CHICAGO—140 years! That's how long Chicago's Palmer House Hilton has been around. And no other hotel in the country has those bragging rights! The opulence and hospitality of the hotel are known worldwide. But the anniversary got us thinking, what DON'T we know about the Palmer House?
"Oh, I love this hotel!" Says banquet server Bobbe Hellom who has been a Palmer House employee for 51 years.
Bill Vollmer is the resident locksmith. "I always show off the Palmer House."
nats-Bill unlocking his shop door
"This year I received my 30 year pin."
Public Relations Director Ken Price has nothing but admiration for these two long time employees. "There's a lot of heart in these people and I don't know if everyone knows that. But they know it when they experience it."
Bobbe Hellom sees it as payback. "The Palmer House has a way of doing things. They take care of their help so they know the help will take care of their customers."
Bill Vellom fixes all kinds of locks. Not just doors, but jammed luggage. "I think it's the satisfaction that you're helping people. I enjoy that."
Oh the stories these guys tell. Bobbe first. " Elizabeth Taylor. I have quite a few people would ask me what does she drink? The best thing I could say is water. I would never tell exactly that's what she drinks!"
Mr. Discretion, that's Bobbe. He is so discreet, he's never even told his wife what Elizabeth Taylor drinks.
Bill Vollmer has cut keys and repaired locks for everyone from the Dalai Lama to arnold schwarzenegger. but it's the presidential visits he loves most.
BILL: "A couple of times they allowed me to actually see the President as he walked by. Or, they brought me up pretty close to him."
(music under) Potter Palmer came to Chicago in the mid-1800's. He sold his dry goods business to Marshall Field who introduced Potter to his future wife Bertha Honore. The original Palmer House was Potter's wedding gift to Bertha.
"She was highly educated for a time when women weren't educated." Price says Bertha Palmer introduced French impressionism to the country, started the first woman's garment workers union, and was at the forefront of civil rights, leading by example. That's what Bobbe loves about the Palmers' legacy.
"What they did for the people of the city of Chicago, and not only the citizens of Chicago the race of Chicago."
Though the original hotel burned down in the great Chicago fire of 1871 look what remains from 1910.
Eric Tschudy is the hotel's director of engineering and gives us a rare look at the rail system in the third sub basement. It connected all downtown buildings, to haul away ash, deliver coal, and during prohibition, move booze.
(two ton door squeaks as it's opened)