Book Report: Tales from the Coral Court by Shellee Graham (2000)

I borrowed this book from the Old Trees library’s local history section, a section that I will probably completely consume by the end of 2008. This book covers, as the title might indicate, the Coral Court motel, a motor court built in 1941/1942 that was not only a mainstay on the Route 66 circuit, but also proved instrumental in founding the municipality of Marlborough, a former speed trap town (that has since disbanded its police force and has slid from the St. Louis County consciousness as a result) and provided St. Louisians with something about which it could giggle behind its hands (the fact that each unit had a garage that opened into the bedroom led itself, led itself from the realm of the modern into the realm of the merely seamy once the Interstate built some miles to the north removed the middle class tourist from the client list).

This book fits more into the In Retrospect mold, as it provides some text about the original owners, the architecture style, and the evolution of motor courts and motels in America, but mostly relies on quotes from random St. Louisians (and some poetry, heaven forfend) about the motel. Still, the author took a number of photos in the period between the closing of the hotel (1993) and its demolition (1995), and the author gathered some other photo material from people who’d heard about her project.

In a couple years, no one will remember the place, since its heydey came in the Greatest Generation years and its ill repute came in the Boomer years, so this book’s novelty will pass but its usefulness as a historical document and collection of photos will live on.

Full disclosure: in that same period before the demolition and the raising of the Oak Knoll subdivision where the motel used to stand, I was dating a photographer and got the opportunity to do a little trespassing for photography purposes myself. So I remember the Coral Court from first hand experience, although not from the authentic Coral Court first hand experience. And that first hand knowledge is what makes this book resonate, so as I said, I suspect it will only be a curiosity in a couple years when that resonance is gone for most people.

Books mentioned in this review: