Who goes on road trips anymore?
Has the price of a gallon of gas taken that away from us? Well, I recently ventured out on a 1,000 plus mile tour.
And one night, I stayed at a Ramada Inn.
And I thought they had gone out of business! Ramada. Many years ago when traveling on the east coast during nighttime I giggled relentlessly (while driving) when I eyed white letters in giant red blocks stating “Ram Inn” perched high above the highway. Sure hope the bulbs are replaced by now.
Another Ramada memory: Saw the Amazing Kreskin at one. He was performing locally, less than ten miles from my home. During the show he glared at me and asked me to come up to the stage. Something about a magic rope. Unfortunately, the “trick” didn’t work. I was sent back to my seat and replaced with an eager participant who did as she was told. Nope, Kreskin couldn’t penetrate my thoughts!
Back to our main story. The hotel chain was started in the Fifties (sources cite 1953 or 1954) by an investment group. Their first “motor hotel” was in Flagstaff, Arizona. Competitors included Holiday Inn and Howard Johnsons and to some degree, all those Mom and Pop motel establishments that offered unpredictable accommodations as far as cleanliness and consistency. However, Ramada Inns were much more upscale than Mom and Pop motels and I can recall that they were more premium than the competition since my family rarely stayed at one when we traveled, opting for Days Inn most of the time instead.
Growth came through franchising awarded by the original investors to eager motor hotel operators. The expansion and on-going construction of interstate highways offered up opportunity for the brand to grow in fresh open spaces just off the interstates. Meanwhile, as the old roadways were bypassed, many independently run motels and cabins were lost in the dust of yesterday as weary travelers stayed roadside in newly built establishments instead. That’s progress.
Ramada Inn buildings initially had a colonial flair to them that made them recognizable. And, they even had what is now a pop culture icon, “Uncle Ben” …no relation to the gent of rice fame. Uncle Ben was “retired” around the mid-seventies. I remember him as a most gallant looking fellow sporting coat tails and holding a top hat. There have been different variations of him and sadly, few examples of him graphically are available.
Nowadays, Ramada Inns are part of the Wyndam group; just one of many hotel names that were “swallowed” up by this corporation including the familiar Days Inn, Knights Inn, Super 8 and Travelodge brands.
Oh and the room I was sitting in as I wrote most of the piece? Well, I had to move to it. As I entered the room originally assigned to me I was greeted by the smell of stale cigarette smoke. The manager came over, took a whiff and said “If anyone smoked in here, they’re getting charged!” …yeah, right. She refused to move us elsewhere.
A couple hours later I informed her that the industrial spray she applied didn’t help. She caved. Was then upgraded to a “premium” room which was the size of a matchbox and a half, since the king size bed swallowed the room. This particular inn was a far cry from the original intention and hopefully isn’t typical of their accommodations in other locations.
Bring back Uncle Ben!
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For the source for two pics, click here.