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The Oasis Bordello Museum in Wallace

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The History Of Prostitution

Word had spread around Wallace that the Feds were on their way in, and the town’s bordellos had to close up fast. Under the vigilant eyes of Madame Ginger, the working girls of The Oasis grabbed what they could carry and left everything else behind. Their departure marked a sudden and unexpected end to prostitution in Wallace. The year was 1988.

Atari-Idaho

For the next five years, until being sold in 1993, The Oasis was locked up and undisturbed. The building’s new owner found everything inside the former bordello just as Madame Ginger and her girls had left it — clothes, toiletries, personal items, drawings, Atari systems, price lists, liquor, even the now-rancid food in the refrigerator. He realized almost immediately that he had a ready-made museum on his hands.

It goes without saying that, in 1988, prostitution in America was completely illegal, even in out-of-the-way Wallace, Idaho. But Madame Ginger had been careful to make generous “donations” to the police department, and was one of the town’s prime philanthropists. As such, she was popular with locals and could even call upon the law for assistance, when needed. For all intents and purposes, The Oasis was a legitimate business… and what a business it was! With five girls working sixteen-hour shifts, profits were estimated to clear a million a year.

And that’s despite the competitive prices. Even those of us who’ve never, ahem, procured a Lady of the Night understand that $15 for an eight-minute session isn’t bad. During our fascinating tour of the Bordello, we found the price list posted up in Madame Ginger’s bedroom. Eight minutes was “the basic” session (let’s not kid ourselves, guys, that’s plenty of time). But there were other variations; you could go up to an hour, have a bubble bath, or purchase extra positions. The basic fare only included missionary.

Prices For Paid Love

The tour was compelling, often hilarious, occasionally sad and completely surprising. I had been expecting a staid, informative presentation of the prostitution racket in Idaho’s mining towns; not a bordello as it looked while still operating. We saw the girls’ music collections (Lionel Richie, Diana Ross), their reading selections (almost exclusively romance novels, which broke my heart), and wardrobes. We saw where they bathed, where they ate and, of course, where they worked.

Madame Ginger had expected to quickly return and resume business, but the FBI stuck around for years conducting a wide-ranging investigation into Wallace’s corrupt sheriff. When the Feds finally left, times had changed and bordellos were no longer a welcome enterprise in Wallace. With the money she had saved, Ginger moved to Coeur d’Alene and lived out the rest of her years in style.

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October 16, 2012 at 2:51 am Comments (25)

Hoot’s Cafe in Whitebird, Idaho

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We Love Owls Too

On the way from Riggins to Lewiston, we stopped in at Hoot’s Cafe for lunch. Hoot’s is owned and operated by a woman whose name happens to be Hootie, who happens loves owls, and who just so happens to resemble one. Sometimes I get the feeling that Idaho is messing with us.

Hootie-Idaho

We wrangled Hootie into a chat before sitting down to lunch, and of course our first question concerned her name. Turns out, it’s not a nickname. Hootie is her full legal first name, which she’s had since birth. She told us that, upon considering her big, protruding eyes, her parents agreed that she looked like a “Hootie”. She’s lived in Whitebird all her life, and run Hoot’s Cafe for over fifty years. When we expressed our astonishment, she seemed surprised; as though working in the same tiny restaurant for half a century was just the most obvious thing in the world.

Hootie then introduced us to her collection of owls. Wooden owls, decorative owls, stuffed owls, plastic owls, ceramic owls and more. Over 1200 line the shelves, walls and tables of Hoot’s. Remarkably, Hootie didn’t buy a single one; they were all gifts. Friends or returning customers have made it a tradition to bring her another owl for the collection. I was upset that we didn’t have any owl paraphernalia in the car to give her, and briefly considered crafting something together out of a couple Coke bottles.

Lunch was great; the burgers were big, and the french fries are cut every morning from real potatoes. The best part, though, was the entertainment going on at the next table. Hootie’s husband is a miner, and had just hit a gold patch. He came in with a bag full of rocks, and everyone in the restaurant had gathered around his table to admire the strike.

Hoot’s is the kind of restaurant that can only exist in a town like Whitebird, Idaho. If you’re passing through, do yourself a favor and stop by. And don’t forget to bring Hootie another treasure for her collection.

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October 1, 2012 at 1:08 am Comments (2)
The Oasis Bordello Museum in Wallace Word had spread around Wallace that the Feds were on their way in, and the town's bordellos had to close up fast. Under the vigilant eyes of Madame Ginger, the working girls of The Oasis grabbed what they could carry and left everything else behind. Their departure marked a sudden and unexpected end to prostitution in Wallace. The year was 1988.
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