Book Review - Dixie Before Disney: 100 Years of Roadside Fun by Tim Hollis
There's something about that nostalgic time of the 40's, 50's, and 60's, when it comes to "roadside attractions". We as a society have become so used to "bigger, better, spectacular", that it's fun to look back to those times when cheesy themeing was still different enough that it would draw them in droves. Dixie Before Disney: 100 Years of Roadside Fun by Tim Hollis covers those time periods, when Stuckey's and Rock City ruled the road in the South. Many of those places are now gone, but it's fun to look back at how we used to define entertainment.
I Wish I Was in Dixie; Stuckey's, Ten Miles; Peachy Beaches; Head for the Hills; Fantasy Lands; Old Time There are Not Forgotten; The Nature of Things; Spring Training; A Tropical Paradise in the Wild West; Epilogue; Bibliographical Essays; Index
Now to get the most out of this, you'd probably have had to be raised in the South during the golden age of motoring. So many of these places were designed to draw the car full of family, either as a final destination or (most likely) as a stopping point along the way. Hollis does a good job in mapping the highs and lows to major cultural shifts in our society. World War II interrupted a number of plans, as rationing and service overseas took priority. The energy crisis of the 70's also ravaged many of the attractions as people stopped driving as much. The rise of affordable air travel, along with the emergence of mega-parks such as Disney closed the doors on many of the remaining places. But still, there are a few left that let you step back into the past, such as some of the Ripley's Believe It Or Not museums and cities such as St. Augustine.
Hollis also does a great job of tracing how we've evolved (or not) in terms of minority and cultural understanding. Being that the book is focused on the South, slave stereotypes were quite common. He mentions how restaurants such as Mammy's Shanty and the Pickaninny Coffee Shop were open and operating in Atlanta as late as 1968. Today many of us would be amazed that anything like that used to exist. But back then, images like that were common and normal...
About the only thing I would have liked better in this book is the use of more colored photos. There's a seven page inset in the middle that shows a few locations in their full colorful glory. All other pictures are smaller black and white images interspersed with the narrative. If the publisher could have spent the additional money for more color, Dixie Before Disney would have been truly outstanding. Even so, it's still a very enjoyable trip back into yesteryear...