The years may seem to fly by but her presence is still felt and her memory honored. Today we look back at some of Pauline’s (mom’s) wonderful qualities and memories, particulary on this occassion her winning ways as owner-operator, along with husband (Dr.) Jerry, of the old Coit Hotel in Oakland. We just learned today that , likely due to their reign, the Hotel was named an ‘Historic Place’ in 1996/
Pauline was a strong, friendly and generally happy person-despite her share of sadness including the loss of daughter, Joan before her own medical troubles– and who did much for the world during her 75 years on earth. Though she might have lived longer, during her shorted life she accomplished much and was known for fighting hard for others and what she believed was right, and, finally, who fought hard for her own life after having lived some 32 years (longer than all others, according to doctors) with pre-Leukemia blood disease which eventually would turn into Leukemia in her last years. Over the age limit for bone marrow transfers at most hospitals, Pauline was accepted at MD Anderson in Houston her last year. We visited her seven times that last year, 1999, holding out strong hopes for another miraculous victory but , alas, it wasn’t meant to be. As with the case of daughter and sister Joan, the blood marrow transfer didn’t take. Blood marrow transfers have since been less regarded as before with the success rate much lower than originally expected when they first became prominent a few decades ago. It was certainly worth the effort, and as with Joan, brought the family closer during those last years with mother when we fought together for her life.
COIT HOTEL, OAKLAND
As we think of Pauline, what first comes to mind this day, her 90th birthday, was how she cared about doing things right, whether it came to people or projects. She was a very popular figure at the hotel she owned, along with husband (Dr.) Jerry, in Oakland. Unlike the many ‘slum lords,’ Pauline with Jerry restored the Hotel Coit in the late 1960s to it’s old charm from Oakland’s ‘golden era’ of the 1940s and 1950s. For a time, before it became a government-subsidized apartment house, some well-heeled transients would stay at the hotel as they did years earlier, what with it’s new splendor and new five-star restaurant, the Red Coach, which had been a Chinese Restaurant, Cock of the Walk, thirty years earlier. We remember one such visitor, blues singer ‘Little Junior Parker’ and his band, who drove him in their 10-door limo one evening when I was working maintenance. But, the hotel was mostly home to a live-in cast of characters who lived permanently at the Coit – many storied seniors from ‘Old Oakland’like the Goldmans (a fiery matronly woman named Goldie and an unrelated man whose first name we do not recall; both were quite the characters who held fort most nights in the front lobby regaling the ‘lobbyists’ with colorful tales of Old Oakland and beyond. We know. We were often there listening intently) .Mr.Westergreen was just the opposite, a quiet, even timid man who stayed in his room but was friendly to me; he, too, had some great stories too. He once gave me an original picture Of Amelia Eerhardt getting her last haircut at the nearby Hollywood Barber just before her ill-fated flight around the world.
The hotel even had an old-fashioned switchboard-no longer operational- at the front desk, where operators used to sit and transfer calls to the rooms
LITTLE JUNIOR PARKER, left, famed blues king from Texas , stayed at the Coit Hotel in the late 1960s during the Kaufman reign while performing at the famed Showcase blues club in Oakland . At right is the great BB King having an after-show meal at the Showcase in Oakland
These folks and others loved staying at the Coit Hotel, largely because of Pauline and her caring ways. Unlike your average landlord, Pauline went out of her way to take care of her tenants, who became more like family. Besides being assistant maintenance man to Mr. Burns, yours truly was the house entertainment/piano player for approximately weekly concerts (if you will) on the mezzanine near the old Scimitar social club (another relic from bygone days). Afterwards, we would often stay for dinner at the Red Coach which was a real treat for me and everyone else. The restaurant was so good that many friends would venture into downtown Oakland,which was not the safest place at the time just to dine at the Red Coach. After several excellent chefs, Pauline and Jerry had to finally close the restuarant, despite yours truly’s best marketing efforts. Oakland just wasn’t a nighttime restaurant destination in those days.
Pauline and Jerry had poured a lot of blood , sweat and tears into that hotel and came up empty- at the time. The restaurant was half filled as was the hotel – until it was later turned into the HUD location, which turned around my parents fortune for the better. (The folks had sold the hotel for a loss in the late 1960s but they lucked out when the new owner, surprisingly, couldn’t make his payments after turning it into a cash-flowing HUD enterprise.
I just remember Pauline being so engaged with the Coit Hotel and everything eventually coming together. Even during the hard ,early years it was quite an experience being a part of the hotel, working with a great team, including all the characters – like the funny, head maintenance man Mr. Burns. For a time while Pauline and Jerry ran it, the Coit Hotel was the only classic hotel in downtown Oakland. The building remains to this day, as a resident apartment, still resplendent from the Kaufman ‘makeover.’ Proud to say that it was probably because of Pauline and Jerry’s restoration of the Coit that it was named an ‘Historic Place’ in 1996 . (Just learned of this today, too late to tell Dad or other family members, but nice to know the Coit will live on as a legacy project of the Kaufmans).
Whatever projects Pauline took on she carried them through as best she could. During her life she studied real estate, which came in handy at the Coit. She also tried to rekindle piano but decided it was not for her. Pauline was also a great hostess and cook, known especially for her apple pies- none like them with perfect crust. As noted before, Pauline took on issues she believed in, including ‘undergrounding’ of telephone lines in her neighborhood, which eventually happened but, sadly, after Pauline was around to see it. She cared for many others, and took them under her wing if she could help; we remember one young chinese woman who was desperate to gain weight;remember mom feeding her cans of Franco American sphagetti and Chef Boyardee Raviolis. Those are just some off the cuff thoughts of Pauline ( mom) on this, her 90th birthday birthday.