Red Chair Reads: Four and Twenty Beds

It is the late 1940s, and Grant and Nancy Vogel, a nice young couple with two little kids, decide — seemingly on a whim — to buy a motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert.  Grant is a charmer who can problem-solve like nobody’s business, and Nancy is a housewife with spunk, a budding feminist with a social consciousness.  Motorists’ hotels were not a new concept, but motels of the sort that the Vogels owned were.  These motels catered to families, offered comfortable, clean rooms, were readily accessible  off the new highways crisscrossing the country, were available all hours of the day, and boasted modern amenities such as radios, heating and air-conditioning, outdoor pools, and safe parking places for the pride of middle-class America — the family car.

The book is a very sanitized slice of mid-century American social history.  The Vogels are white, their clients are white, their friends are white, the town of Banning is white — except for the Indians, who have been banished to the reservation.  Nancy Vogel writes mainly about the trials and tribulations of running a motel, with occasional forays into the “equality” issue and the “race” issue.  One wonders why she bothered: she decides to visit the reservation (again, seemingly on a whim), picks up a Native American woman squatting on the side of the road, drives a bit into the reservation, then asks the woman to get out of the car.  End of adventure, end of vignette.  She is uncomfortable, she doesn’t know why, and neither do we.  Still, Four and Twenty Beds is a fun read, and interesting for what it says — and doesn’t say — about the American psyche at mid-century; it is truly one family’s “Happy Days.”

YMCA of the Rockies: Big Bear cabin

Four days at YMCA of the Rockies (in a brand new cabin), Rocky Mountain National Park, time to hike, read, eat dessert, hike, read . . . .  our version of “Happy Days.”

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