Dr. Patrick’s Postcard Roadside

FINDING PARADISE ON THE SOUTH SLOPE OF MOUNT RAINIER

After a deal made with the Northern Pacific Railroad that traded worthless mountain top rock and ice for valuable timber lands, Mount Rainier became the nation’s fifth national park in 1899.

It was nearly inaccessible until 1910 when a road was hacked up the south slope from the Puget Lowland to a wildflower-filled meadow just beyond the end of the glaciers known as Paradise Valley. The auto tourists that followed required accommodations, which when built attracted more auto tourists needing accommodations.

The rustic lodge “parkitecture” favored at all the early national parks was the inspiration for Mt. Rainier’s Paradise Inn opened for the 1917 season soon after the formation of the National Park Service. The hotel was operated by the Rainier National Park Company who bought five Kenworth “red jammers” in 1937 to inaugurate bus service to the park from Seattle and Tacoma that lasted until 1962.

Happy Depression-era campers had to be more well-off than people who at the same time were camping in their cars because they were homeless. The Rainier National Park Company, Mt. Rainier’s sole concessionaire, built the Paradise Camp and its Community Kitchen in 1931.

The Rainier National Park Company built 275 “housekeeping cabins” at Mt. Rainier’s Paradise Camp in 1931, the year this postcard depiction of the new camp was published

Auto tourists to Mt. Rainier National Park filled the Paradise Campground to overflowing on summer weekends as depicted in this 1935 postcard view.

Mary Meyers

Could this be Mary Meyers and her dog? Random postcard people are rarely random and more typically known to the businesses they frame.

Two years after their 1947 marriage, Jim and Mary Meyers bought Beasley’s Seafood Restaurant on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi City, Mississippi, renaming it the Friendship House. Beasley’s had just recently opened in Dinty Moore’s Corner restaurant, the sign of which is partially visible behind the live oak branch in this 1950 postcard. The vacation tourist trade from New Orleans through Biloxi, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama, to Panama City, Florida, would explode in the postwar era laying the foundation for what would be marketed as the Emerald Coast, but more commonly known as the “Redneck Riviera.” The Friendship House thrived too, famous for seafood and big meals for bargain basement prices. The Meyers family sold the restaurant in 1963 and later opened the Log House restaurant nearby. The Friendship House closed in 1980, sat abandoned for years and was finally torn down. The Meyers’ time in the tourist trade done, the Log House would follow their Friendship House into roadside oblivion in 2003.

Old Reading Beer

When the Old Reading Beer billboard went up over Penn Square overlooking Reading, Pennsylvania’s downtown retail district it was advertised as the largest animated sign in the state.

This was the end of the 1930s, Prohibition had been repealed a few years before and the Reading Brewery, founded in 1886, returned to its advertising campaign for “Pennsylvania Dutch beer” by having these neon-lit, cartoon beermeisters prance around the top of their billboard with steins for everyone. After World War II, however, the billboard and advertising campaign seemed out of date. Beer sales slid and in 1952 Old Reading became, “The Friendly Beer for Friendly People.” In 1958, the ‘Old’ was dropped for a new name, Reading Premium Beer, “The Friendly Beer for Modern People.” None of this bode well for quaintly animated, stein-toasting, neon-lit beermeisters who had been replaced by a Modernist clock by 1948. Reading Beer’s billboard was balanced by local competitor Sunshine Beer’s billboard advertising from the opposite side of Penn Square. Reading Beer retooled its Penn Square billboard several times into the 1960s, the brewery surviving until 1976.