Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Road and ruins


After reading some of the comments about my entries on John's Modern Cabins, it seems that many of you share my fascination with abandoned places, or those that have some history behind them. This kind of runs in my family, and there have been times that I traipsed through dilapidated places with my parents and various aunts and uncles. For Cousin Shane and I, the main focus of our fascination has been the places along Route 66, and the road itself.

I'll eventually write more about various places on the road, but for now, I'll write about why I'm so drawn to places like this. This is a picture of the Coral Court Motel, by the way, one of the most famous--and infamous--places on Route 66. It has been demolished, and a subdivision took its place. AUGH! At least they preserved one of the units, and Shane and I were able to see it at the Missouri Museum of Transportation. The beautiful, coral pink tiles, the funky glass block windows, the Streamline Moderne design...oh, the humanity of losing a place like this! But I digress. I promise to eventually make an entry about the Coral Court, the "no-tell motel" that lives on in legend.

Shane and I have talked about why we (and our moms) love this kind of stuff. It can be a building, a place, or a picture, but it evokes thoughts of what went on there...what people experienced there...the lives lived by its occupants. Old photographs make us wonder what happened to those pictured...did they live a long life or did they die young...what was going through their mind when the picture was snapped?

While I've never seen a ghost, some of these places DO feel haunted to me, but probably by nothing more than my imagination. Those who lived and loved there many years before are present in my mind, although what I conjure up may be nothing remotely close to what really happened. I believe that a place and a building can contain memories, too, and I find it fascinating to think of all the people that traveled the highways in the early and mid-1900's. As for Route 66, it was the most popular highway to take when going on a vacation out west. How many millions of people did it carry over the years? The Dust Bowl refugees in the '20's and '30's, seeking their promised land in sunny California; the people flocking to the west in the '40's to work in the munitions factories--or hopefuls wishing for stardom in Hollywood; the post-war "boom" families in the '50's and '60's, taking the kids on a cross-country trip, stopping at all the tourist traps attractions on the way and bringing money to mom-and-pop operations all along the highway.

All these motels, diners, and drive-ins saw decades of personal dramas and family stories, as well as the occasional decidedly shady characters and dealings. (Shane and I drove by the Riviera Road House in Braceville, Illinois, a place frequented by Al Capone and his cronies.) Every restored gas station and decaying motel; every operating restaurant and ruined drive-in screen; every section of maintained roadway and closed-off, broken pavement...each of these contains a story. Somewhere, at some time, someone walked and talked and drove there before you. The next time you see the ruins of an old building, think about the fascination we have with ruins like pyramids, temples, and burial grounds. These old buildings--from the 19th century--are the archaeological sites of the coming centuries. The road itself is sometimes a ruin, like the section Shane and I walked down that ends in Lake Springfield, a man-made lake in Illinois that covers parts of the road.

When I see places like this, instead of thinking, "What an eyesore...that should be torn down," I wonder what it looked like 50 years ago, and I wonder what life was like inside its walls. (When it comes to the Coral Court, I appreciate its architectural beauty and uniqueness, and I mourn that no one was able to save it.) The crumbling walls you see were probably part of an important place to at least one person. Think of that person and let your imagination loose. 



frankandmary said...

That is the main reason I cannot part with the home I bought from my parents.  2 floors & 3 bedrooms is more than I personally need, but Mom was born in the front bedroom, her father died, at home in peace, in the living room & at one time all my maternal relatives(most dead) have wandered the rooms, halls & yard.  How do you ever NOT find all that intriguing? So much more went on, all those years, than I will ever know.  ~Mary

carouselqueen70 said...

I love stuff like that too. I took a drive last night on some of the back roads where we live. I was thinking" these roads were used a hundred years ago for logging" It just amazed me. Everyone looked at me like "why would you think of that?" I like to look back at my family history sometime. Maybe sometime I will write in my journal about my relatives.Thank you for sharing the info. I really enjoyed reading it. Hope to hear more soon...... Christine

queeniemart said...

i like how you think.....Rick will often look at an old pic and say "i wonder how long they lived and what they were like".
It is a real shame when the officials tear down history for what they see as improvement or a way to make $$.

mpnaz58 said...

If walls could talk, the stories they'd tell!  I do that too...I'm always wondering what went on especially in old abandoned places.  Sometimes I even feel deja-vu-ish (not a word, I know) a feeling that I've been there or dreamed about it.  I do that with people too...I'll see a couple walking or having dinner, and "imagine" their story, or make up a story...used to drive Glen he just listens!
xoxo ~Myra

jimsulliv3 said...

One of my favorite things to do is to take old and unused highways and roads to see exactly what your 'splaining about. I especially enjoy it in the Alabama-North Carolina-Tennessee area.


aimer said...

I love this entry. I have always been intrigued by abandoned places, by the stories that they hold. I want to know their secrets. Where they happy places or was there much sadness there? I wrote a poem that I'd like to share with you; I posted it before we discovered each other.

hadonfield78 said...

Congradulations on having your blogg plugged....
That is awesome.
I am glad I found your journal.
It is very very interesting.

lynk4bray said...

I am glad I stumbled across your Blog.  I LOVE old places, old houses, buildings and such.  I think the same thing, what happened there?  Who lived there?  What was life like then?  I remember traveling with my family in the station wagon, we went to Cape Cod and New Hampshire.  New Hampshire has alot of those old motels and little cabins and still do.  My grandmother says I am an old soul and I totally belive that.  I stare at these old places and can almost feel something. I know it sounds weird, but maybe not to you.  Anyway take care and have fun traveling.