Staying at McRae’s Chambers Hotel
For Twice the Price
By MARY ALICE CHAMBERS
200 Whittington Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71901, Malice@aol.com
n 1908, Charles Chambers, a Canadian, married Mary Alice
Johnston, the widow of Ben Johnston. Charles and Mary built a
two-story foursquare home in McRae, Arkansas, next door to Mrs. Chambers’
parents, who lived at School Street and Highway 67. For many years, Mr.
Chambers was partial owner of a lumberyard located where the McRae Town Hall is
now. However, he contracted tuberculosis in the 1920s, sold his interest
in the sawmill, and took on the town taxi service using his Model T Ford.
He died in July 1929 and in September the same year, the stock market crashed
and the Great Depression began.
Before Mr. Chambers’ illness, throughout and after his death, Mrs. Chambers took
boarders into the home. Mamie Savage, a single woman who lived nearby,
helped in the kitchen.
In The History of McRae, Arkansas
, published in 1981, Bruce Cook
noted: “Charlie Chambers owned a two-story hotel and boarding house at the site
where Glen’s Super Saver now stands...Rates at the Chambers Hotel (in 1916) were
advertised at $2 per day, other hotels in town were $1 a day.”
Meals at the Chambers home were quite popular. Boarders were called to
dinner with a brass dinner bell Mrs. Chambers rang from the front porch. Meat dishes were served on a willow ware serving platter
which today is displayed, along with the bell, in my father Newbern Chambers’
Over the years, many boarders stayed at the Chambers’ home.
Some were long-term boarders, such as teachers at the McRae School, but many
more were short term, such as Ruth Hale and her husband, Bert and Marian
Shannon, and others who boarded only during strawberry season.
“Mother had two or three seasonal boarders, school teachers, in winter,” recalls
Newbern. One of the boarders was Opal Fisher from Beebe. Mrs. Chambers
often allowed the teachers to use her kitchen to make candy.
Once, when Mrs. Chambers’ grandson, Gaither C. Johnston, Jr., was
visiting, Newbern chased him through the kitchen. The kitchen floor was
covered with plates of candy Miss Fisher and another lady had left to cool on
the floor. The boys ran through the kitchen and onto the back porch.
Gaither C. stepped in the candy, candy went everywhere, and a dish was broken.
The women complained to Mrs. Chambers who said,
Mrs. Chambers sold the home during World War II, after Newbern and his older
brother Charles left to serve in the Navy. Mrs. Chambers settled in
Dermott to be near her oldest son, Gaither Johnston, Sr. The Chambers home
burned down within a year of being sold.
(The author is a
member of the White County Historical Society.)ter">(The author is a
member of the White County Historical Society.)