Some of the readers of the blog will know this phrase, in two contexts. First, the Johnny Carson show (starring a famous, but troubled, Nebraskan) ran from 1962 to 1992. The announcer for the program, Ed McMahon (you may remember him from commercials for American Family Publishers, “You may have already won $10 million,” or Free Credit Report .com) would introduce Carson each night with the pronouncement, “Here’s Johnny.” The second way you may know this phrase is from the movie “The Shining.” A crazed Jack Nicholson uses the phrase, axe in hand, and he’s chasing Shelly Duvall (his wife) and she tries to escape the hotel in which they are staying (https://youtu.be/WDpipB4yehk).
I was in Denver the last week in January for a UNO alumni reception as well as to visit with three college of business alumni. During the weekend, I drove up to Estes Park with one of our development directors and we stopped at the Stanley Hotel. The 1980 movie is based on a novel written by Stephen King and published in 1977. It is set at the Overlook Hotel (Timberline Lodge in Oregon). It’s a haunted house story, (incredibly well-written, and the move is excellent, although King does not think so, if you like having the poop scared out of you every few minutes). In 1974, Stephen King and his wife, Tabatha, checked into the Stanley at the tail end of the tourist season. They quickly discovered that they were the only guests in the hotel, and were told their room (217, for them and in the movie) was haunted. The great writer, King, took it from there.
The Stanley Hotel has an interesting underlying story. Freelan Stanley along with his brother, Francis, invented the steam-powered automobile, which was known as the Stanley Steamer. Stanley had been stricken by tuberculosis, and when his condition worsened in 1903, he sought to find a place to live (at least for part of the year) that had dry, fresh air and a good deal of sunlight. So, after a lot of consultation, he and his wife chose the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. They spent the summer of 1903 in Estes Park. His condition improved markedly and the decision was made to continue to spend summers at Estes Park. Stanley then decided to turn Estes Park into a resort town (that’s what it is today), and in 1907 construction commenced on the 48 room Stanley Hotel (it now has 142 rooms). Construction was completed in 1909, and by 1917 Estes Park was incorporated. Nearly 110 years later, it is both a resort site for a person looking for a few days, or an entire summer, away from it all, and a place for tourists, like me, just to visit and take photographs for an hour at a time. (FYI: Freelan Stanley passed away at 91 years of age.)
It’s always interesting to connect to college alumni, and on this trip I caught up with people from multiple eras. Recent graduates know me as the dean, while those from the 1980s and 1990s remember me as a professor, one who taught a class they took in marketing research, business demographics, statistics or some other subject. Those from earlier years don’t know me at all. My longest visit on this trip, almost two hours, was with an alumnus from the class of 1953. He’s the same age as my dad, and like my Pops is filled with great stories from an earlier time in the kind of detail that make his subjects vividly come to life. One advantage of having been our dean forever is that I have talked extensively over time with alumni from the 1950s and 1960s, and have become friends with many. So, as our conversation unfolded (this was the first time we had ever spoken), we were able to make connections through people that we both know. I could give him updates on his old friends/fraternity brothers, and he gave me insight into their lives as younger people. I look forward to following up with his old friends (and encouraging thing to reconnect) as well as further visits with him when I travel back to Denver. Once again, I am living vicariously through the lives of our 20,000 plus alumni. That’s a lot of fun.