Kemmons Wilson, a resident of Memphis, Tennessee, was inspired to build a motel after being disappointed by the poor quality of roadside accommodations during a family road trip. Now that might just be the most reactive and extreme thing to do just because you didn’t get a good night’s sleep once upon a time on the road!
And why did he call his better option for snoozing the Holiday Inn? Apparently, the architect charged with designing the place, one Eddie Bluestein, made a joking reference to the 1942 musical Holiday Inn. And the rest, as they say, is history!
The first hotel/motel opened in August 1952 as “Holiday Inn Hotel Courts” at 4941 Summer Avenue in Memphis.
The Great Sign, above, was the roadside sign used by Holiday Inn during the 1950s to the 1970s. It was perhaps the company’s most successful form of advertising and still remains one of the most iconic and recognizable pieces of Americana today. It was extremely large and eye-catching but was expensive to construct and operate. The manufacturer of the sign was Balton & Sons Sign Company.
And what was it standing out front of? Check out this old postcard also from the 1960s:
These days a Holiday Inn looks much like any other hotel. But back in the day it was all about character, swimming pools, vintage cars, and tired travelers.
This post was inspired by my finding of an old Holiday Inn key fob in, of all places, my fuse panel! Yup, while groping around on top of the panel for something else, this dropped down:
I like that you could just throw this in any mailbox within the Continental United States and the Holiday Inn would pay the postage to get their key back!
The hotel at 27090 Earle Street in Mount Clemens, MI. seems to be gone now. I can find no record of it on the all-knowing Internet. So, I guess I will never know if the key still fits the door!
The image above is from Google Maps. I zoomed around and in and out for miles in all directions but found no Holiday Inn. There wasn’t even a place where I thought one might have been. There is some industrial build up here now, but it seems mainly to be a residential area.
Earle Street may have been a fairly good road to somewhere at one time. A perfect place for a little motel with a pool. But at some point, an Interstate probably bypassed it, and the Holiday Inn of Mount Clemens was… no more!