To the editor:
Last week an important piece of local history went the way of the buffalo when the Osceola Inn was demolished.
When I went down town for a last look I found only a small mountain of broken bricks and twisted metal. A hundred and twenty years of Reed City history reduced to rubble, soon to be hauled away, but not, I hope, forgotten.
I’m pretty sure everyone in town has his own particular memories of the hotel. Here a few of mine. Back in the middle of the last century when I was a kid, diners came from far and wide to sample the Sunday smorgasbord delights laid out in the dining room by Ray and Nita Rogalla and their staff. In the fifties the Rogallas took Tom Eichenberg under their wing and taught him all their culinary secrets. Tom continued to run the Inn and the kitchen for many years and its reputation as a fine eating place got even better.
My parents, Ellis and Daisy Bazzett, loved to eat at the hotel, and I remember our family gathering at the hotel to celebrate Dad and Mom’s 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries. My wife and I both remember coming home to visit the first summer after we were married. We ate at the Inn with Mom and Dad, and then walked across the street to the Reed Theater to take in a Sunday matinee. The picture was “Bonnie and Clyde.”
I remember Bill Porteous telling me he worked part time at the hotel during his high school years in the 1930s, when Estelle Doherty ran the place. He set pins in the basement bowling alley and he was also a bell boy in the hotel proper. “There were lots of railroad men and salesmen staying there then,” he told me. “And also some ‘questionable’ types. A country boy could learn a lot about the facts of life there,” he said with a wink.
Twenty years later my brother Rich was a pinboy there. The bowling alley was torn out sometime in the seventies, I believe, and the space was converted into another banquet room. I went to my 25th high school reunion in that room in 1987. Our special guests that year were two of our former English teachers, Dorothy Wolfinger and Margaret Croft.
When my oldest brother Rich died in 2001 and our family gathered in Reed City to celebrate his life, we had dinner at the hotel. And after dinner, we all moved over to the karaoke bar, where my mother was serenaded by her surviving children with a rousing a capella version of “A Bicycle Built for Two,” with its “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do / I’m half crazy all for the love of you” - a song my dad loved to sing to her.
As I said earlier, I know that other Reed City folks have their own unique and special memories of the Osceola Inn. I hope they will share them with their kids and their grandchildren. East Upton is now mostly Yoplait’s street. Only two small businesses remain: the Pere Marquette restaurant and catering and D&E Supply. But that end of Upton was once the nerve center of old Reed City, boasting the Post Office, a pool hall, theater, barber shop, beauty parlor, clothing stores, a saloon, a drug store, a news stand, a grain elevator and coal yard. And the Osceola Hotel, with its dining room and coffee shop, where local businessmen gathered daily.
All gone now, except in our memories. Let’s hold on to the good ones.