It’s a blink of an eye past five A.M. and a strident bell shakes him out of bed. Sam Wilford is tired from the last 48 hours straight he spent at the hotel counter this weekend, making sure everything’s working like a clock.
A guest suddenly bursts out of the chill out room and points straight at the skinny mid-40’s and fully gray haired hotelier.
– “You must not ever have slept in a proper bed because what I got last night surely wasn’t one.”
– “I’m terribly sorry. We….we’ve made sure your room was perfect Mrs. Hawthorne. What went wrong? I’m so sorry”
– “YOU went wrong, Wilfred. You went wrong. I want my bill and a checkout. A permanent checkout.”
– “My name’s Wilford, ma’am. I’m so sorry you aren’t satisfied.”
– “Willfoo, Willfull, Willwhatever you want. I am never setting foot in this place again.”
His diary is slowly opened and, with a shaky hand, Sam Wilford commits his latest self punishment for what just happened in that lobby. Old and yellowed pages containing over 20 years of hotel stories to tell. Wilford’s sure seen his share of strange things.
Like most great hotel managers, Sam began his career quite by accident. His dad was an alcoholic and his mom raised 7 kids by herself during the hardest times. World War II brought chaos to his native Ireland and his family was forced to move constantly. Sam’s dad wasn’t a bad guy, he just couldn’t cope with what he’d seen in the War. Oh…the War….the forbidden subject around that old man.
One day he noticed his two little brothers weren’t well. It struck him that nothing was well…no food, no living conditions, no dignity for his 6 siblings or for mum. It was time to do something. Sam went out with a single goal in his mind. He’d walk into any door he found through hole in the wall and ask for a job. And he wasn’t coming back home until he found one.
It was well into the evening of that faithful December, when Wilford came home, wearing nothing but his usual tweed coat, think brown glasses and vintage beige corduroy pants. Sam Wilford had found a job at the Strattenstrasse Guesthouse. Not much of a job, he’d be cleaning and doing kitchen work, but to him it meant food for his brothers, it’d mean a minute less work for his mother.
A boy of great character, he suddenly caught the attention of Mrs. Vail Sardenberg. Times weren’t good for Jews around Europe, and Mrs. Sardenberg was as skeptical as anyone else to let a stranger into her business. But Sam was different. He was incapable of hurting an ant or harming a single living thing around him. Something told Mrs. Sardenberg this kid wasn’t here in vain. She needed him, as much as she didn’t let him notice, she needed him to help her run the place.
Victory Day in Europe was a big day for Sam. Not only was life going to go back to normal, but he’d earned Mrs. Sardenberg’s trust during the past 3 years. His family was living in better quarters now, they had a decent life and a future. Wilford was proud of what he’d accomplished. But it wasn’t long before fate struck once more.
To be continued……