eaton of Hamilton, Ohio and the Hamilton Inn. I couldn’t find him in Wikipedia. I also couldn’t find him or his inn in any of the Internet historical sites. They might be there, but my exhaustive ten minute search turned up a big fat goose egg. For several decades though, he was a successful businessman in Hamilton, Ohio and for many years a friend to my mom, and therefore friend to our Brady Bunch family.
My mom worked part time off and on outside of the house while she was still married to my dad. Mostly it was to help bring in additional income to the family, especially if it was a time when Dad’s union might be on strike (I seem to recall this happening at least once while I was a kid on Goodman Avenue). When Mom and Dad divorced, there was no other choice. Mom had to work outside the house then, mostly in a full time capacity. Child support back then was only $10 per week, per child; so $40 per week. I assume this was a hefty sum at first for Dad, but he got decent pay increases as the years went by and as his job changed at Ralston Purina. I have to give my mom some credit here for as inflation kicked in, she never once tried to take him back to court to try to get more money and in general, Dad paid on time.
Although my mom had some decent smarts about her, she never went to college and in those days, women just did not attend any trade schools like they do today. They would not be able to gain an apprenticeship either, that’s just the way things were back in the sixties. So Mom did what most women did back then; she waited tables at restaurants. Soon, she showed an interest and aptitude for tending bar. She never tried to become certified but she could make just about every drink known to man. If you knew my mom, you’d be a bit surprised to learn this about her because she was such a teetotaler. Oh, I think she enjoyed a glass of wine and maybe even a brandy once a year, but in general she’s just not the type you’d look at and think ‘barmaid’.
I think her first exposure to the art of tending bar came at a place called the Lamppost Inn on Main Street on the west side of Hamiltucky. Before it was the Lamppost, (or maybe after – like I said, I rarely research this stuff), it was a fine dining place named Lum’s. Fine dining in Hamilton usually meant it was the restaurant you would not feel embarrassed at if you wore a a dinner jacket. Fine dining also became the choice for those few special high school dates. I remember once eating there at a big table with Indiana relatives, not sure which uncle or aunt, but the food at the Lamppost was always very good. Heck, the place even had silverware and table cloths!
Author’s note – in the first place, just how cool is it to write the words ‘author’s note’? Secondly, I think I am wrong about the Lamppost location being Lum’s before it became the Lamppost. Everyone I checked with, (even my mom), can validate this. I even put out one of those SOS Facebook questions and all I really got was a Wikipedia post from my son. I swear though, in my mind, the Lamppost was Lum’s. (Perceptions are reality, right?)
Lum’s, (OK, The Lamppost), claim to fame though was not its dinner fare. It was the place where my stepfather Joe met my mom. Joe was a service technician who did a lot of traveling. He worked on packaging equipment, primarily in the ice cream industry; places like Sealtest or Owens Illinois factories. I’m guessing that he either was traveling through town or perhaps the Pillsbury plant was a place he was visiting. Either way, it was destiny for them. I’ll likely write a follow up story someday about our driving to Joe’s place to meet his family. The long and short for now is that they ended up marrying and we became the Brady Bunch.
Quick sidebar- once Joe brought home a HUGE box of special plastic ice cream bar sticks. They had multiple holes in them, allowing them to fit together with each other in efforts to build Tinker Toy style contraptions. They came in multiple colors and for a year or two, we nine kids had some decent fun building things and helping to get Mom’s vacuum cleaner plugged with them when we left them lying around.
Lum’s Lamppost, my mom went to work at a place called the Hamilton Inn’s English Pub Lounge owned by an entrepreneur named John Eaton. Mom called him John and on the few occasions we met him, he was Mr. Eaton to us, (and in our best manners). In his little ‘campus’ he had built a motel, an adjoining trailer park, (I think), a casual diner with a full bar just like those you see today at places like Gatlinburg and he had a huge house located across and up the street a bit. The house had, (I think), once been some sort of small mansion home for someone, but now converted into one of the best sit down dining restaurants in Hamilton. It was there that we at Deuscher’s would sometimes rent out an upstairs dining room for our quarterly management dinners.
Mom worked as the barmaid for John at the smaller, more casual English Pub attached to the motel. I think John was about the age, (or maybe a little younger), as what her father would be, had he still been alive. On the few interactions I was exposed to, I got the feeling that they each saw their relationship in that way too. My mom was very fond of Mr Eaton and even as a young pimply teen, I could see that he really liked my mom. He would smile real big when he saw her and always wanted a hug. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that my mom was pretty attractive in her youth, but seriously, even in hindsight I could tell theirs was a father/daughter relationship that would never appear on Dateline or the Maury Povich show.
One of the best memories I have of John’s generosity was that he loaned Mom and Joe his mega large blue Pontiac station wagon so that they could drive all nine of us kids to Indiana for a Thompson family reunion. How many vehicles, (other than a Greyhound Bus), would hold 9 kids and 2 adults? My recollection is that Mr Eaton offered mom to loan out his mega mobile (rather than Mom’s asking him). Likely he picked up on the topic in one of the conversations and put the offer out to her. In hindsight, that’s a pretty generous offer, I’d say. I know he likely didn’t really need a giant station wagon, but that puppy was, I think, a brand new car. We all received several lectures during the sardine ride to Indiana to be careful and don’t you know it that none of us were allowed to drink even a water in that car, (but of course back then only Californians were dreaming of bottled water). It must have been a funny sight to watch that car drive up and see 11 people pile out. All that was missing were the clown outfits. I seem to recall our taking turns sitting in the rear-facing seat, (the only fun seat in a station wagon filled with eleven people).
I think my mom worked for John Eaton only a few years before taking a job out at The Hamilton Elks club. I don’t recall if the pay was better or the hours, but what I do know is that as Hamilton continued to grow, places like the Hamilton Eaton Inn began to suffer due to competition. Eventually, everything was torn down. The first to go was the big house on Dixie Highway, (Route 4). It was the sign of the times in the 80’s. Like a lot of towns built around manufacturing and industry in America, the manufacturing jobs all began to dissipate and with them, service businesses like Eaton’s were not far behind.
John’s wife had to be admitted into a full care nursing facility in the 70’s, I don’t know the reason. What I do know though is that John found one located by itself outside of town. Next door, John bought up the land and built a nice A-frame house, complete with an indoor pool. There were not a lot of places like this in the Hamilton area back then so it stuck out, (in a nice way), whenever we drove by on our way to Hueston Woods.
I don’t think Mom worked out at the Elks for very long because I think she soon took on a much bigger full time job; full time in-the-house mom for all nine of us kids. I know I could text my mom to ask her why she left The Elks, but it’s more fun for me to speculate. My speculation is that Joe asked her to quit. Nine kids fending for themselves, even for only a couple of hours, can spell disaster. Would you let nine kids into your house without an adult present?
The Elks is also the only place that I ever caddied. Caddying can be lucrative for some I guess, but in my experience as a young teen, you have to get up at the crack of dawn, then beg someone for a car ride out to the club where it might be cold before sunrise. Then you check in with the guy smoking the big cigar and the hairy mole on the end of his nose. He looks at you and asks if you’re strong enough to carry a bag of clubs. You indignantly tell him you can and he tells you he might have a place for you in an hour or so. So you wait around, trying to stay warm, hoping that your name gets called and then hoping your guy is a big tipper. The guys I got all were the type that liked to go Easter egg hunting for golf balls and then never emptied out their bags so they must have weighed 50 pounds, (which was probably half my weight back then). After lugging those fifty pound bags around for 4-5 hours only to receive a $5 bill, I was ready to retire after only a few weekends.
In 1978 when it came time to throw a rehearsal dinner for me and Kim, my mom asked John if she could borrow his place, knowing he had a nice big gathering area inside, near the pool. So even after my mom had left his employment, it would seem that he still had a soft spot for my mom…nice guy.
I don’t know how many years after the rehearsal dinner it was that John’s wife died. Such as it is in the circle of life though. Some of us checkout first and those we love are forced to deal with the losses and then eventually we all checkout. I don’t know if I’m remembering this right or not. I guess it’s not that important. In my personal recollection, John’s wife left this earthly life first and then John followed a few years later.
My childhood memory goes like this – My mom worked for John Eaton who had a soft spot for her in a fatherly fashion. He was more than just an employer to her. He loaned our Brady Bunch family the only car in town that could handle 11 people for a four hour drive across Indiana and he loaned out his personal domicile for an evening to 20 people he really didn’t know and didn’t have to be invaded by. He was devoted to his wife; so much so that he built a house directly next door to the full care facility his wife was in need of in her old age, just so that he could be close to her and could visit as often as he could. He was an entrepreneur who built up a couple of businesses and supplied jobs to many people for many years. Like many small town businesses, they too are either done or are close to completing the circle of life.
John Eaton is not in Wikipedia, the keeper of all knowledge but he is still in the memories of some of us…..and now a tiny piece of him can be found on the internet. According to a review in Yelp, the Hamilton Inn is now nothing more than just a cheap motel, often used for drug purchases and vagabonds. If John were alive, I suspect he’d take a flamethrower to it.