Buster Keaton Sleeps at the Sanderling Hotel
The Sanderling Hotel was built at the bottom of Sycamore Hill in 1860, located next door to Burson’s Hardware, “Big Bull” Burson, Proprietor. (I won’t divulge how he got the nickname.) Anyway, it looks pretty much the same as in this postcard, circa 1900, except for the Sanderling sign painted on the brick, and the fire escape, which fell about twenty years ago and killed Fletch Tuttle, who had stopped to light a cigarette underneath – a tragedy which my Aunt Ada says is proof enough of what the Lord thinks of tobacco though it wouldn’t have killed her any less if she’d stopped beneath it to polish her crucifix or pray, something she likes to do when she’s walking about town and folks are around. I’ve never seen her praying when someone wasn’t looking. Anyway, it made a mess of Fletch. I didn’t see it happen. Ssnuff and I went to look at the blood on the sidewalk later that evening and he took seven photos of the stain from various angles but his dad found out and wouldn’t let him develop the pictures.
The Bursons live on the top floor of the hardware store and the second window from the left was the one “Little Bull” fell from when he was just a toddler. He spent three months in the hospital and sustained permanent injuries, but we’ll get to Little Bull another time. Folks say the Sanderling Hotel was quite a place in its time: William McKinley stayed there one night, as did Will Rogers and most famously, Buster Keaton. No one seems to know just why the great film comedian was in Sycamore Shadows but there are many older folks in town who remember him, or say they do.
Otto Hopp, the desk clerk while he was going to undertaker school, took two photos of Keaton the morning he left: one in the lobby pictured at left and the other by his car in front of the building. I have the originals at the Imaginactory Archives, which can be viewed by appointment; or you can see copies of both photos in the hardware store, the library, the mayor’s office, and Doc Ghesslet’s study, though no one but the cleaning lady is allowed in there.