Sunday, August 06, 2006

R.I.P. Five Flags Inn

In the op-ed pages of today's New York Times, Little Rock author Kevin Brockmeier contributes a coming-of-age reminiscence that happens to involve Pensacola Beach. The part that caught our eye begins:
On one vacation, we were passing through the Florida Panhandle when a thunderstorm struck Pensacola. Ordinarily my father would have kept driving into the darkness, covering as much distance as he could, but the rain was falling so hard that he decided to check us into a motel for the night. As the rest of the family slept, I lay in bed for hours watching bolts of lightning take snapshots of the room, picking out the lamp and the television and the bureau with a terrific clarity. I remember being surprised that anyone could nod off during such a presentation.

Our motel was right next to the ocean, and the next morning, when we went outside, the sand was pocked with the marks of countless raindrops. My brother and I crouched to examine them. I tried to convince him that the holes had been left there by worms, but he didn’t believe me. When my father told us, rather uncharacteristically, that we could spend a few minutes exploring the beach before we left, we seized the chance and set off running toward the water.

That was when we spotted the seashells speckling the shore.

There's more to his beach story, mostly about the lasting damage sand crabs can do to a sensitive adolescent boy's psyche.

Now, we can't be certain, but it sure sounds like the Brockmeier family that long-ago night was staying at the Five Flags Inn. It was a classic '60s style motel of the kind you're likely to find, now, only along the blue highways of rural America: single room with double beds, cramped bath, late Eisenhower decor consisting of a combination dresser-and-desk, two straight chairs, a cheap desk lamp, and a cheesey lithograph of some Greek island. In the days of Brockmeir's youth, it was just about the only Gulf-front motel that meets his description.

Sadly, it was announced this week that the Five Flags Inn will be no more. As Derek Pivnick reported in the PNJ a couple of days ago, the Gulf-front property formerly occupied by Five Flags is up for sale.

Sic transit gloria.


Linda L. said...

The Brockmeier piece was a delight. Thanks for the link.

Reading your words, found myself thinking of the Virginia Beach of my youth and its many modest oceanfront hotels, most in the old beach cottage style complete with weathered porches and old white wooden rockers. All of those wonderful, character-filled places have been gone for decades, replaced by Sheratons and Days Inns and the like.

Seems sort of lame to say that the "old" Pensacola Beach is fortunate among U.S. oceanfront places in having survived as long as it did, but there you are. Sic transit gloria indeed, and gloria it was, that old beach America.

Anonymous said...

Glad my daughters got to experience it once (two months before Ivan) !!

Anonymous said...

I just realized that I had stayed at FFI several time from High School to last time in the early 80s. My wife and I go to the Beach every year now. Plan to buy there one day. But some thing change may not always be for the best said...

I found a lot of useful data in this post!

muebles barcelona said...

This won't succeed in reality, that is exactly what I think.

Peter Easton said...

My wife and I were engaged there in 1983, when it was still whole and hearty. We'd had no news of the place since, but were planning on spending another night there for our 35th anniversary... until discovering here that "gloria mundi" is "sic" and has "transitted." May the spirits of the place rest in peace.

Peter Easton said...

Make that "January 1982" and then 36th anniversary. Tempus fugit but the sentiments are just as real.