Thursday, July 8, 2021

Hanging Around with History

Some years ago now, I was cleaning out closets in my home and came across a coat-hanger. It is from an earlier era, when things were made better and were less costly, for customers and businesses alike. This coat-hanger is stamped with the name and address of the Nordale Hotel, in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The Nordale was, I believe, the principal hotel in Fairbanks, located on Main Street, and was famous for Eva McGown, the unofficial hostess of the town, whose encyclopaedic knowledge of lodging in Fairbanks was recognized as of great importance during the Second World War; she was employed by the town’s chamber of commerce, living in and working out of the Nordale. Tragically, she and three other people died in the fire that destroyed the hotel in 1972.

I suspect the hanger ended up in my closet through my parents. They were in the RCAF during and after World War Two, and were stationed for a time in Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory. The Alaska Highway, then newly constructed, passes through the town on its way to Delta Junction, in Alaska, the official end of the road, though it continues on to Fairbanks. Though my father and mother never went to Fairbanks, that I recall, it seems probable that a traveller from the American end of the highway stopped in Whitehorse, where the hanger he took from the Nordale Hotel stayed until my parents used it and, evidently, kept it.

I imagine that, though it might cost them something in lost property, hotels in the old days wouldn’t have minded such items being taken by guests. The items would end up hundreds, even thousands of miles away, and provide free advertising. The hanger might as well be a tiny billboard declaring, “When in Fairbanks, stay at the Nordale!”

For me, it’s a little bit of history, a piece of a time when a journey in the north country was an adventure, and a new town could have been a different world. And when even common, everyday objects, such as coat-hangers, were well-made.


  1. Love the history of the hanger and I have the same feeling about things made then. We could blog many a story about them.

  2. History can be found anywhere. Even in something as seemingly mundane as a clothes hanger.

  3. What a neat piece of history to own! Obviously it was made to last.

  4. I, too, love the history of the hanger as well as the mention of your parents. The hanger also is a precious small tie to them as well, regardless of whether they're living or have passed.

    Not as old -- I still have a few hangers from my days of working in retail in my 20s, while in Halifax. I kept a few of the extra pant hangers (I'm sure we all did, I can't imagine I would have stolen them, good church-going, choir-singing person that I was then.)

  5. I enjoyed the hanger story and a bit about your parents life during
    the war. I have a few things left from grandparents and parents, as they
    would all be well into their 100's by now. Sometimes these things end
    up being treasures.

    1. It’s the ordinary, common things of yesterday that are the pricey antiques of today. Even this coat-hanger would probably go for $10 now, maybe more, if there’s story attached to it. Yet the people who used it would think, “It’s just a coat-hanger…” I can’t see as many items of our present being valued in the future.

    2. On Twitter a while ago, I got into an interesting discussion about how, if historical movies and TV shows wanted to be completely accurate, they would show people using household items from 20, 50, even 100 years before their time, because in the old days, things were built to be handed down generations. We today are so used to a "disposable" lifestyle that this would be jarring to watch for most people.

    3. That’s true. I hadn’t thought of that. On a vaguely similar line, though, I have looked at movies that take place in the past and have been filmed in houses built in the time period of the movie and have wondered why a house built, for instance, in the eighteenth century, looks three hundred years old - in a story set the eighteenth century.

  6. this is cool...guaranteed you won't find a wooden hanger anywhere
    to purchase { accept maybe one of the online "shopping" sites and they want...... 23,450.75 for it }

    I'm curious now as to the name on the couple I have; dad's coat from the fire station hangs on one, because of the weight of the
    actual coat

    thanx for sharing this story :) ☺☺♥♥

  7. What a wonderful piece of history, and it's a fantastic reminder of your parents. I don't have many physical remembrances of my parents, but
    my favorite childhood memories are the times I spent with my father listening to his stories about when he was in the navy during World War II.

  8. I really enjoyed hearing the history behind the clothes hanger.

  9. That is a cool thing with a cool history!

  10. Goodness! Goes without saying that
    ALL my hangers are 'pink'..HeHe! :).
    50 in one wardrobe and 40 in another..!
    But! But! Couple years ago l bought
    a wooden hanger in a charity shop for
    one pound..£1..on it was the name
    Austin best thing to Harrods..
    I check it out on line for value..and
    found it was worth £30..(51 Canadian dollars)...
    In fact l found one on eBay for £34.. can still buy wooden ones though they
    cost a lot of money these day!

  11. This was an interesting read! I love history and was fascinated by the story of a simple hanger. Imagine the stories that hanger could tell!

  12. Thanks for that little slice of history!

    I have several wooden hangers with 'advertising' on them...some from Canadian venues and most of them from Dutch places. I use them still, but maybe I need to pamper them?? LOL! The most precious one to me is a Dutch one, on which my dad signed his name...not sure why?? Oh yes, I have a couple from the Washington DC area, where hubby hails from.

  13. Loved the hanger story. I have a towel from a "fancy" hotel I was lucky to stay in for a week on paid travel. Of course, I deny any knowledge of how it happened to end up in my suitcase. I only discovered it when I got home. Coff, coff!

    I will say that the heavy-duty plastic hangers available today (cheap at Walmart) are very sturdy. What I don't understand is the semi-circles under the top. Must be a "Lady Clothes" thing. They make it awkward to hang pants. I cut them off...

    But I appreciate the reminder of when even simple things were made well and with pride. I had the maternal grandfather who was a tailor at a high-end men's store and he treated every button as a piece of skill.

    I learned to do the same. And then, one year, for Christmas, my paternal grandparents sent me one of those plastic Buttoneer-shooter devices. It was embarrassing, but I thanked them anyway. I gave it to a friend who liked the idea, LOL!