Mrs. Virginia Strasser has kept the Hotel books since the 1940s
One special lady in Hot Springs has been celebrating recently, not only the Omni Homestead’s 250th year celebration, but also being an integral part of that long history. Mrs. Virginia Strasser blew out the candles on the January 1st Birthday cake, but before that, last September, the hotel celebrated her 90th birthday with cake and appreciation. I spoke with Mrs. Strasser to learn a little more about what she has seen over the years.
“I’ve been working here for 66 years, and I began in 1949 really. But I came in 19 and 43, but then I had two sons, and took off for a little while, and had to start over in my years of service.”
I wondered what her entry-level position had been, and what it took to prepare for the job.
“I was working in payroll. I had took a business course, after I finished high school, and I was working in payroll in 1943.”
After the payroll office, Mrs. Strasser moved on to billing. Quick Books was still in the distant future, but the Homestead of the day was a premiere and popular destination with visitors coming from all over.
“And at the time, there were no computers. We had to write each guest that came to the hotel on a small 3×6 card, and that’s what we ran our trial balance by each month, when we balanced those cards with the guests that we had billed. Everything was done by hand.”
When I asked how she learned new skills almost as soon as having mastered previous ones, she replied,
“We just automatically- we did not take classes- we just learned on our own. ‘you picked it up? Picked it up.”
So the next transition from keeping records by hand on file cards was to typewriters.
“All we had were just- they weren’t electric typewriters. They were just regular typewriters, you know. And we used them for everything we done.”
And what of the other changes that must have taken place in 66 years? What is different about how the visitors travel?
“We used to have guests that came in on the train to Hot Springs. Now our train, I wrote this down for you. Our C&O train started coming to Hot springs in 18 and 81, and the people would come from New York, and all around, and at the time, they would stay for two or three months.”
I’ve always heard that “taking the waters”, was one of the main reasons people travelled from so far away. And even with today’s golf and a water park, both Hot and Warm Springs remain a big part of the draw.
Mrs. Strasser mentioned a transportation upgrade.
“We furnish buses now to take the guest to the Warm Springs Pools, and return them to the hotel.”
Golf became another major focus of the resort, with the “Old Course” opening in 1919. While quite a few famous golfers have taught and played here over the years, the one that first comes to mind is Sam Snead, or “Slammin’ Sammy”.
“Do you have one particular Sam Snead memory you would share?”
“Well, I just knew Sam real well. He used to go with a girl I worked with in the early 1940s, that worked with me in the office and I knew him through that. And of course I know his son real well. Jack lives here now. And of course we have the Sam Snead restaurant. The hotel operates that.”
Mrs. Virginia Strasser continued her conversation with me a little longer, before returning to her desk. For a little more about this woman’s dedication, and the experiences she’s had please stay tuned for part 2 in this pair of stories.