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  • The role of storyteller means that sometimes we get to pass on stories, not of our making, but ones that touched us in some way. This is just one that made me smile for several miles.

    We stayed the night in an aging, but not at all run down, place called Johnny's Motel in a small town in British Columbia. The name alone called up images of the correct decade's atmosphere, but we were drawn to the sloping lawn and trees along the river's edge.

    Johnny, we learned, had used his new front end loader to dig basements for new houses in town and hauled the dirt across the river to build up the bank until it was above flood level. In the summer of 1952 he and his wife, Gertie, started building their motel. They salvaged timber from a nearby ghost town, a dam site, and an abandoned railroad trestle to build the foundations and do some of the framing. It evidently took some negotiations to get water hookups and street lights in place.

    When they did get the motel open for business, they met with success. Gertie washed and ironed the sheets and other linens by hand, so for Christmas Johnny bought her a mangle iron. Gertie, it seems, was quite impressed with a young singer who stayed with them at their motel as he made his way to perform at the clubs in a town a bit farther east. He was one Elvis Presley by name.

    Using her own funds, Gertie started a tradition of Breakfast with Santa for the town, and she and Jack were active in many community activities. Johnny also helped build the golf course for a nearby resort.

    Johnny and Gertie are both gone, but the nice English couple who now own the motel are giving it excellent and respectful care. It pleased me greatly when the wife handed me a card with the Internet connection code written on it: johnny1952.

    Did Elvis really work clubs in BC? I have no idea, but I'm not really sure I care if the story is true or not. The place had charm and it made me smile. That was enough.
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