The summer of 1982 wasn’t a groundbreaking by any standards, golf tourneys, and tennis opens, a few shuttle launches and a the return of a Soyuz. But what was significant about July 1982, was that this was the time my mother, Carroll Easton, found her way “home.”
My mother had taken a job in downtown Harpers Ferry, in the national park area, working for Dixie Killham in his numerous gift shops. The Carriage House was one i remember because my Mom used to bring home small toys and other things for us. Little toy pistols fueled my brother’s and my Civil War reenactments on the lawn. We would trade hats (we had both blue and grey obviously) and “pow pow” at each other for hours. My sister, younger than us both, would sit there shaking her head and play with the little toy horses mom would bring home for her. And what 12-year-old wouldn’t have loved his mom bringing home ropes of candy, piles of gum, all sorts of colored and flavored gummies when she worked at the candy store? We sure did. My personal favorite were the little wax “soda bottles” filled with a mysterious sweet sticky liquid that sent my twelve-year-old brain buzzing. There were others too. But the Carriage House and the Candy Store were the two that had the most impact on my memory. It was during this time that Mr. Killham approached my Mother about being the weekend hostess at the Hotel’s Dining room. My mother accepted the offer. It was just her raising us after all. A single mom with three kids needed all the extra money she could get.
She started the weekend after Dixie offered her the job. It didn’t take long before the staff there adored her. She worked weekends for months. During the week she would work at the various curio and chochkey shops downtown, hawking the wares that tourists used to bring home from every national park. And every weekend she would be seating guests for dinner at the Hilltop House. The town people came to know her. She became a fixture there. “The New Girl” who was seating guests and making small talk as they waited to be seated in the lobby. When i was a child i wondered how everyone in town seemed to know my mom. I thought she was some kind of big shot…well…i guess all children see their mom in that light. She knew everyone, from the mayor to the chief of police; park service officials and minor political figures from the area all knew her by name.
It wasn’t long before My mother had stopped being Dixie’s shop manager and started working the front desk of the Hilltop House. This is where my mother spent the majority of her time. There wasn’t anything that happened in that hotel she didn’t know about. She could tell you where the pen is in room 66 and where the breaker was that always flipped off in the John Brown Room downstairs. “The New Girl” knew everything there was about the hotel. It was as if she had been there all her life. The guests never knew that the woman behind the desk who told them all about Harpers Ferry and where to go for a good lunch, was indeed the New Girl.
20 years pass…quicker than you might think.
Now the “new girl” is the one everyone turns to. The entire staff of the hotel refers to Carroll as “Mom”. Every one who comes into the place, seems to know her or at the very least asks to speak with her. She was the grand Dame of the Hilltop House Hotel. Even the President of the United States’ staff had to go through her to have lunch at the hotel (unexpectedly) and everyone was grateful for the service she provided.
My Mother worked diligently for over twenty years at the Hilltop House, and was essential to the running of the Hotel. When prospective owners wanted to know anything real about the hotel, they didn’t ask Mr. Stanhagen, they would ask Carroll. She would give them the straight truth, no matter the question.
The New Girl became the Woman they couldn’t do without.