sign o' the times

For those of you who don't know the origin of our band name, a tale for you: The Black Horse Motel on the Black Horse Pike (Rt. 168) in Blackwood, NJ was once a small 60s era stop on the way to New Jersey shore points. I never appreciated its charms when I was a kid growing up in the area - the white-painted concrete facade, red and white aluminum awnings, window air conditioners, and neon no/vacancy sign. You can see a photo of it here. My memories of the motel include an often lit "No Vacancy" sign and a sense that the motel clientele has become less than savory - and of course, the large iconic black sign reaching over the tree tops.

According to the internet and my fuzzy memories, sometime in the 90s (?) there was a large fire that destroyed the motel. It sat burnt out, weeds growing over it for some time and was eventually torn down. The sign was undamaged by the fire and was left standing in the vacant lot for somewhere between ten and fifteen years.

black horse motel sign

Years later, as the first iteration of Black Horse Motel was forming, we would pass the sign every time we came to NJ for rehearsal. Thus, it seeped into our subconscious and became our namesake.

About two weeks ago, I drove past the corner of Black Horse Pike and Lower Landing Rd and the sign was gone. No debris, no disturbed foliage, no evidence, almost like it was never there.

bhm lot

My immediate reaction was disorientation. I realized that the Black Horse Motel sign has always been the defining feature of that intersection for me. Without it, I had to check the road signs to be sure I was in the right place. The light turned green and, according to the laws of traffic, I had to go, but as I did, I was frantically turning around and ignoring the road, hoping that a newly bloomed tree was just covering it. But, alas, no, it was gone. Subsequent drive-bys confirmed this.

I am sad. We are sad. I fear the worst for the fate of the sign - junk yard, destruction. I feel sad that something cool and vintage and part of the landscape of my memory is gone. We feel sad that a part of our history has vanished, that we can no longer point out where our band name came from. But I suppose that is the ebb and flow of life and now it is our duty to carry the name to new places.

- Megan