Picks and Pans Review: Gas, Food and Lodging

updated 04/04/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/04/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

by John Baeder

For much of this century, before the open road became the continental drag strip that is the Interstate highway system and the Golden Arches helped put independent roadside diners out of business, a trip across the U.S. by car was a journey of countless amazements. From Toto's Zeppelin in Holyoke, Mass. to Art Lacey's Bomber gas station six miles south of Portland, Oreg., the commercial phenomena that bloomed by the wayside were more than expressions of a desire to do business; they were testaments to a longing for style. There were restaurants in the shape of steamships, diners made to look like railroad cars, tourist cabins disguised as Indian tepees and, outside Erie, Pa., a popular drive-in restaurant in the form of a fish. They bespoke an irrepressible playfulness and a pride in particularity that have been gobbled up by franchised conformity. Though many of these artifacts have been razed or transformed, they live on in the 268 illustrations in this book. It is a loving compendium of the way these transitory institutions were. Baeder, 44, is an Indiana-born former commercial artist who quit his job in 1972 to pursue his obsession—painting the roadside visions he had culled from his postcards. "There is an element of fantasy in wishing to go inside the picture of a café," he writes, "... and to sit at the counter, look at the surroundings...smell the odors, and listen to the tapestry of sounds." But Baeder is a pilgrim as well as a dreamer, and much of the text in this marvelously engaging book is an account of his time on the road, seeking out what remains of the images that come so tangibly to life in his paintings (Abbeville, $29.95)

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