Barb, my wife, left a section of the newspaper open on the dining room table the other day. The top headline didn’t interest me, and she had to literally open the paper up along the fold. There, staring me in the face, was another sign of my age, a link to the past.
What seems like a 100 years ago, I worked at a motel on U.S. 41 in Schererville. As a 15-year-old taking on my first paid job, I was put in charge of maintaining the grounds of the old Plaza Motel that summer, the same motel that was torn down, the sad remains like a crime victim on the pages of The Times.
I stared at the picture, trying to discern what part of the building it showed. It must have been Room 4 at the northwest corner of the building, a place where I stood many times watching the traffic coming and going along U.S. 30 and 41, with Teibel’s Restaurant, Sauzer’s Coffee Shop and Kiddie Land off in the distance.
I spent many days and afternoons carefully mowing around that building and manicuring the grounds, careful that my handiwork would be up to snuff.
Rose Brexa was the owner and a wonderful lady. The Brexas had me filling the pop machine and helping out with the rooms, as well. I think they even tried to teach me to operate the old-fashioned switchboard, but probably gave up.
Sometime in early 1983, I left after four years and moved to another doomed relic of the past, Griffith Golf Center. Now, I drive past the golf course on my way home and find myself thinking of all of those driving range balls I dodged when on the tractor.
That big orange tractor and cage was an inviting target for players and made an incredible sound when it was hit by a golf ball traveling about 100 miles an hour.
I learned a great deal with Mr. Huffman, and later Bob Farag. We were there to make the experience of going out on a warm summer night an evening to remember.
There, fathers taught their sons to hit for the first time in the batting cage. I once retrieved a ball that had lost its cover to give to a wide-eyed boy who, I am, sure treasured the souvenir.
The motel and the golf course will be replaced, I am sure, by something more modern and probably a whole lot less durable.
The Plaza was a beacon into the late 1970s for tired travelers who may have passed the Breezy Point to the south or The Pines to the north. They may have even driven past the Lincoln, Motel Lee, the Evergreen or the Plaza Annex, all west of that busy intersection.
Most of these havens, too, are long gone; the only remaining are the Evergreen and Motel Lee. I will certainly miss the Plaza and its wonderful neon sign.
Like the devastating flood that took the Griffith golf course and its greens, miniature golf course and batting cages, the past was swept away last week, this time by a heavy bulldozer.
I’ll keep the original image in my mind, because somewhere in my collection of photos there is a postcard of the Plaza in the 1960s, back when motels would regularly provide them for guests to mark the many places they visited.