Route 66 in the News

Green Spot Hearkens to Route 66 History

2007-10-29 20:30:51

VICTORVILLE, Calif. - While time and progress slowly chip away at the remnants of old Route 66, the Green Spot Motel in Victorville lingers as a quiet reminder of the Mother Road's heyday. Just off the legendary highway in the old town section of Victorville, the cluster of fading white stucco buildings was once advertised as "Southern California's Finest Auto Court."

During the 1930s and '40s, the quiet desert town of Victorville became a favorite stopover for the growing wave of recreational travelers on Route 66. The classic courtyard-style Green Spot Motel was built in 1937 by John Roy to capitalize on the newly emerging local tourism trade.

The Green Spot, at 16937 C St., was the finest motel in town, offering the most modern comforts and services available for the traveling public. Twin arched entryways and red tile roofs accentuated the Spanish-styling of the u-shaped courtyard. All 21 units featured air conditioned rooms, "running ice water," private showers or baths, and "electric radiant glass heat."

The individual units were connected by small garages. This unique feature advertised as "car-by-door" gave the motorist the luxury of parking next to their room and out of the elements.

Promoted as an oasis in the desert, the Green Spot literally put itself on the map with its own caf that housed a Greyhound Bus Depot and a cocktail lounge. The Green Spot Cafe was just across C Street from the motel and the buses brought in waves of hungry customers.

A swimming pool built in the motel courtyard, added to its appeal as a desert oasis. In later years, during the motel's decline, the once sparkling pool that was part of the oasis ambiance was filled in.

Guests at the Green Spot found a variety of entertainment and services within a short walk. Next to the motel was the Mesa Theater, on the southeast corner of Seventh and C streets. There was also a bowling alley on Seventh Street, next to the Green Spot Cafe. Since the motel was in the center of town, there were several restaurants, shops and pharmacies nearby.

The Green Spot's owners took advantage of the growing popularity of the Victor Valley's dude ranches in the 1940s and '50s by advertising the place as "the hitchin' post for the dude ranches." Travelers would often stop in at the cafe or cocktail lounge on their way to and from the dude ranches.

In 1953[*], the Green Spot Cafe burned to the ground and was never rebuilt. The empty lot later became a gas station that still occupies the northeast corner of Seventh and C streets.

Longtime Victorville resident and community leader Felix Diaz recalls when the Green Spot Motel was a favorite of the Hollywood crowd.

"I remember the Green Spot when it was `the place' to stay," he said. "When actors came to the High Desert to film movies, that's where they stayed."

Like many businesses on Route 66, the Green Spot Motel suffered when the highway was bypassed by the freeway.

"The main decline of the area came in 1959. That's when downtown was bypassed by the freeway," Diaz said. "The newer Apple Valley Inn and the Green Tree Inn also took business away from the Green Spot."

A unique chapter in the Green Spot's history unfolded when former movie actress Kay Aldridge became owner of the motel. Aldridge was best known for her role as Nyoka, a capable yet frequently imperiled heroine in the 1942 movie serial "Perils of Nyoka."

In 1982, Aldridge married Harry Nasland, who she had met while staying at the Kemper Campbell Ranch in Victorville in the 1940s. Although Nasland was part owner of the Green Spot, he picked up and relocated to Maine to live with Aldridge.

When Harry Nasland died in 1988, Aldridge inherited his share of the motel. Determined to clean up the decaying motel and its seamy clientele, the spirited actress took over management of the Green Spot.

As a reminder of her past and her optimism for the future of the Green Spot, Aldridge placed a custom neon sign that read "Nyoka's Hideaway" at the entrance to the motel. But the difficulties of the business and shady patrons proved too much for even the resourceful Nyoka, and Aldridge sold the motel.

The now dimmed "Nyoka's Hideaway" sign still hangs at the Green Spot's entrance, an elusive clue to the motel's past.

Hemant Patel, the current owner of the Green Spot, has been working to clean up the aging motel since he bought it in 2001.

"This place used to be a bad spot with a lot of drugs, but we've cleaned up the whole area," Patel said. "Now, I choose the people I want to live here."

The garages connecting the units have been converted into living areas and there are now 40 rooms that are at about 50 percent occupancy.

"There has been a lot of interest in the motel," Patel said. "People from all over the world have come and asked about the place. It's still paying all the bills, and I'm planning on staying and running the motel."

In a stroke of good fortune, one of the icons of the Green Spot Motel and Route 66 was saved in 2001.

"One day a few years ago, the mailman came in and said they were taking down the neon sign at the Green Spot, and to come over and get it," said Betty Halbe, gift shop manager at the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville. "So we called one of our volunteers with a truck and we went over and got it for the museum."

The gracefully twisted neon tubes of the old Green Spot Motel sign now cast a wistful green glow across the ceiling of the museum. Like the motel it once advertised, the sign is a nostalgic reminder of the heyday of Route 66.

Mark Landis, San Bernardino Sun

*EDITOR'S NOTE: One alert reader reports that the cafe actually burned in 1954, not 1953, and that the earlier date has been mis-reported a number of times.

 

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