Archive for the 'Suburban Living' Category



Marx Toys: Mountain House Play Set

Compare this set to a couple of real life plywood vacation home designs I wrote about in a previous post.

The designs are from 1960, and the play set is from the early to mid-’70s.

Is the identification of home ownership with the American Dream a natural impulse or a national neurosis?

Epic Road Trip, Interrupted

I asked my wife if we could buy one of these Winnebago Chieftain things, quit our jobs, and drive around the country. She said no.

I said, “But there’s a stove and a bed right inside whatever you call this thing.”

She said, “They’re RVs… from the ’50s.”

I said, “Okay, so what if I could find one?”

She said, “It wouldn’t work. They’re giant pieces of shit.”

I said, “But what if it did work, and it had this sweet-ass green shag carpeting all over?”

She said, “You get claustrophobic in Target.”

I said, “Only if other people are there.”

She said, “Where would the baby sleep?”

I said, “There’s a door that leads to a bedroom.”

She said, “That door leads to a tiny, tiny bathroom.”

I said, “There’s a bathroom in this thing? Pack your bags, man. We are leaving.”

She said, “Hon, take out the trash.”

The Warmth of Wood

Ah, wood. Wood is good. Wood is so warm and hard, especially in the morning. The kids like to hold the wood and stroke it. The parental units like to keep the wood burning all night long.

All families should live in the woods in houses made of wood.

Wax On, Wax Off

“Oh Tom, Lois and Ed will be here in 5 minutes, and I still have to take out the pot roast!”

Hose Down That Furniture, Housewives!

This is an illustration from a book I’d really like to get my hands on, Yesterday’s Tommorrows: Past Visions of the American Future. Written by Smithsonian curators Joseph Corn and Brian Horrigan as an accompaniment to a 1984 exhibit of the same name, Paleofuture’s Matt Novak calls it “the retro-futurism bible.”

What’s hilarious about so many of these conceptions is, of course, the idea that we would have—that we should have—great technological advancements while maintaining a social backwater in which white men make all the decisions and women are domestic slaves. I guess it’s not really hilarious, considering there are millions of people who still believe white men should make all the decisions and women should be domestic slaves.

Click the image to read caption. Via No Such Thing As Was.

Plywood Vacation Home Designs, 1960

I found these beauties via Visual News, and the book they came from is available online: Second Homes for Leisure Living (the Douglas Fir Plywood Association, 1960). Second home? How about only home? I’m sure I could get a job as a lumberjack or something.

If only I had a Mr. Miyagi who would ask me to choose one for my birthday. He’d be the best friend I ever had!

The Center of Every Man’s Existence is a Suburban Dream

suburban homes 1954

Suburban home brochure, 1954

suburban house model

Model kit, late-’50s/early-’60s

paperback insert, 1969

Paperback insert, 1969

ryan home brochure 1963

Ryan home brochure, 1963

Or, as Bryan Ferry sang, In Every Dream Home a Heartache.

(Images via Graham Foundation, Tony Cook’s HO-Scale Trains ResourceOlman’s Fifty, Retro Renovation)

On the Comfort of Old Shopping Malls

plymouth meeting mall

midtown square mall rochester ny

I’m fascinated by these old mall images. Why are they so comforting? Why do I want to roam around these spaces while they’re empty, peering into the gated, now extinct shops, the faint splashing of the fountain my only company? I’m like one of those poor zombies in the original Dawn of the Dead.

Francine: What are they doing? Why do they come here?
Stephen: Some kind of instinct, memory, of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.

And it was. Because the mall was designed to be a second home. The shops were the bedrooms and the dens, the kitchens were the food courts, the marbled open spaces were the living rooms. You smoked there, ate there, crapped there, read your paper there, checked your watch by the big clock. Plants were everywhere, and you didn’t have to water them. The brown-orange carpeting stretched from J.C. Penney to The Broadway, and you didn’t have to vacuum it. The kids watched the adults, and knew that the mall was good. The adults dropped the kids off in front of Sears. The kids spent their lunch money at the arcade, looked at toys, raised hell, spilled potato chips and Skittles (someone else would clean it up). The adults picked the kids up in front of Sears.

There was nowhere else to go in the suburbs. We learned to associate home and comfort with spending money. Spending money was what we were supposed to be doing. And if we couldn’t afford anything at the moment, that was okay: one day we’d be all grown up, we’d get that paycheck, and we’d remember how good it felt to be at the mall, how good it feels to finally be able to shop.

Malls today aren’t designed to keep people in; they’re made to keep people moving. The idea is to get you to buy the shit you don’t really need before you realize that there’s no reason to go to the mall anymore: they no longer feel like home, nobody “hangs out” there, and you can buy the shit you don’t really need on the internet.

I’ll be posting more of these shots as I find them.

(Images via Christian Montone/Flickr and The Hungry Pilgrims)


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