Lobby Of The Parker House, Boston
When your courtship involves a Shish-Kebob Incident and your marriage was The Wedding Of The Decade, what can you do for an encore? Go on The Honeymoon Of The Millennium, of course! Boy, will you be jealous when you hear about where we went!
We went to Wilmington, Delaware - on purpose, too. I’ll tell you about that in good time. But first, I have to tell you about our wedding night at The Parker House in Boston.
I may have mentioned this before. One of my relatives invented the Parker House Roll.
(Well, of course I mentioned it before. Any little shred of gimcrack glory I can get by sponging off of my ancestors reputations, I’ve mentioned it here before. I’ve done precious little worthy of note in my own life, so I’m OK with second-hand fame. The Parker House Roll is good for a raised eyebrow sometimes. I’m also descended from Mary Baker Eddy. If that doesn’t do it for you, a relative on my mother’s side made the grasshopper weathervane that sits atop Faneuil Hall to this day. Better yet, a very distant relative was in on the fix of the 1919 World Series. Furthermore, several relatives from the Sullivan side of the family did time… uh, that is, SERVED in the Massachusetts legislature. If I could remember any other remotely famous relatives off the top of my head, I’d shoehorn them in. Maybe later.)
(Hell, I could just make stuff up. How many of you are going to do the research necessary to verify a story about someone inventing a freakin’ roll? However, I digress. Of course, I have a right to do so as much as I want. My great-great-grand uncle invented the digression. That was in February of 1869. When he finally got back on topic in March, they hung him.)
So, there we were in a lovely room in The Parker House. And we were both starving. See, even though we had a lavish spread of food at our wedding reception, we didn’t eat a single bite of it. We were too busy visiting other people’s tables, and we were running on nerves. In any case, here we were on our wedding night and what we really wanted were big juicy cheeseburgers. Most newlyweds want something else, but they don’t spend their honeymoon in Wilmington, either.
When we got to our room, I called room service. I ordered burgers and fries for MY WIFE and myself. While we were waiting for them to come, I got out of my wedding duds and had a cigarette. MY WIFE also made herself comfortable. As I was stubbing out the smoke, a knock came at the door. I opened it, wearing only my trousers – no shirt, no shoes, but it appeared I was going to get service anyway - and there were the burgers being delivered by a small Hispanic man. He bore a slight resemblance to Manuel from Fawlty Towers.
His English was a bit sketchy. I’m not sure why, but something in our conversation led me to tell him that we had just been married; that we were the bride and groom. He looked at MY WIFE, who was lying on the bed, and then at me wearing nothing but trousers, and he suddenly got this very embarrassed look on his face.
He said, "Oh, sorry! Sorry!" He bowed a couple of times as he hurriedly BACKED out of the room. I guess he thought he had interrupted our first-ever lovemaking session or something. I don’t want to know what he thought we wanted the burgers for. Maybe there’s some ancient Spanish wedding tradition involving medium-rare beef with cheese.
The next morning, we had a wonderful brunch and then saw a wonderful play at The Lyric Stage, a wonderful small theater in Boston where we've held wonderful season tickets for many wonderful years. The day after, we caught the train to Wilmington.
OK, I won’t keep you hanging. Here’s the deal. Yes, we did spend time in Wilmington, and it was planned, but our actual destination, when all was said and done, was Washington, DC. Along the way, we'd spend a couple of days in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
We had decided that we wanted to take the train, rather than fly, because we'd get to see some interesting countryside and we’d also, if we wished, be able to stop off for a day or two in interesting places, as well as Wilmington.
The first leg of the journey took us to Philadelphia. We weren’t going to spend any real time there, but we had to change trains for Harrisburg, from which we would be transported, via hotel transportation, to Hershey.
When we got to Philly, we left the train and weren’t really sure where to go for the train to Harrisburg. A Red Cap saw our confused looks and our luggage – we had a load of it, since we were on a two-week trip - so he came over to see if we could use his services. We told him that we needed to catch the train to Harrisburg. He said he’d take care of us.
He took the luggage, with us following, and he led us up into the main terminal area. We walked behind him as he went a ways, took a turn down a corridor, walked a bit further, took another turn, then another, and then down some stairs onto what, to this day, MY WIFE swears was the same platform we started on. We couldn’t prove it, though, so I gave him a tip, thanked him for his arguably dubious help, and made a mental note to check the track number the next time we disembarked from a train.
The trip to Harrisburg was very pleasant, through rolling farm country and pleasantly green – considering the time of year – fields. What was even more pleasant was the Harrisburg train station. It was lovely, looking as though it had been lifted from the 1930’s to the present with no wear or tear from the years between. After being in such a relic, we half expected to see men with pencil-thin mustaches and fedoras when we went outside. There weren’t any. There was a limousine, though.
We were being provided transportation by The Hotel Hershey. We had expected a van or something similarly utilitarian. We should have known better. The Hotel Hershey is a magnificent old-fashioned four-star behemoth. They wouldn’t send a van for guests anymore than the Vatican would send a donkey for the Pope. Instead, there was a big black limo and a uniformed chauffeur. He held the door for us. We stepped inside and made ourselves at home while he put our luggage in the trunk. We did our best to pretend we were used to such things as we rolled down the road to Hershey.
Hershey, in case you don’t know, is named after Milton Hershey, the chocolate maker. Everything in the town is made to either look like chocolate or be useful in the eating of chocolate. The street lamps (no joke) resemble Hershey’s Kisses. And the entire town smells like chocolate. I thought it was tremendous, having grown up just down the block from the Baker’s Chocolate Factory in Lower Mills. One of my fondest memories is of my neighborhood smelling like chocolate when I was a little kid. MY WIFE, however, was less enamored of the aroma. On our second day, as we were taking a walk from the hotel into town, she said, "Ugh. There’s that hideous smell again."
When we arrived at the hotel, I tipped the driver $20. That was enough to get the whole staff to treat us like royalty for our entire stay. Of course, we may have gotten the same treatment if I had duked him two bits. I think we were the only guests in the entire place. Every time we crossed paths with any staff member, they fairly much begged us for something to do. They’d say, "Is everything satisfactory, Mr. Sullivan? Do you need someone to come to your room and tuck you in tonight? Do you have enough chocolate? Shall I have a maid come up and butter your bum after dinner?" If I replied, "No, everything is just fine, thanks," they got this look on their faces as though they wanted to slit their wrists.
We did have them do one favor for us. I wanted to get a Hershey Bears (Get it? Hershey Bears? Use a Kentucky accent...) hockey jersey as present for my best man, Sean Flaherty. He was (and is) a huge hockey fan, and he has a special fondness for minor-league hockey. I asked the folks at the hotel where I could pick one up. They said that the Hershey Arena would have them on sale, but that the arena was closed. However, they called the arena and had them open it JUST FOR US.
It was a real treat, actually. We had another limo ride down to the arena. We walked around the empty building, getting a short tour, and then we bought the jersey from the pro shop. Then they locked up the arena again and we took the limo back to the hotel.
(For a student of professional sports, like me, it was extra-special. That was the building where Wilt Chamberlain set the single-game record for scoring in the NBA, netting 100 points in a game against the New York Knicks. Now I had some visual memory to put in my head with that record.)
In all truth, it was a magnificent place to stay, with lovely people and superb accommodations. The dining room was first-class and every night there was a Hershey Bar waiting for you on your pillow. There’s not much else I need to make me a happy man.
However, Wilmington was waiting. And I’m sorry to have to tell you that you’ll have to do so, too, because there’s way too much for me to tell you for me to finish this up today. See you tomorrow in Wilmington!
Go To Part Two