By Brian Butko

CENTURY III MALL OPENED south of Pittsburgh in 1979. That was “my” mall and throughout the 1980s, its thousands of parking spots would fill to capacity, leaving anxious shoppers to park on streets, on grass, anywhere so they could shop, or more likely, just walk and hang out.

One of the mall stores, Heaven, embodied the era with its New Wave take on the 1950s — sort of like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure as retail. Among the cheap retro lunchboxes and pencil cases was a book area, ignored by most shoppers but for me it was, well, heaven. I discovered there were writers who liked old diners and roadside attractions too: Richard Gutman, John Margolies, and most memorably, John Baeder. I suspect that more than a few eyes were opened, and lives changed, when they first saw his Gas, Food & Lodging.

Many books at the time mentioned the Society for Commercial Archeology. Writers would thank the group or were involved somehow but it was a challenge to locate and join the group. Finally, one day I found an address, sent in my membership dues and waited. A year later I finally got my first piece of SCA mail — a renewal notice!

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Did you enjoy this article? Join the SCA and get full access to all the content on this site. This article originally appeared in the SCA Journal, Spring 2017, Vol. 35, No. 1. The SCA Journal is a semi-annual publication and a member benefit of the Society for Commercial Archeology.

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