Commercial Archaeology-yes, there is such a discipline

Commercial Archaeology-yes, there is such a discipline

When I lived in Savannah, GA and attended the Savannah College of Art and Design, I was amazed at that this institution had “imported” two diners from New England. One of these diners was called “The Streamliner” that was constructed in 1938. The other is “Bobby's Diner”.I had lunch at both of these eateries. The fare was o.k. What was beyond “o.k.” was the experience of sitting in these structures and having a visceral response to what it must have been like for New England residents to eat in diners back then when the first diner came on the scene .

Even before, I moved to Savannah, I was a resident of Southern California and used to go to the movies at a vintage movie theater called the Aero in Santa Monica. The Aero is a single-screen theater that was built in 1939 and opened the following year. It is still showing films. In fact, actor Robert Redford who spent a lot of time, growing up in Santa Monica, viewed movies there I also used to go to the El Rey on Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile district and the Alex Theater on Brand Boulevard in Glendale.

In the late fifties, my father used to take my brother and I to play miniature golf at some of the most whimsical courses in Yonkers, N.Y.,just outside of The Bronx. My dad and my uncle Ike used to own a billiards hall in the late 1930's and actually maintained a roof-top mini-course. 

Finally, when I drove down Central Avenue in Albuquerque (a city that I lived in for 13 yrs), I could not help noticing all the great motels of the 40's-50's and 60's. Many of these motels also display unique neon signage that is also worth taking note of. 
Had I not been a historic preservation student. I probably would have never paid serious attention to any of these amazing sites nor taken an interest in commercial archaeology. Undertaking such an academic education just sparked my curiosity. But I have taken such an interest and renewed my membership in an organization called the Society for Commercial Archaeology ( Therefore, I recommend that if you love old diners-movie houses/drive-ins, miniature golf courses-nightclubs/dance halls/speakeasies and related venues,do consider joining SCA. They really are committed to the preservation of these aforementioned attractions but also a variety of quirky sites of the American roadside such as vintage gas stations. It cost $55.00 annually to join ($40.00 if you are a student). On their website, you will be able to access information about their annual meeting, local/regional tours, peruse-order merchandise and SCA journal articles. You also get their journal as a membership benefit. “Get a real blast from the past”.

Best Regards,

Michael H. Gelman


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