Not too long ago, we got a text that said if we liked old motels, and especially the old custom neon signs that stand out in front of them, then we better head over to Tuscaloosa, AL, and get a good look at the neon sign out in front of the Moon Winx Lodge. It seems that current owner, Bob Patel, was looking to sell the neon sign way back in 2016, claiming it was too expensive to maintain. Patel wouldn’t find a buyer for the sign. Soon after, in 2018, tragedy would strike the lodge in the form of a tornado taking 12 rooms with it and leaving the future of the Moon Winx Lodge up in the air (no pun intended).

Obviously we jumped at the chance to see this vintage motel and its famous neon sign while both are still standing …

Image Courtesy of the Society for Commercial Architecture’s Jim Seelen Motel Images Collection.

The Lodge’s History in a Wink

The Moon Winx Lodge actually began as the Moon Winx Motor Court nearly a century ago. Owner Meade Johnston started the motor court in the 1920s along US 11 – then the busiest route from New Orleans to Birmingham. The motor lodge featured 20 rooms that could accommodate 56 people.

Johnston sold the Moon Winx to Victor Rogers in 1946. Rogers decided to expand the motor courts in 1950, and two years and $10,000 later (a little over $100,000 dollars today), there were 12 more rooms – all air-conditioned – that could accommodate up to 24 more guests. By 1954, all the cabins had air-conditioning and a brick exterior. In fact, by 1961 Rogers had modernized the place so much that the Moon Winx Motor Courts ended up on the cover of Tourist Court Journal that year.

What’s more, the motel proved to be quite a popular stop for football fans throughout the 1950s and 1960s as they headed for Tuscaloosa (“Roll Tide!”). In fact, Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant rented out 10 rooms at the Moon Winx Motor Cabins for his 1961 championship team. It’s even said that Hollywood celebrities have spent a night or two at the Moon Winx.

Sometime during his renovations, Rogers also built an on-premise restaurant that went by a couple of names over the years, such as The Barn and The Lamplighter.

Under a Neon Moon

Image: Stuckey’s Corp./Stephanie Stuckey

The iconic sign, which sports a crescent man-in-the-moon who lights up the Tuscaloosa night in all of its glorious neon, wasn’t actually erected in 1957. It was designed by local artists Glen House and his wife Kathleen Fetters, who lived in nearby Gordo.

At the time, House 26-year-old was a young starving artist who needed the work, so he agreed to design and paint the crescent moon sign for advertiser Dan Kilgo, who agreed to pay House 50 cents an hour. House ended up earning $1.50 as it only took him about three hours to paint the sign.

The neon was added by the Rivers Sign Company, who also installed the it in the place it has been standing for 65 years. However, it hasn’t been without its own trouble all of those years.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina damaged the sign, and it miraculously escaped being destroyed by a tornado in 2011; 12 of the lodge’s nearby rooms were, in fact, destroyed during the same tornado.

Image Courtesy of the Society for Commercial Architecture’s Jim Seelen Motel Images Collection.

In 2016, current owner of the what is now the Moon Winx Lodge, Bob Patel, put the sign up for sale, stating that, at a cost of $300 a month, the sign was not only becoming too costly to maintain, but also after local sign technician Cliff Flora of the Flora Sign Co. retired, it was becoming difficult to find someone to maintain it.

In 2018, Patel said he was interested in selling the property to any interested real estate developers. He hopes that if any buyers decide not to continue operating the motel, someone like Northport’s Kentuck Art Center would put it on display.

For now, however, it seems the Moon Winx Lodge remains closed and is still waiting for a buyer. Its future, like the moon, remains up in the air, so you better go get a good look at it in the wild while you still can.

If deciding what to get for the one you’re over the moon about this Valentine’s Day is still up in the air, let Stuckey’s help bring you back down to Earth with our selection of three Valentine’s Day Gift Boxes including:

Image: Stuckey’s Corp

“Sweet Southern Goodness” Valentine Box

Includes:  Stuckey’s Maple Pecans (1), 2 oz. Pecan Log Roll (2), 1.7 oz. Pecan Divinity (1), 1.5 oz. Pecan Pralines (1), 6 oz. Peanut Brittle (1) and 1 candy Shoppe Coffee Mug.

“Nutty 4 U!” Valentine Box

Includes:  Stuckey’s Maple Pecans (1), Stuckey’s Sea Salt Pecans (1), Stuckey’s Kettle Glazed Pecans and Super Soft Plush Squirrel (1). 

“I’m Stuckey on You!” Valentine Box

Includes:  Stuckey’s Sea Salt Pecans (1), 2 oz. Pecan Log Roll (1), 1.5 oz. Pecan Praline (2), 1.7 oz. Pecan Divinity (2), 7 oz. Birthday Cake Popcorn (1), Candy Shoppe Coffee Mug (1), Candy Shoppe Socks (1 Pair), Super Soft Plush Squirrel (1).  

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, be sure to place your order at www.stuckeys.com today to ensure that it arrives in time for you to show your Valentine just how much you care on February 14th!

Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun (and Romantic) Again!