Contributed by MERLE (BUS) CORNELIUS and produced by SUSAN STAFFORD.

Old Hotel in Lane, by Bus Cornelius

The Commercial Hotel

The Commercial Hotel
Southwest Corner of Fourth and Oak

     With the attached pictures of the old Commercial Hotel I will write what I know about it.

     The war ended in November 1918 and my dad was tired of farming and mother wanted to live in town again. So they sold the livestock and farming equipment and moved to Lane where they leased the only hotel in town that was owned by the “Gray Family.” They asked me to come home and help them run this place which I did, it was nice to be with Mom and dad again as I was only fifteen years old and sort of homesick.

     The three of us didn’t know one thing about running a hotel, but my sister Bula Boling Brownlee had worked for the Grays so she living a short distance from us came in each day to help until we got the hang of things.

     I have to write a little about that hotel, of course that was in the days of the “traveling salesman” and Lane did not have runmng water or electric so each room was equipped with a coal oil lamp which had to be filled and cleaned, a wash bowl and pitcher of cold water, a slop jar with lid, one towel and wash cloth and we had an outdoor toilet.

     If anyone wanted hot water they either came down to the kitchen or left word at the desk they would like hot water at a specific time and that case it was left in a small bucket outside of there door.

     Now mother thought the sheets had to be changed each time someone occupied a bed but traveling salesman would usually come in on the midnight or the 4:00 A.M. train so they did not occupy the bed long and Bula -my sister soon taught us to grab a hot iron off the wood stove and smooth out the wrinides and it was ready for the next guest. This horrified my very clean mother at first but it did make things a bit easier and kept down the washing. Which in those days was done by hand in a tub. We could now use a pair of sheets a week.

     Emptying those slop jars was the thing that displeased me and especially if some one had a bowel movement. That was pretty horrible but part of life at that point in time.

     Mother was an excellent cook and it wasn’t long until the salesmen were hiring cars to bring them over to Lane from Parker, Greeley, Osawatomie, Richmond and Rantoul and all the rest of the small towns for some of mothers good food so we had plenty of business.

     In the summer of 1919 an oil company decided to drill some test hole around Lane and Rantoul so we had a group of drillers, they were a rough, lively good nature group and we enjoyed them in spite of the hard work as they worked in eight hour shifts and we had to prepare lunches for those going to work at midday, dinner in the evening and at midnight for the drillers coming in from work.

     I have to laugh when I think of the bed deal about that time, we only had twelve rooms, each with a small double bed, now that meant six men to a room as they came and went on there eight hour shifts, two men to a bed. These men changed pants and shirts once a week and I do not think some of them ever took a bath. When one shift went out we would straighten the sheets, fluff up the pillow, empty the slop jars and just add water to the pitcher on the wash stand and the room was ready for the next shift. Talk about ironing the traveling salesman sheets, can you imagine two husky men occupying one double bed today and on someone’s else’s sheets. I can hardly believe it myself as I write this.

     Many times my dad would call me to get up and wait on tables and I had just gone to bed from waiting on the previous shift and I had not been to sleep.

Bill Boling and Bus' sister Daisy Boling Bump     Bill Boling came home from the war where he had almost died, in August of 1919, had I met him away from Lane I wouldn’t of known him, but Mom’s good cooking soon had him on his feet again.

     The Lease on the hotel was up in November of 1919 and the folks had had enough of that. They heard that one of the two cafes in Lane was up for sale so they decided to take a whack at that. Mom and Dad were winding down the business at the hotel and turned the cafe over to Bill and me for a few days. Well, you talk about green, the first day we opened some people came in for lunch and we did not even have a fire going in the old wood stove. Mr. Abbot the town banker was one of these people and I know he must have sat at the counter for an hour before we placed some tough steak and fried potatoes in front of him.

     A few nights after Bill and I took over the cafe, the Dance Crowd from the [Dany Needham Hall] asked us to stay open so they could eat which we agreed to do. Lordly what a mess, Bill and I were so busy frying hamburgers that we finally handed them out almost raw and I do not think we got paid for half of them.

     Mom and Dad finally (1920) took over and got things going and with mother’s good cooking and excellent cakes and pies -good coffee - we had a very good business.

     The preceding is taken from over 300 had written pages of Marie Boling Cornelius' writings about the early life of the Otis Boling and the Sarah Lee Boling families from about 1890 to 1978. Her writings includes a covered wagon trip from Greeley Ks. To Novata Ok. And back to Kansas City, in 1903 when she was three weeks old, with seven other sisters and brothers.

--Bus Cornelius

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