When we travel, we’ve noticed that radios have vanished from hotel/motel rooms across America, replaced by free WiFi. Televisions didn’t go away, but were upgraded to widescreen High Definition TVs and you almost always still find a Gideon Bible.
When watching movies and TV shows, I often look to see if there’s a radio in sight, noticing in British productions they often are, but not in American ones.
The series Schitt’s Creek was produced for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Canada and is currently running on Netflix. Sue & I have watched all six seasons of the show twice and while the residents of the fictional Rosebud Motel can be seen using televisions, computers and cellphones, we never see anyone listening to a radio*.
If you think about it, many forms of nostalgia have been reborn and enjoy great success in the 21st Century. Sonic successfully brought back the drive-in restaurant, Major League Baseball got its highest television ratings playing ball on a “Field of Dreams” in Iowa, Drive-In Movies are a way to watch a movie on the big screen while socially distancing and Schitt’s Creek, along with COVID, might be credited with bringing back the MOTEL.
The Johnny Rose character envisioned franchising his Rosebud Motel and found investors that believed in his dream.
The New York Times published an article over the Labor Day Weekend titled “Who Wants a Hotel With a Hallway Anyway?” The article explains that since COVID hit, people’s desire to travel hasn’t diminished, but that traveling by personal automobile and staying in places that allowed easy entry to a room without having to take an elevator or travel down a crowded hallway suddenly became an important criterion in lodging.
And when you think about it, motels are like baseball, hot dogs and apple pie; they are woven into the fabric of Americana.
Just as American, is our love of the automobile. Motels, which get their name from the merging of the words “hotel” and “motorcar,” grew across the USA right along with car ownership.
Car radios were an expensive option when they came on the scene in the 1930s, but by 1946, it’s estimated that over nine million cars had a radio in them. With the advent of the transistor, radios became a smaller and inexpensive auto option, so much so that by 1960 over 50 million cars – 60% of all the cars on the road – had a radio in them.
I’m sure the cars used on Schitt’s Creek had a radio in them, but we never see them used on the show like we do televisions, computers, cellphones and laptops.
We also see Facebook, Twitter, and online ratings sites being used on the show. Even the town’s real estate agent has a podcast that takes advantage of internet access and WiFi.
The big difference between those original motels and the motels of the 21st Century is that they have taken the positives – parking your car right in front of your room, avoiding crowded spaces – and eliminating the negatives – primitive furniture, lumpy bedding, and dingy décor – creating an inviting and COVID-SAFE getaway experience.
Motels today have free WiFi, HDTVs, and plenty of places to charge your laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Interestingly, like radio many operators have taken the word “radio” out of their company names and logos, some motel operators think a better name might be “motor lodge” or “boutique hotel.” They are concerned the word “motel” conjures up bad images of the places shown in TV shows like Breaking Bad or in movies like Chevy Chase’s Vacation.
But whether you call them motor lodges, high-end motels or exterior-corridor hotels, they are once again in vogue because they are perfect for getting away in a coronavirus mutating world.
Buy the Rosebud Motel
Several years ago, when I was traveling through Cleveland, Ohio, I visited Ralphie’s home featured in the movie classic “A Christmas Story.” It was bought in 2004 by Brian Jones, a San Diego entrepreneur and a big fan of Jean Shepherd’s classic film. Jones used the revenue from his Red Rider Leg Lamp Company to purchase the home on eBay for $150,000 remaking the inside of this 19th century Victorian house an exact replica of the movie’s interior.
Since its opening on Thanksgiving weekend in 2006, millions of people have toured the home making it one of the top tourist attractions in Cleveland. Jones also built a wonderful museum and gift shop near the house and continues to enjoy success selling his leg lamps, Red Rider BB guns, and other movie nostalgia.
If you are just as enamored with the motel in Schitt’s Creek and think you might be able to turn it into your own “goldmine,” you can buy it for $1.6 million. Known in real life as the Hockley Motel, you will find it located just an hour outside of Toronto, Canada.
If you do decide to buy this piece of television nostalgia, please consider putting digital streaming radios in each of the ten rooms as part of your renovation.