Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Classic Motel Lore

Hard-case characters in the motel industry seem to be somewhat thin on the ground at the moment. 

We have to go back in time to the late 1950s when Neil “Chopper” Summersby opened the Orange Grove Motel in Gisborne that was one of New Zealand’s first “modern motels” complete with kitchen facilities.

Chopper ran his successful business for many years and had the knack of expressing an endless string of humourous one-liners for every occasion. Certain folk have the ability to speak their mind and get away with it and Chopper was able to express outlandish insults to guests that would gladly come back for more.

As an accommodation provider, Chopper had a simple and often repeated philosophy : "There are three million Kiwis in New Zealand and I want them to stay just once."

Chopper had many claims to fame and one of them was being New Zealand's first motel "Car Park Nazi." Moteliers today that are still obsessed with guests parking in orderly straight lines and insisting that visitors park on the roadside owe this noble tradition to Chopper.

Chopper loved catching visitors' cars parked in his motel that ignored the "Guests Cars Only" sign prominently displayed at the motel's front entrance. Chopper and his sons would regularly launch into commando style maneuvers by stealthily breaking into unauthorized vehicles and pushing them out onto the roadside. They would then watch with glee as the hapless visitor had a panic attack as they tried to locate their missing car. Eventually Chopper would put them out of there misery by telling them where their car was located and where he would stick it if they parked on his property again.

Chopper also had another favourite pastime - catching bed-wetters. One of Chopper's policies at the motel was that if you wet the bed - you owned it! We would have  loved to have witnessed Chopper sharing the news with a guest that they had unwittingly purchased a motel bed. Spare beds were always on hand at the motel along with lengths of rope that could be used to tie mattresses to the roof of guests' cars as they departed. 

We can vividly imagine the scene of neighbors staring at a family arriving home from their holidays with a mattress strapped to the roof of their car. At least the mattress would have dried by the time they got home. 

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