Tag Archives: American Culture

Book Review: The Strip by Stefan Al

by Danielle Prostrollo

A new book to the library collection is The Strip by Stefan Al. Showcasing the history of the iconic American destination, breaking it down into eras, and delving deep into each casino and hotel’s story. There are photographs that show off each casino, increasingly taller, shinier, and extreme and Al’s writing put each of these casinos into the bigger context of Las Vegas history.

the strip

According to the Al, Las Vegas’ relationship with tourism began with a Wild West phase, resorts styled to look and feel like a frontier town before moving on to the post-War modernist. Innovations were made, such as placing a pool by the casino for leisurely lounging, only to be followed by leisurely gaming in the pool (as was the case at the Sands casino’s floating craps table). This transition was punctuated by the “Big Switch”, the multi-million dollar renovation of the Last Frontier resort into the New Frontier resort. The cowboy image was now in the rear view mirror and the space race was on.

Following this era of change the country, in a frenzy of atomic fever, leapt at the opportunity to partake in mushroom cloud-gazing. Las Vegas was in the right place for the public to make their pilgrimage for a chance to see atomic testing and the city did not waste that opportunity. Providing atomic cocktails and lunch menus, the resorts catered to their clientele. In the 1960s The Strip really started to gain height, with new casinos being built taller and taller. If there was any doubt that the frontier image of the dessert city was dead, this would certainly be it.

Building on the growth of the previous decades, the 1980s saw expansion into hyper-thematic resorts. Treasure Island, Excalibur, and the Luxor were all constructed during this “theme park”-like era. And from the extremes of giant castles and pirate ships, the strip pushed back toward the center focusing on equally enticing flights-of-fancy such as fake beaches, Venetian canals, and world landmarks. Taking the reader into present day, Al talks of the “star-chitect” trend. Recent casinos and resorts have relied on the name recognition of famous architects to bring notoriety and traffic to their destinations.

This book is a great read for anyone interested in American architecture, entertainment, or modern American history.

Find it at the Memorial Library or reserve it here

Check out some of our other recent book reviews here:

Unforgotten New York

Hope in the Dark

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Filed under American Culture, American History, American Travel, Books

Uncle Sam’s Roots in Eastern England

By Danielle Prostrollo


East Anglia’s Norfolk connections to America are well documented, and the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library maintains a blog devoted to exactly that. Some of the most famous are facts such as, Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, Heacham’s John Rolfe married Native American Pocahontas, and Abraham Lincoln’s ancestral home is in Hingham. But these are only the start of Colonial America’s reliance on the area for its good… and bad!

In the book Uncle Sam’s Roots in Eastern England: From Colonial Times Onwards by Roger Pugh, many of the lesser-known connections are discussed including the following:

Ancestral home of President Coolidge
Calvin Coolidge’s ancestors John and Mary were from Cottonham, Cambridgeshire. John Coolidge employed an economy of words similar to that which his famous descendant, Calvin, is known for. In the book, Pugh says that John once replied to an invitation: “Dear Gentlemen.  Can’t come. Thank you.” The Coolidges travelled to Massachusetts in 1630.

Harley-Davidson Motorbikes
William S. Harley, one half of the famous motorcycle brand, was born to parents William and Mary of Littleport, Cambridgeshire. So while Milwaukee, Wisconsin lays claim to being the home of Harley-Davidson, it is from Littleport that the Harley family came!

The Girls from Great Yarmouth and the Witches of Salem
Mary and Rebecca Towne, born in Great Yarmouth to William and Joanna Towne, are two of the many women who were tried for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. Their sister Sarah, also born to William and Joanna, was born in Salem and eventually tried for witchcraft. Mary and Rebecca would be found guilty and eventually executed while Sarah eventually gained her freedom after the guilty verdict.



To find out more about the East Anglia connection to America, check out Roger Pugh’s book at the Memorial Library or visit our (other) blog!

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My first overdue library book was A Light in the Attic


By: Danielle Prostrollo

Of course it is no badge of pride to have an overdue library book, but it is nonetheless true.  When I was about 7 years old I borrowed the popular Shel Silverstein book from the public library and then managed to accidentally keep it for, what I think was, 3 or 4 years.  That’s a lot of money in overdue fines.  But while my criminal record is forever tarnished, my relationship with poetry was shaped by that compilation.

I still go back to Silverstein on occasion, his writing is proof that poetry and literature does not need to be erudite to be masterful.  Most of his poems are one or two stanzas – short enough to keep the interest of young readers – and depict a world where not everything is sunshine and rainbows, but that it’s usually ok anyway.

In his later book Falling Up, Silverstein posits that if sunglasses keep out the sun then surely rainglasses can keep out the rain.  This kind of close-to-home whimsy allows kids (and grown-ups) to question their own world and consider why things are ‘the way they are’.

Other Silverstein works hit on aspects of life that most will find relevant well into adulthood as is the case with Tell Me which manages to distill common human phenomenon… “tell me I’m great/look thin/did a good job/etc… but be honest” into 8 lines.

In a time when it feels increasingly nice to turn off the news for a spell, A Light in the Attic (and any Shel Silverstein book) feels just as entertaining, relatable, and poignant as it did when I was seven.

You can find A Light In The Attic at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library here:

Photo: http://www.shelsilverstein.com/ from the cover of Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends

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Happy 4th of July!

July 4th was almost a July 2nd – the 2nd was the day that Congress voted to 4th - patriotic-flag-berrie-pieapprove a resolution of independence. However it took another two days for the final wording in the Declaration of Independence to be finalised and signed, hence the Fourth of July. So happy 2nd of July! This week we’ve got a perspective on the 4th of July from one of our British colleagues here at the Memorial Library as well as a little reminiscing about celebrations in the US from one of our American Scholars.

The 4th of July, from (old) England

This week will mark the 4th of July, the day where Americans celebrate their independence from the British. As a British person, I’m not sure what to think about this. I remember having an extremely awkward moment ten years ago while on holiday in the US at this time of year. After an impressive fireworks display, the audience was asked to stand for the national anthem and for a brief moment I was caught in a quandary. Do I stand up and show reverence for what was after all the theft of the rightful property of United Kingdom? Or stay seated out of solidarity to King George? Since I’m not much of a monarchist or the type to hold grudges for longer than a hundred years or so, I decided to do the polite thing and stand for the duration and hope that the locals couldn’t smell the tea and taxation with representation on me.

I feel like I was underprepared for the experience. The Revolutionary War is not something I was taught about in school. The closest we ever got to it was a brief mention of Thomas Paine, one of the Founding Fathers and a local boy from Thetford. So it’s with considerable ignorance that I discuss with my American colleagues at the Memorial Library the subject of the founding of the United States.

Fortunately for all concerned, here at the Memorial Library we have a whole shelf of books about that exact subject. As I have some catching up to do, I think I will start with The American Revolution for Kids: A History with 21 Activities. And after that, I can get to grips with a part of history sadly under represented on this side of the Atlantic.

The 4th of July from New England

4th July - Hatch Shell

The Hatch Shell on the Charles River.

The 4th of July in Boston – synonymous with hot dogs, burgers and sweet corn on the barbecue, mounds of potato salad, beans, ice cream, strawberries and watermelon juice dripping down your chin. And that is just during the day! Most towns – small or large – will do their best to put together a fireworks show. Residents will start to gather as the sun sets, laying out blankets and vying for the best spot to see the show. None can rival that of Boston; it is a spectacular firework display synced with the Boston Pops playing at the Hatch Shell – an outdoor amphitheater on the banks of the Charles River. The finale is always the best part – Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture accompanied by real cannon fire!

4th July - B fireworks

Fourth of July fireworks over Boston!

Boston and the nearby area hosted some of the Revolutionary War’s major events – the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s midnight ride, the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and of course, the Boston Tea Party. Boston’s rich history and role in the Revolutionary War is one part of what is celebrated this weekend, but it is also about community and getting together with friends and family. Small towns will host parades and fairs, and family reunions are common. The emphasis may be on one period in US history, but feels less about a revolution that overthrew a colonial power and more about the creation of an identity and community that today is represented by a weekend filled with events that always feel like home for me: a day where everyone brings something edible  (and usually a lot of it) along to share, spends the day eating, laughing, chasing children to apply more sunscreen, swatting mosquitoes and wrapping it all up by laying on the grass and watching some spectacular fireworks.

A few more interesting reads about the American Revolution

4th - gloriouscause 4th between 2 worlds 4th - 1776

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