Viewing Her Gusher" - Painting by Aaron Arion
Courtesy Tyrell Historical Library, 5-03
into a "well-to-do" Oregonian family in the early 1900s, Miss Rita
(no last name available) left home to become a dancer and vaudeville
performer. For a time she even appeared with the famous Ballet Russe
de Monte Carlo.
The Great Depression delt a heavy blow to vaudeville and Rita's once-promising
career was cut short. During her first marriage (again no last name
available) she became a prostitute. The circumstances of her entrance
into the profession aren't known, but she soon decided to end her
marriage and fled to Beaumont,
a town she may have first seen on the vaudeville circuit. There she
plied her trade in the Crockett Street area at an adress owned by
a Mr. Charles Ainsworth. She took a liking to Mr. Ainsworth's son
Nathaniel and the two were wed. Marrying the son of the "landlord"
was a sure way out of the business, but not everyone could've pulled
it off. Nat and Rita spent some years getting established, but when
they had saved enough money, they purchased Beaumont's
Shamrock Hotel, a modest hostelry on Bowie Street.
TE photo 9-04
Nathaniel died in 1946 and Rita shed herself of the Shamrock and bought
the Dixie. Using her refined taste and her hard-won knowledge of the
business, Rita decorated the Dixie lavishly and employed unusually
attractive and well-mannered women that were sure to produce word-of-mouth
Revenue from the hotel provided a comfortable upbringing for Rita's
children and she acquired sizeable real estate holdings. Her daughter
was sent to a distant Catholic girl's school and it wasn't until she
was in her mid-teens that she discovered the real reason the Dixie
did so much more business than its competitors.
The story could've ended there with Rita becoming fabulosly wealthy
and retiring to Florida, but she was one of those rare individuals
with a social conscience. The third floor of the Dixie Hotel was reserved
for older men who had no other place to go. At a time when cheap hotel
rooms were a dollar a day - Rita provided lodging (with meals) for
seven dollars a month. She gave generously to little-league teams,
churches, and even sent a priest through seminary.
A downtown relic from the same era as the Dixie Hotel
TE Photo, 6-02
In early 1961
when vice and corruption in Beaumont
reached such levels where they could no longer be ignored, the quiet
operations of the Dixie came to light as well. A five man panel
called the "James Committee" held three-days of televised hearings
that exposed narcotic trafficing, liquor sales to minors, extensive
payoffs to city officials and on the lower end of things - prostitution.
An injuction closed the Dixie which then became the "Annex Aparments."
One of the hazards of running a brothel is how to go about paying
taxes. The income can't be declared, and usually by the time the
IRS shows up - the taxes have accumulated into a substantial sum.
In Rita's case it was $100,000. She was forced to sell off her holdings,
except for her home and the hotel.
In 1976, her failing health forced her to sell the former Dixie
to the Gulf States Utilities Company which was then donated to the
Beaumont Heritage Society. Mrs. Ainsworth stayed in the care of
her daughter until her death in Houston
in 1978. There is still enough admiration for Miss Rita for her
to be included in a pictorial history of Beaumont
- the source from which this information was obtained.
© John Troesser
Beaumont: A Chronicle of Promise An Illustrated History by Judith
Walker Linsey and Elolen Walker Rienstra (P. 116-117) Sponsored
by the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce and ther Texas Gulf Coast Historical
Meeting Miss Rita
by Frances Giles
My first and only meeting with Mrs. Rita Ainsworth took place on
a hot and humid summer day in southeast Texas. Is there any other
kind? I was about 14 years old at the time...
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