When I was a young boy in the very late 1960’s through the early 1970’s — sitting in the car on long trips well before the days when there was something to do in the back seat besides just look out the window or look at a map and listen to whatever station my parents picked out on the radio — it didn’t take me long to identify with the plethora of motel chains of the era. While many were certainly big such as Howard Johnson’s and Best Western, there were three I considered to be “giants” — not because of their prestige or amount of locations but because of their massive, animated signs. These three included the one most remember, Holiday Inn, plus Ramada Inn. The third might be one many have forgotten — Quality Courts.
Sadly, evidence of the best examples of Quality Courts signs has not made it to the Internet yet. This is the best one I have ever found and, even then, comes up a little short of its predecessors as there are far fewer bulbs in the sun rays, the blue ribbon is shorter, and there’s a complete lack of neon.
Quality Courts is an interesting part of American travel culture as it started out as a referral service and loose association of independent motels rather than a brand in and of itself (Best Western is another example of this). Quality Courts eventually evolved into Quality Motels and then Quality Inn before being gobbled up into the Choice Hotels International group and given a very bland (and, usually, very small) green sign with part of a gold Q in it.
Despite my beef with it’s now-boring logo, my perception of Quality Inn has completely flipped since my early days of traveling along America’s highways. In those years, I thought it was one of the the worst motel chains even though I considered it to be one of the three “giants.” These days, if I have to stay in a chain motel, it is one of my preferred national brands as I cannot remember the last time I stayed in a bad one since being taken over by Choice. With most of the retro/vintage/Americana material I post coming with at least a little bit of “I liked it better the way it was back then,” it’s a good reminder that not every change is bad.