Tuesday, April 12, 2005

"Happy 100th. Birthday, Pauline!"

Yesterday, April 11th., would have been the 100th. Birthday of Pauline T. Webster.

Big Deal? Who's Pauline T. Webster? Perhaps you'd know her better if I just called her: Pauline?

Pauline was probably one of the most famous "madams" in history (if not the most famous). She operated her house of ill repute on Clay Street in Bowling Green, Kentucky from the 1930's until the 1969, when BG underwent some urban "improvements" and the house was torn down. The bricks from that house were sold upwards to $100. each as souveniers.

She then moved her "business" to a farm outside of BG for a few years before finally retiring when she was in her 70's . Then she wrote a book about her life, one limited to just 5000 copies, which is scarce and much sought after today.

Miss Pauline was so famous in fact that she made multiple appearences on The Dick Cavett Show. After retirement she moved to Texas where she finally died at age 84.

Pauline serviced both the rich and poor, famous and infamous, civilians and servicemen alike. She wouldn't let her "girls" walk the streets like hookers, telling them they were all just there for a short time in her house to make some extra money. She was extremely generous; if a house burnt down in the city she'd be one of the first ones to donate money to the victims. She was kind, outspoken, and generally well-liked by all that ever met her.

Back in 1968 or so, I was fortunate to meet Miss Pauline when I was on Main Street one Summer day in Bowling Green at a little grocery store she frequented. I noticed her in line right behind me and recognized who she was. I asked her if she'd like to come ahead of me in line, then introduced myself and told her it was an honor to meet her. She cheerfully replied that she thought I was a nice, young man, and I should come and "visit" with her sometime! (I'll never forget that!)

My Uncle Herbert used to be a milkman in Bowling Green back in the 1940's and he used to tell a tale about how he delived cans of milk to her "house". She kept two milkcans : one for him to replace with a full one, but an extra empty one never for him to refill, because if there were 2 cans outside at anytime, or 1 can after 12PM, it meant that things were a little "hot" for her in the local church community that week and for "customers" to stay away until things cooled back down. It was a little in code, because she was afraid that the BG police might raid her establishment and one of the customers they might arrest within could be a town official!

So here's to ya, Miss Pauline! You were a hell of a great ol' gal! You made money as an independent business woman when people were starving during The Great Depression, was never prejudice about customers your ladies serviced, and loved and helped your community, which is a great more than we can say about many of those who wanted to force you out of town "on-a-rail" and claimed to be fine, upstanding Christian folks during your time!

And as an ending ironic note, the library at Western University in Bowling Green declared that when your book was first published it would never be added to their collection. Now they keep that very same autobiography safely stored for its protection under lock and key!


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