I was born the third son to Malcolm and LaVelle Kopplin in San Antonio, Texas. As an unassuming baby, I had absolutely no idea what the world had in store for me and little did I know that soon my family and I would morph into gypsy travelers, moving from place to place with my dad’s work.
“Wow, you must have had such a glamorous life!” many people would exclaim upon hearing about my upbringing. Such comments really do make me laugh. My dad, a hotel manager, hopped from job to job, meaning we were constantly on the move hence our family nickname of “Hotel Gypsies”. Yes, hotel management sounded important and luxurious and dad had accumulated some exclusive hotels under his belt during his career, which included Texas’ historic St. Anthony Hotel, but our lives were far from normal and they certainly weren’t glitzy!
St. Anthony Hotel was synonymous with the elite crowds. It’s where the rich and famous went to stay or have their dalliances; a number of very famous faces have walked through those doors. I guess I can see why people might have thought that I’d also been privy to such a gilded life, but I can assure you it wasn’t. Other historic Texas hotels my dad was in charge of included the Gunter Hotel and the Crockett Hotel, named after the famous Alamo legend Davy Crockett.
Dad was asked to move to Boulder in Colorado to manage a new hotel his then boss was building. The whole family had their hearts set on Colorado because let’s face it what kid wouldn’t want to be living in the mountains where the winter snow came with a vengeance?
Unfortunately, that dream was short lived. We didn’t even make it to Colorado. Apparently, dad was so great at his job so he was called upon to ‘fix’ the problems at another hotel. While this might be seen as a great compliment, being personally asked to restore order, the hotel was located somewhere less desirable than Boulder, Colorado. It was in Odessa, West Texas, which was considered to be the region’s armpit.
My family still held on to hope of eventually relocating to Boulder, but then dad got the call. His boss had cancelled all his plans to build his new hotel there and therefore we didn’t move. I was devistated, and I think my parents were too, however, they never tried to let on how they really felt. Needless to say if I had moved there, life would’ve been completely different to what came next, very different!
Odessa was the start of it. This is where our gypsy lives began. It was the first of countless locations over the next ten or so years where we lived in the actual hotels that dad was managing at the time.
Concierges who opened the door for you on a daily basis, round the clock room service, in house cleaning every day, delicious 3-course meals…sounds amazing doesn’t it? Well, unfortunately for us this wasn’t the life we were living. Wishful thinking! Yes, we did live in a hotel room. No, it wasn’t big, and yes our kitchen was once a hotel bathroom, so you can imagine how small and cramped it was. But on the bright side, I did make use of the hotel swimming pool.
Life sure does take you on some interesting journeys sometimes, albeit not always to the desired destination, which we soon found out.
The next stop was, wait for it…Little Rock, Arkansas. It seemed that dad had a penchant for landing jobs in non-glamous places. I never really thought that there was such a thing as a Hillbilly until we arrived there. I honestly thought this was a thing of Hollywood movies, oh how I was wrong! But dad saw it in a different light. That job was with the Holiday Inn chain, a well-known hotel chain around the world. To him it was a way of adding more prestige to his resume, to mom and her three boys it was more like hell.
Oklahoma was our next pit stop. That was where the first ever 10-story Holiday Inn was built. I guess you could say that my dad was a part of history (kind of). And yes, of course by that stage we’d upgraded from our small hovel with a converted kitchen to one of the 10th floor penthouse suites, not!
And it continued…
If you think my life got any better, you’re sadly mistaken. I got my first job in Oklahoma. I worked for dad in the housekeeping department and I earned a whopping $0.85 an hour.
Our lives and movement were like a game of tennis, back and forth, back and forth, because from Oklahoma it was back to good ol’ Texas to open up the Holiday Inn Waterfront, which was one of the very first ‘round’ Holiday Inns. Actually, to be honest it was quite a cool place, right next to Town Lake in Austin.
Admittedly, my life there was decent. I took up golf, became good at the game and even played on the high school golf team where I got the chance to play against Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw who competed for other schools. Of course they hadn’t turned pro yet, but I still like to use this as my golfing claim to fame.
Our love affair with Austin was a short-lived one. Dad got promoted to Regional Manager, which meant we were on the road again. We could’ve gone anyway in the US, but we ended back in Hicksville, Little Rock.
Mom still hated Little Rock with a passion, so that move was a fleeting one and before we knew it we were back in Texas, this time in Fort Worth, where we were finally able to lay down some roots, and I was even able to attend the same school for at least a year, which was a miracle in itself.
Finally, I had the chance to be somewhat normal and go to school properly. It was at my new school, Western Hills High School that I met the love of my life and my now-wife, Becky Budaus.
We married young at the age of 19, Nov. 26, 1971; Marrying at such an early age wasn’t totally unheard of. I’m proud to say that Becky stuck by me through thick and thin, and we’ve been happily married for 45 years. All I wanted was a normal life
So other than constantly moving about in my youth like an aimless nomad, I’m a pretty normal person; just like you. I probably share the same values as you. I wanted (and still want) a happy and healthy family, a happy stress-free life, stability (can you blame me given my childhood?) and a life not worrying about money.
To be continued…..