Early Roadside Memories

Warm spring days bring bare feet, ice cream, sunshine, frisbees, open windows, good moods, bustling downtowns coming back to life, patio tables, sidewalk cafes, festivals and the desire for adventure. The best and easiest way to get somewhere in the USA tends to be via automobile. Road trips, maps, coffee, cameras, new roads, backroads, music, intrigue – whether a trip lasts one day, one week or one month, the open roads continues to be a metaphor for American freedom. Filled with the pioneer spirit, many of us are always wanting to go somewhere. Unlike pioneers, 20th and 21st century travelers are not sleeping in covered wagons. This age of lodging options has a fascinating history that speaks to the changing American culture.

The Motel in America

Maybe the burst of spring weather and a constant dream of another road trip are reasons why I finally chose this book from my bookshelf: The Motel in America by John A. Jakle, Keith A. Sculle, and Jefferson S. Rogers. While I have more to read, I managed to devour quite a few chapters in the Sunday sunshine. The beginning will capture a roadside lover’s interest right away:

A drive of more than 450 miles in a single day was an accomplishment in 1948. Up before dawn, we drove until dark, crossing northern Ohio and then dropping south to Pittsburgh and the new Pennsylvania Turnpike. In the early days of the automobile, auto touring was championed as a way of traveling leisurely through landscapes beyond the control of railroad timetables and the corporate powers that those timetables represented. Motoring was promoted as a means of getting to know the country through the slow, firsthand encounter. As highways improved, however, touring became increasingly a matter of “making time” between big attractions more distantly spaced. How quickly Americans came to trade landscapes glimpsed rapidly through train windows for landscapes glimpsed rapidly through windshields. Our family was no exception. {The Motel in America, page 3}

The authors begin with their earliest memories and associations with motels, as part of giving readers their own context and background, and in turn it invites readers to ask of their own recollections.

I grew up in a family of four sisters; with so many of us, we didn’t vacation every year. However, road trips are well worn into my memory. Aside from playing cards with my sister Sarah in the backseat of the Dodge Grand Caravan or playing stuffed animal games with sisters Annie & Erin, too, our family had travel traditions. We packed a cooler of food – sandwiches, drinks, snacks, and some candy(!) – and at lunchtime we’d stop at one of the interstate rest areas. Mom set out a table cloth, we’d gather around the picnic table and eat our sandwiches. Then we’d stretch our legs before getting back into the car. The picnic areas were budget savers to a big family.

Mom always loved the AAA guide books and the TripTiks for directions to our destinations. We never made reservations ahead of time, but when we were getting close to being done for the day (that probably means that we four girls were getting restless and hungry), Mom would browse through the guide book to see which hotel might suit our needs. The four of us always pleaded for a pool. We needed something to do after being stuck in the car all day, and we did not have a pool at home, so it seemed like a real vacation luxury to us. One time we pulled up to Howard Johnson’s and the pool was green. As we always checked out the pool status first, we did not stay there!

Mom & Dad preferred a hotel that included breakfast, and rooms that would somehow sleep six people. (Relatively unknown family fact: on one occasion or two, the youngest sister slept on chairs pushed together so we could all fit in the room. She was little!) On some occasions we were able to negotiate a good deal for two adjoining rooms; this is when we were older and actually needed more than two beds.

The motels we choose were often the type with outside entrances. They were easier for loading and unloading and usually cheaper than the interior corridor entrance style. The chain hotel names that stick in my childhood memory are Days Inn, Comfort Inn, Econo Lodge, and Howard Johnson.

Over the years, we’ve stayed in many lodging types. My mom, Sarah and I have pitched a tent in the dark in a campground field (reminiscent of auto tourists who simply stopped on the side of the road). I’ve stayed in motor courts with the preservation girls. I’ve camped in state parks, at KOAs, and independent campgrounds. Bed & breakfasts, chain hotels, mom-and-pop motels, I think I have most of them crossed off the lodging list. And each type has a good example and a bad example, but all make for good memories (even if they’re only good after-the-fact).

And as for my continued fascination with roadside America? What could be more exciting than traveling the country and seeing our evolving culture manifested itself in the built environment? What are your earliest recollections of roadside travel? Where did you and your family stay? How did it change as you grew older?

Preservation Pop Quiz

What is your guess as to the object featured in this image (taken from a car window)? Bonus points if anyone in Vermont can identify its location.

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Daylight Saving Time

Spring ahead for one less hour of sleep this past weekend, but one more hour of daylight for many months. Sounds like a fair tradeoff, yes? Do you ever wonder why we have Daylight Saving Time? It’s not something that the entire world (or even the entire country) follows. Did you know that it is Daylight Saving and not Daylight Savings (i.e. singular instead of plural)?

Click for source.

Do you know why we observe Daylight Saving? The most common-thought-to-be-true explanation is probably something we all heard in elementary school or in popular culture: so the farmers would have enough daylight for their work. However, that’s not exactly true. Its tale is complicated and sources are not always in agreement, but here is a brief history. Consider it your dose of trivia for the day.

Daylight saving is a late 19th/early 20th century concept, though it can be traced to Benjamin Franklin, who said “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” and thought adjusting the time throughout April and October would aid productivity. However, the first person to propose Daylight Saving Time (in 1895) was actually an entomologist named G.V. Hudson, who lived in New Zealand, and – like many of us – valued daylight after working hours. For the following twenty years, proposals for Daylight Saving were in British conversation and Parliament, but nothing happened until WWI.

Click for source.

Paired with Daylight Saving Time is Standard Time. Standard Time existed before Daylight Saving Time, which is an adjustment of Standard time. Daylight Saving Time currently is the portion of the year from March-November. Standard Time is November – March.

Standard Time (time zones) were in place – but not required – beginning 1883, when the railroads decided it was necessary to standardize schedules. A United States Act (not law) established Standard Time and Daylight Saving in 1918, which was repealed seven months later in 1919. President Franklin Roosevelt instituted year round Daylight Saving during WWII, in order to reduce costs by reducing the need for artificial lighting.

Since its inception, Daylight Savings has been inconsistent, debated and altered many times: in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and most recently in 2007. Days ranged from the first Sunday in April to the first Sunday in November, the second Sunday of March, to the last Sunday in October. As we know Daylight Saving now: spring ahead one hour the second Sunday in March and fall back the first Sunday in November (both at 0200 hours). Prior to that, the days were the first Sunday of April and the last Sunday of October. The reason for this 2007 change was the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

Debates about Daylight Savings continue. Does it benefit health? Does it simply mess with people’s schedules and throw off sleep patterns? Is it confusing? Is it necessary anymore?

What do you think? I love Daylight Saving Time, when it begins and ends. Less daylight in the colder months, makes the house feel cozier. I like being in my house. And that extra hour of sleep in the fall just gives everyone a mood boost. The one less hour of sleep in the (almost) spring is no fun, but the additional daylight after work makes everyone happy and encourages everyone to get outside. A little change is always, and in the northern states like Vermont, gives us hope that either spring is coming soon or that our snowy winter is close. Would it matter to you if there was another change to Daylight Saving Time?

Homemade Bread

Preserving the old ways from being used
Protecting the new ways for me and you
What more can we do

The Kinks – “The Village Green Preservation Society”


Historic preservation can play many angles because its definitions vary according to individuals and organizations. There tends to be no limit on its tangential factors, something that makes preservation ideals understandable and applicable to anyone. This might be more apparent to me since moving to Vermont – I haven’t quite decided yet. However, consider Jennifer Parson’s article from the latest PiP Newsletter which talked about preservation in the sense of agricultural preservation, not like preserving vegetables for the winter, but continuing to use heirloom seeds, thus preserving the variety of agriculture, whether vegetables, fruit, or larger crops.

Vermonters* seem to take pride in self sufficiency and of course, environmental friendliness (one bumper sticker claims Vermont as being green before green was cool). There’s definitely a different vibe in Vermont. Or maybe this vibe is everywhere now and I’ve only noticed it here. That’s sort of beside the point. People I have met here, including the above mentioned Jen Parsons, have inspired me to take on more traditional tasks as hobbies. One recent endeavor is bread making. There is nothing better than fresh bread, right? And in the vein of finding ways to save money, attempting to not support giant food distribution companies, and figuring out how to avoid preservatives of our current food supply, bread seemed like an easy first step. I also love to bake.

Bread and preservation, huh? Really? Yes, it’s relevant. No, I’m not using a historic recipe (unless Fannie Farmer counts!) or an old oven of any sort. Learning to bake bread is easiest by attempting regular white bread. But something about it is just so satisfying. Perhaps it’s kneading the dough or considering that maybe one day I will not have to grocery store packaged bread. It’s just a basic food source that people have been making and eating for centuries. And the house I live in is old enough that many owners and tenants have probably made bread by hand more than a few times.

My very first loaf of homemade bread. It might not look like anything special, but it was surprisingly delicious!

I think part of appreciating historic preservation in all of its form comes not only from studying dwellings and the surroundings and reading the environment, but by participating in history in some manner. And the process of bread making: mixing ingredients, letting the dough rise for hours (in some recipes), kneading the dough, watching it bake, smelling the delicious scent of fresh made bread, and sharing it can connect you to everyone in history. So by learning to make homemade bread, I feel as though I can pass on a time honored tradition, and that has immense value on its own.

Bread loaf #4. Still not impressive looking, but tasted great.

Bread loaf #4. Still not impressive looking, but tasted great.

I do not expect to be a great bread baker anytime in the near future, but it's sure fun to practice.

Additionally, since beginning this learning process of bread making, I have discovered that many friends also bake their own bread – perhaps there is a resurgence of bread making. What a pleasant discovery! I wonder what else people are producing on their own in small attempt at self sufficiency (or health or economics).

*Disclaimer: I cannot yet claim to be a Vermonter. Actually, being named a true Vermonter takes about seven generations so there goes my chance. Still, I love Vermont, even if I’m labeled a “flatlander” or “white plater.”