Nostalgia fills Happy Days Hotel in Oklahoma

Happy Days HotelDriving on Hwy. 69 in McAlester, Oklahoma, we see the sign “Happy Days are Here Again.” It reminds us of the song and we smile knowingly.  But then we see the pink Cadillac, and curiosity gets the best of us.  We turn in, and discover that it’s 1950 all over again.

If you remember that era with the fondness of youth, your heart will warm with reminisces splattered throughout the Happy Days Hotel.  Walk into to the lobby, and you’re greeted by an authentic Wurlitzer juke box spinning tunes from Elvis to the Everly Brothers on grooved 45s and 78s (ask your parents if you don’t know what that means). Parked to the side of the black and white checkered tile floor is a souped-up 1950s motorcycle guarded by a life-size James Dean cutout.

Guest rooms are themed with icons of the decade: Elvis, Dean, and Marilyn Monroe. You won’t find fancy trays filled with scented soap, lotion, and shampoo, but you will find plenty of memories fueled by knick-knacks, clocks, pictures, even shower curtains showcasing favorite stars.  Former guests bring back memorabilia to display—old records, bobble heads, books, and posters.  Many even bring their own 1950s cars to photograph under the motel’s sign.    Rooms are

Happy Days Hotelclean and comfortable, and there’s free Internet in each room.  Imagine The King cavorting on a YouTube video or Marilyn tweeting about her latest movie. Breakfast is included (sample homemade waffles each morning). The dining area features typical ‘50s white, pink, and black barstools edged in chrome and chrome tables.

Happy Days Hotel

The hotel was inspired by Larry and Beth Bernhardt’s love of the 1950s and 1960s. Owners of Bernhardt Construction Company in McAlester, the Bernhardts started in the hospitality business with a Microtel franchise. But when they went out on their own in 2005, they decided to honor the era they re

Happy Days Hotelmembered so fondly.  A second building added in 2007 brought the room total to 62.  Angel’s diner next door, run by the Bernhardt’s daughter, also carries out the 1950s theme and provides a convenient place to get good home cooking.

A new development from the Bernhardts called Great Balls of Fire! is underway behind the diner and hotel.  This entertainment venue will complement the existing themed businesses by providing bowling lanes, miniature golf, bumper cars, pool tables, and video arcade.  Since McAlester is the trade center for southeastern Oklahoma, Great Balls of Fire! is expected to attract thousands of visitors as well as locals.

Although prices are always reasonable, a spring special is in effect at the hotel through April 2011: $50 for a room with a single queen bed, or $69 for two queen beds. If you’re passing through this part of Oklahoma be sure to stop for a nostalgic look at Happy Days Hotel and a satisfying meal at Angel’s Diner.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Read more travel stories by Beverly at Going on Adventures and Austin Adventure Travel

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