Day 177: Mellow Bordello

When Laetitia arrived, her tour group had assembled in downtown Wallace, Idaho, a picturesque mountain community that was the setting for films Heaven’s Gate and Dante’s Peak. Traditionally Wallace was a gold and silver mining town, but now tourism is one of its more important businesses. The group’s first scheduled event was a ride on rented bicycles on the Route of the Hiawatha. Formerly traversed by trains of the Milwaukee Road Railway, the route includes eleven tunnels and nine high trestles as it passes through the spectacularly beautiful Bitterroot Mountains.

Returning to Wallace in the afternoon, Laetitia and her group visited its famous Oasis Bordello Museum. Built as a hotel and bar in the late nineteenth century, it soon became another brothel in Wallace’s thriving red light district. From the 1960s through the1980s, the Oasis was owned by a Madame named Ginger, who was known for her generosity. When the local high school needed new band uniforms, it was Ginger who donated the money.

In January 1988, Ginger was tipped off by the local police that the FBI was coming to town and that she and the girls should leave for a while. They packed their cash and a few clothes and left town within two hours. The FBI’s investigation of the local sheriff for racketeering ultimately went on for months, so Ginger and the girls never returned. Except for mannequins in the rooms dressed in the clothing the girls left behind, the rooms are almost exactly as they were in 1988. On the counter of the brothel’s kitchen is a bag of groceries, delivered on the day everyone left and never unpacked. The Oasis’ most popular service was eight minutes for $15, timed by and egg timer. Since Idaho is a border state, visitors who drove down from Canada could pay in their own currency, adjusted according to the current exchange rate, which was posted on the wall of Ginger’s room.

That evening, Laetitia took the group to the 1313 Club for dinner and microbrew and presented the limerick of the day.

In Wallace, a callow young fellow
Shunned love that was languid and mellow
And deemed it sublimer
Timed by an egg timer
Like down at Oasis Bordello.