Saturday, May 17, 2008

Driftwood Motel & Sambo's Restaurant - Modesto, CA

Here in the Central Valley, old remnants of the former Highway 99 snake through the downtowns of dozens of small towns. These sometimes forlorn stretches often showcase the roadside survivors from bygone days.

Typical of these hangers-on would be the Driftwood Motel in Modesto…

Back in the day, The Driftwood was:

"Modesto's finest motel only 3 minutes from downtown. 31 beautiful units with individually controlled refrigerated air-conditioning, and thermostatically-controlled heat. Room Phone - free TV - heated swimming pool. Sambo's Restaurant adjacent."

Here it is during happy times in the early-sixties:

Today, a pretty sky belies the fact that times have left the Driftwood in a state of decline. Many lodgers now call this place home for weeks at a time.

The pool looks refreshing and would have helped sooth yesteryears lodgers when the temperature hits 106 in Modesto as it did today (May 17th). I can clearly remember the sight of that large Driftwood sign while driving on highway 99 as a child. At night, the multi-colored neon was an impressive sight indeed:

The pool serves no purpose now; and a fence keeps the curious from hurting themselves:

And what became of Sambo’s you ask?

Well, mid-century coffee shop style is hard to hide. The original building still serves food and what-not under the banner of “The Ranch – Bar & Grill”:

It looks like they’ve attempted to add a bit of authenticity with the covered wagon entry piece:

I spoke to the owner of a business on the other side of 9th street (who by coincidence used to work at the Driftwood 30+ years ago), and he warmly remembered the days when more than just the downtrodden stopped at Sambo's and the Driftwood…

P.S.: All apologies for the big break between posts. I appreciate all three of you checking back (you know who you are). Take care and I’ll try to be back again soon…