built the three-story, 46-room sandy brick hotel in 1927 at the height of the
oil boom that exploded on the Pecos County ranch he had traded a general store
for in 1915. In considering a name for his new hostelry, he modestly thought Yates
Hotel had a nice ring to it.
“He kept an upstairs room,” Mrs. Bell says.
“We haven’t identified which room, but he played a lot of poker in it.”
as the first fire-proof hotel between Fort
Worth and El Paso,
the Yates had a restaurant, drug store and barbershop. The hotel saw many a hand-shake
deal during the boom years and became a popular stopping place for east-west travelers.
rooms on the north side had no closets and cost less than the south-side rooms,
which caught a better breeze and had a door between rooms so they could be used
as suites. North or south-side, however, guests had to walk down the hall to a
By today’s standards, a room on either side of the hotel did
not cost all that much. A single school teacher who lived there in the late 1930s
paid $39 a month for a room – meals included.
“There’s a cute story about
an old-maid (probably all of 25 to 30 years old) Home Extension agent from Austin
who used to stay at the Yates in the ‘40s,” Mrs. Bell says. “She always washed
her stockings at night and hung them in the bathroom to dry. One morning she came
in and found some man had washed his socks and hung them right next to her hose.
She was scandalized.”
The hotel closed in 1964 and stood vacant for a
decade before the Rankin Museum Association converted it into a museum. Though
someone vandalized the hotel about a year after it went out of business, the Yates’
original wicker furniture still sits in the lobby with its restored black and
white checkerboard floor.
the Yates’ heyday, within an easy walk from the hotel lay one of the marvels of
West Texas: Rankin Beach. That
part of the state had not had any waterfront access since prehistoric times, but
Yates put in a giant concrete swimming hole, 60 feet wide and 120 feet long. Legend
has it that he even had beach sand trucked in from the Texas
coast, though he could have gotten plenty from the sand dunes of not-too-distant
People could keep cool in Yates’ pool, enjoy live entertainment
at the adjoining dance pavilion or spin around on a skating rink. A young accordion
player named Lawrence Welk and his orchestra played at Rankin Beach in 1928-29
as did Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden.
One night during the boom,
while her husband toiled away in the oil patch, his pretty wife sashayed and shimmied
on the dance floor at the nearby Skidmore Plantation with an equally light-footed
The evening seemed magic until the woman’s husband showed
up and pulled a pistol from his oil-stained coveralls.
Seeking any port
in a storm, the woman and her dancing partner hoofed it toward the Yates Hotel,
the armed husband close behind. When they entered the hotel’s lobby, the bell
hop ducked as the husband fired several shots at the man he’d caught dancing with
None of the bullets took effect, and officers soon corralled the jealous husband,
but the flying lead left some ugly pockmarks in the wall. For some reason, whoever
repaired the bullet holes did not bother to smooth over the one next to the stair
So far as is known, that was the only gunplay at the Yates. That
may be why the hotel has a scarcity of ghosts.
all old hotels come furnished with at least one restless spirit, but Mrs. Bell
says the Yates is no Hotel California. One woman claimed to have had encounters
with a lady apparition she called Gertrude, but Mrs. Bell says she’s never heard
or seen anything unusual at the Yates other than the old bullet hole.
anyone’s spirit is lingering at the Yates, by all rights it ought to be Yates
himself. He spent a lot of time in his hotel prior to his death in 1939 and oil
paintings of he and his wife are prominently displayed in the lobby.
a fellow who didn’t learn to read until he was 14, Yates obviously had a good
head for business. Folks said he did well at cards, too.
that all his children learn to play poker,” Mrs. Bell says. “He said poker would
make them good at business.”
Knowing when to fold ‘em and when to hold
‘em sure paid off for the old man.
Cox - September 11, 2008 column
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