Rushville Republican

January 24, 2013

Ward: Remembering the Durbin Hotel and family

Bill Ward
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — Norm Voiles sent me an e-mail that highlighted the old Durbin Hotel. Boy, did that bring back so many wonderful memories! The Durbin was well known by almost everyone in the center of Indiana and at times country-wide. The Durbin family was smart enough to see just what was needed and realistic enough to do it. The main aspect of the Durbin was service and it was always the same: outstanding. In the later years the dining room and bar were the major money makers for the family. If you wanted to impress someone you took them to the Durbin. If you wanted to be seen and to see you went to the Durbin.

Prices were competitive and the service outstanding. Rotary, Kiwanis, and many other civic organizations met weekly at the Durbin. As a member of Rotary I can tell you that it was always a great meeting, even if the program left something to be desired. The food and service made up for anything the program chairman could conjure up. They had a large room in the back for larger events and one could always be assured the food would be superb and the service outstanding. Local families and organizations would have their meetings at the Durbin and know all would be as it should be. I have never been to a dining area or bar where I was better treated than the Durbin. We had numerous cotton salesmen that would be sure to be in Rushville for lunch or dinner just so they could eat at the Durbin. Few stayed there, but many ate there.

The hotel always had an event to celebrate any holiday. The one thing I remember and to this day and am still amazed by was the Christmas program they had. Our family, along with the Carters and Gates family, would always go to the Durbin on Christmas Eve for dinner. Afterward they would have Santa in the back room to meet and greet the youngsters. Kay and Phil had five children we had three so there was a pretty good crowd just from our families. I don’t know who Santa was, but man was he good! The first time we took our children to see him I was amazed. He knew more about me and Patty than I did. He knew each of the children by name and had a pretty good idea about what they might want. He didn’t rush the children through, he stopped and listened to each and every one. And he did not cut any child off until they were done. Of course, a small gift was given to each child and I wished I could get one myself they were usually so good.

Wedding events were a good part of the ongoing events catered by the Durbin. We had our wedding practice dinner there and it was a great way to start our married life: good food, good company and a fun time for all. Many receptions were held there and many organizations from other places came to the Durbin for their events. Sunday after church the dining room was always crowded.

Close by to the Durbin was the Smoke Shop that sold tobacco and had out of town papers and lots of magazines available. There was a barber right in the hotel with his shop up front. The Durbins took care to be sure parking was available at all times for their guests. In fact, I think the Durbin family was the epitome of hotel management for anyone who wanted to have a small profitable hotel business.

The family was hard working and I felt were attuned to their customer base and did all in their power to satisfy that base. I saw numerous changes in the Durbin during my lifetime and my whole family was very disappointed when Leo and Mary got to the age that the hotel was more than they could handle. One of the boys stayed on until the end and then went on to added glory in the hotel business nationally. I don’t remember any time during all these years I had even one complaint about the hotel or its service. One thing I appreciated about the Durbin family, if they were asked to do something that they felt uncomfortable with or just could not do (and there were few of the latter) they did not hesitate to tell you that they did not feel that they could do what you requested and do so with the type of service and comfort that they would like, so thanks but no thanks.

As the years passed and the bar became more and more of the hotel the dining room still held sway but slowly was losing business because Rushville was actually losing many of the events that made the Durbin viable and profitable. I knew Leo and Mary and a couple of the boys and never did I ever not feel comfortable or like a long lost family friend. The whole family had a very good attitude on things and always did their best for their customers. After all, those customers were the back bone of their business and they knew that. And I miss the Sugar Cream Pie, rolls and family style food service. Yes, I sure do miss those goodies and much more.

Thanks, Durbins, for being such a great part of our community for so many years.