Down the Lane: Memories of the Brown Proctor

I have many memories from Brown Proctor as lots of Clark County residents do.

Some may even remember the ballroom and dancing at the beautiful Brown Proctor Hotel.

When I was small, I just knew it as a ritzy hotel. When I got a little older and was working downtown, I remember my mom was a waitress in the kitchen of the hotel and I would stop in and see her.

However, my main memories have come as a result of being the manager of the Brown Proctor Apartment building.

I fell in love with the people who lived there during the time I was manager. After I left, I took an English class at Bluegrass Community and Technical College one year and I am going to share with you a paper I wrote for that class.

Though the story was one I made up, there was a lot of truth in it. I hope you can get some of the personalities and the scene of the people there before bedtime.

The names are of the actual people and the way I remembered them.

“Henry ‘Cowboy’ Reffitt was nearing the bottom of the last of stairs. The time was 8:56 p.m.

In four minutes Henry would be locking the doors of the Brown Proctor Elderly Housing complex for the evening.

Dressing daily in blue jeans, a Wrangler shirt, cowboy boots and a large white, Texas-style cowboy hat, Henry looked much like a cowboy. Henry had been a farmhand before the death of his wife, and he was given the name ‘Cowboy’ by his fellow residents.

Henry was a likable guy, and months before I had arrived, he had been given the menial but important task of opening the doors to the Brown Proctor and closing them promptly at 9 p.m.

The “air of importance,” Henry felt at the beginning still remained, and he took his responsibility seriously.

His tall, lanky, body was just entering the foyer.

A few of the resident ‘stragglers’ were still talking and shooting the breeze, so to speak.

Mary Wells and Jewel Carroll had their heads bent together overlooking a ticket stub. Jewel proudly announced to Mary that she had purchased $33.50 worth of products and only paid $8.60 for all of it. Jewel was a master at couponing.

‘Shoot, I forgot to take my coupons!’ Mary retorted with a bit of envy.

Jewel continued, ‘I haven’t bought toothpaste or deodorant for three years by couponing. I have to stretch my pennies as far as they will … uh,oh, there’s Henry.’

With that announcement, Bill Bishop gathered his cane up and he and Marion Baber exchanged good nights. They rose from their burgundy velvet wing back chairs near the window and began heading toward their rooms.

Each knew the chairs would be theirs the next day simply by entering the rooms, for any occupant would vacate those particular chairs for them.

Bill chided, ‘Mary, you better hurry up if you’re going down as I go.’

He and Mary Wells lived on the bottom floor and Bill looked after Mary.

‘Oh, Bill Bishop, what is your hurry?’ Mary said as she tried for the second time to lift her overweight body from the love seat she had shared with Jewel. Having only one arm made it difficult for Mary to balance her weight.

‘Night, Jewel,’ Mary responded to Jewell’s goodnight.

Mary waddled to the door that was being held open by Bill’s cane as he struggled to maintain his own balance. While they descended the stairs to their basement apartments, Bill told Mary he would be going out by the cemetery tomorrow if she wanted to go.

Mary had lost two things in life that she missed dearly. One was her right arm and the other, her only child, a daughter.

Mary was interested in going as she asked, ‘What time you going?’ Bill said, ‘Be ready around 10.”

‘You tired, Bill?’ Mary asked. ‘Yeah, I am going to bed,’ Bill replied.

‘Me too,” Mary said as she unlocked the door to her apartment and went inside.

Bill loudly opened and closed the door to his apartment to make it sound as though he had gone inside, too, then proceeded around the corner of the hallway to begin his walking.

Bill walked when the pain in his legs and feet were unbearable. Tonight was one of those nights.

He was the victim of a stroke that had left him partially paralyzed down one side. He had worn a black ring throughout the hallway on nights when sleep wouldn’t come.

Tonight, Bill would once again leave his mark on the Brown Proctor tiles.

Upstairs, Henry was a little closer to the doors when he met Marion Baber heading toward the stairs.

‘Got any new jokes, Cowboy?’ Marion asked.

Not needing any prodding Henry said, ‘I guess ye heered that’n about that ole man had that parrot….cussed all the time. Well this ole man, once had this bird….’

Now Georgia Krash moved in a little closer since Henry was noted for his joke telling. Either the jokes or the manner in which Henry told them always held an audience captured to the punch line.

Henry continued on, ‘Shore nuff, the man had this purty woman over and he was tryin’ to impress her when that parrot started that cussin’ a blue streak. He yanked that bird up and flung him in the freezer ‘til the woman left. After she left, he went to check on the parrot to see if he had learnt him a lesson and he wouldn’t cuss anymore. The parrot said he had only one question for the man. ‘What’s that?’ asked the man. The parrot said, ‘I just want to know what that turkey in there said.’’

Roars of laughter filled the air and another day at Brown Proctor was about to end.

Georgia Krash glanced across the room to the piano with a wistful gleam in her eye before saying, ‘Henry, you just won’t do.’

Then, she headed for the elevators.

Coming through the door was Edward Moore carrying a grocery sack. At age 98, Mr. Moore was the oldest resident at the time living at Brown Proctor. He accredited his longevity to never having smoked or drunk alcohol and by eating the right foods and walking. He took walks daily, usually twice a day, to the grocery store about four blocks away.

Cowboy said, ‘Ole timer, I was just gettin’ ready to lock you out.’

Once he entered, Mr. Moore began to sniff the air as a burned odor permeated the air.

‘Whee-oh, has Profitt burned the toast again?’ he said.

‘Believe she has ole timer,’ laughed Henry as he turned the key at exactly 9 p.m. And the doors of the Brown Proctor Elderly Housing was locked to the public.

Henry felt a sense of satisfaction as he saw Mr. Moore head upstairs. He looked at the empty foyer, to the piano and the empty seats.

He remembered back when the foyer was the ballroom dance floor of Winchester’s most elegant hotel. The classiest people stayed there when visiting Winchester.

Henry climbed the stairs alone feeling proud to be a part of the Brown Proctor. He knew the residents could get a good rest now that his job was done and a satisfied smile crossed his face.

Georgia Krash had a smile on her face, too, as she quietly exited the elevator door. She had the foyer and piano all to herself now.

She had waited all day for this moment and the ballroom of the Brown Proctor once more became alive with the sound of music from her fingertips.”

Sue Staton is a Clark County native who grew up in the Kiddville area. She is a wife, mother and grandmother who is active in her church, First United Methodist Church, and her homemakers group, Towne and Country Homemakers.