Wednesday, April 7, 2010

March Winner ~ Tell Us Your Boulderado Story

One of the components of the Boulderado's 100 year anniversary is the Tell Us Your Boulderado Story campaign, which is a collection of memories and narratives from the last century about the Hotel Boulderado. Our goal is to collect 100 stories which will be compiled into a coffee table book. The Boulderado selects a monthly favorite, and March's winner is Gary Richardson. Enjoy his story, "Meeting Mr. Lawry."

"I was working for the Community Corrections Program within the Boulder County Justice System starting around September 1977, when I went with a friend, Bart Costello, who also worked within the Justice System, to have lunch down on the 'new' Pearl Street Mall. Bart had gone to CU and was very knowledgable about Boulder and was going to take me to one of his favorite eateries.

On the way to the Mall he told me about Fred Shelton and his restaurant and especially his connection to the Hotel Boulderado and the 'denizens' of the largest and most renowned hotel in town. When we pushed through the front door I realized why Bart, being a guitarist, had a warm spot for Fred's when I spotted what appeared to be a gorgeous Gibson L-5 guitar in a stand on a small stage up front.

As we were seated, Bart told me about our host's love of music and the often impromptu jams that had a habit of occurring in the restaurant, with Fred helping out on guitar. I was really hoping for some music to occur, but was disappointed when our waiter told us that Fred was gone for several hours. Bart promised that he'd get back later and so we went on discussing our work and the beautiful fall day that we were experiencing.

I remember Bart saying something like, "Here he is" and looked around. Coming from the entrance was a fairly small, very old man with a beard, wearing a nondescript dress coat. He was moving slowly and wasn't paying attention to the patrons of the restaurant as he made a beeline for a small, out-of-the-way table in the back near the waiter's door. As he neared his table, one of the wait staff moved over to stand ready, should he require any assistance getting seated. Evidently, today there was no need, so the waiter just moved on to other duties. I asked Bart who the old man was.

My friend told me that Mr. Lawry was a long-time resident of the Hotel Boulderado, and, due to his advanced age, had usually eaten his major meal of the day in the hotel at Fred's Steakhouse which was on the premises, until Fred's moved to Pearl Street which had just become "the Mall." Bart wasn't quite sure of his age, but guessed him to be around mid-eighties and told me that Mr. Lawry was "a bit poor" and had no other place to call home. Since he was seated where I could watch, I was able to observe how the whole wait staff took care of him, bringing him a fine lunch soup and other menu items at his request. About five minutes into his lunch, he seemed to drift off into a small nap. The next waiter to come by bent down and gently took his soup to place it under a warming lamp to keep it hot until he woke up ten minutes later. Another waiter returned the warm soup and he continued eating as though nothing had happened.

Bart said that Mr. Lawry came in every day to sit at the same table and would eat for an indeterminate amount of time (with several interspersed naps) before wandering back to the hotel, where he'd find a soft chair to nap in.

He told me that he'd met Mr. Lawry a bit ago and had talked with him in the past. With that he got up and invited me to come with him as he headed over to the small, solitary guest. When he came up to the table, Mr. Lawry kept eating, until Bart caught his attention as he inquired about his health. Mr. Lawry seemed to remember my friend and they carried on a small dialogue for several minutes. Then Bart introduced me as a friend of his. Mr. Lawry reached up and took my hand with a 'Nice to meet you' before focusing back on Bart and starting to get back to his lunch. We both said, "Good day," and went back to our table to take care of the bill, since we had to get back to work.

On the walk back, we both discussed what we both saw as such a wonderful support system for an old man that needed a hand doing for himself. Bart told me that, when he finished his meals, he'd just get up and wander back to the Boulderado, with Fred's sending a monthly statement to someone at the hotel who would pay the bill from either a small pension or contribution fund to keep our friend fed. Since he was basically penniless, it appeared to us that the hotel and Fred's were taking on the care needed to keep a piece of 'Old Boulder' comfortable in his old age.

I saw Mr. Lawry several more times down at Fred's over the years, always around the lunch hour and always at his table before hearing that he'd passed away. I was so pleased when Boulder kept him in our collective consciousness with a Lawry Lane to remember a part of our history. Thanks to the Hotel Boulderado, Fred's Restaurant, and the people of Boulder for showing true kindness."

Editor's Note: According to a former owner of the Hotel Boulderado from this era, Dick Dorman, the only source of income Mr. Lawry possessed was veteran benefits he collected from serving in the Spanish-American War of 1898. The staff members, particularly the waitresses and housekeepers, doted on Mr. Lawry to the point that he did not want for anything.

Mr. Lawry napping in the Boulderado Lobby, circa 1975, and Gary Richardson, circa 2010 (