Elizabeth II – Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – ascended to the throne in February 1952. At about that time, Kathryn “Kate” Bugglen – a Baltimore wife and mother – was overseeing her own domain, as a front desk clerk and reservations manager for the Lord Baltimore Hotel. Elizabeth’s title and crown were bestowed upon her by right of royal succession. Kate Bugglen would also receive a crown in the 1950’s.
Because she earned it.
Now 92, Kate Bugglen recently returned to the Lord Baltimore Hotel, at the behest of the venue’s management, for a luncheon which honored her a second time as “Queen for the Day.” It was Kate’s first trip to the Lord Baltimore Hotel since the historic locale’s top-to-bottom renovation.
“When my daughter Leslie told me we were coming here, I said, ‘Oh, do I have to go down there again?’ But when I look back, my memories of working here are all very good. You know that movie, Great Expectations? Well, I have great expectations about being here again. The employees have been so gracious and I cannot tell you how happy I am,” said Kate.
The plan to honor Kate began when daughter Leslie reached out to the hotel and asked if they could send her feisty mother a Christmas card. The hotel happily obliged, then went one better by setting up the luncheon and a private tour of the opulent premises.
Kate was joined at the luncheon by her five children (Nelson, Jr., Leslie, Michele, Michael and John) who, she said, “Grew up with no trouble, so I’m proud of them.”
“I was concerned,” said Leslie, “with mom being in the hospital so much recently. I didn’t want to tell her, but when Christmas Eve rolled around, I said, ‘Mom, we have something special we’d like to do. Remember how I was telling you about all of the beautiful trees in the hotel? Well, we’re going down there to see them and have lunch. How does that sound?’ And she said, ‘Where are we gonna park?’ I told her we were gonna get a ride, but she said, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I can do that.’ But here she is!”
“She was a little scared at first when I explained what was going on, and said, ‘Oh, I don’t deserve that. There were so many people down there who worked so much harder than me.’ But I said, ‘They might not be living. You’re the only one left!’ Of course, we laughed.”
Kate has outlived most of her co-workers as well as her late husband of 52 years, Nelson. “He passed away in the 1990’s and there hasn’t been anyone else for me since. I had a good life with him. We weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor, and I was blessed to have a good family.”
Kate told us she worked at the Lord Baltimore for about twelve years. Her boss was Howard S. Busick, who, along with brothers Nelson and Morton, managed the magnificent hotel their father Harry had built in 1928.
“It’s hard to explain how gracious they were to their employees. I started at the front desk, but when they needed someone to assist in the reservations department, they moved me back there. When the manager of that department announced he would be leaving, they made me the manager. I held that position for five years. If we over-booked, they simply took care of it. I was the one who would have been responsible, but they never harshly reprimanded me.
“Howard would meet with me every week to discuss incoming conventions. We knew how many guests to expect but always tried to hold a few rooms back in case someone special came into town. It was a good experience, and I learned a lot.”
Kate’s time at the Lord Baltimore coincided with the return of Major League Baseball to Baltimore and the arrival of the NFL. In her twin capacities as desk clerk and reservations manager, she met numerous athletes and celebrities, but the guests who still stand out were The Three Stooges.
Kate could not recall which incarnation of the Stooges graced Baltimore during her time at the hotel. But Michelle Squiccimara, Registrar of the Stoogeum in Ambler, Pa., told us the comics appeared in Baltimore eleven times between 1935 – 1960. Given the dates of her employment, Kate most likely encountered Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Joe DeRita, who appeared at the Hippodrome Theater in 1959, and at Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in 1960.
“They were so funny,” recalled Kate, “I just can’t explain. The things they were doing out front in the lobby with the people were just unbelievable. Of all the guests I signed in, they are the ones who still come to mind.”
Kate poo-pooed the talk of ghosts at the Lord Baltimore, noting that, as a religious woman, she doesn’t believe in such things. But she was amazed at the elegant restoration of the hotel and said she was looking forward to taking the grand tour.
Once seated in the dining room, Kate was presented with a sparkling tiara. The designation, “Queen for the Day,” was a throwback to an award the Lord Baltimore gave honored employees in the old days. After a delicious lunch prepared by the staff in the Lord Baltimore’s French Kitchen, Kate was presented with a cake baked especially for the occasion by Mary Elizabeth Plovanich of the Lord Baltimore Bakery. Spying the cake, Kate smilingly said, “I want this whole thing boxed up – I don’t think I want to share it.”
Next to her family, Kate said the affair, “Was a blessing. This is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me.”
One hotel staff member could be overheard telling the Queen, “No – we are the ones who are blessed.”
Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A one-time newsboy for the Evening Sun and professional presence at the Washington Herald, Tony’s poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore!, Destination Maryland, Magic Octopus Magazine, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Voice of Baltimore, SmartCEO, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. If you notice that his work has been purloined, please let him know. As the Good Book says, “Thou shalt not steal.”