Mabel Jones followed her husband, a newly hired hotel clerk, into the lobby of the recently-completed Galax Hotel in Spokane on Nov. 11, 1911. Eight months later, the hotel manager quit and Mabel’s husband, R.B. Jones, took over. While he stood at the front desk, Mabel learned to do every other job in the house, from housekeeping to telephone switchboard.
The Galax, named after the state plant of Alabama, was a modern 115-room hotel situated in Spokane’s theatrical district, not far from the Empress, Pantages and Orpheum theaters where vaudeville acts played most nights of the week. Mrs. Jones designed ways to lure the traveling performers to her hotel, paying runners to meet trains and bring back customers. The runner got 25 cents per guest.
By law, the runners had to stay 36 feet away from the depot, so in 1917 she sent runners to ride the trains as far as Butte and Calgary and to ride back with the performers, getting the jump on other hotels. She would host late-night “supper rooms” for performers after their shows. Charlie Chaplin, George Jessel, Al Jolson, Will Rogers and other stars of the era stayed at the Galax.
Mabel’s husband died unexpectedly in 1923 and the owners, who admired Mabel’s initiative, made her the new manager, a position rare for a woman in those days. She decorated the lobby with hanging ferns and cages with parakeets, making it seem like an exotic oasis.
A fifth floor was added in 1929, for a total of 150 rooms.
Mabel married Ed Terry in 1931.
Mabel Terry served the hotel owners through the Great Depression, the difficult years of World War II, when the hotel was packed with servicemen every night, and the booming postwar period.
But by the 1950s the old hotel was tired and its owners weren’t inclined to remodel the 42-year-old structure. In 1959, the building was razed to add parking. Architectural historian Robert Hyslop said the Galax was “one of the first of the really substantial buildings to be demolished” in Spokane.
By then, Mabel Terry had been at the hotel for almost half a century, 36 years as manager. “It’s been my life,” she said in 1959. “And I’ve loved every minute of it.” She died in 1974.
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