January 20, 2009

Echoes of 1932 in Wawona

Just a snapshot. It's November 4, 2008 -- a quiet evening in the Wawona Hotel lobby; I'm playing piano as usual for a small group in the piano-parlor and a second group seated around the fireplace in the main lobby. At the front desk, they're monitoring the election results as they come in on the Internet. We still don't have a functioning radio in the lobby, let alone any TVs in the rooms or even reliable cell-phone access. Savvy travelers still seek out the Wawona as a welcome respite from such garish intrusions of the outside world, but tonight we were kind of wishing we had a radio.

As the final result of the election became imminent, a sharp young lady working the front desk phoned her roommate, who then held the telephone at her television speaker so we in the lobby could listen to Barak Obama's victory speech on the speaker-phone.

It's a picture I won't soon forget. Almost all of the few guests in the lobby and dining room crowded around the front desk, ears inclined toward the speaker-phone, shushing one another, straining to hear the words of the new President-elect. I grabbed a couple of the guests' cameras and snapped several pictures of the Norman Rockwellesque scene -- I'd love to see those pictures someday. 

When Mr. Obama said "And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world..." there was a general chuckle and nodding to one another. At the time I pictured in my mind the same scene in the same lobby in 1932 as listeners huddled around the Philco to hear the words of President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and thought about all the unrecorded, unremembered bits of history that survive unreachably deep in the soul of the Wawona Hotel.