My Mother, the Driving Force

October 17, 2013

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Alice and Bill Marriott in 1936
Mom and me in 1936

October 19th is my Mother’s birthday.  She was born in 1907 and would have been 106.  She was truly an amazing woman. Her father passed away in 1919 from the flu epidemic following the First World War.  Her older brother had suffered from polio when very young and wore a large brace on his leg and was not able to work.

Their family was of very limited means so my Grandmother needed to go to work. She became the surrogate mother for children who came to the primary children’s hospital in Salt Lake City for treatment.  She cared for them during their hospital stay as their own mother would have.  So my Mother did the grocery shopping and prepared the meals at the age of 11.

Mom graduated with honors from the University of Utah when she was 19 and married my Father the day after graduation.  That day they left for Washington in a Model T Ford.  It took them 11 days.  When they arrived in D.C., they went to work in the A&W, nine stool root beer stand.  When the weather got cold, they knew that people would stop drinking A&W Root Beer, so they decided to put food on the menu but the A&W franchise owners said, “No, we’re not in the restaurant business.”

So my Dad went to A&W headquarters in California and meanwhile Mom developed a contingency plan.  She discovered another popular root beer which would allow them to sell food.  It was the early days of carbonated drinks and the carbonation was added to the syrup just before the drink was served.  It was handled by a rather complex machine.  My Mom drew a design of the machine and talked to various manufacturers who said they could duplicate it at a far better price.  I think when Dad told A&W he had a viable contingency plan and was willing to give up his A&W franchise; they gave up on their end and allowed him to sell food.  Thus, he established the Hot Shoppe restaurants, which were the foundation of our company for the first 30 years of its existence.

My Mom was 20 years old when she developed the back-up plan which helped save the business.  In the summer of 1927, my Father had two root beer stands in D.C., one on 9th Street and the other on 14th Street.  My Mother ran the 14th Street root beer stand and when she closed the shop at 11:00 p.m., she would take the sticky nickels from the store and deposit them in the bank.  She would wait in front of the bank, at midnight, for Dad to pick her up on the way home from the 9th Street root beer stand which he was running.  One night, he arrived home and Mother wasn’t there.  He was so tired he forgot to pick her up.  I’m not sure she ever forgave him.  It was a frequent tale around our house when I was growing up.

When they embarked on their effort to add food to the root beer stand, they decided to sell hot dogs, hamburgers and Mexican food. Mom went to see the chef at the Mexican embassy and he showed her how to make chili and hot tamales. So, she became our first cook.  She prepared the food in her apartment and delivered it to the restaurant.

Throughout the years, Mom stayed very involved in the company.  She was very involved in our interior design especially.  When we were designing our third hotel in Dallas, Mom and I went to Los Angeles and met with the interior designers for a whole week. She really drove the entire process.  She was a major force behind every major decision and event in the company through the years.  She was an active member of our board for over 60 years.  She had a strong sense of value and a lot of determination but most people never saw it because of her quiet, thoughtful nature.  

Mother devoted her time to a number of civic, charitable and cultural endeavors as well as political activity.  She was an active Republican and served as the National Committee woman for D.C. for many years.  She was the treasurer of two Republican National Conventions.  She was a trustee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington and served on the boards of the Arthritis Foundation, the National Symphony Orchestra, the National Ballet Society, Goodwill Industries and many others.  In particular, she was a true caregiver to my Dad who suffered severe coronary artery disease the last 15 years of his life. 

But, to me, she was my Mom. When I was struggling with arithmetic in the second grade, she bought a small black board and coached me through addition and subtraction and began on the multiplication tables. She was always there for me and my brother, Richard.  She was kind and always encouraging. She was a real role model of a devoted and caring mother.

I’m Bill Marriott and thank you for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

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Mr Marriott...
every morning when i work the front desk i honestly look foward to your blog...i find them very inspirational and sure ensures me of different ways to look at eye openner, a different perspective of life...thank you!!!

Thank you so kindly for sharing such a personal and truly lovely story!

That is a beautiful picture of your mother. Sharing your memories of her is a wonderful way to show your love for her. I remember meeting you and your lovely wife 25 years ago. I shall never forget our conversation. Thank you for supporting such wonderful causes throughout your life. Your mother's story of hard work, dedication and love are inspiring.

Some people spend the entire lives pursuing money and fame and at the end have no real value. This is what I want my 18 month old boy to say about my legacy, that I was a woman of great integrity and value, a woman who loved and was very passionate about seeing others suceed. Cheers to your mom, who painted that picture perfectly!

Dear Mr Marriott:
Thank you for sharing your family story with every one. It was
very touching.

Keep up the good work.

Dear Mr Marriott
Reading your story about your mom makes being a mom worth every second. My daughter too had to live with a hardworking mom who taught her never to give up and pursue her passion to be an entrepreneur and successful business woman no matter how difficult it seems in our country South Africa. Like your mom,I retired from a job I worked and loved for 32 years to help my daughter establish her business in the US. Coming from a small town called Melkbosstrand in Cape Town, I find the USA overwhelming but for the love of my child I will approach the spa industry which is a completely unknown territory for me during my 3 week visit to your country to tell the US Spa Industry about the business pioneers in my Country. I thank you sincerely sir for the good work you are doing in Africa.

Thank you for sharing these amazing memories of your Mom. It was a joy reading this personal blog.

Barbra Eden

Mr Marriott your Mom had Passion for service and devotion for her family. Today is my 15th year working at the New York Marriott East Side Hotel and I feel proud to work for this Company. I am a Mother too and understand her devotion very well.

This was a great story!

A great story about your mother. It is certainly heartfelt and shows how important not just parents but mother in particular are in the development of children.

What a beautiful story, she is admirable. Beautiful picture.

Inspirational Womam !!!! Thank you for sharing.

This was a lovely tribute to your Mother. If more children had the devotion of their Mothers, as you did, we would all live in a better world. Thank you for sharing.

Tried to follow the Marriotts for many years. Remember seeing your Father one winter's day while his driver chased after him tring to put your Dad's overcoat around him.

Have read one book about your Dad and one written by you.

Sold our holdings in Marriott stock. Sorry to do so. Must admit it is nice to come home to a warm home anytime especially on snowy winter nights, a home filled with my family's love.

Enjoy your blogs. With kindest regards, I remain, sincerely yours, Stephen

Bill, I've been reading your blogs ever since you began to write them. You have shared so much of your life with folks like myself, and it's really appreciated. Your ability to connect in a very humble and honest way is what makes me look forward to your next blog. I especially like the way you talk about your family members, your mother, father, brother, son. Your a good man Mr. Marriott. Arthur

Thank you so much for sharing, Mr. Marriott! Your Mother was an incredible and inspiring woman! It is my pleasure to work in Marriott Reservations, and talk to guests everyday. It is heart warming that every week I hear comments about how wonderful the customer service is, and that is why guests go back again and again. I have heard guests say that "they" feel like family too!

To hear so much about your Mother was very special....Thank you!

Robin Neal

I just want to thank Mr. Marriott for the opportunity I had to work for such a great company. Sharing his stories are very heart moving, and I love the fact that you extend the term family to all of your assocites. I was a pleasure and unique experience when I met you when you made a surprise visit to the Fairfield Inn & Suites Newark Liberty Airport. I'm just very grateful, and thank you for sharing such a phenomenal story with us. You were definitely as lucky as I was when we had the opportunity to have such great mothers.

What a gorgoeus picture of you and your extraordinary mother!
I will allow myself to say that you look just like when you were a kid ;-) Thank you for always sharing the inspirational lives of your parents with all of us...Your family values is what trully keeps all of us on the move!
TPS Pensacola, FL

Thank you Mrs. Marriott for your courage & intuition that was the cornerstone of a legend. There is no other company in the world that feels as much like a family as our beloved Marriott. I am so proud to say I work here thanks to you!

How inspiring! An amazing renaissance woman! But to simply think of her as "my Mom"! This is exactly how I think of my own Mom who has been an amazing friend, mentor and parent to me..She is a young 72 (but oftens tell friends she is only 27!)
Thank you so much for sharing!

maybe Mr. Marriott had shared the story of his mother before (and i missed it), but this is the first time i came to 'know' her in my 15+ years here. i greatly appreciated this lady who helped mold not only the company, but the man who took the company to where it is. i hope the value she brought will stay strong in the corporate culture for generations to come!

Dear Bill,
What a joy to read such a beautiful tribute written by your "mom's son." You never referenced her by name; but she was your mother and that is all that matters.
Thank you for sharing the beautiful photo and your thoughts with us.

Your mom looks like someone with grace, elegance and class. Something that not many people have these days. Thank you for sharing this.

Your mom sounds like a wonderful woman. I can see how she molded and was a firm foundation for the family. May God continue to bless you Mr. Marriott.

very touching....
what a beautiful and capable woman!