Maybe it’s obvious from reading this blog that I am fascinated by roadside architecture, but what’s less obvious is that I’ve actually had an eye for these things since I was little.
Chalk it up to environment, I ate in some pretty cool diners as a kid. The old Menlo Park Diner on Route 1 (it’s since been completely
Then there was the annual trip down the shore. We spent time in the Wildwoods, home to the largest collection of mid-century architecture anywhere (crazy cheesy motels). At night, we would drive around just to see all the neon lit up. As a kid, I remember thinking that the beach was my favorite place in the world, but as I got older I realized what I really liked were all the neon and motels. Check out some vacation photos I dug up from that time! We were staying in the Cavalier Motel that year, probably 1991.
This photo is from 2001 (maybe 2002?). Never mind the dolphins in the photo, look at the beachfront motels at the top (that's the Singapore Motel on the extreme right). The shoreline’s changed dramatically since this photo was taken. That following winter, the condo boom hit the island and motels fell to the wrecking ball left and right. Though at the present time there are many, many motels left, so much of the character has been lost. Large stretches of cookie-cutter condos and McMansions separate the motels.
When I was in 4th grade, I began making up my own motels. Here’s a surviving drawing, the Cactus Hotel:
I even had a master plan checklist of silly motels. (And some of them are really really stupid.)
Going back a few more years, right before my 4th birthday, my family visited Disney World. There was a ride at Epcot called Horizons. It had a whole bunch of parts to it, but one part stood out to me, a whole metropolis, freeways, and futuristic cars outlined in neon in nothing more than a dark room—with cool music. It stuck in my mind so well because it was neon, but also we have a clip of it in our home movies. I tried to draw that scene from my head so many times as a kid. You can watch the ride yourself through the magic of the internet! 1:26-1:50 is the part I’m referring to.
It’s funny because I just watched that clip, and I remember that neon city much more vividly than that video shows it as.
The ultimate kicker is this drawing I dug up. Honest to God, I drew this in 1st grade, so I was either 6 or 7. This was my attempt at an architectural plan, and I called it Duck Pond Park. I imagined the whole thing, right down to the streetlamps. Those numbers are measurements I was trying to estimate, which is why I wrote "Ax." before them--I was trying to abbreviate "approximately". Unfortunately I had no concept of size and space...