Like most conservative, religious cities, Danville had a lot of Hot Sheet Hotels.
By this I mean, cheap hotels that did a lot of business during the lunch hour and early evenings. No one really seemed to spend an entire night there…
There was a long history of this in Danville, starting with the infamous Cliff’s Cabins on Riverside Drive and carrying on to this day. I still see dozens of hotels advertising rooms for $29.95 a “night” every time I drive into town.
One of the favorites was always the Shamrock Motel on Piney Forest Road because they had parking in the rear where cars couldn’t be seen from the street. The old Holiday Inn was also popular since the parking lot was so big and spread out. And people could claim they were just having lunch in the restaurant…
When we were teenagers, these hotels were one of our favorite places to party. It’s a good thing there were so many of them because we usually could only go to one once.
The exception was the Downtowner Motor Lodge. We had several parties there. They either really needed the business or just didn’t care…The police came so often we just expected them and had our lies ready. Some of our teachers even dropped in for a cocktail on occasion. They could get away with that back then- even if we thought it was kind of pathetic.
One of my friends originally thought up the idea of Hotel Parties as a way to make money. This friend was always looking for ways to make money. I don’t think he ever picked up a bar or dinner tab in his entire life and always demanded “gas money” whenever he drove. Remember, gas was like Fifty Cents a gallon then… My Father once said he thought I paid to feed him from kindergarten through College and threatened to send his father a bill.
Anyway, said friend would rent the hotel room and then charge people to come party and drink there.
It was amazing how many people we could cram into one hotel room. The demand was high and the space was limited, so sometimes he had to get two adjoining rooms or a suite. It was amazing how fast the word would spread in those days before the internet, cell phones and text messages. He always made a profit.
None of us could drink at home and riding around town got boring after a while. There wasn’t much else to do in that little town back then but drink or go to church. Or both.
So the grownups used these hotels for lunch time trysts and we used them for night time parties. That’s the only way I can imagine these little motels stayed in business.
There is not exactly a thriving tourist trade in Danville….
We always rented a room for our Homecoming Dances and Proms at these hotels. Especially after it got so hard to drink in the parking lot due to an increase in chaperones.
Like the adults who used them for extracuricular activities, we couldn’t afford to get into trouble publicly, so we used them for an escape. Just in a different way…
We would usually just make a token appearance at the dance and get our picture taken for the yearbook. As photo editor, I would see to this…Then we would spend the rest of the evening at one of these hotels sitting around drinking, smoking and talking in our formal wear with an occasional trip back to the dance just to be sure we weren’t missing anything- or being missed.
Our fun was a lot more innocent than the adult version, but we still got talked about more…
I’m realizing my friends and I are coming across as teenage hellions and alcoholics in these stories. We weren’t. People just seemed to think so and imagine we were doing a lot more than we were…
We were just smart kids with limited entertainment options bored to tears in a small town. We drank and smoked and planned out our escapes. We were marking time until we could leave and get away physically from what we were trying to temporarily escape via cocktails and laughter.
We weren’t doing drugs or even having sex- well most of us weren’t.
I suspect the adults who used these hotels for their lunch time activities were trying to do the same thing- in a more desperate way. They knew they were trapped and could only escape for a quick, illicit tryst at the Hot Sheet Hotels. It let them keep up appearances the rest of the time. They would put on the mask as they turned in the keys.
Mostly, we never wanted to be those adults…
Most of us, luckily, aren’t.
But the Hot Sheet Hotels live on….