Graniteville, California

A historic mining town in the Sierra Nevada mountains

Uncle Will & the Golden State Hotel

Tending bar at night and welcoming guest throughout the day, Uncle Will  was a fixture in Golden State Hotel for decades. Both Uncle Will and Aunt Mame past away long ago and the great hotel near Nevada City, Ca burned in the 40s. Wish I could have seen it on that summer day, but I’m grateful the photo below survived all these years.

For decades Uncle Will and Aunt Mame McLean operated the Golden State Hotel and a small farm near Graniteville, California. During the cold winters many of the locals would gather daily at the hotel to socialize, conduct business or check in with others in the snowbound community. Overnight guests and boarders could play checkers in the hotel lobby, have a meal in its spacious dining room or visit the cozy bar located in the basement.

Mixing in politics, the latest rumors from the mines and some good old fashion storytelling, Uncle Will McLean would entertain friends, visitors and the boarders throughout the long winter days. Some of his stories were true, some were in jest and while others were born from his Scottish creativity. As he told his tales he always kept an watchful eye on the old clock above his desk in the lobby. Aunt Mame insisted that he arrive in time for each meal while one of the waitresses watched the lobby welcome desk during his three breaks.

On one occasion young Janet Kyle recalled Uncle Will telling a spellbound audience about his wagon train journey through Indian Country in the 1876s. Looking up at the clock he saw that he only had a few more minutes remaining before going to lunch. Standing up from his favorite rocker, he told them of an Indian attack on the wagon train. His father Robert Mc Lean gave the order for all of the wagons to move out at full speed while the Indians fired rounds and shot arrows at the wagons. Acting out the various roles, he told his lively story. “For over an hour we drove the wagons and cattle until they were exhausted.” “We were surrounded by Indians and then”…he suddenly stopped his tale and said to the group, “well I better get up to the dining room or Mame will get mad at me.” “Wait a minute”, was yelled by one of his stunned listeners. “What happen to the wagon train!” Smiling and with his dry sense of humor, he simply replied. “We were all killed” and laughed his way out of the room. That was Uncle Will.


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