- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Sue Kovach Shuman…a fascinating exploration of excursions from 1945 to the '70s.
—The Washington Post
When TV celebrity Dinah Shore sang "See the USA in your Chevrolet," 1950s America took her to heart. Every summer, parents piled the kids in the back seat, threw the luggage in the trunk, and took to the open highway. Chronicling this innately American ritual, Susan Rugh presents a cultural history of the American middle-class family vacation from 1945 to 1973, tracing its evolution from the establishment of this summer tradition to its decline.
The first in-depth look at post-World War II family travel, Rugh's study recounts how postwar prosperity and mass consumption—abetted by paid vacation leave, car ownership, and the new interstate highway system—forged the ritual of the family road trip and how that ritual became entwined with what it meant to be an American. With each car a safe haven from the Cold War, vacations became a means of strengthening family bonds and educating children in parental values, national heritage, and citizenship.
Rugh's history looks closely at specific types of trips, from adventures in the Wild West to camping vacations in national parks to summers at Catskill resorts. It also highlights changing patterns of family life, such as the relationship between work and play, the increase in the number of working women, and the generation gap of the sixties.
Distinctively, Rugh also plumbs NAACP archives and travel guides marketed specifically to blacks to examine the racial boundaries of road trips in light of segregated public accommodations that forced many black families to sleep in cars—a humiliation that helped spark the civil rights struggle. In addition, she explains how the experience of family camping predisposed baby boomers toward a strong environmental consciousness.
Until the 1970s recession ended three decades of prosperity and the traditional nuclear family began to splinter, these family vacations were securely woven into the fabric of American life. Rugh's book allows readers to relive those wondrous wanderings across the American landscape and to better understand how they helped define an essential aspect of American culture. Notwithstanding the rueful memories of discomforts and squabbles in a crowded car, those were magical times for many of the nation's families.
This book is part of the CultureAmerica series."Superb! Filled with wonderful images, Rugh's study is exceptionally detailed, extremely well researched and subtly informed by theory rather than driven by it. A well-written and reader-friendly history of a familiar but fascinating subject. I can't wait to own this book!"—Karal Ann Marling, author of As Seen on TV: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950s
The family road trip, perhaps best immortalized by the Griswold family in the film National Lampoon's Vacation, is the subject here taken up by Rugh (history, Brigham Young Univ.; Our Common Country). From the end of World War II to the 1973 oil crisis, the U.S. summer family vacation was an American staple, fueled by postwar prosperity, the increased prevalence of car ownership, and more liberal vacation benefits. Here, Rugh explores the different types of vacation destinations-from dude ranches and theme parks to family camping sites and the National Park System-revealing not only the factors that led to the creation of such places but also how they came to define the postwar consumer society and the nuclear family. She also looks at how the difficulties Jews and African Americans encountered traveling in a segregated society led to their developing their own travel industry and culture. (African American travel played a role in the Civil Rights Movement, as travelers demanded equal access to hotels, restaurants, and national parks.) Well researched and a valuable addition to the study of 20th-century popular culture and history; recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
1 Selling the Family Vacation 15
2 Pilgrimage 41
3 Vacation without Humiliation 68
4 Western Adventure 92
5 Back to Nature 118
6 Summer in the Country 154
Posted July 5, 2008
I really enjoyed the book, having traveled with my family in the late 1950's to some of the places she described. I had forgotten some of the details she mentioned and it's been fun reliving them. This would be a great book to take to a family gathering as a conversation starter. Since the book had so many references I appreciated the ease in looking up sources at the back of the book. It's been a great summer read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.