Antiques and Art Around Florida — 2011-2012
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Wish You Were Here
Tim Hollis

Classic Florida Motel and Restaurant Advertising

As possibly the most touristor iented of all states, Florida generated enough postcards, brochures, souvenirs, and other such ephemera to support the antiques and collectibles business for decades to come. Many collectors choose to specialize in one particular area, but it all falls under the general classification of Florida advertising. Every time someone carted home a postcard or a seashell sculpture with plastic flamingoes or a Day-Glo felt pennant, it served to promote the state to every person who subsequently visited that home and saw it.

Now, Florida memorabilia is far from the only thing I collect. In fact, in 2008 I had to have a twostory annex added on to my house near Birmingham, Alabama, for the express purpose of using it as a museum of vintage toys, books, games, holiday items, grocer y product containers and so on. The tourism nostalgia section – with not only Florida, but all the other southern states represented – is but one department. Be that as it may, a few years ago the University Press of Florida and I got our heads together and produced A lavish coffee table book, Selling the Sunshine State: A Celebration of Florida Tourism Advertising. It gathered together several hundred postcards, brochures and souvenirs promoting the seemingly endless parade of attractions that have lined the Florida highways since the 1920s.

When assembling the contents for that book, the editors and I quickly realized that one genre of advertising was going to have to be left out, that being motels and restaurants. If that material had been added to the tourist attractions’ advertising, the resulting volume would have been too expensive for anyone to buy – and even if they had bought it, they would have then been too financially depleted to afford food, and thus would have been too weak to lift it. So, we decided to hold back the motel/restaurant material for a second volume, and that one is now ready for its public unveiling.

Wish You Were Here: Classic Florida Motel and Restaurant Advertising will be available in October 2011. It is a companion volume in every way to Selling the Sunshine State, from its size and format to the way the various sections of Florida were Carved out by the tourism promoters in the 1960s. Most of the approximately 450 images in it were or iginally postcards – both the linen and chrome finish type – but there is also a generous helping of brochures and even other items (matchbooks, for example) that helped promote these businesses through the years.

Studying the Flor ida advertising of yesteryear can certainly bring back a flood of memories for those who were there. Conversely, it can seem laughably obsolete t o younger folks who know only condominiums with wi-fi connections in the rooms. My own personal experience dates back to 1966, when my family and I made our first visit to Florida. (Inasmuch as I was only three years old at the time, I’m afraid I wasn’t much help to my dad when it came to driving on that trip.) One of the reasons I have been able to turn out so many books dealing with southern tourism history (in addition to these two for the University Press of Florida) is that everywhere we traveled my dad saved every scrap Of memorabilia he could get his hands on. The entire time I was growing up, I knew we had boxes of postcards, brochures, photographs and road maps, and in most cases he thoroughly documented each trip by carefully noting the date, frequently the room number we had occupied at each motel, and often the actual receipts showing the amount he paid for the room.

I am not certain why he did this, except that our family vacations were So necessarily limited in number and scope that each one was a precious gem. My dad was a junior high school teacher, so we were not independently wealthy. Besides that, my mom absolutely hated the idea of traveling. She would have been perfectly content to spend her entire time at home, so when we set out on a vacation, she definitely put her foot down as to how long we were going to be away – usually no more than three or four days, and there is only so much of Florida one can cover when driving all the way from Birmingham. So, I think my dad treasured this collection because it was a reminder of some all-too-rare excursions, and I grew up with a more-than passing appreciation for it myself.

In Wish You Were Here, you will see several items representing our first few visits to Florida. In 1966, we went to Fort Walton Beach, Where we stayed at a classic old (well, it wasn’t old at that time) two story aquamarine colored motel called the Islander. The book shows the brochure from that visit, on which my dad carefully labeled the rooms in which we had stayed. In 1967, we must have tricked my mom into not knowing where we were headed, because we made a longer journey through St. Augustine and Silver Springs, collecting all the way. At St. Augustine, we holed up at a motel called the A1A Court (no prizes for guessing on which highway it was located), one of those establishments where the exterior walls were aqua and the doors were pink – in my opinion, the perfect Color combination for a Florida motel. At Silver Springs, we made our temporary home at the Sun Plaza Motel, within walking distance of the attraction’s entrance. As something of a rare survival story in the motel business, the Sun Plaza is still there, with the same neon sign, and I still make it a point to stay there whenever personal appearances take me to that beautiful area. In Wish You Were Here, readers will see not only our original postcards from our visits to those motels, but my own crude drawings done at the time where I tried to capture the motels’ signage and architecture on Paper. Yes, I have been preserving these kinds of memories for a long, long while.

Of course, a book of this size and scope could not have been done using only the material from our own family trips, so every other area in Florida is represented by vintage memorabilia I have accumulated since those days. For some reason, postcards seem to be much easier to find than brochures, especially for motels and restaurants. Considering that large attractions such as Silver Springs had their brochures printed in quantities of millions at a time, and motels would not have nearly reached that, it is probably logical that fewer examples have survived.

It is our sincere hope (both the University Press’s and mine) that this book will bring back many fond memories for each of its readers, just as it does for me. Combined with Selling the Sunshine State, the two volumes are supposed to represent everyone else’s Florida vacation scrapbooks all crammed together. We hope you enjoy it – and hopefully you and I will run into each other during one of my book signings this fall or winter. In the meantime, as the signs on the Esso gas stations used to say, happy motoring!

Wish You Were Here:

Classic Florida Motel and Restaurant Advertising

- Tim Hollis University Press of Florida, 2011