By Jeremy Ebersole
Another meandering, gut-busting, kitsch-filled SCA mini-conference wrapped up last month as members and friends gathered for “SCA at Blobfest” from July 13-15.
Encouraged by SCA member, Retro Roadmap founder, and all-around roadside champion Mod Betty, the group held this year’s event in concert with Blobfest, an annual street fair, campy horror film festival, and community celebration held in the rapidly revitalizing southeastern Pennsylvania town of Phoenixville to celebrate the locally made but nationally famous 1958 film “The Blob.”
Attendees arrived Friday at the host hotel just across the street from The King of Prussia Mall, the largest in America by square feet of retail space, before bussing over to Phoenixville’s Fenix Room for our opening reception and general camaraderie. Once we were stuffed with dinner and a surprise treat of Philadelphia’s famous Tastykakes, we all hit the packed streets to watch Blobfest’s main event – the runout! Following a screening of “The Blob,” moviegoers rush out of downtown’s Colonial Theatre in mock fear for their lives in a re-creation of the pivotal scene from the movie, filmed at that very location, where the gelatinous space monster oozes out of every orifice of the theatre in it’s attempt to grow, expand, and devour. Witnessing the runout with hundreds of other revelers crowding the streets was a certain highlight of the trip and a great way to kick off our SCA weekend.
Saturday morning we all boarded the bus once again for the day’s Lincoln Highway roadtrip with our fearless leader – SCA member and Indiana University of Pennsylvania professor Kevin Patrick. We began with a small section of the famous highway through the upscale Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia, Kevin adding his seemingly endless supply of tantalizing stories, obscure history, and witty commentary along the way. A stop was made to gawk at the beautiful Anthony Wayne Theater before heading back to Phoenixville to enjoy Blobfest’s street fair and take in a screening of the film. Our spooky film fix satiated, we began our journey west along the highway, passing through Pennsylvania Dutch Country en route to the Haines Shoe House, a 5-story marvel of roadside architecture constructed in 1948 by the “Shoe Wizard” of York, PA to help sell shoes. The house is a mainstay of any reference to mimetic architecture nationwide and continues to be in great shape, offering fascinating tours and an adorable gift shop and ice cream stand.
We finished our day with a stop in Columbia for some bridge and transportation history before enjoying an enormous family style Pennsylvania Dutch meal at Good ‘N Plenty and another mimetic architecture treat, Dutch Haven, on our way back to the hotel.
Sunday was just as full as Len Davidson, SCA member and savior of Philadelphia neon, took us an offbeat tour of his city. Though most associate Philly with the colonial period of early American history, Len proved that it is also chock full of great neon, roadside attractions, and modern history as well. After getting some photos of the Tastykake outlet and the fiberglass statues of Pep Boys’ HQ, we took a look at Len’s temporary exhibit of neon art in an empty Firestone tire store currently owned by Drexel University. We finished the morning by taking in some of Isaiah Zagar’s amazing tile-covered buildings before being set loose in Reading Terminal Market for cheesesteaks, whoopie pies, and whatever else we could find to increase our girth at the massive market and food hall.
Afternoon high points included the site of the first Horn & Hardart Automat, ice cream at the Victorian-era Franklin Fountain, the Italian Market, and a personal tour of the famous Termini Brothers Bakery. Now thoroughly stuffed, we made room for one more stop at McGillin’s Olde Ale House, the city’s oldest tavern, for our closing dinner. Once again we learned a lot, ate even more, and proved that the American roadside is still overflowing with fun!