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.