I have recently added 3 new (to me) books to my ever increasing personal “Roadside related” library that I highly recommend to anyone who has an interest, whether in passing or as an avid aficionado!
The first title I want to recommend is…
Remembering Roadside America
I came across this one by happenstance two or three months ago. I happened to “Google” my name and clicked on “books” and a reference came up to this new book with the subtitle “Preserving the Recent Past as Landscape and Place” published by the University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN) and written by coauthors John A. Jakle, Emeritus Professor of Geography at the University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign and Keith A. Sculle, the former head of research and education at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. They have coauthored other roadside related titles already in my personal library such as; Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age, The Motel in America and The Gas Station in America. Being familiar with these past titles and the scholarly approach the authors used, I was spurred on to purchase this book and see for myself how I ended up being mentioned within the context of this book, (I was definitely curious, to say the least)!
The blurb on the back cover on the book is a good synopsis describing the content…
The use of cars and trucks over the past century has remade American geography-pushing big cities ever outward toward suburbanization, spurring the growth of some small towns while hastening the decline of others, and spawning a new kind of commercial landscape marked by gas stations, drive-in restaurants, motels, tourist attractions, and other retail entities that express our national love affair with the open road. By its very nature, this landscape is ever changing, indeed ephemeral. What is new quickly becomes old and is soon forgotten.
In this book, a summation in many ways of the authors’ decades of combined research, John JakIe and Keith Sculle ponder how “Roadside America” might be remembered, especially since so little physical evidence of its earliest years survives. In lively prose supplemented by copious illustrations, they survey the ways in which automobility has transformed life in the United States. Asking how we might best commemorate this part of our past-which has been so vital economically and politically, so significant to Americans’ cultural aspirations, yet so often ignored by scholars who dismiss it as kitsch-they propose the development of an outdoor museum that would treat seriously the themes of our roadside history.
Museums have been created for frontier pioneering, the rise of commercial agriculture, and the coming of water- and steam-powered industrialization and transportation, especially the railroad. Is now not the time, the authors ask, for a museum forcefully exploring the automobile’s emergence and the changes it has brought to place and landscape?
OK, so this is in keeping with their particular style of writing and gives you a good idea about what the book is like. Upon receiving my copy of the book I found the mention pertaining to me in the “Preserving Roads and Roadsides” chapter! It turns out that I was not mentioned here by name but I was referred to in the text on Page 122… “one aficionado who wrote and illustrated a column on diners for the Society for Commercial Archeology’s publications for 19 years recalled how he first became interested in diners when he was six years old and how he had continued this interest throughout his life” (Index note 70). That was a mind blower for sure, so I turned to the Index notes on Page 258 for that chapter and here is where I was mentioned by name along with “Diner Hotline” (the original print version that preceded this blog)…
70. Larry Cultrera, “Diner Hotline”, SCA Journal 25 (Fall 2007): 36; and Larry Cultrera, “Diner Hotline”, SCA Journal 21 (Fall 2003): 24-25.
I spoke with Keith Sculle after reading the book and conveyed my gratitude for he and John Jakle mentioning myself and Diner Hotline in their book! I told him that I felt extremely honored by the gesture! He expressed his personal disappointment in my discontinuing the Diner Hotline column in the SCA Journal back in 2007 and often wondered as to why I did that. I told him that I thought I felt that I had brought the column to a point where I was not enjoying the writing and the deadlines any longer and needed a change. I also said that this event gave birth to this Weblog shortly thereafter and it became the Diner Hotline it was finally meant to be (in my mind).
Coauthors Jakle & Sculle also went on to mention my friend Brian Butko and his efforts with the Lincoln Highway in the same way on Page 125 (same chapter)… “The Lincoln Motor Court, astride the Lincoln Highway at Tulls Hill, PA, enables one to peer over a long time into the time travelers’ transcendent quest. Built in 1944, the Lincoln Motor Court was off the beaten path by the 1970s. Jakle & Sculle mention that the current owners Bob & Debbie Altizer had purchased the motel in 1983. By 1993, nostalgic yearnings and boosterism amid the nationwide culture of leisure gave birth to a new Lincoln Highway Association. This is where the authors refer to Brian Butko – “A historian and photographer engrossed in his work on a travel guide of the (Lincoln) highway in Pennsylvania and an eager proponent for combining heritage tourism and road and roadside preservation counseled the owners of the Lincoln Motor Court on the possibility of reviving their business by appealing to travelers seeking to re-enact a trip on the Lincoln Highway. Advertising its historical qualities made the retro business profitable, and other entrepreneurs near the Altizers also successfully adopted the strategy” (Index note 76). Turning to the Index notes on Page 258 … 76. Ibid., 8-9; Brian A. Butko, “Historic Highway Preservation: Not a Dead End Street!” CRM16 (1993): 36; and Brian A. Butko, Pennsylvania Travelers’ Guide: The Lincoln Highway (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1996), 188-90.
I will say that Jakle and Sculle’s books are not your typical “coffee table” variety of roadside history tomes and are fairly heavy reading owing to both of the author’s educational/historic preservation backgrounds. But they certainly have a wealth of information within their books and that those readers willing to read thru them will be rewarded with a new perspective in how they look at preserving or at the very least documenting the American Roadside which in the long run will benefit future generations!
The second book I acquired was a book with a much more local focus…
New England Notebook: One Reporter, Six States, Uncommon Stories
This book was published in 2013 by Globe Pequot Press and written by Ted Reinstein. For those who might not be familiar with Mr. Reinstein, he is best known around New England as a longtime correspondent for “Chronicle,” the equally longtime and celebrated nightly newsmagazine which airs on Boston’s ABC affiliate, WCVB-TV. I have been watching Chronicle from its inception in the early 1980s and have always enjoyed the show. In fact, I was actually on a Chronicle show back in the July 25, 1991 along with Richard Gutman and Randy Garbin among others in a show called “Devoted to Diners. More recently I was featured in a segment of New Hampshire Chronicle (WMUR-TV’s version of the show) highlighting my latest book “New Hampshire Diners: Classic Granite State Eateries”. Anyway, to get back to Ted Reinstein, he signed on to Chronicle as a correspondent in the late 90s and he quickly became one of my favorite people to watch as his segments seem to be among the most enjoyable to me. I was certainly aware that his book had been published and had actually thumbed thru it once or twice at the local Barnes & Noble but did not purchase it until he came to do a slide lecture/author event at the Saugus Public Library March 30, 2015!
I met Ted at his author event and immediately found him to be as entertaining in person as he comes across on television! He engages his audience thru the TV show or in the book as well as at one of his author appearances, and when he talks about a person, place or thing, you know he has done his homework. Not only because it is his job, but because he has a genuine interest and therefor keeps his audience interested in the subject at hand! I was informed about his upcoming event at the Saugus Public Library by a friend Bob Teal back in mid-March. Ironically, Ironically Ted’s Saugus event followed another author event/lecture he did for the Parker Lecture Series up in Lowell, Massachusetts on March 19th as well – exactly one month before I did one ending the season for that series!
New England Notebook features some of Ted’s favorite stories that he has covered over the years… the people and places that stood out in his and respectively, the viewers minds! Just from watching him on the show I knew he was a kindred spirit and has a love of diners. He has a better than average grasp of New England diner history which gives his reporting on the subject a huge amount of credibility! In the final chapter of this book (Chapter 10 – The Foods) there is a section called “Diners: A New England Specialty” and features the late lamented Rosebud Diner of Somerville with a great night-time photo by my friend Elizabeth Thomsen (OK, I know the Rosebud building is still there but the classic interior is completely gone and the menu offered is not even close to a diner). Other diners included are Becky’s Diner of Portland, ME, the Boulevard Diner and Miss Worcester Diner of Worcester, Mass., the Deluxe Town Diner of Watertown, Mass., and Agawam Diner of Rowley, Mass., as well as the Main Street Station Diner of Plymouth, NH and the Red Arrow Diner of Manchester, NH. I hope to someday join Ted for a decent Diner “Breakfast” in the near future, maybe even at Tim’s Diner in Leominster, I know Ted has not been there yet! This book is filled with other entertaining stories flavored with Ted Reinstein’s wit & wisdom and well worth the read!
So if you are ever in the Boston area, check out Chronicle on WCVB-TV (Channel 5), it is on Monday thru Friday at 7:30pm. Even if Ted is not on, it is an award winning show that always seems to offer something for the discerning viewer!
The third book I purchased and read was recommended to me by Debra Jane Seltzer…
Road Trip: Roadside America From Custard’s Last Stand
to the Wigwam Restaurant
Published by Universal Publishing – this book is written & illustrated by Richard Longstreth, an architectural historian and professor at George Washington University. Longstreth directs the graduate program in historic preservation at the university and is the author of numerous books and articles including “The American Department Store Transformed 1920-1960″ and Looking Beyond the Icons: Midcentury Architecture, Landscape and Urbanism”. In fact Mr. Longstreth is quoted quite a bit by John Jakle & Kieth Sculle in pretty much all their books on the American Roadside, so I was certainly familiar with his name over the years but this is the first book of his that I have actually bought! This book is chock-full of color photos that he shot from the late 1960s into the 1980s in his travels!
A lot of these places in Longstreth’s photos are either long gone or partially to extremely altered at the time of this books publishing. But we are certainly the lucky recipients of his foresightedness in his documenting these roadside treasures that are somewhat reminiscent of John Margolies best work. The difference is that Margolies has been known to remove litter and debris from his subject matter prior to shooting the photos and Longstreth, like most of us, does not! The one thing he does like Margolies is wait for the right “light” to take the shots of his subject (in most cases, but not all), something I always wished I had the luxury of doing back in the 1980s!
The places he photographed are from pretty much all over the country! From motels, to gas stations, to diners – Mr. Longstreth covers it all! There are period supermarkets, Drive-In Movie Theaters and other roadside attractions. The one drawback to the book is the choice of small type/font that was used for the text as well as captions (kind of small in my opinion) but in fact, the photos are what truly shine in this book and I can certainly overlook that little drawback! This is the kind of book that makes me wish that I should have started taking my own roadside photos much earlier than 1980! I sort of wish that there was such a thing as time travel, I would take my camera and go back in time to take the photos I never had a chance to!
Well, be that as it may, Mr. Longstreth did take all these shots and we can certainly appreciate and admire them!