Featuring photos from the collection of Jim P. Bryan
A new age of Modernism
In the 1950's and into the 1960's America entered a new age of prosperity. It was a time of modernistic designs, boxy turquoise cars with fins and whitewalls, attention- getting roadside signs rising 30 and 40 feet in the air, swimming pools, bright colors, drive-in motels, restaurants and movies. The spirit of the day was captured by Dinah Shore singing "See the USA in your Chevrolet." It was happening across America, especially in concert with the growing interstate highway system and nowhere more than in Allendale, South Carolina, almost a resort location on the way from New York to Florida along Interstate 301, the highway to the South.
Pool Party at the Suntan Motel on U.S. 301 in Allendale. Back of Postcard: "Free Large Swimming Pool. Modern attractive Dining Room in Motel serves 40-50 guests. Air Conditioning Optional. Electric Heat"
Empress Motel. Back of Postcard dated 1962: "50-100% Central Air-Conditioned and Heated Units. T.V. in Lobby and Rooms. Swimming and Wading Pools. Spacious Playground… Restaurant Adjoining. Telephone 584-2858" It is interesting to have the date on this card, partly because many of the motel cards in the collection give 4-digit phone numbers and must be from before 1962.
An interesting high-angle photo of the Town & Country Motel is a much different look from the illustrated view at right.
The Cozy Court Motel on U.S. Highway 301 in Allendale. "The Coziest Motor Court in the Country." Note the 4-digit phone number.
It wasn't just motels. There were many restaurants also on U.S. 301 in Allendale sporting towering and elaborate signs to draw the attention of passing cars. "Air-conditioned. Specialties of the house: broiled bacon - wrapped chicken livers; oven-cooked chicken; southern fried chicken; broiled steaks."
The Carolina Diner on U.S. 301 just north of the center of town was not very successful at first. Then around 1962 or 1963 it was purchased by Edward and Marlene Mixson. The Mixson's raised a number of kids and became beloved surrogate "parents" to many of the town's teenagers. At the diner they served hamburgers, french fries, hot dogs, and milk shakes at very reasonable prices. The roadside restaurant, with its juke box and 20-cent hamburgers, became the primary after-school and weekend meeting place for teenagers. A Saturday date might start at the diner and continue on to catch a movie at the Palmetto Theatre in Hampton or the Pal Theatre in Fairfax. Marlene Mixson was a loving person, almost a second mom to many, but she did not tolerate misbehavior.
The Interstate Truck Terminal at the intersection of Routes 301 and 321 in Ulmers
The Lobster House Restaurant on U.S. Highway 301 in Allendale. Another great example of an elaborate and massive sign to be certain to catch the eye of every passing motorist. "A Year 'Round Restaurant of Distinction. Air Conditioned. You can always depend on really good food and service."
At Right: Essie Ulmer, the switchboard operator for Allendale. As recently as the 1960's many small towns across the country did not have dial telephone service. Instead of dialing, you picked up the phone and spoke to the operator. You might give her the three or four digit number, or you might say "Can you connect me with the Johnsons?" In Allendale for many years the operator was the lovely young lady shown at right.
The Holiday Inn on U.S. 301 North in Allendale. "Allendale's Finest and Largest Motel. TV and Phone in Every Room. Swimming Pool. (Also Kiddie Pool)"
Every motel wanted to have a color postcard for promotion. In the 1950's color printing was quite crude by today's standards, and many of the postcards were colorized in a way that made them look more like illustrations than photos.
The Town & Country Motel on U.S. Highway 301 just north of Allendale was styled for a more stately and traditional look. "33 Early American Rooms, Carpeted, Air-Conditioned, Central Heat, Telephones, Tub or Shower, T.V., Swimming Pool, Playground. Restaurant opposite." Most of the motels did not have a restaurant so it was important to be close to one, and there were quite a few up and down the highway.
The Crescent Motel on U.S. Highway 301 in Allendale just south of the center of town. "30 Modern Units, Air Conditioned, Hot Water Heat, Family Units, All Tile Baths. Lg. Swimming Pool - Color T.V. Good Food at Reasonable Prices. "
The Plantation Court on U.S. Highway 301 in Allendale. In this painted-over photo image of the motel, it is interesting that while the sky and clouds have been painted over, the seriously tall TV antennas have been carefully detailed for emphasis. "New Superior Hotel Rooms with Ceramic Tile Baths - Heated and Air Conditioned by Chrysler 'Air Temp' - Dinng Room - Recommended by Duncan Hines. One Day's Drive to Most Points in Florida." The 4-digit phone number probably dates this card earlier than 1962.
Shar-Bee Restaurant located near the intersection of Highways 301 and 321 near Ulmers. It is a classic example of the architecture and signage of the day. Because restaurants, like motels, got their business from cars driving up and down Rt. 301, it made sense that almost the entire advertising and promotion budget would be spent on the sign.
In the 1960's the 1910 brick building on Main Street that had been the home of the Henry Wolf & Co. Department Store has been repurposed as Bubbsie's 5 and 10 Cent Store. That row of buildings has since been torn down and replaced with a park. Notice that the diagonal parking and parking meters evident in the 1951 photo have been removed, possibly because the street, which doubled as U.S. Highway 301 had to be as wide as possible to accommodate the north-south traffic.
This lovely painted postcard of Memorial Boulevard in Allendale offers a romanticized view of the town for tourists. It does make the point that Allendale, with its divided boulevards lined with blossoming trees, does have some real Southern charm.