From the novel I'm working on, That Was Tomorrow, here's an excerpt about The Gables, a hotel run by Capt. and Mrs. Jack Cross:
The first settlers, who had moved from Iowa and other parts of the Midwest, had not been farmers, but were eager to learn how to grow enough food to feed their families, and they had assumed this gloriously warm climate would provide a garden of Eden for them. By now they had learned that the soil of Fairhope was sandy and alkaline, not ideal for many crops. But they endured in a spirit of cooperation and optimism, and many had accepted conventional wisdom that citrus, particularly the new Japanese satsuma orange, might be the salvation of Fairhope’s economy. The growing season was indeed a long one, and they experimented to extend it even longer if they could by growing and preparing vegetables and fruit unknown to them before their move to the South. There was a bounty of okra, which was quite tasty when you got used to it, and there were varieties of peas, beans and nuts which they came to enjoy over time.
That initial visit, Amelia stayed at the Gables, a simple two-storey wooden building, which Mrs. Johnson had recommended to her. The Gables was a little less fashionable and less expensive than the Colonial Inn, which sat a few blocks west, on the bluff overlooking the bay. The Gables, on the other hand, was right in town and just a few blocks from the school. The Gables was run by Captain and Mrs. Jack Cross. Mrs. Cross was a busy, funny lady—and her husband a raconteur with an English accent, who held forth with his pipe and a cup of tea on the front porch every afternoon, as cronies and neighbors stopped by to discuss the fate of the world with him. They often talked about the politics of the village, and about the future of the single tax system, and about books they were reading and authors they admired. The elders of the town stopped by to air the latest issues they were dealing with—even E.B. Gaston, the editor of The Courier and virtually the founder of Fairhope—stopped by on his morning walk to exchange pleasantries with the Crosses. It seemed to Amelia that this little hotel was the hub of the community, but the more she got to know her way around, other such hubs were revealed to her. There were three or four little cafes in the village of about 1,500, and about 15 hotels with dining rooms, and coffee urns all over town were hot with fresh brew all day long.
“Wherever there’s people in Fairhope,” Mrs. Cross said to her, “There’s coffee. Or maybe that should be, wherever there’s coffee, there’s people.” She made tea for her husband and his friends, but there was always hot coffee as well. The Crosses, both devoted to the cause of single tax, had moved to Fairhope with the idea of running a farm, but, like many idealists who had never farmed before, changed their minds after a year or two, at which time they had taken over the management of the Gables Hotel, where Mrs. Cross cooked and supervised work inthe kitchen. She laid an old-fashioned boarding house type of table, which was popular with locals as well as transients.
Amelia found both the Crosses fascinating people, and their visitors from town were a certain breed—earnest, wordy, and wise, with one central agenda, which was how best to put Fairhope on the map and change the world through single tax philosophy.
They hadn’t yet realized that the wave of the immediate future of Fairhope was actually Amelia and those like her who were moving to the town to participate in Mrs. Johnson’s school. Seven years before, the famed educational philosopher John Dewey had come to Fairhope to review the school for a book he was writing. His visit had set the little village on its ear with excitement. The children, informed that the only day Dr. Dewey had available to observe the school was Christmas Eve, voted to keep the school open its regular hours that day so that he might get a fair picture of it in operation. Mrs. Johnson took some of them outside, as was her custom so often, to teach a class, Dewey’s daughter photographed the scene which became the frontispiece of a book.