Photo by Jennifer Williams
I grew up in Bakersfield, California, which tortured me most of the time, but I do have some fond memories of weird experiences there, many of them in the lounge and lobby of the Padre Hotel. The Padre was a shabby and slightly scary place to go, smelling of past sins and dereliction and drunken mistakes.
I just learned that it has undergone a massive renovation into a luxury hotel. I guess the news makes me sad and curious at the same time. I found a funny article by Herb Benham in the local paper, the Bakersfield Californian, some of which really captures the essence of my Bakersfield nicely:
"The new Padre Hotel could be the biggest thing to hit downtown since the earthquake. If it opens. If it works.
If the owners are able to saddle and ride this beast...
In the last couple of years, downtown has settled into something of a funk (with some notable exceptions).
The recession and the subprime meltdown haven't helped. Nor have the fights, the stabbings and a couple of homicides. People may want to experience downtown, but they want to live, too...
For years, the Padre has been an eyesore. The hotel shut down eons ago and besides a barbershop, a coffee shop, a print shop and a jewelry store on the bottom floor, it's basically been sitting there.
I go back and forth on the Padre architecture. One day, it glows. Another, it simmers. The Padre, built in 1928, looks better when backlit by a sunset at the end of a day well spent.
If you want to be generous, you can talk about the Padre "being a fine example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture," but really, the magic, if any, has always lay inside its spacious lobby with the large arched windows and 20-foot-high ceilings.
I slept through the glory days of the Padre Hotel. Milton "Spartacus" Miller bought it in 1954 and installed a girl in a swing over the bar and had a musician named Ernie Kelly playing the piano."