New in the collection: Sir Walter room key

Skeleton-style key with plastic key fob with the words "Hotel Sir Walter."

“In the 1950s, back in the days when legislators stayed in downtown Raleigh’s Hotel Sir Walter during legislative sessions, you couldn’t buy a drink anywhere in town.

“And didn’t need to. Each of the 45 liquor salesmen who supplied N.C. ABC stores had three cases of liquor a month to give away – and much of it was delivered to the loading dock of the Hotel Sir Walter and quickly stored (wink, wink) in a room ostensibly rented to A.B. Carter. Notice anything cute about Mr. Carter’s initials?

“A memorable front page from the News & Observer on May 28, 1957 featured seven photographs of liquor arriving, being unloaded, carried into the hotel and delivered to certain rooms by a bellhop around noon. The local Alcoholic Beverage Control board office was notified at 3 p.m. and sprang into action. And sprang. And sprang. After, oh, about an hour and a half, ABC agents finally entered the room where the contraband booze had been taken – and it was empty. What a surprise. The newspaper’s photos proved what had happened, and once again the state’s ABC law enforcement officers looked like Keystone Kops – without as much action….”

— From “Liquor in North Carolina, from A to C” by Jack Betts in the Charlotte Observer (Dec. 3, 1995)

“A.B. Carter” was actually Frank Sims, former lobbyist for the Association of County ABC Boards, who was later fined $100 for registering at a hotel under an assumed name. 

Forgive me if I like to imagine one of those deliveries being made to this key’s Room 940.

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