Book Reviews

NOTE: Book reviews featured here are “reprints” from the SCA Journal, both recently published and from our archives. Not all titles may still be in print, or if in print, offered at the price or in the format listed.

Florida Roadside Attractions History

Florida Roadside Attractions History: The Complete Guide to Florida Tourist Attractions Before Disney
By Ken Breslauer
Gaithersburg, Md.: Signature Book Printing, 2018
208 pages; $29.00 hardcover

Reviewed by Ralph S. Wilcox

Three years ago, my parents retired to Florida from Pennsylvania. They, like many other Northerners, fled south for warmer weather and to escape the never-ending snows that always seemed to blanket their area. It was for these very same reasons that thousands of tourists flocked to Florida every year beginning in the late 19th century.
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No Vacancy

No Vacancy BookNo Vacancy: The Rise, Demise, and Reprise of America’s MotelsBy Mark Okrant, illustrations by Laura Hodgdon
Concord, New Hampshire: Plaidswede Publishing, 2013
138 pages, illus., $15.95 paper

Keith A. Sculle

Author Mark Okrant has launched readers on another nostalgic journey where small roadside lodgings serviced travelers overnight. In the introduction, he states of this book and its predecessor, Sleeping Alongside the Road (2006) they offer “a nostalgic look at the American motel, an American icon that is indelibly etched in the memories of nearly half of all Americans age forty and older” (p. ix).
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Lakefront Anonymous, Chicago’s Unknown Art Gallery

Lakefront Anonymous, Chicago’s Unknown Art Gallery
By William Swislow (text and photographs) and Aron Packer (photographs)
Chicago: Interestingideas.com, 2021
Softcover, 160 pages, $40

Reviewed by Joseph Marlin

Who would have thought there would be a book about graffiti and vernacular stone carvings on Chicago’s lakefront? Not I, and I live here! But William Swislow, an SCA board member, has spent three decades photographing and documenting these works typically created by untrained, anonymous carvers.
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Neon: A Light History

Neon: A Light History
By Dydia DeLyser and Paul Greenstein
San Francisco: Giant Orange Press, 2021
Softcover, 88 pages, $25

Reviewed by Douglas C. Towne

There’s a new book on neon signs that excels at, in the authors’ words, bringing “the light of the past into the present.” The cleverly titled Neon: A Light History beautifully and meticulously illuminates the evolution of this electrifying advertising medium. But that’s only the start. The text goes a step further and connects neon signs with the larger economic and societal forces that impacted them, placing them in the crux of American history.
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Two Up and a Bag of Chips! George’s Coney Island

Two Up and a Bag of Chips! George’s Coney Island: Serving the Worcester Community for Over 100 Years
By Kathryn Tsandikos with Holly Robinson
Cambridge, Mass.: TidePool Press, 2021
Softcover, 144 pages, $30

Reviewed by Harold Aurand Jr.

I’ve never been to Worcester, Massachusetts, and so, of course, I’ve never eaten at George’s Coney Island either. As soon as I saw this book, though, I knew I needed to have it in my collection. I have other books on restaurants, but usually, they’re about certain types, like diners, steakhouses, or chains. Books on just one restaurant are rarer, or maybe they’re published and marketed locally and harder to find.
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The American Roadside in Émigré Literature, Film, and Photography 1955-1985

The American Roadside in Émigré Literature, Film, and Photography 1955-1985
By Elsa Court
Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020
193 pp., hardcover, $84.99

Reviewed by Paul Sherman

Ever since Alexis de Tocqueville roamed the fledgling United States and wrote Democracy in America, the idea that the fresh eyes and ears of a foreign intellectual can provide insights that natives might miss has become something of a trope.
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Highway 101: The History of El Camino Real

Highway 101: The History of El Camino Real
By Stephen H. Provost
Fresno, Calif.: Craven Street Books, 2020
170 B & W and 33 Color images
248 pp., paperback, $20.95

Reviewed by Barbara Gossett

Stephen Provost has once again documented the course of a wonderful road trip while providing detailed and entertaining commentary about the history, geography, and (of course) commercial archeology of U.S. Highway 101.
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Road Sides: An Illustrated Companion to Dining and Driving in the American South

Road Sides: An Illustrated Companion to Dining and Driving in the American South
By Emily Wallace
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2019
Hardcover, 188 pages. $24.95

Reviewed by Ralph S. Wilcox

Emily Wallace’s book, Road Sides: An Illustrated Companion to Dining and Driving in the American South, is a delightful exploration of a wide variety of Southern institutions and phenomena related to the roadside. Liberally illustrated with Wallace’s own sketches, the book is an easy read, but chock full of interesting stories about many things Southern.

Described as “an illustrated glovebox essential,” Wallace notes that “There are hot dogs and hot sauces herein. But this is not a guide to singular Southern foods or where to find them at their very best. Rather, this is a handbook that examines some of the ways we’ve gotten where we’re going: the signs that bait, the burgers that sate, the maps that guide, and the mixtapes that score the ride. As they do on the road, chains appear in these pages … but there are also detours to spots out yonder and beelines to specific destinations—oftentimes a road trip’s reason for being.”
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