Dreaming The American Dream

Dreaming the American Dream

Boy and Girl and car 4 leaf clover If the seed of the American Dream was planted during the dark days of the Depression, germinated at the New York World Fair of 1939, it was nurtured and cultivated during the sacrifices and deprivations of WWII. By Wars end it was ripe, ready to be harvested and it would blossom into full bloom in the Post war years and beyond.

Post War Promises

By 1945 with the end of war in sight, material dreams kept pumping through the culture in lavish color drenched ads.

Reassuring articles and advertisements had begun appearing a good 2 years ahead of our victory, furnishing the material daydreams of the future. Speaking directly to the battle fatigued boys overseas and to the best girls they left behind, creating identical longings for same American Dream.

postwar family and their picket whit fence home

“Sure enough the day is coming soon when Sgt Joe will be back home again. Back to his best girl and the little recruit he left behind”. His wife and son will make life what it ought to be once more. The house would have a picket fence; it would be within walking distance of a school for all their adorable children; the girl would have a chest of Community silverware, the ex GI his own Naugahyde lounger. And they’ll be other good things. A big comfortable Sealy mattress with genuine percale sheets  instead of a foxhole. A Steak instead of K rations. “Yes, a different kind of mess hall, a bright cheery kitchen, with shiny appliances, complete with a chrome dinette set.”

They would garden together in their suburban plot and he would commute to his good paying job in his aerodynamic fully hydromatic-car   because they lived in a quiet suburbs, and oh yes, they’d have lots of babies.

“You’d Be So Nice to Come Home to”

My mother knew that if she had faith in the future that once the war was over she would be able to achieve the things she really wanted in the post-war-world of tomorrow.

Five earlier, she had been enthralled by the material abundance presented  the 1939/40 New York Worlds Fair whose theme, The World of Tomorrow, celebrated technology and progress. With the successful end of WWII in the not too distant future, the greater possibilities of the world of tomorrow would come alive.

Betty was already planning now for Victory when more of everything you want will be within reach.  She had mentally checked off all the things she’s dreamed of owning that have been unavailable because of the war.

Closing her eyes, she could almost see the frost free future with the electric refrigerator that you never have to defrost! A well stocked home freezer to keep her supplied all winter long with summer fresh vegetables and a limitless supply of those new frozen foods. An electric range that automatically cooks the meal while she’s out shopping! All her loveliest crystal, best silver and new china will be washed safely in her new electric dishwasher!

And she knows there will come a day when washing towels will be simplified to put em in – set the dial-take-em-out!  There would be stockings that never run… draperies of colorful fabrics so waterproof you can wash them with a hose at housecleaning time. …perishable fruits wrapped in miracle new plastics that would remain orchard fresh for months.

Postwar television would bring TV right into your homeAnd most thrillingly of all, Television would bring the world right to her living room.  GE promised to make your home a window on the world –by television they promised, “you will see a circus, a big baseball game, the Mardi Gras, the launching of giant ships. By television you will keep up with new fashions new recipes and new dance steps!

All in a new home of her own, in a new shiny suburb. And Goodyear promised an easy commute for hubby to and from work in a spanking new helicopter sky-cab! “These things”, she thought, “will be mine again, in my tomorrow!”

Besides which, weren’t they the things we were fighting for?

Post war Promises

Wars end would bring the beginning of that better life folks had been hoping for.

Consumer race to buy and buils postwarAfter years of curbing our enthusiasm the pent up hunger born of war sacrifices and denial was unleashed sending us on a bender of a buying binge. Americans would eagerly enter the material age of Post war promises with whetted appetites and overflowing wallets

The Best years of Our Lives consumers

man dreaming of driving a new car

Sure plenty of things were still rationed but the material dreams kept coursing through the culture, seductively displayed in glowing ads as brashly triumphant as we were.

Everything was so new, so thrillingly new, you’d never seen it before, but once you experienced it, you’d never be without it.

Returning Vets -Headed For History

retrurning WW2 vets and their familys at the train station

By the thousands, overcrowded transport ships and transcontinental Pullmans crawled across the continent delivering war weary soldiers back to their loved ones. Now that they were back home for keeps, the moment everyone dreamed was here. With eyes aglow and hearts aflame  … awaited  the long deferred American Dream for today tomorrow and always.

Back Home

returning ww2 vets celebrate dancing

All across the country there was a great “back home” feeling in the air. While for much of the world returning “back home” meant rummaging through the rubble of broken bricks and smoldering wood, in the desolate shell of a former city not yet done burning, Americans were now as carefree as all the push button appliances and new miracle fibers that awaited us. In our country there wasn’t a single building demolished by bombs, a brick displaced or a window broken and the only visible geographical scar was the one we ourselves had made, on the empty deserts of New Mexico.

From GI Joe to Joe College

returning ww2 soldiers fill college campuses

By 1946 the shape of college campuses all across the country were being altered.

With an eager stride in her step, my mother returned to college that September, filled with self confidence, and a brand new pair of postwar nylons. There wasn’t a girl anywhere who wasn’t cheering the news that nylons were back and just in time for the return of the boys.

Assignment:  Male Call

ww2 soldiers home from the warG-I ( guy interest was the theme song of colleges now. It was a different campus.

During the war years you had to take what you could get, including men, but by 1946 the colleges all over America were being filled by a boatload of eligible men-literally-a battalion of returning soldiers  taking advantage of the GI Bill. That guy who was someone nice to send letters too last year is back in your college life.

Through his financial assistance the Uncle Sam brought a college education to within reach of millions of persons who otherwise would have gone directly into trades or blue collar jobs. Now, a sheepskin diploma was one more component of that American Dream.

Armies of  American veterans, were streaming into colleges their little gold discharge buttons winking gaily from their coat lapels,  wedging themselves into colleges which hadn’t done any building since 1941 and the results were like trying to pack 2 pounds of sardines into a 1 pound tin .

From uniform to Civies Returning Vets 1945

Schools themselves were changing, becoming West Points for Big Business. Fresh from the war the boys had one strategy- they wanted to be deployed directly into jobs as second lieutenants with US Steel or Du Pont. And retire comfortably  on a Colonels pension fourty years later.

Corporations from coast to coast quickly filled with forward thinking vets who traded in their khaki uniform  for a grey flannel one . With a firm handshake , they enlisted for life, the golden carrot of retirement loomed in the future like a pot of gold at the end of the work world rainbow.

A Pregnancy is patriotic

new parents post ww2

Parents everywhere were under marching orders to have children. Uncle Sam would soon find himself with the greatest batch of nephews and nieces ever presented.

They were trooping in by the millions. But while Uncle sam was sure showing his pride, he was only dimly aware like most bachelor uncles of the fact that these nieces and nephews grow up. Uncle Sam would have to take care to provide and soon, because here comes the baby boomers.

And we’ll live happily ever after

Post war promises guns and butter for everyone

And it seemed to be no better time to be raising a family. The nuclear Family was as American as the nuclear Bomb

President Truman presented a rosy picture of the future- if all went well according to his Fair Deal program, Americans would work less, play more, purchase more!

Why, it was predicted, the average American family would have an income of $12,000 by the year 2000! With a staggering income like that, there would be no limit to how much happiness we could buy.

Copyright (©) 20011 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved


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