Alois Bube: 19th Century Living, Mount Joy, Pennsylvania
History is not just about old buildings and dates. At its best, history is about people and how they worked and played and how they felt and thought. Understanding history gives the kind of perspective that traveling to other countries can give. The seeking person gains a new viewpoint from which a glimpse into another way of living can be obtained. The old buildings and dates are just reference points that act as windows into the past. A history fan visits an old building and pictures in their mind how the people that once lived there behaved and felt and what they did while living there. The less imaginative visitor is just bored.
Our topic here is a consideration of some of the more day to day aspects of living in the 19th century, and of course told from the perspective of those living at Bube's Brewery. One hundred years ago, Alois Bube and his family, just like most people today, thought they were living in the modern age. They could go to Philadelphia in a few hours by train, they had ice in an icebox all summer long and they had coal fired steam heat to keep them warm all winter. The Bube family would have considered themselves to be upper class in the town of Mount Joy, and one of the more ostentatious signs of being there' was having indoor plumbing in your home with toilets and bathtubs with running water. Most of us wouldn't think we were too special for having such conveniences today. If you had stayed at the Central Hotel here at Bube's Brewery, you would have considered it a luxury to have an indoor bathroom down the hall from your room, even though you were sharing it with nine other rooms. When you got up in the morning, you would go to the washstand in your room, pour water from a pitcher into a bowl, and splash some water on your face. That would suffice as your shower for the day in a time when there was no such thing as a shower. There was such a thing as a bath, of course, but at the time that was generally a once-a-week event. And if you happened to wake up in the middle of the night and had to pee, there would have been a chamber pot under your bed to use, just as there would have been at any inn back into the ages.
The Central Hotel was built by Mr. Bube to be the nicest hotel in town, situated as it was just across the street from the Mount Joy railway station. In 1879 when this hotel was built, it was very up to date for a hostelry for the 'distinguished class'. One thing that 'distinguished' it from the lower-class hotels was the inclusion of a dining room for the hotel guests separate from the bar room. There was, of course, a bar room as well for the men to retire to after dinner, but a lady of class never set foot in a bar. Ladies didn't start going into barrooms until the quite liberal '20s--during Prohibition, but that's another story. The lower-class hotels of the late 1800's had a bar and very small rooms for patrons (usually men) upstairs, like the saloons in western movies. The lowest hotels of all were drover's hotels, which were barely more than a barn, where a person herding a shipment of cattle, sheep, or hogs could sleep with his cargo (in those days, meat got to market under its own power). So, in 1890, someone traveling by train that happened to be stopping in Mount Joy would have hardly considered staying anywhere else but the Central Hotel.
This discussion points to one of the less pleasant facts through most of history. That is the human race's nearly perpetual obsession with class. In some societies, like India, class distinction is even institutionalized. In Victorian Era America, class distinction was nearly as pervasive. You were expected to live at, work at, and marry at your 'station'. If you were particularly clever, and managed to make a lot of money, you could rise to a higher rung, but most people were born at, lived at, and died at the same level as far as class was concerned. An obnoxiously visible manifestation of what class someone considered themselves to be part of was the type of clothes they wore. If you were one of the moneyed class, it wasn't good enough to just wear fancy dresses or suits, they had to be up to the minute in fashion, or you were somehow less of a person. Most open-minded people of today would find this ridiculous, but old cultural habits die slowly, and elements of this sort of antiquated thinking still survive in the shallow, but hopefully limited, suburban culture of today. You could tell what class a Victorian era man thought he was a member of by the hat he wore. The working man wore a cap, the middle-class foreman wore a derby, and the owner wore a top hat.
Mr. Bube was a big fish in the very small pond of Mount Joy, but he probably didn't wear a top hat much (but he most likely had one). Before we close, here is a little anecdote about Mr. Bube: When we began our current rendition of business here at Bube's, we met a man here in Mount Joy that knew Alois Bube and worked for him. Now Alois Bube died in 1908, so this guy had to be old! His name was Carl Germer (he's dead now) and he started working at the brewery full time when he was eight years old (that was not unusual then). He remembers Mr. Bube as a kind and generous man who almost never got angry. Except once.
In the days before automobiles, people with enough money to afford personal transportation, of course, owned a horse. What isn't as obvious is that they often took as much pride in a good horse as someone today might take in owning a fancy car (another ostentatious display of wealth). Apparently, Mr. Bube took great pride in the large white stallion he owned. It was one of the very few luxuries this wealthy but generally unassuming man owned. One day ten-year-old Mr. Germer borrowed Mr. Bube's steed without asking permission, and it just happened to be at a time when Mr. Bube needed the horse to take care of some urgent business. When the young man returned with the horse, the normally even-tempered Mr. Bube was 'madder than I'd ever seen anyone', but Mr. Bube didn't punish the generally well-behaved boy, he just told him never to get on that horse again!
This man in his late 90's told this to us like it had happened yesterday.