I love old motels. We used to live in a mountain tourist town that had a leftover population of the old lodgings in various stages of decay. So for a time, I collected them – with my camera.
The cool thing about digital collections, besides the fact that they occupy very little space outside the virtual world (a handy fact that helps to keep me firmly on this side of the line that separates “collector” from “hoarder”), is that I can play with photos later. Lately, I’ve been trying to learn a little more about how to use Photoshop Elements, so I experimented on some old motel photos.
I thought I would provide a little history to go along with this bit of Americana: Motels evolved along with American car culture.
As the US highways sprouted in the 1920s, auto travelers needed handy places to stop for the night that were affordable and easily accessible. So the motor inn in all of its various incarnations (motor court, motor lodge, tourist lodge, cottage court, tourist cabins, auto cabins, cabin court, or auto court) was born.
The word motel was coined in the mid-1920s as a combination of the words motor and hotel. Motels were often a cluster of cottages or cabins with common parking area or a single building of connected rooms that opened on the parking lot which allowed rumpled, road-weary travelers to get to their rooms without trudging through stuffy lobbies.
In the fifties and sixties, to get motorists’ attention, motels often featured colorful neon signs and themes from pop culture. Sadly, after the sixties, chains like Holiday Inn began to run unique, privately-owned motels out of business.
There’s still a few around, though, if you’re lucky enough to stumble across them.