When I worked at the Oatman Hotel in about 1980, the dining room was pleasant if humble. The large windows let in just enough sunlight, and the green patterned tablecloths gave kind of a down home feeling. The food was average middle American. You could get a steak dinner or grilled cheese sandwich and potato salad. I served people their morning coffee for a quarter and they would leave me a 50 cent tip.
On New Year's Eve or when there was a band, there was room to dance, and dance we did! Sometimes my Sicilian friend would play "Lady of Spain" on his accordion. I would dance to anything in those days!
Back then, the closest you could come to staying at the hotel was to peer into the room where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were said to have spent their wedding night, after being married in Kingman. Since I left Oatman, a whole bevy of ghosts seem to have moved into the hotel, so I guess you could say the rooms are occupied once again.
When I visited Oatman in March, I could hardly find the Hotel door. The windows and doors were plastered with dollar bills, blocking the light, and there was no sign. People were going in, though, so I followed them--and was hit with the smell of fried grease! Unhuh, no way I wanted to eat there! It was dark inside, and crowded. It did not feel healthy! The only daylight I could see was in back, where the wall had apparently been removed--or had fallen away--to show the wall of gray dirt behind the restaurant. I suppose this is where "Oatie", the ghost of an Irish miner, is supposed to hang out. I only remember the aging septic system being there.
I backed out quickly and we headed down to Bullhead City for lunch.
Nothing was open yet when we arrived in Oatman, but the door to the Olive Oatman Restaurant was open, so we went in. A man with a salt and pepper pony tail and beard was sitting at one of the tables, with his dog Bun sitting in a chair beside him. He turned out to be Lee Kent, who said he owns the restaurant. I introduced myself and we got to talking.
I used to live here, I told him. I came with Boone and Shorty and had two little red haired boys. "Oh yes!" he said, "I remember the boys! Cutest things, running around town. My wife and I got such a kick out of them!" (I found out later he came to Oatman after I left; must have been some other boys--either that or he was messing with me. I left in 1982 or '83. And I never let my boys run around town anyway.)
"What do you hear from Boone?" Lee asked. "I bought fire agate from him sometimes."
Boone, Shorty's brother, was the very picture of an old time prospector. He would get a grubsteak together--that is he would persuade someone to loan him money for food--and walk up into the hills to the fire agate claim. He would be gone about a week, and come back down with as much fire agate as he could carry in his backpack. He'd sell enough to pay off his debts and get roaring drunk with the rest. After a few days or weeks, he'd get enough money scraped together for another trip up to the claim.
He stayed with us between trips to the claim, but he never ate with us. I guess he was able to keep himself fed, anyway.
Lee hadn't heard that Boone died a few years ago.