Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Cake Snatcher

Remember when I told you Grandma Audrey wrote a lot of fact-based fiction? Today's story is a perfect example. In this one she changed the names of everyone but Robert Clary. The Markles were really the Barclays, Audrey and Erna, and the Markles' son Lynn was my father, Paul Linvel Barclay.

Here's the story:

The Cake Snatcher
by Audrey L. Barclay

You probably don't watch "Hogan's Heroes" on television for the same reason I do. It's an entertaining little comedy, and Hogan's great, but it has a special meaning for me because it features Robert Clary. He's one of the few celebrities I ever met.

We went to visit our son several years ago when he was assistant manager of the Statler Hotel in Detroit. Lynn told us immediately on our arrival that we were to spend the last night of our visit as guests of the hotel, where he had already reserved the "Presidential Suite" for us. He knew, with our limited travels, it would be an exciting experience for us, besides enabling us to get an early start on our return journey.

We visited with the family until late bedtime for the children that last evening, then Lynn returned to the hotel with us. There we found the welcome-mat spread. A lovely arrangement of flowers for "Mr. Markle's mother, courtesy of the hotel," and a big box of fancy candies "for Mom and Dad, from Lynn" awaited us in our suite. Then we went down to the supper-club for refreshments and the floor-show.

Our experience of social night-life was limited to what we had seen on television or in the movies, so we hardly knew what to expect, certainly not the homage we received from the moment we entered the room. Waiters came flocking from every direction to serve Mr. Markle and his guests, and the orchestra swung at once into Mr. Markle's favorite number in our honor. The scene had the unrealistic qualities of a fantastic dream or a bit of play-acting; I had to keep assuring myself it was neither, but stark reality.

We were escorted to a choice balcony table by some half a dozen waiters, each vying for the honor of serving our party. The head-waiter insisted he would take our order, but the others hovered near, making frequent suggestions. The order finally given, we sat back to enjoy the floor-show.

Just as Robert Clary began his performance the chef arrived from the kitchen to place his contribution before me, a lovely cake, nicely boxed for carrying. I was speechless, and oh! so self-conscious at being the center of so much attention. My son sat there grinning at me like the cat that ate the canary and having the time of his life.

The little Frenchman finished his act and started from the floor. Swerving, he darted up the steps to our table, snatched up the cake, tucked it under his arm and ran, with nearly every waiter in the place in hot pursuit. They overtook him, seized the box, and came marching back in a body, the head-waiter bearing it aloft as though it was a diadem on a silken pillow.

It was the grand finale of the show, of course, but fun, and that's why I like to watch "Hogan's Heroes," with Robert Clary. It brings back memories.



I have one more piece of memorabilia related to the time my father spent in Detroit's hospitality industry. Ripped out of a magazine, it's a page bearing a Cranbrook House Motel ad that featured him. I'm not sure what year it was, but in the ad my dad was touting the benefits of individual room phones, so maybe that'll narrow it down for you. Sometime in the '50s, I think. (Click on the photo to enlarge the ad.)