We were in Bamberg SC last week to drop off a chain saw and stopped to have breakfast at a local diner. As we drove out of town I noticed the motels, or rather what was left of some of the old motels and motor lodges on Highway 301.
Bamberg is one of the little towns that dot Highway 301 that in its hey day was the North South corridor for the snow birds going back and forth to Florida. And, down here we were more than happy to trade our southern hospitality for their Yankee dollars. Most people know that the difference between a "Motel" and a "Hotel" is that a "Motel" is one for motorist along a route. It is a place that people drive their cars up to the their room door to park. Most are one story, a few are two stories tall. A Motor Lodge is the same genre.
Once Interstate 95 came through (which basically parallels Hwy 301) it killed the hospitality economy along the old road, and took down many towns with it. Only those towns lucky enough to be close to an exit on the new highway benefited from its largess. And, then only the newer businesses, mainly chains, profited there. So the motels and motor lodges from Maryland through Florida, all along the old 301 route were left to die a slow death.
Having been out west and been on Route 66 several times, it dawned on me that 301 was much like 66, just without a song. There was the romance of the road, the history of the route. There were the memories so many folks had of traveling up and down that through way. Unfortunately, no one had taken the notion to come up with a catchy tune memorializing the wonder days of that time.
Highway 301 runs right smack dab down the middle of our home town.I can remember as a little girl all the motels dotting the route with the local restaurants like "Berry's on the Hill" and "Jack Nolands" that serviced the motoring crowd. Orangeburg fell just right as a stopping point for travelers from the New York area on their way to Florida. And, we had our regulars who stopped in several times a year as they made their pilgrimage north or south.
Now all those establishments are gone. The few motel buildings still standing have been morphed into different types of businesses, shelters, and used car dealerships. One, the Slumberland Motel, still stands as a shadow of its former self. The pool is still in the center court and all the rooms still face the parking lot. But the colors are now red brick, not the bright cheery colors of the glory days.
It also got me thinking, how much was left? How many of these old motels along Hwy 301 from the glory days were still standing? So I took it upon myself to see just what remains.
I started in Bamberg and found that the one motel that was still operating did not have a name, but used the old signage.
With the Vacancy Sign that I truly wondered if it worked?
This hardly provided an inviting place after a long day on the road.
But then I found a sign from the glory days, the days of hospitality and motoring. It was all that was left of an establishment that once served so many.
This is only Bamberg, Hwy 301 runs from Dillion to Allendale in SC, let's see what else is left.