I read in one of the journals that in the forward to a book called Quotidian, Goody (Gudrun) Cable, one of the owners of the Sylvia Beach Hotel, describes meeting the ghost of Robert Louis Stevenson in the library. (Lucky guest to meet Goody; in my several stays, I only met her once at breakfast.)
Goody’s RLS story
So it seemed appropriate that I found a stack of the RLS room journals in the fourth floor library attic. I had been fascinated with the RLS room….now transformed into the Jules Verne room…since learning of a wealthy old woman named Edna who used to stay in the RLS room for two months each summer between 1988 and the mid 90s, dressing each night for dinner at the Tables of Content restaurant. She is mentioned frequently in older journal entries in many rooms and was said to be a great raconteur. She would sit on pleasant days on the room’s patio and chat with folks coming in and out of the hotel.
Behind the garden is the patio for the RLS (now Verne) and (I think) one other room.
When I wrote about the journals in the Sylvia Beach Hotel Lovers Facebook group, another journal follower wrote:
“I have read many of the journals on my many stays but have not come across any with Edna’s entries.
I was very fortunate to have met Edna on her very first (of many) visits to the hotel. She walked the beach daily in her “nice clothes”, didn’t seem to mind getting blown by the wind. She had stories to tell of her life (England, New York, etc.) and you could find her either at breakfast with the whole table listing to her or later in the day/night up in the living room with guests sitting around her on the floor like little children listing to her tales.
On her second visit to the hotel, I happened to be there. She remembered me from the year before and asked about the “young man” that had been with me! Surprised me; she was a “sharp as a tack” as they say.
At that time, she mentioned that she was going to move to Portland. Her kids didn’t like the idea but she had all the details worked out and was going to tell the kids AFTER she was settled in her new location.
Just a beautiful person; anyone who actually got to met her will never forget her.”
So I had hoped I might find some writing from her in the RLS journals, but I did not. I may not have had all the ones that used to belong to that room, or perhaps she chose not to write in them.
north end of attic, the best seat in the house
stack of journals
Thursday at 4:20 PM, I settled down in the attic in my favourite chair in the entire hotel with a lovely stack of journals from RLS and Tennessee Williams (another retired room; not sure who the new author in that room is). I soon realized I had too much to read and too little time so set aside the Williams ones.
I immediately ran across a mention of Edna dated 1999!
And in the front of one of the journals, a poignant note by Pat Hendersen:
farewell to the RLS room
If you cannot remember, as I could not, RLS wrote not only Treasure Island and Kidnapped but also The Child’s Garden of Verses, from which my grandma read to me. (She herself was not much of a reader, but every morning she read me a “little golden book” and the RLS poems. I did not read Dr Seuss or Winnie the Pooh till I was in my 20s).
Another wonderful entry by Pat Henderson:
the home my spirit returns to
and another entry by Pat, with the wonderful creaky huge attic pipes as a backdrop:
1. A job is a waystation in life, not a destination. 2. There are no barriers in life, only diversions.
I found an entry by Patricia L. As I wrote in the SBH Facebook group: “I once put a stamp inside a journal in the Oscar Wilde room next to the entry to a woman who often wrote in that one…and asked her to drop me a postcard (with my address) and she did…We corresponded for a little while; this was before email was common or we might have stayed in touch. She used always to bring her Teddy bear and write about what he thought of the visit! I wonder if she still goes there.”
(Many journal entries refer to some sort of shape on the ceiling that looked like a big bar of Dove soap.)
Here is a story in one short entry:
“my mother’s favourite room”
And another story of falling in love with the SBH:
…to sit back and become engrossed in the stories of tales of others’ lives..
Journal writers repeatedly mentioned, usually not in a complaining away, the sound of rushing water, “like a waterfall”, that cascades audibly through the RLS room from the bathrooms of other rooms in the hotel! This prescient entry suggested it become a Jules Verne room, which it now is.
The following entry is from the Megan who often stayed in the Mark Twain room! In 2009, I wrote in the SBH Lovers group: “There is a theme through the Mark Twain journals: an articulate teenager named Megan W____ wrote every year as she was growing up, and the other guests followed her story. I Googled her and I found a Megan W______ who is a successful chef. Does anyone here know her? Entries in the later journals were hoping that she had ended up with a good life…”
And someone replied: “Just for kicks I googled Megan W too and shot an email to the one who’s a cook/chef, telling her about this group and asking if you might have been referring to her. She wrote back saying it indeed is her, and that she’s flattered that you remember and she wants to get back to the hotel.“
There must be many stories that a frequent guest can follow year by year through the journals.
Here’a another caution about Jersey the cow cat:
At 5:19 PM, I read this amusing reference to “the game” that is often played at the Tables of Content Restaurant.
two truths and a lie
And soon after, I had to leave my attic aerie and go to dinner…not a hardship but as often happens when I am at the SBH I felt time slipping away and knew I simply did not have enough journal reading time. Carol and I agreed that next time, we will stay for three nights.
[My two truths and a lie: I have a degree in offset printing. I have a gardening business. I used to manage a resort.]
At 9:00-ish, we returned to the Colette room for more reading.
an artistic entry
Another entry about wishing for solitude!
a dream of solitude
I loved this woman’s memories of a house she lived in…
Another wonderful Pat Henderson entry:
I found another entry by Patricia L. The RLS room was decorated gently not in a pirate or adventure theme but with childhood prints evoking the “Garden of Verses”. The only concession to Treasure Island was a treasure chest and a pair of “Long John Silver” crutches.
At midnight I finished the RLS journals and returned them to the library attic from whence they came. The last entry I photographed
“a gentler decade”
This was written before the world wide web and all the social internet technology that I love, that keeps us in touch, that lets us have a Sylvia Beach group online…but at the SBH, I even turn my camera on “discreet mode” so it won’t make a beeping noise when I turn it on.
Next…one last morning reading session in the library.
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