Dr. Andrew Wood
Office: HGH 210; phone: (408) 924-5378
Email: wooda@email.sjsu.edu
Web: http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/wooda

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Reading: Jakle, J.A. (1985). The tourist: Travel in twentieth-century North America. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Study guide: Focus on (1) what strangers could not discuss at campsites, (2) location of first free municipal campground, (3) tin can tourists, (4) characteristics of tourist/motor court, (5) trends in railroad travel versus automobile travel.

In his chapter, "Automobile travel between the world wars" (pp. 146-170), Jakle notes that, with the development of efficient automobiles and smooth-running highways, automobile travel between the two world wars became an activity devoted to speed over experience. With it, the breadth of driver perception shrank from the ability to view passing surroundings to a limited tunnel of the road. Ultimately, auto travel became less an opportunity to meet strangers along the road as families turned inward to car-centered diversions like listening to the radio: "Travel became a series of social events contained within the car" (p. 150).

Pulling off the road for the night, traveling families found inexpensive lodging at campgrounds, and discovered opportunities to reconvene with communities larger than themselves. Moreover, camping continued the democratization of time and space begun with the automobile. Freed from the constraints of the train timetable and the limited locales afforded by hotels, the auto camper could stop and go wherever she or he pleased. Their campgrounds became ethnographic displays for fellow motorists, and for townspeople who stopped to gawk at the passing strangers. Of course, such democracy came with risk: "Would this mixing of people intensify the deadly uniformity and standardization of life and thought" (p. 158). Such risks aside, the emergence of free municipal campgrounds met a more pressing concern, a tendency of many auto camper to make a mess of wherever they felt like staying.

Before long, private camps and new motor-hotels replaced the democratic promise of the free auto camp. Townsfolk grew tired of the fights that broke out between camp residents who didn't always get along quite as well as the romantic tales of camp camaraderie promised. Moreover, free camps became way stations for road-hobos who, it was feared, carried disease and crime. On many private camps, the owners built shacks for middle class travelers who tired of camping with its social mixture and physical hassles. These cottage camps and the tourist courts and motels which followed differed from hotels in key ways:

Interwar Hotel
Interwar Motel
Center of town
Outskirts of town
Convenient for trains and public transit
Convenient for cars
Emphasis on public places of display
Emphasis on private spaces of repose

To match the simplicity and informality of interwar roadside lodging, diners and other fast food restaurants popped up along North American highways. These roadside spots represented a shift in leisure for lower and middle class motorists. No longer seeking to replicate the leisure-time activities of the very wealthy, "roadside restaurants [and lodging] adopted escapist themes rooted in historical and regional stereotypes or adopted the trappings of the future by emphasizing things big, electric, shiny, and modern" (p. 167). Visit my Motel Moderne (http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/wooda/decomotel/) site to learn more.


Drop by my office and take a look at Night Out, a collection of literature related to motels (and other places of mobility) and photocopy your favorite piece of prose or poetry. For your Show and Tell activity, present a reading and discuss two or three important themes of your selection.