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

Are We There Yet?: The Golden Age of American Family Vacations (Cultureamerica) - Susan Sessions Rugh This is a very good book looking at a specific time in American history: the family vacation from about the post-World War II era to about the 1970s. This was the era when families loaded up the family station wagon and went out on road trips to see the United States. It is a time that is idealized by many Baby Boomers, but their children probably differ when it comes to that idealization. It is a time that some see with nostalgia and others are glad it is over. But whether you loved or hate the station wagon road trip, this was a pivotal time for American culture and history in terms of consumerism, civil rights, and social growth. And yes, not all the travel happened on station wagons, but the basic idea was to load up the car and go. The author does a very good job with the research. She draws on a lot of archival material, and she also notes where there are gaps in the records. One of the strengths of the book is in telling the story of the groups marginalized during this time such as Blacks (due to Jim Crow) and Jews (due to anti-semitism). The author goes on to show how these groups, while suffering humiliations and even hardships on the road, also adapted, creating their own resource networks, camp grounds, resorts, so on. The basic story is that after the war, many vets came home. They got jobs. Got married. Had children. And they had relatively generous benefits, including good vacation. That is a contrast to today where you are lucky if your stingy employer gives you more than a week, maybe two at the most (and even then you can't take it all at once). So, loading up the family car to go to Disneyland or a resort or a National Park was relatively easy to do. Keep in mind it was relatively easy if you were White and part of the prosperous middle class (you know, the middle class that is now in danger of extinction). Now, if you were Black or Jew (or other minority), even if you were solid middle class, you might find some difficulties on the road, but that did not deter minorities from hitting the road as well. The vacation was not just leisure however. It was also an economic engine. Oil companies gave away free maps and travel information in order to market their gasoline and products to motorists. Cities and municipalities promoted their tourists attractions. Resorts were built, and even celebrities got in by investing in amusement parks. A lot of jobs would be created from Americans vacationing. However, time did march on, and tastes and dynamics changes. What the parents saw as thrilling-- the family vacation that brought all the family together-- their kids saw as a drag and thus avoided. Also, air travel and the Internet changed things as well. The authors does touch on this as well. Overall, it is an interesting topic. The book can be a bit dry at time however, which is why I did not rate it higher. It is worth a look. It does include some good photos as well. Plus, like many good microhistories, you learn not only about vacations, but in this case about a time in American history that also allows us to reflect on our own time. Maybe there is the real value of the book.