A Hotel’s Grim History

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Ah – the 1920’s – those were the days.

Prohibition – that is what I am talking about. Gin tasted sweeter, drunk was more drunken, and hang-overs didn’t hurt.

Outlaws were admired, cops were Keystone, and gambling was found behind hidden doors – fun!

Roads were being built and tourism became an economy.  

Tourist camps, hotels and motels supplied the needed respite for souls journeying toward the God given right of Manifest Destiny.

Ah – the 1920’s – the decade that Texarkana, Texas, aspired to raise a grand hotel along the Texas and Arkansas state line.

The Hotel Grim would be spectacular and a spectacle.

Lots of work in downtown Texarkana

The architectural firm of Mann and Stern, while borrowing heavily from the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, designed an impressive structure, grand in a subtle way. A variety of building material inside and out created, somehow, a seamless, and elegant structure loaded with 90-degree angles – final cost 700,000 – yes, in 1925 dollars.

Guest could dine on the roof top – a dining room and garden, eight stories high, towering above the debauchery below.

The Grim, or so the legend goes, was a haven for illegal gambling. There are also rumors of an elaborate tunnel system below the town – allowing for a convenient transport of women and whisky – and the tunnels terminus, always the Grim.

Collector Items? Old doors from the Grim.

Her sins aside, the Grim lasted until 1990, better that what can be said for other hotels of the day – hopefully Texarkana found around 11,000 dollars a year worth of use from the hotel.

For thirty years the hotel was vandalized by mother nature and vagrants, teenagers and time. Ceilings collapsed and floors caved, as the once grand hotel became an eyesore.

Today – revitalization of downtown Texarkana is bringing the Grim back – well kind-of. Texarkana is not planning a luxury hotel but affordable apartment.

Never-the-less, Grim will be operating again and that is more that I can say about other hotels of the day.

A vast improvement.

2019 – The summer of KOAs

In the mid-seventies while the nation was in a gas shortage and energy crisis my family was pulling a Terry bumper-pull travel trailer around the USA. In my mind we were always traveling somewhere, in hindsight I realize my blue-collar dad only had off a couple of weeks per year making this memory of constant transcontinental travel impossible.

Today, I know many memories were the product of photo albums and stories that saturated my mind.  It really does not matter to me how these reflections of family vacations  got in my head, they are there and that is what is important.

Oh – most of my memories are at KOAs

So In the summer of 2019 Tab across Texas hit the road and to check out a few KOAs to determine if they still held the power to create memories.

Spoiler alert, to our surprise, they did.

Our summer journey began in Oklahoma and we would ultimately stay in four Oklahoma KOAs.

Each KOA offered a different experience with similar vibe, a friendly vibe. No matter if we just showed up to get a spot or called ahead, the KOA staff seemed authentic in manner and customer service.

As for the experience – right on the mark for memory making. From fishing ponds to  game rooms, on-site horse tracks to casinos, not to mention the swimming pools and wonderful restroom and shower facilities Oklahoma’s KOAs are A OK.

Our KOA experiences continued on into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada.

The KOAs in places such as Abilene, Texas and Grants, New Mexico we used for quick overnight spots. Even for these stays of less than twelve hours the KOA offered easy setup, attentive staff, and quite neighbors.

The Las Cruces, New Mexico KOA was an experience that will not be forgotten. A pleasant staff greeted us on arrival and we settled into a spot with a great view of the Organ Mountains. A wonderful sunset and a brilliant night sky made for a wonderful experience.

Our KOA experience in Mesa, Arizona was just as pleasant as New Mexico. Our site had a great view of Superstition Mountain and was surrounded by Saguaro cactus. The busy season in Arizona is definitely winter, while during summer reservations would not be required for an RV site, many attractions and restaurants are closed for the season.

Tab across Texas made it all the way to Las Vegas during the summer of 2019. We found a KOA at Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino and set up for a couple of nights. At first we were a bit leery about a KOA on Bolder Highway in Las Vegas but our concerns quickly dissipated as we entered into this desert oasis. While the RV sites are nothing to write home about the pool and facilities are great. With the Tab only a few yards from these amenities we would spend the day by the pool before venturing over, easy walk, to Sam’s Town for and evening of entertainment.

Tab across Texas stayed in a total of nine different KOA in five different states over the course of the summer of 2019. The KOAs offered a consistency in operation that allowed us to not worry about what to expect from each overnight.

While the prices ranged from thirty to fifty dollars per night, Tab across Texas believes that quality comes at a price and from our experiences, KOA is quality.

The Bankhead Highway

Before American roads and highways had designated numbers they had names. These names were associated with politicians  who help make the roadways reality. Political clout allowed politicians the ability to be forever remembered by having their names tied with cross-country roadways. This legacy was compromised when the highway department organized state and national highways with the numerical system used today.

The Bankhead Highway was named for John Hollis Bankhead an Alabama politician. According to the Texas Historical Commissions website the Bankhead Highway  ran from Washington D.C. to San Diego, Ca. with construction beginning in 1916 making the Bankhead Highway one of the earliest continuous routes from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Over 850 miles of the Bankhead Highway existed in Texas. Today much of the original route is covered by Texas highways 67 and 80 while others sections were left abandoned and reclaimed by nature. There are still parts of the Bankhead that are maintained and Tab Across Texas set out to find a piece of the Bankhead and experience a drive on a road that is 110 years old. We started our adventure in Weatherford, Texas, and decided to travel west toward the town of Mineral Wells, Texas.

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The remaining sections of the Bankhead are clearly marked and have little traffic so the journey down the Bankhead can be easy and casual.

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Keep an eye out for some vintage concrete. This bridge has seen better days but has supported and witnessed more than a century of traffic on the Bankhead Highway.

 

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A rest stop along the highway dates from 1936. The lonesome picnic table sits waiting for the next weary traveler to take a break in the shade of the Oak tree canopy.

Our trip on the Bankhead Highway terminated at the Crazy Water Well in Mineral Wells, Texas.

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The taps allow the public to purchase the Crazy Water pumped out of the original well.  It did take a while to get our bottle filled.

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