Are We There Yet?: The Golden Age of American Family Vacations

Overview

"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
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Overview

"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 on American." 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.
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Editorial Reviews

The Atlantic
Smart and sensitive, well researched and no-nonsense, [Rugh's] ride is well worth taking.
Washington Post
A fascinating exploration of excursions from 1945 to the 1970s.
American Historical Review
A captivating and provocative read. Makes a convincing case for the centrality of the road to American culture.
Journal of American History
Innovative and insightful.
Technology and Culture
Accessible to the general reading public and of value to scholars.
Sue Kovach Shuman
…a fascinating exploration of excursions from 1945 to the '70s.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal

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.
—Mike Miller

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700617593
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 10/28/2010
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Sessions Rugh is associate professor of history at Brigham Young University and author of Our Common Country: Family Farming, Culture, and Community in the Nineteenth-Century Midwest.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

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

Epilogue 180

Notes 185

Bibliography 215

Index 227

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