Our parents have always done a phenomenal job of taking photos and putting them into scrapbooks. Growing up we were always drawn to pictures of ourselves and less interested in the black and white/torn and tattered books. However, now we are thirsty to dig deeper into our parents history and get the story behind some of their pictures. We asked our dad to share some pictures and his thoughts are more priceless than we ever imagined.
Prior to the end of WWII few people had traveled extensively across the country, but that would change in the early 1950’s. In an earlier entry I described the inexpensive small decals that people bought as souvenirs and often stuck on the rear side windows of their car to indicate where they’d traveled (when purchased these decals were attached to stiff paper but when soaked in water they would slide off and adhere easily to glass). Sometimes these decals were small replicas of the roadside signs that marked a state border, just like the sign I’m leaning against in the photo.
That picture was taken on a trip my family took in 1951 on a circuitous route from the San Francisco Bay Area to Washington, D.C. and back. Many things still stand out in my mind as highlights of that trip including being in the audience of live radio shows in Chicago, visiting Mount Vernon, and climbing to the top of the Washington Monument. The other photo is me sitting on the fender of our car for that trip: a 1948 Oldsmobile.
One of my favorite nonfiction writers is the late David Halberstam, and I especially enjoyed his book The Fifties. One story he tells is of another family who also took a cross-country trip in 1951, also in an Oldsmobile. It was difficult for families to make more than 300 miles a day then, and so every afternoon this family would need to look for a motel. Unfortunately, the motel business was still in its infancy, and there was no way to tell which were clean and comfortable, and which were rattraps. Day by day on the trip the father became increasingly irritated with this state of affairs until finally he said to his wife that he was going into the motel business. His wife asked how many he was going to build, and he said, ”Oh, about four hundred.”
It turns out the father was serious, and he commissioned a draftsman friend to create plans based on the father’s specifications. When the draftsman delivered the sketches, he’d even written in a proposed name for the motel. The father liked the name, and asked his friend where he got it. The friend said, “I saw Bing Crosby’s Holiday Inn on television last night.” That’s how the Holiday Inn chain was born.