Retail California: Shopping Centers, Malls, and Creating a New Consumerism

Broadway-Crenshaw Center in 1947. Photo by Loomis Dean.

[Editor's note: This article first appeared on April 4, 2013 for the Intersections column at KCET Departures. Part of a 3 part series on Southern California's retail history, Part III (below) explores SoCal's role in popularizing shopping malls  Part II on the convergence of the Big Lebowski and Ralph's as a symbol of SoCal's early embrace of the grocery store and new "advances" in consumerism can be read here. Part I examines Los Angeles' role in creating the drive in market, a precursor to the dreaded strip mall. It can be read here.] "It was a peculiar and visionary time, those years after World War II to which all the Malls and Towns and dales stand as climate controlled monuments," … [Read more...]

Retail California: Cars, Drive-In Markets, and Consumers

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[Editor's note: This article first appeared on March 7, 2013 for the Intersections column at KCET Departures. Part of a 3 part series on Southern California's retail history, Part II on the convergence of the Big Lebowski and Ralph's as a symbol of SoCal's early embrace of the grocery store and new "advances" in consumerism can be read here. Part III on SoCal's role in popularizing shopping malls can be read here. Part I, below, examines Los Angeles' role in creating the drive in market, a precursor to the dreaded strip mall.] When C.L. Peckham opened Ye Market Place on Los Feliz Road in Glendale in 1924, few realized the influence the drive-in market would have on urban planning and … [Read more...]

Bed-Stuy, the Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus Identification: Best of AHA 2014, Part 1

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Going to conferences is one of the great mixed blessings of the academic life.  On one hand, it offers the chance to get away (to New York or LA, or sometimes even exotic destinations like Richmond, VA) and travel, like an Actually Important Person (AIP), sometimes with your department or university picking up the tab.  We get to reconnect with old friends and have more than the appropriate number of drinks--on the pretext, of course, of "getting a feel for the city" (or in Richmond's case, not). On the other hand, there is the actual conference itself--a dreary procession of monotonously recited presentations, ranging from the navel-gazingly esoteric to the merely boring.  And if it's … [Read more...]

Only Some May Follow: Southern California, Asian Americans, and Housing during the Cold War

Japanese Internment - Not America's greatest moment

“Years of media abetted conditioning to the possibility of war, invasion, and conquest by waves and waves of fanatic emperor worshiping yellow men,” the late writer Michi Nishiura Weglyn pointed out, “invariably aided by harmless seeming Japanese gardeners and fisherfolk who were really spies and saboteurs in disguise – had invoked latent paranoia as the news from the Pacific in the early weeks of the war brought only reports of cataclysmic Allied defeats.”[1]  Indeed, even before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and internment, the U.S. government questioned the loyalty of its Japanese citizens. The F.B.I. and Naval intelligence had performed exhaustive surveillance of the Japanese minority and … [Read more...]

Too Much to Choose From: Searching for Inspiration in Asheville

local is the new black poster

Asheville is an Appalachian Shangri-La. This year-round resort town, tucked between the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, draws a funky mix of New Agers, fleece-clad mountain bikers, antiques lovers and old-time farmers. And what's there not to like? Charming yet surprisingly cosmopolitan for a town of about 73,000, Asheville has a Southern appeal all its own. There are lazy cafes and buzzing bistros, Art Deco skyscrapers and arcades reminiscent of Paris, kayaking and biodiesel cooperatives and one of the world's largest private homes — the Biltmore Estate, a French Renaissance-style mansion with 250 rooms. No wonder so many locals first started out as tourists. -- New York Times “Freak … [Read more...]

Swimming in Dysfunction?: McCarren and the Long Perspective on Municipal Pools

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This is the third installment of our Summer 2013 pool series: Part I - A Dive into the Deep End: The Importance of Swimming Pools in Southern California - a cultural history of the pool in Socal (published at KCET Departures) Part II - Waters of Community, Waters of Hostility: The Messy History of Urban America and the Municipal Pool After reopening in summer of 2012 following decades of dormancy, Brooklyn’s Robert Moses era 1937 landmark, McCarren Pool, resumed operations for its second season in late June.  In New York, where media outlets from the New York Times to Curbed NY (writers enjoyed frequently  deploying the term “shit show” to describe it) to New York Magazine eagerly … [Read more...]

Chattanooga: Where Neoliberalism and Creative Commons Meet

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First, the basics: Chattanooga is a city of some 171,000 or so people, situated in the southeast corner of Tennessee, surrounded by the Appalachian mountains.  As a key railroad junction, Chattanooga once prospered through manufacturing and shipping, but the vast political and economic shifts of the late twentieth century took their toll on the city.  Deindustrialization drained the city of people and jobs, with local population only recently reattaining peak 1980 levels. More akin to cities in the ailing Rustbelt of the North and Midwest, the Tennessee metropolis faced an uncertain future in the 1980s and 1990s, while regional neighbors like Charlotte and Nashville boomed through … [Read more...]

Taking Chances on Chicago’s South Side: Acid Rap and Summer 2013

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Good God this summer’s been hot! Anyone living in the Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, or Southeast knows the debilitating feeling of walking out the door to work at 8:30 A.M. only to be slapped around by 90% humidity and taunted by temperatures that rival blast furnaces at full capacity.   Despite the considerable heat produced by the weather alone, this summer’s been scalding in emotional ways.  Violence in Chicago – where over one weekend gun violence felled 21 people, five fatally – and the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman court ruling seemed to have raised emotions to their boiling points. The sweat on our collective brows joined by a cauldron of resentment and mistrust.  Undoubtedly, … [Read more...]

Waters of Community, Waters of Hostility: The Messy History of Urban America and the Municipal Pool

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[Editor's Note: Just in time for summer heat waves, this is the first in a series of posts in the upcoming weeks on the swimming pool in American life.  For those interested in cultural history of the backyard pool, check out ToM's RR via @KCETDepartures - "A Dive into the Deep End: The Importance of the Swimming Pool in Southern California"] “Caddy Day,” read the Bushwood Country Club Swimming Pool sign in the 1980 comedy Caddyshack, “Caddies welcome 1:00 – 1:15.”    In the roughly five minute scene, the Bushwood Country Club grudgingly hosts its lowest rung of employee: the caddies.  As the motley crew of lower middle and working class white kids, the group’s ethnic population … [Read more...]

London Calling: Paul Gilroy, Dick Hebdige, and British Multiculturalism

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Black man gotta lot a problems But they don't mind throwing a brick White people go to school Where they teach you how to be thick White riot - I wanna riot White riot - a riot of my own White riot - I wanna riot White riot - a riot of my own - “White Riot” by the Clash The winds of imperialism blow two ways. While we often focus on the impact of the colonizer on the colonized, in recent years, more and more writers have begun to also consider what colonialism has meant for imperialists on the domestic front.   Few places provide a window into this reciprocity than 1970s London.  Postwar immigration from former colonies to Britain resulted in an increasingly diverse London … [Read more...]

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