In the early days of Route 66 accommodation along U.S. highways was rudimentary at best. Auto travellers who couldn't afford to stay at motels would sleep in their cars or pitch tents in roadside fields. Eventually, campgrounds were established to provide affordable infrastructure for overnight stayers. During the Great Depression, some landholders even converted unprofitable roadside land into small "tourist homes" to make income.
Following World War II, motor hotels (or motels) began popping up along highways, offering multiple functional rooms for low rates and wowing tourists with their neon flair. These motels quickly became an icon of Route 66 and to this day many stand as historical sites to drive tourism to many small towns. One of the most iconic motels is Roy's.
Roy's Motel and Cafe, Amboy, California
Amboy constable Roy Crowl opened a service station in 1938, complete with a wreck truck to tow broken down cars out of the desert. Over time he was joined by Herman Burris, who would later come to marry his daughter, Betty.
Burris and Betty worked to open a cafe next door to the service station in 1945 and in the next three years added six cabins and began 24/7 business at the service station. At the height of Route 66's glory, the motel was booming, leading to an expansion in the form of a two-storey, 18 room motel block.
Like many things along the route however, the motel suffered following the Interstate Highway's arrival. Burris sold the motel in 1995 and it eventually came into the hands of Albert Okura, the owner of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain. Okura restored the motel and it reopened in 2008. Unfortunately, severe lack of infrastructure meant his best efforts failed and Amboy today remains a ghost town.
Roy's sign and cafe are both classic examples of Googie architecture. This funny-sounding style of design rose to popularity in the 1940s and lasted through to the 60s. Googie was inspired by the atomic and space ages and includes geometric shapes, vast glass surfaces and symbolic motion (such as arrows, boomerangs and wings).
The sign, which features bold colours and a dynamic red arrow-head design, has become an icon of Route 66's motel culture. Thanks to Roy's, Amboy has featured as the filming site for a number of films and music videos, including 1986's The Hitcher and Enrique Iglesias' Hero.
Today, Amboy and Roy's stand as ghost towns – remnants of Route 66's boom and victims of the Interstate Highway. You can get amongst moving historical sites such as this one when you join Route 66 Tours to fulfil your great American road trip dreams. Contact us today to start planning!