Well, here it is Motel Monday once again at the Stuckey’s Pecan Blog and for today’s blog, we’re going back to Tucumcari, New Mexico, one last time (for now) to look at yet another motel that’s stood the test of time on Route 66 – the Palomino Motel.
Not Horsing Around
James and Gladys Hyde opened the Palomino Motel in 1953 with 20 guestrooms, each with an attached garage. Touting itself as “One of the Southwest’s Beautiful Hotels”, the Hyde’s offered 20 air-conditioned rooms. Like many motels of the time, the Palomino was built in the typical U-shape with a separate building serving as the main office. Besides, air-conditioning, other amenities included tiled tub/shower combos, a phone in every room, and being able to “See Mountain Tocum-Kari from your doorstep”. (Tucumcari would take its name from the nearby mountain.)
By the 1960s Klem and Phyllis Miller had taken over as owner/operators of the “Beautifully Different” motel which now included 30 air-conditioned rooms after the garages were converted into extra rooms. A new canopy was also erected over the lobby driveway around the same time. Marketing more towards families in the 1960s, other amenities of the time included family connecting suites and a swimming pool.
Amenities pretty much stayed the same in the 1970s – A/C, in-room phones, adjoining family suites (though now with twin beds!) – and Klem and Phyllis were still running the motel under the slogan “Luxury for Less”.
However, it seems that the Millers were a couple of adventurous souls who enjoyed flying their single-engine airplane above the Southwest. As a result, sometime between the 1970s and 2017, the Millers sold the place and it eventually ended up in the hands of one Muhammad Malik who became too sick to run it. Enter Warren Fisher and Lila Doughty, the owner and operator, respectively, who took over the Palomino in 2017 and still run the motel today.
As you can imagine, however, by the time Fisher bought the place and Lila began operating it, like many classic motels along Route 66 in Tucumcari, the Palomino Motel was already falling into disrepair. Still, slowly but surely, the motel is returning to its former glory days. Lila started with clearing the overgrown weeds and re-striping the parking lot. Next came the renovation of 19 of the 31 rooms and there’s even rumors of bringing back the famous “Whoa! Palomino Motel” sign that once lit up the property.
Speaking of Signs
Driving by the Palomino Motel at night, one would mistake this neon and incandescent sign for one of those fancy-shmancy signs that adorned Rat Pack era Las Vegas. The motel’s original sign was a simple sign with a horse and the words “Palomino Motel” painted on both sides and outlined in neon. However, the sign that stands today replaced that sign.
Built sometime in the early 60s, the new sign features the letters of “PALOMINO” outlined in neon and filled with incandescent bulbs. Much like the Holiday Inn’s “Great Sign” the Palomino also has a sweeping arrow filled with about 150 incandescent bulbs on each side. The word “MOTEL” is also outlined in neon, as is the backlit sign with the images of a prancing horse on one side and a horse’s head on the reverse that seemed to once spin around the top of three neon rings that sit directly below the horses.
What’s more, there was yet another sign that once graced the property that featured a horse coming to an abrupt stop and snorting out the word “Whoa!”. Underneath the horse and also lit up in neon were the words “Palomino Motel” and a backlit signboard with interchangeable letters below. A kid seeing this back in the day no doubt begged mom and pop to stop at the Palomino as that sign just made the place look fun! The interesting part is that the sign does have a Sin City connection these days as it sits in Las Vegas’ Neonopolis Museum today.
As always, if you like classic motels that give you those retro feels, then the next time you’re driving through Tucumcari, New Mexico, give the Palomino Motel a try. You can reserve a room from the usual booking websites or call them at +1 505-461-3622.
We hope that you enjoyed looking back at the classic Palomino Motel on this Motel Monday. And speaking of looking back, if you have fond memories of Stuckey’s that you’d like to share head over to the Stuckey’s Guestbook and tell us all about it. We’d love to hear your story!
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