Showing posts with label Motels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Motels. Show all posts

Restaurants of YesterYear - Howard Johnson's Restaurant and Motor Lodge

Monday, February 14, 2022

Like many Americans, travel is in my genetic makeup.  It's in our blood.  Americans come from pioneers who pushed boundaries into the wild west, explored new horizons, and experienced new things.  

I love all traveling: road trips, train travel, cruise ships, and of course, airplanes. 

I firmly believe there is something truly American about an old fashion road trip.  Europe might be known for "backpacking" trips across the continent, but we set out in cars here in America to see the country.  Eating at mom and pop diners or spending the night in a roadside motel is a right of passage... or it should be, in my opinion, anyway.

Growing up, the best parts of our vacation, for me, were often the plane ride and the hotel!  One day, after getting back from Florida, my Mom was talking to another mother while we waited for the school bus.  She mentioned all I cared about were the plane, hotel, and rental car!  She jokingly said that she shouldn't have taken us to Disney and instead saved a lot of money just booking a room at the hotel down the road.  That comment always stuck with me, and while she was only joking, there was some truth to it!   I DID like the hotel better!


Don't get me wrong, I loved our trips to Disney World (still do!), but sometimes what I genuinely enjoy most is the hotel stay.  

I can remember every trip and each hotel we stayed in growing up.  As a kid, I collected the free paraphernalia from the room, and until around college, I had a giant bin of soaps, shampoo bottles, pens, and notepads from hotels around the country.  

I remember well one such trip occurred when we all headed up to the Boston area for a cousin's wedding.  After the wedding was over, we drove into the city proper to spend a day or two sightseeing.  Boston is a great walking city, and you can see much of the city in only a day.  We had a memorable time on the hop-on/hop-off trolly, but true to fashion, what I remember most about was the hotel.

We stayed at a Howard Johnson's.  

After a bit of research, I've come to find out we stayed at the somewhat famous "Boston Park Plaza 57 - Howard Johnson's." This was the trip that not only did I learn that most high-rise buildings superstitiously skip the "13th floor," but my family gained a story we sometimes retell when we're all together.  We walked down the street to a Bennigan's for dinner on our first night.  The waiter barely got out "Hi, I'm Mark, and I'll be your waiter..." before he dumped a tray full of drinks on my poor brother's lap.  We stayed a night or two at the hotel, and I remember that it wasn't anything special.  It was a little old and dated but clean.  Before heading home at the end of our trip, we ate lunch at the Howard Johnson's restaurant in the lobby.  I remember that it was busy, and the way I picture it in my head now reminds me of a diner with tablecloths.  I also remember a large wooden lattice arch as you entered the room for some reason.  Funny what the things that stick out in your mind end up being.

My only other experience with Howard Johnson's was driving home after completing two months of training at my first airline.  I had very little sleep the night before my big final flight simulator test, and after a long day, I left Cincinnati for Long Island just as the sun was setting.  I had hoped to drive through the night and get to my apartment by sun up, but somewhere after leaving West Virginia, I could hardly keep my eyes open any longer.  I pulled off the highway at the first billboard I saw.  It was a Howard Johnson's, and I thought, "That's a recognizable brand.  How bad could it be?"


I checked in and was immediately skeeved out by the room.  So much so that I put the bath towels on the bed before laying down.  I should have left, but it was one in the morning.  I was dead tired, and I had already paid for the night and was too broke to lose the money.  The place offered some type of breakfast, but I wasn't going to stick around after staying in that room for only a few hours.  I woke up early and hit up a gas station for snacks before making a bee-line for New York.  

While I'm filing this under my "Restaurant of YesterYear" series, this story could just as easily fit into the coming Motels of YesterYear collection too.  It'll eventually end up there.

Warning, this is a long one.  I do think it's a fun story, and hopefully, like me, you learn some cool things about this company from the past.  Or, perhaps even more in line with the purpose of this site, you sit back and go, "Huh, I haven't thought about that in years!"

Dive back in time with me, won't you, as we take a deep look at the history of Howard Johnson's. 

Commercials of YesterYear: Motel 6 "We'll Leave the Light on For You"

Friday, September 10, 2021

Here's a fun little one for you as we make yet another entry into the "Commercials of YesterYear" series.

"I'm Tom Bodett, and we'll leave the light on for you."  

I'm sure you've heard that before, especially those of us born before the Y2K "virus" was going to ruin every computer on the planet.  Even people who don't travel often can likely say they know that the aforementioned slogan is from a series of very popular commercials during the 80s and 90s for Motel 6.  The campaign was so popular that in 1996 it won a CLIO Award, the advertising industry's highest honor.

Just the phrase "we'll leave the light on for you" creates an image of safety and comfort.  It creates a nostalgic tie to when we were younger, and our parents or loved ones left the front porch light on for us when we came home late at night.  Perhaps it reminds you of a long hard day of traveling, and when you finally reach home, the lights are on welcoming you back.  

In this case, you weren't home.  You're at a roadside motel that has probably seen better days.

I can't honestly say if I've ever stayed in a Motel 6 before or not.  Perhaps I did once when I was very young at a cousin's wedding in Syracuse, New York.  I remember only snippets of it, and I must have been 4 or 5.  The only thing I really remember about the hotel was the stories family would tell in the morning about a disruption in the middle of the night that was similar to a shooting, stabbing, or one that involved the police anyway, at the very least.  I slept through the whole thing, as I did with most things as a kid.  These days, trying to sleep through any noise is a different story.

Not exactly the comforting image of home leaving the lights on for you, but I digress... 


In my line of work, we stay in hotels quite a lot.  I don't spend as many nights away from home as I used to, but I did the math and figured that I spent an average of 18 nights a month in a hotel for over a decade.  That's somewhere around 215 nights per year!  For many years, I used to sleep better in a hotel bed than my own, but now that I'm out of practice, I often sleep terribly in a bed, not at home.

These days, I'm lucky if I only have to spend 2 or 3 nights away from home per month.  I'm no expert, but I'd say that I'm still an aficionado about knowing what works (and what doesn't) in a hotel.

Every time I stand in the lobby waiting on my coworkers to check in with the company sign-in sheet, I often have the soft happy little tones of the Motel 6 theme song going through my head.  The soothing voice of Tom Bodett appears in my head as I walk towards my room, and as the door closes behind me,  I'll often say to myself, "We'll leave the light on for you!"

Join me as we take a deep dive into YesterYear as we look back at Motel 6 and its iconic advertising campaign!