Goggles & Side Curtains


From there it was but a short step to the motel. As far as can be ascertained now, the term originated with a California architect, Arthur S. Heineman, who opened a motor court at San Luis Obispo in 1925 which he called “The Milestone Motor Hotel.” Designed in the mission style, it consisted of a series of detached cabins arranged around a court behind a main building that housed the office. The first motel lacked, it is true, room TV, skeet shooting, saunas, a thirty-two-lane bowling alley, and an indoor swimming pool with fireplace. But the owner did provide a lounge and dining room. According to a possibly apocryphal story, Heineman couldn’t get the full name of his hotel on his roadside sign, and coined the word “motel.”

After World War I, when automobiles had acquired front and rear bumpers and passengers were enclosed in the protective all-steel sedan, the motorist expected as a matter of course to find at every service station free air, free water, free windshield and crankcase service, free comfort conveniences, and an old tire, painted white, advertising FLATS FIXED. On the road he could count upon such amenities as a dog wagon offering red hots, or a pretty tea house with screened porch, ruffled curtains, pottery glazed in apple green, and “Home-Cooked Meals.” More and more tourists gladly exchanged cash for experience, and returned home, like all travellers from time immemorial, with strange tales of marvels seen and heard, and the insignia of high adventure pasted on the windshield—the red deer symbol of Mount Rainier or the green buffalo of Yellowstone Park. As Stephen Vincent Benêt sang in his unfinished epic, Western Star, “I think it must be something in the blood —and tourism made it a something remembered as land, clouds, history, sounds, smells, people. And, of course, as signs flashing smoothly by: KIWANIS CLUB MEETS EVERY TUESDAY , VISITORS WELCOME … CLEAN REST ROOMS … SEE THE HISTORIC SHRINE … SMOKE BULL DURHAM … HOT FRANKS AND GLADS … DON’T MISS THE CAVERNS … ANTIQUE SHOPPE … WILD SAGE HONEY 100 YARDS AHEAD .

The Open Road was, at last, open.