We Remember 1968: The Travelodge Comes to Pine River Plaza

A late November 1967 drawing of the anticipated Travelodge in Alma. The hotel would sit on the northeast corner of Pine River Plaza.

The newly constructed Alma Travelodge as it appeared at its appeared in July 1968.

With new bowling alleys, an outdoor center, and new places to eat, the Pine River Plaza at M-46 and Luce Road only lacked one thing – a new motel. In November 1967, newspapers reported that a Travelodge Motel would be constructed east of the Big Boy restaurant.

At the time, this Travelodge was one of 350 motels of that franchise in the United States and Canada. The Pine River Motel Company, owners of the Travelodge, included President Donald Wakely, Secretary  Roy Roach, and Treasurer Leon McNeill, Jr. Other board members included  Al Fortino, Alfonso Fortino, and Doctors Sylvio and Mario Fortino.

The motel aimed for a summer 1968 opening and would long be recognized for its large A-Frame on the west end. Inside, it had 50 units, with conference rooms and a large banquet hall that could feed 150 people or hold 500 for a meeting. The Travelodge also had a health club and a large indoor year-round pool, along with rooms that had wheelchair units and both single and double rooms. Lila L. Baldwin became the new resident manager after previously owning a ten-unit motel in Holt, Michigan.

In June 1968, the Travelodge officially opened and quickly became a well-known location for swimming, banquets, and meetings. Events ranged from attending one of the first presentations in the area about how to operate a microwave oven or listening to Vice President Gerald Ford talk to members of the Gratiot County Republican Party via telephone conference.

As time passed, the Travelodge represented a place to stay on the southeast corner of the Pine River Plaza. Following the construction of two bowling alleys, a Michigan Outdoors Center, a Suburbanette, and a restaurant, the Travelodge was the last piece of the Pine River Plaza.

Copyright 2023 James M Goodspeed

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