The name of the Whispering Gums Motel in Newstead, Australia, no doubt comes from the abundant gum trees nearby. And it’s very lovely, and I’m sure they have a sense of humor about it. But still.
My mother’s family name is Gum, so it also sounds like the place they’d go to gossip.
…for clever useage of the word “motel” in your name goes to the ST-ELMO-TEL in Austin on, appropriately, St. Elmo Street. The place is now abandoned, so we will hold your award here at Motel Me More headquarters to prevent it being carted off by looters.
Speaking of the Caliente Tropics (the post below), it was built by Ken Kimes, who had a chain of beautiful tropics-themed motels in the 60′s in Modesto, Indio, Rosemead, Blythe, Palm Springs, and elsewhere, usually with an adjacent Sambo’s. The cute little elfin tile to the left identifies a Ken Kimes property. But though this happy gnome appears to be toweling off without a care in the world, today the Kimes name is associated with something a bit more insidious.
When the weather gets hot, I long for a trip to the Desert Cities, for here can be found pools and A/C and rum-based drinks and lazing about in a drying swimsuit and robe. I am reminded of our visit to the Caliente Tropics motel in Palm Springs, a terrific exercise in 60′s Polynesia that has been nicely updated. Plus it is so pet-friendly, there were free dog biscuits on arrival. Now if only they had in-room rum…
Yesterday I passed the Safari Inn in Burbank for the 47,000th time, and recalled watching “True Romance” last week, where it is featured prominently. Then I remembered it in the 90′s TV show “Buddy Faro” with Dennis Farina, whose catch phrase, “I feel like a hundred bucks!”, our household still frequently uses. Then I remembered it from a bunch of other things, and thought, “Safari Inn, so many people in showbiz start to show their age after fifty years, but not you. What’s your secret — a little Botox around the pool, a tuck in the ice machine, a chemical peel on the maid cart? Lookin’ good.”
Back around 1981, our motel put a Keffe Coffee Bar in every room. It was just a pot for boiling water, which you would pour into a styrofoam cup of instant coffee. If you were road-weary and looking for something to pry open the eyes, it was probably a welcome beverage. But by age 12 I was a coffee snob, grinding my own chicory-blend roast and drinking it in a mug from New Orleans. I wanted nothing to do with the Keffe Coffee Bar, and treated it with scorn and derision.
Until I took one with me to college. Because being the only guy on the dorm floor who can boil water in his room made me Mister Popular. I take it all back, Keffe Coffee Bar. How can I undo all the mean things I said about you? How can we heal our damaged relationship and move on?
“Drop in any mailbox, we guarantee postage.” Did this really work, and was it cost-effective? Absolutely yes, and absolutely no.
When we got keys mailed back to us, they would arrive wrapped in a piece of taped paper with a postmark stamped on it. While you made small talk with the mail man (“Whaddya got, Stan?” “Got another one for ya there.” “Oh yeah, people sure are forgetful. How’s the wife?”), you went into the cash drawer for the quarter to pay the COD charges. That was the cost of the key, since the tags were cheap and the labor to make them was free (I ground the new keys myself). So why bother? Because it made the panicked guest feel better to know that when they discovered the key in their luggage days later, all they had to do was find the nearest mailbox. We ate the extra cost so they wouldn’t freak out and do something crazy, like drive the key hundreds of miles back to our motel to return it. Yes, it happened — honesty can make people do strange things.
What famous motel chain got its name from a movie? No, not the “White Men Can’t Jump Lodge.” From the 1942 film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, it’s “Holiday Inn.”
The story goes that when motel founder Kemmons Wilson was planning his chain in 1952, architect Eddie Bluestein named the place after the Crosby/Astaire vehicle as a joke, and the handle stuck. Other movies from the same year were “The Mummy’s Tomb,” “The Corpse Vanishes,” and “Bambi,” so he chose well.
“Holiday Inn” is a terrific picture, about a singer and a dancer who start a swinging joint that’s only open on holidays. This allows for lots of Irving Berlin musical numbers based around Valentine’s Day, the Fourth of July, and so on, with an unfortunate blackface segment for Lincoln’s birthday (he freed the slaves, get it?). Of course, the most famous piece of all is saved for the song “White Christmas.” What, you thought the song “White Christmas” debuted in the film “White Christmas?” That’s just silly.
This is the Circle Arrow Motel, formerly in Orlando, FL.
How does a motel get such a peculiar handle? Some possible explanations:
1) The sign was already made but not lettered, seemed like the obvious choice
2) Sits at the corner of Circle and Arrow Streets
3) Named after the owner, Billy “Circle” Arrow
4) Was originally called the “Gender Symbol For Man Motel”
5) “Disc And Pointy Thing Motel” already taken
As motels didn’t proliferate until the 1950s, you will not find them haunted by top hat-wearing men or elegantly-gowned women. The ghosts that occupy motels are likely to be hippies, disco dancers, soccer moms, grunge rockers, or internet start-up founders. Rather than falling victim to an outbreak of tuberculosis or a stray Winchester bullet, these spectres probably expired from advanced carpal tunnel syndrome, or some kind of iced latte-induced brain freeze.