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The hotel of hotels—Part II

Published: 
Saturday, January 21, 2017
Back in Times
The main porch 1920.

The hotel soon became THE venue for high-class entertainment. The dances on Thursday and Saturday nights were proverbial and entrance fee was $1.20 per head. The 1930s saw an in-house band, Roy Rollocks and his Orchestra, providing all the latest music.

The Old Year’s Ball was the premiere social event of the year, and many rich families began to have debutante balls for their daughters.

Dances in this era were the foxtrot and waltz.

Young ladies, up to the 1930s, were expected to be chaperoned, bearing dance cards (carnets de bal) tied to their wrists by a dainty silken cord.

A dance card was issued in advance of every soiree and listed all the various tunes and dances of the event.

On the evening, young men would approach the lady and with her permission, pencil in their names in an empty line next to a dance number which meant that her hand was his for that short interval.

A couple who shared more than two dances were considered to be lewd and improper.

At midnight, a late supper would be served, with parties of friends gathering around a bowl of sauterne or bottle of champagne.

Many of these dance cards were preserved long after these belles of the 1920s and 1930s became old women, as fond mementos of their youth and desirability.

The hotel hosted many dignitaries and in 1935, included among its guests, HRH The Duke of Kent and his new bride Princess Marina who were on a honeymoon tour of Trinidad.

The main building, the original home of the Warners, was demolished in 1937 and replaced by a five-storey block which was considered a triumph of architecture, being then the tallest building in the island…a veritable skyscraper by local standards.

Pan American Airways had been operating a seaplane passenger and mail service from a dock at Cocorite since 1929.

In 1939, they added a new wing to the hotel to accommodate their pilots and crew.

The PanAm wing was demolished in the 1960s, along with the remaining portion of the old Warner house to make way for a swimming pool.

In 1955 ownership of the hotel passed to JB Fernandes who also owned the Trinidad Country Club in Maraval.

This era was a ritzy period in the history of the hotel, as many Hollywood icons stayed here.

When Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford were filming Affair in Trinidad in 1952, this was their base, as it was too for Rita, Robert Mitchum, and Jack Lemmon during the shoot for Fire Down Below in 1957.

Clark Gable also stayed here in 1948 and wowed legions of female fans, even posing with them for a few photos.

A less-successful visit was that of the main man of the silver screen, the dashing Rock Hudson.

The domination of the QPH as the finest hotel in the island was ended with the construction of the Trinidad Hilton in the 1960s, and the later coming of the Holiday Inn (later Crowne Plaza) with its innovative revolving restaurant.

In the 1990s, the building became the headquarters for British Petroleum subsidiary, bpTT, and now its heyday is just a distant, glitzy memory.

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