22 February 2008

Post-War Hopes and Dreams

I've always been facinated by the early post-war years, say 46-49. Don't know why, just like 'em. I was doing some research from some old Newseek magazines in the basement and thought about Levittown. I guess most of you probably already know about it, but for those who don't, thought I would post up some information about it...and what it came to symbolize.

Americans in the late 1940's wanted nothing more than to settle down and get away from depressions, wars and the upheaval that had been the norm rather than the exception for most of their lives. We wanted our version of the "American Dream", a chance to settle down and live a little. Said the great songwriter Herb Magidson in his song, "I'll buy that dream"

"... We'll settle down in Dallas
In a little plastic palace
Oh it's not as crazy as you think..."

(Source: Herb Magidson, Songwriters Hall of Fame)

So we went to the suburbs!

No other place has come to symbolize this more than Levittown, PA. The development here was revolutionary in the way things were done. Said the New York Times:

"...'Even more important,'' he continues, ''was our own assembly-line procedures. One team would lay the slabs, another would do the framing, Another the roofing, and so on. What it amounted to was a reversal of the Detroit assembly line. There, the car moved while the workers stayed at their stations. In the case of our houses, it was the workers who moved, doing the same jobs at different locations. To the best of my knowledge, no one had ever done that before.'' As many as 36 houses were being finished each day, and every one was occupied just as soon as the last workers left...."

Here's some examples, pulled from the film The Quiet Revolution:


This small post hardly does justice to Levittown. Try the movies and see what you think. Even if you don't care for Levittown, the movies themselves are just great. Have a great day and see you tomorrow!


The Quiet Revolution

Miracle on the Delaware

NY Times Interview with William Levitt

Wikipedia: Levittown

Levittown Historical Society


Anonymous said...

"Americans in the late 1940's wanted nothing more than to settle down and get away from depressions, wars and the upheaval..."

60 years on we're right back there again. Wanting to get away from the recession (we don't use the D word now do we), wars and upheaval.

History repeats. Always has, always will.


Tony Bandy said...

Excellent point! What drive me crazy sometimes is that people who are not aware of history think everything is happening for the first time! Yikes!
How do we get more interest in history? Too often it's presented as dry, boring facts.