American Motels

Not only would I like to live forever, I’d like to have lived forever. I want to see everything that ever was, is, and will be. Sadly, stupid mortality will get in the way and my experience of the universe will be incredibly limited.

I’ve seen some impressive things (and a lot of crap too) but not enough for my liking, and every time I look back at historical photos or writings or consider the various scientific conclusions of evolutionary progress on this planet I get a welling up of a sense of, well, not quite nostalgia – since I never saw or lived through these things in the first place – but something akin to it. A temporal wanderlust, perhaps.

For instance, take the following postcards of American motels from the glorious era of American motels (whenever that was) uploaded by Jordan Smith: I’m not American, I wasn’t alive in the forties, fifties, or sixties, and I can’t help but imagine that a lot of these places would have been just unbelievably terrible places to stay in. But don’t they look fantastic anyway? There’s a wonderful style there that’s gone now. But it’s only just gone. In the grand scale of things I missed out on seeing these with my own eyes by a tad less than a smidge of a fraction. In a word: buggerations!

Below I’ve selected a handful of my favourite motels from the postcard collection. Check out the entire set (linked in the paragraph above) and subscribe to Jordan’s In The Heart Of Downtown site to be kept up-to-date with every new American motel discovery too.

Capt. Thomson's Motor Lodge

Alexandria Bay in New York is the location of Captain Thomson’s Motor Lodge, featuring air conditioning and private balconies over the water. Of course, wood panelling is present too. You have to have wood panelling. What’s slightly more interesting about the motel room pictured is the size of the beds. Two beds, I understand. Two double beds… has implications. This motor lodge may have catered for large people. Alternatively – and I’m favouring this thought – it may have been popular with swingers. Look at that couple by the window. They’re looking out for beautiful people in polyester suits and flowery dresses to join them for an afternoon romp. You know they are.

Colonial Statler Hilton Inn

This is the Colonial Statler Hilton Inn, just twenty minutes from downtown Boston, and it’s not hard to love this place instantly. A swimming pool in a dome; if that doesn’t scream The Future to you then you’re not seeing the world through my eyes. What’s even better than a motel with a Future Pool? A motel with a Future Pool with one woman winning the oneupmanship battle of outrageously large swimming headgear over a fellow guest, that’s what.

Colton Manor

To woo motoring customers to your motorists’ hotel you need more than just a pretty postcard; you need a hook; you need something that sets your motel apart from other motels in the area. Everyone’s got air conditioning. Everyone’s got wood panelling. You have to be the motel with the happiest guests. Look at this postcard of the Colton Manor motel in Atlantic City. Those are some happy people. Why are they so happy? Toxic algae fumes from the pool. Sure, it’s a gimmick that may lead to a potential lawsuit down the trail, but any publicity is good publicity, right?

Del-Ray Motel

One look at this postcard of the Del-Ray motel in Indianapolis and you know that it has to be a great hotel. How do you know? Let’s count the ways: firstly, they don’t need to charm you with a beautiful model or a happy family in their motel pictures. A single man – no, a single, large man – shows off the room. This tells you that the room itself is large enough to accomodate Frankenstein’s monster and if it’s large enough for Frankenstein’s monster then it’s large enough for anybody. Secondly, the man is wearing trousers to just below his nipples and is pointing at the bed with a smile. It’s a well-known fact that weirdos like to hunt down motels across space and time so that they can be “the creepy guy everybody talks about”. Do you think any weirdos are going to even consider the Del-Ray as a destination when they clearly have their own resident postcard model mental case? No, they won’t, so you can be assured this is relatively weirdo-free. Thirdly and finally, there’s history in this motel. All too often a motel will simply be a building with rooms and a pool and some swinging and wood panelling-appreciating going on but right here you’ve got some genuine interesting history to look into. What sort of prisoners did this place hold before it was a motel? Do you still get one free call?

Downtowner Motel

What you are looking at is one of the most romantic sights in history. Say these words out loud and feel the surge of loving emotion pouring out of you: the bridal suite in the Downtowner motel in Boise, Idaho. Oh. My. Be still my beating heart. Can you think of a bride who wouldn’t want this to be where she spent her first night as a married woman? I can’t. This room has everything a newlywed couple could ask for: a private dining table; long curtains to block out any possible view of Boise, Idaho; a colour scheme that actually and surprisingly doesn’t induce vomiting; and, of course, the great leveller for nervous couples, the circular bed. Try to look graceful getting into or out of a circular bed… and you will fail. But you’ll get a good laugh. And a good laugh is a great cornerstone for a successful marriage. Motel honeymoons, less so.

Esquire Motel

What the Esquire motel in Rhode Island lacks in great amenities it more than makes up for in pretending it has any amenities at all. Come and stay at the Esquire motel and enjoy the idyllic patch of grass near the tarmac! Why not partake in a little sporting activity during your stay? We’ve got a croquet set and deckchair-carrying! Take in the views of other guests driving in and out! Did we mention the croquet set?

Holding's Little America

For some people a motel is simply a place to crash at after a long day on the road. For other people it’s the ideal honeymoon location. Others come for the wood panelling. And, of course, there’s the sort of person who’s looking for no-strings sex with local hookers in a room decorated by the madam at the brothel down the street as part of a sideline business. For this last group of people there’s always the Holding’s Little America motel in the heart of seedy America; Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Holiday Inn, Stevens Point, Wisconsin

It’s easy to (lovingly) mock these old motels but you have to admire the Holiday Inn, Stevens Point, Wisconsin for its sailing ship-themed bar. Do you think the makers of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise stayed at this Holiday Inn when they were children? I think so too. They remembered the ship and the smell of nicotine, and the splashes of whiskey and crème de menthe, and the sound of their parents laughing with other swingers, and they remembered thinking how spectacular it all was that first time. And they remembered coming back several more times. And they remembered it getting worse every time they came back. And they vowed to reproduce those memories on the big screen. And they did.

Hotel Utah Motor Lodge

The Hotel Utah Motor Lodge is in Salt Lake City so you could be forgiven for thinking that the impressive front of the motel is designed to look almost church-like, appealing to travelling mormons in their mormonmobiles. But you would be wrong. The Hotel Utah Motor Lodge was, in fact, designed by an architect fascinated with spiders. He loved Spider-man, found hammocks arousing for their web-like appearances, ate flies, scurried across the floor scaring people, and tried to work an arachnid motif into every blueprint that was approved. Sadly, he never actually saw a spider in real life or he would have known that they don’t have ten legs.

King Arthur's Court

Everyone likes a nice surprise. Okay, everyone not suffering from high blood pressure likes a nice surprise. So, for everyone who doesn’t have high blood pressure and who likes a nice surprise you simply can’t go wrong with checking into the King Arthur’s Court motel in Greeneville, Tennessee, incorporating its Round Table restaurant. What’s the surprise? Surprise! Your room has nothing in common with Arthurian legends whatsoever! Fine, fine, that’s not strictly true. The window in the room is just small enough to fire arrows out of. And there are two Sir Bedeveres. Sorry. And, I suppose, (sorry again) with those chairs you can always Sir Loungealot.

So, that’s just ten of the many motel postcards you can view here and that’s barely scratching the surface. I shall return to this theme at another time since it’s been fun. For me.

Author: Mark

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