Cover image for Diners, bowling alleys and trailer parks : chasing the American dream in the postwar consumer culture
Diners, bowling alleys and trailer parks : chasing the American dream in the postwar consumer culture
Hurley, Andrew, 1961-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2001]

Physical Description:
xix, 409 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Reading Level:
1440 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HC110.C6 H87 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



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 two 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 postwar America.

Author Notes

Andrew Hurley is a professor of history at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Hurley is the author of Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945-1980 and Common Fields: An Environmental History of St. Louis.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

One of the fine additions to historical scholarship in recent years has been the examination of the ordinary--the inclusion of everyday artifacts and behaviors that everyone takes for granted. Diners, bowling alleys, and trailer parks qualify as interesting additions to historical knowledge. Historian Hurley focuses upon these institutions during the 1950s when they appealed to a prosperous working class moving into the growing middle class. Though he openly acknowledges that trailer parks never achieved middle-class status, he demonstrates that diners and bowling alleys benefited from suburbanization and therefore might qualify as middle-class institutions. The expansion of the middle class and the definition of that class is an important part of the 1950s story. Eating at a diner or going out for an evening of bowling are rather modest evidences of the American dream, and Hurley tends to load these experiences with more meaning than his sources can support. His 50-page conclusion, in which he ranges widely about the meaning of consumerism in the 1960s, distracts the reader from his central concerns. Nevertheless, Hurley has called attention to important changes in American consumer behavior at a critical point in American history. Recommended for all collections. J. Sochen Northeastern Illinois University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Creditsp. ix
Prefacep. xiii
Introduction: Remaking the American Dreamp. 1
1 Dinersp. 21
2 Bowling Alleysp. 107
3 Trailer Parksp. 195
Conclusion: Giving Chasep. 273
Epiloguep. 327
Notesp. 337
Indexp. 391