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Diners, Bowling Alleys, and Trailer Parks: Chasing the American Dream in the Postwar Consumer Culture

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The years immediately following World War II witnessed a dramatic transformation of America's working-class suburbs, driven by postwar prosperity and a burgeoning consumer culture. Chrome and neon were the new currency in this revitalized consumer culture, and no postwar consumer products trafficked more heavily in this currency than diners, bowling alleys, and trailer parks, through these three quintessentially American institutions, Andrew Hurley examines the struggle of blue-collar Americans to attain the good...
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Overview

The years immediately following World War II witnessed a dramatic transformation of America's working-class suburbs, driven by postwar prosperity and a burgeoning consumer culture. Chrome and neon were the new currency in this revitalized consumer culture, and no postwar consumer products trafficked more heavily in this currency than diners, bowling alleys, and trailer parks, through these three quintessentially American institutions, Andrew Hurley examines the struggle of blue-collar Americans to attain the good life after tow long decades of depression and war.

Diners, bowling alleys, and trailer parks shed their hardscrabble origins and unsavory reputation in the postwar years, becoming places where blue-collar families announced and celebrated their arrival into the middle class. Touted as a force for egalitarianism and inclusion, they nonetheless became, more often than not, battlegrounds where deep racial, ethnic, class, gender, and generational divides were revealed.

Andrew Hurley tells this story of the humble origins, explosive growth, and gradual decline of the diner, bowling alley, and trailer park in expert fashion. This is substantial cultural and social history that also knows how to entertain as it opens a revealing window onto the larger history of post-war America.

About the Author:
Andrew Hurley is Associate Professor of History at the University of Missouri and author of Environmental Inequalities. He lives in St. Louis.

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Editorial Reviews

Preservation
. . . anyone doing research on diners, bowling alleys, and trailer parks will have to consult it.
Library Journal
Much as Stephanie Coontz did in her influential The Way We Never Were (LJ 9/1/92), Hurley (history, Univ. of Missouri; Environmental Inequalities, Common Fields) holds up a new lens to class, race, gender, and the economy in the postwar era. The accessible topics and interesting prose support strong arguments concerning how marketing these institutions to newly affluent blue-collar workers shaped images of ideal middle-class suburban families in ways that excluded people of color. Unfortunately, the four chapters do not hold together particularly well. The separate chapters on diners, bowling alleys, and trailer parks are more detailed than necessary, while the concluding chapter covers new economic territory without weaving in the strands of earlier chapters. Recommended for academic and public library collections in American studies, economic/business history, and sociology. Paula R. Dempsey, DePaul Univ. Lib., Chicago Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Searching for consumer institutions that shed light on the new spending habits of post- WWII society, coupled with a lifelong love of diners, Hurley (history, U. of Missouri, St. Louis) settled on the diners, bowling alleys and trailer parks that sprang to life at this time. While these venues may be viewed with nostalgia now, this history reveals the deep racial, ethnic, class, gender, and generational rifts that were visible there. The new abundance of commodities described in this history is shown to have had little effect, ultimately, on the frustrated aspirations experienced by America's middle class in the 1950's. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465031863
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 2/5/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 432
  • Lexile: 1440L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 8.57 (h) x 1.42 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Credits ix
Preface xiii
Introduction: Remaking the American Dream 1
1 Diners 21
2 Bowling Alleys 107
3 Trailer Parks 195
Conclusion: Giving Chase 273
Epilogue 327
Notes 337
Index 391
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