From Kirkus Reviews: There is something distinctive, revealing, and often quite sad about the life along America’s major highways. The truck stops, motels, and idiosyncratic roadside attractions are all uniquely American, as is the fate of the towns that grew up along a stretch of highway, succeeded by servicing travelers, and dwindled once newer highways carried interstate travelers elsewhere. Highway is an intermittently effective tour of these precincts, featuring old photographs of roads and (primarily western) highway communities, recent color photographs by Jeff Brouws, and essays by Patton and Polster on the history and influence of some of America’s interstates, and on literature and films in which the highway has figured.
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Migration and transportation, city and wilderness, fantasy and folly, invention and expansion, journey and escape – Open Road is an appreciation, a history, and a celebration of the American highway. Phil Patton’s book tells the story of the country’s arterial system and how it unified and changed a nation. Chapter 8 discusses the politics of urban renewal, supported by liberals of the era, and highways’ impact on cities. It also brings into question whether Dwight Eisenhower truly knew what he wrought and the Cold War’s influence on the roads we drive today.
From Phil Patton’s essay on partially painted pickup trucks, “Trucks in Progress”:
Whole cultures have been organized around totems that represent strength and skill, power as well as proficiency. For prehistoric peoples, these included the antelope and the caribou. Medieval Europe was ruled by the cult of the horse — “chivalry” comes from the root of chevral, the horse. Future historians may see in the detritus left by twenty-first-century America the signs of a culture built around the symbolism of the truck.
400 color photos represent three decades of documenting America by the late photographer John Margolies, whose comprehensive collection of roadside architecture of the twentieth century now resides in the Library of Congress.
Phil Patton notes in the introduction:
At the time Margolies appeared on the architecture scene, Modernism still held sway. Ornament was disdained. Independent roadside establishments had been forsaken as a result of the development of America’s modern highway system and the new architecture that came along with it…new highways bypassed old roads, leaving many of the colorful, eccentric businesses to die on the vine….For Margolies, the bland standardized culture of the corporate roadside that the interstate brought was killing the creativity and individuality of the old two-lane road culture that he loved.
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