Feature

Signs of a Time

October 2001

Here and there, poking out amid this free-for-all, we see ornate signs, which in a subdued way almost whisper “Vegas.” At one time, before I-70 cut through, everyone driving from the east came into Denver by way of Colfax Avenue. Weary travelers, before the reign of Holiday Inn, stopped at motels along the sprawling avenue.

We saw Mom, Dad, Buddy, and Sis bundled up in the ’52 DeSoto cruising along from Council Bluffs, looking to dismount for the night. These oases of rest appealed to the well-heeled tourists. Every motel had its theme and no two were alike. Driftwood and Sage and Bugs Bunny beckoned travelers to spend the night. The competition to evoke an attraction was fierce. And every motel had its neon – it was the heyday of innocent neon – blazing through the Denver night.

But these neon namedroppers were without self-consciousness. It was just…Wham! Big tubes of gas exploding in the night sky, bending and twisting all around in geometric shapes. What’s really remarkable is that these places survived into the age of Comfort Inn and Marriott. Intact, they sing of bygone times when Mom and Dad traveled the simple road.