This is a scrapbook of words and images in which John Margolies traces the history of the American Gas Station from the earliest roadside pumps to the present, with a special focus on the heyday of the streamlined station. He combines rare archival photographs with his own trademark colour photographs - the result of over 20 years traversing America in search of vanishing roadside architecture. Here are classic pillared gas stations alongside fantastic ones shaped like cowboy hats, igloos, teepees and aeroplanes. There are sub-chapters full of gas station trivia and lore from promotional "razzamattazz" to the amenities provided by a modern "comfort station".
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Margolies is a clunky writer (he likes to talk, for instance, about a gas pump being "tall in stature": what else could it be tall in--the saddle?), but that doesn't keep this pictorial celebration of the American gas station from being magnetically browseable. Commercial art and architecture seem more revealing of their times than do the fine arts, and they're surely easier to wax sentimental over, as Margolies does in such locutions as "all of this is gone now, and we won't see the likes of it again," to which most would mutter "big deal" even while yielding to the naive appeal of filling stations done up to look like pagodas, windmills, and pop bottles; of road maps tricked out with dinosaurs and swim-suited cuties; and of the group portrait of Union 76's snappy Sparkle Corps that was supposed to see to it that the company's station rest rooms were clean. Wonderful Americana, deserving of a home in any American public library. Ray OlsonFrom Library Journal:
Margolies is the ideal tour guide through the ephemera of the American roadside. Bookshelves seem to be bursting with this far-from-scholarly but endearing genre of architectural publishing, and Margolies's pictorial look at the American gas station is a solid addition. Using postcards, his own contemporary photographs, and archival material from a number of petroleum companies, the author offers a bouncy look at a steadily changing highway icon. The spare text is full of tidbits of gasoline retailing lore and its evolution from the homey, early stations through slick industrial modern to the stripped-down self-service outlets of today. But it is the often surprising, occasionally nostalgic images of gas stations, retailing schemes, service station attire, and even road map designs that form this book. Recommended for academic and public libraries.
- David Bryant, New Canaan P.L., Ct.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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