What happens to the Monterey Hotel I do not know. One thing is for sure. If it’s demolished, I will miss it.
I’m a Janesville native, and the Monterey is one of the few things in town that was here before I came along. I never stayed at the Monterey, but it occupies a special place in my memory bank.
On second thought, it’s not so much the hotel I remember. What sparks my memories was the first floor restaurant, the Orleans, and my lunch buddy, Bill Graf.
Bill and I keep in touch and still have lunch occasionally. So what does that have to do with the Monterey Hotel?
I must digress.
Bill’s journalism expertise preceded his eligibility to join the workforce. He applied for a weekend job at WCLO but was turned down because he was too young. He wasn’t old enough to drive a car. My mentor and friend Larry Tainter, the WCLO news director at the time, thought it would be difficult for Bill to cover the cop beat on a bicycle. A few years later, I was able to hire him as the morning drive news guy.
Bill’s work day ended at noon and his college classes didn’t start until later in the afternoon. We started a lunch tradition that continues to this day.
We often ate at the Krause’s Town and Country lunch counter. Irene was not the most charming wait staff you could ask for, but highly efficient. The Janesville Daily Gazette sports editor Dave Wedeward would often join us.
So, back to the Monterey Hotel.
Once a week or so (it depended on the weather and what kind of day we were having in the newsroom), Bill would declare, “Stan, I think it’s an Orleans day.” At times I would make a similar declaration.
If it was an Orleans day, we had lunch at the Orleans in the Monterey Hotel.
What triggers an Orleans day? Often it was the weather, but temperature was not a factor. An Orleans day had to do with clouds, rain and snow. A dreary weather day was an Orleans day.
Even on a perfect weather day in southern Wisconsin, you might find Bill and me at the Orleans. That was a sure sign things had not gone well that morning at work for us. I recall one Monday morning I arrived at work to find our reel-to-reel tape machines down because a weekend employee used Scotch tape to splice news cuts together.
“Bill, it’s an Orleans day.”
You might ask why I would have fond memories of the Orleans if it was associated with lousy weather or bad days at work. I can’t explain it, but before lunch at the Orleans was over, the day turned around. We walked out rejuvenated and ready to take on the world again, something we did frequently as young scribes looking for scoops.
I hope the Monterey Hotel survives. John John Kennedy was born nine months after his parents, Jack and Jackie, stayed there. For that reason alone, the Monterey deserves immortality.
I’m sure others have reasons to preserve the Monterey, but for me, the hotel should survive to allow for the possibility of another Orleans restaurant.
We all have Orleans days. We should all be able to benefit from an Orleans pick me up.