'Pop' Goes the Culture, as the Culture Goes 'Pop'

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'Pop' Goes the Culture, as the Culture Goes 'Pop'

Disneyland opened. Polyester appeared. Drive-ins debuted. There were radio-controlled lawnmowers and there were electronic brains. Volkswagen made a boom with its first Beetle and the sound barrier broke.

Moms went hog wild over Tupperware and kids laid waste to supermarket shelves lined with brand new sweets like Oreos and Sugar Smacks. A televised Tarzan swung across living rooms as families peeled off the tops of their first heat-and-serve TV dinners.

Louis Armstrong jazzed. Elvis Presley rocked. Billie Holiday blues'd...and teenagers, threatening the moral fabric of society, popped coins into the jukebox and danced their way across America wearing poodle skirts and pompadours.

It was 1950s post-war America and U.S. culture went "pop". Popular, that is.

Having emerged from WWII as a world superpower and a socio-political rival to the communist Soviet Union, the US was neck-high in desire to make its capitalist model shine. The national economy fell into full force post-war production and miners and steelworkers sweated to provide a hungry public with all the necessities and luxuries in life.

At the same time, real-estate developer William Levitt was stamping out cookie cutter homes just as fast as World War II veterans could pack their bags and park them in suburbia. In the midst of a population boom and a housing crisis, the US could not market itself until it could provide decent homes for its people. For that reason, building and moving into suburban homes fully equipped with the latest and greatest appliances became a patriotic mission.

Levitt built tens of thousands of nearly identical, inexpensive homes, organized them into neighborhoods connected by village centers and commercial districts, and marketed them to struggling war veterans as the ideal American community. These new instant neighborhoods became a nationwide overnight success, and suburban America as we know it was born.

For the five long years of WWII, there was little to no stimulus for consumer spending, but with a pumped-up domestic-centered economy, the new suburban public became fascinated with fads like collecting electronic appliances, playing with hula hoops, and buying newly-designed cars. There, in 1950s suburbia, modern American culture was fed to the ideal US citizen. New gadgets demonstrated technological progress and innovation. Music revealed liveliness and youth. Recreation showed wealth and prosperity.

By this time in the 1950s, the US and the Soviet Union were heavily involved in the Cold War, a period of about forty years during which the two nations competed for international influence and economic control. The US found in American suburbia a battlefront in which to combat Soviet communism. With all of its popularity, trend setting, and progress, suburban America sent a message to the world that the promises of capitalist democracy were strong and thriving.

Source: http://www.ustrek.org/odyssey/semester2/031001/031001stephenfifties.html

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