Mar 13, 2010

Chatter: The Astor Hotel; It Was Fantasy In Pink

My first memory of this amazing place is situated in the late 1950's, probably around 1958 to be exact.  In "those days" the hotel was painted a rather vivid shade of pink and to a child's eye, this was a very appropriate and exciting color!  So view the picture above and imagine PINK! The John Jacob Astor Hotel, locally known just as "The Astor", was then and is now, some fifty years later, the tallest building in Astoria.

I'm not going to go into all of the historical details of this building, those facts and figures are available on numerous other sites I'm sure.  What I want to tell you about is the coffee shop on the bottom floor that my dad would take me to on an occasional Saturday afternoon. And high up on the walls in colors of sea blue and green, magical and mythical creatures of the sea would swim non-stop.  Amazing!

There is another memory I associate with the Astor Hotel, this one is related to a friend of my mother.  This woman was larger than life to me, similar to a Lucille Ball image without the Lucille Ball persona.  She was tall and statuesque with flaming red hair, long red nails and wore "Hollywood" clothes.  She had a rather "scarlet" reputation in our small, 1950's town and I thought she was marvelous.  In between husbands or boyfriends (is it really important?) this friend of my mother actually lived in the hotel.  This seemed very glamorous to me, living high up in this highest building in our very small town.

The other thing that always fascinated me about this woman (I'm being discrete here about names because even though it's been over fifty years, this is, and I'll say it once again, a very small town) was always tan!  At least that's my child's memory.  This may not strike many of you as so unusual what with the abundance of tanning salons, but "in those days" unless you lived somewhere where the sun was a common factor in your life, sun tans were pretty exotic. And here on the north coast of Oregon? Forget about it. 

I ramble, sorry.  The connection here between my mother, her friend and the then pink, Astor Hotel is this.

Do you see the balconies located in the middle of every floor?  The ones on the south side of the building got most of the sun and my mother's friend would often tan herself on the balcony at the end of the hall.  I remember walking down the street with my mother one particularly warm afternoon and looking up at this exact side of the hotel (remember, think PINK) and there, barely in view, was someone sun bathing!  My mother would call up to her, she wasn't on one of the highest floors, and her friend would poke her head to the railing, wave hello, they would exchange a few words, and off we'd go down the street.

So now, all of these years and so much living later, when I pass by this wonderful building on my way to this or that, I flash back and think pink.  I also think glamour and spirit and spunk.  But then, that's another story.

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