Professor Mark Okrant’s New Book Celebrates Motel Culture

June 1st, 2006 by Adam

Tourism researcher and PSU professor Mark J. Okrant’s latest book, Sleeping Alongside the Road, offers a look at the culture of the American motel through historical research and interviews with motel visitors and proprietors. The book, released in May, is published by Oak Manor Publishing in Manchester. Its unique size and format (4 by 4 inches, square) is designed to recapture the flavor of the White Mountain Vistas travel booklets made famous by L. Prang and Company during the 1890s.

The book uses stories told by past patrons and proprietors to place the evolution of the motel into the context of changes in the travel and tourism industry during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Motels, which began popping up along America’s roadsides and highways in the 1920s and 1930s, reflect the influence of the automobile on tourism history during the twentieth century. These accommodations attracted travelers who needed an affordable place to spend the night before heading out in the car again the next morning.

The stories in Sleeping Alongside the Road tell of motel experiences across the country, exploring everything from neon “vacancy” signs and newlywed vacations to National Parks tours and phobias about motel linens. Pictures and illustrations of roadside motels (and the classic cars often parked outside) lend to the book’s nostalgia. Okrant also offers some insight into the changing nature of vacation lodging. Using a special photo section focused on motels in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, Okrant encourages consumers to patronize traditional motels and motor courts, accommodations he says have already become endangered.

Mark J. Okrant is professor of geography and tourism development at PSU, and director of the University’s Institute for New Hampshire Studies. He has coordinated tourism research for the State of New Hampshire since 1990, conducted tourism assessments in Aleut and Yupik communities in Alaska, and presented tourism marketing and planning workshops in Alaska, Canada and Romania. Sleeping Alongside the Road is Okrant’s third book. The professor’s earlier publications include Judson’s Island, a tourism planning text, and A Last Resort, a murder mystery set at The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch, N.H.

Plymouth State University (PSU) is a regional comprehensive university offering a rich, student-focused learning environment for both undergraduate and graduate students. PSU offers 42 majors and 62 minors in programs that include education, business, humanities, arts, and natural and social sciences. The College of Graduate Studies offers coursework that promotes research, best practices and reflection in locations on- and off-campus as well as online. For non-traditional students, PSU’s Frost School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers working professionals opportunities to pursue an undergraduate degree by attending classes in the evenings, weekends and online. Located in a beautiful New England setting, Plymouth State University has been recognized as one of the “Best in the Northeast” by The Princeton Review.