Re: Paddlewheel to stop turning for good (Jan. 10). When I was a little girl, my mother, grandmother and I would go to the top floor of the Bay for lunch at the Paddlewheel. You could hear the unmistakable creaking of the old wooden wheel as you stepped off the elevator and were greeted by the aroma of real roast beef.
This was before they put in the safety glass to keep kids from climbing through the railing that separated small onlookers from the churning paddlewheel. It was also before some executive made the decision to empty all the water.
I remember watching, mesmerized, as that wheel turned and dipped into the clear water, each paddle surfacing in turn and dripping onto the paddle below. Over and over and over again. The rhythm of that paddlewheel was slow and safe, the way many of us remember our childhoods from that time.
Everything about the Paddlewheel restaurant was enchanting: the colonial decor, the faded pastel wall murals, the wooden plank deck that rose and fell like a bridge beside the paddlewheel. And the pennies! When I was six, I felt sure there must be $1 million in pennies reflecting up at me from the bottom of that pool.
But more than all that, the charm and originality of the Paddlewheel came from the characters who mingled there. Abled, disabled, seniors, teenagers, stylish shoppers and even disheveled wanderers having conversations with invisible comrades, all gathered there. The thing we are saying goodbye to is not just a charming, creaky old paddlewheel or nostalgic childhood memories; the thing we are saying goodbye to is the only place of its kind where all sorts of us felt comfortable -- together.