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Are We There Yet?: The Golden Age of American Family Vacations (Cultureamerica) (Culture America (Hardcover)) Hardcover – June 12, 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Smart and sensitive, well researched and no-nonsense, Rugh's ride is well worth taking." --The Atlantic

From the Back Cover

"Superb! Filled with wonderful images, Rugh's study is exceptionally detailed, extremely well researched and subtly informed by theory rather than driven by it. A well-written and reader-friendly history of a familiar but fascinating subject. I can't wait to own this book!"--Karal Ann Marling, author of As Seen on TV: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950s
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Product Details

  • Series: Culture America (Hardcover)
  • Hardcover: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Pr of Kansas; 1st edition (June 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700615881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700615889
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #928,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. N. Roth on August 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Although I found Rugh's summaries of complaint letters received by the NAACP and National Park Service to be captivating, her book is riddled with minor errors, inconsistencies in argument, claims beyond the scope of her compiled evidence (mostly secondary sources), and outright incorrect citing of sources. These errors overshadow the amount of decent research performed.

The book is not well-edited. Rugh confuses the plural with the singular as "camping materials" becomes "it" (p. 144) or "park operators" becomes "he" (p. 148). She becomes lost in her summaries as sources seem to overlap and stories and pronouns become confused (see pp. 157-158 in her discussion of the Gilmans' resort and mixing it up with Ryan's narrative). She states that Sinking Spring Farm is in Rockport, Indiana, when it is actually located near Hodgenville, Kentucky (p. 54). The New England Thruway becomes "The New England thruway" (p. 75). She refers to "The phenomenon of 30,000 motels" (p. 36) when just mentioning that the number of motels peaked at 51,000 (p. 35). These types of errors pepper her book.

Her arguments are not consistent through the book. At the beginning, she is careful to state that the family ideal in the 1950s did not really exist according to historians (p. 6), but then says she focused on families that fit the ideal (p. 11) and then makes assumptions about postwar reality based upon advertising, and other popular culture (see pp. 125-126 for an example regarding camping). She draws all sorts of generalizations about reality from advertising and popular culture when such research should have been presented as how businesses viewed the needs of the public (i.e. not a portrayal of what exactly was occurring in families).
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Format: Paperback
This is a very academic tome. It's certainly not a heart-warming re-enactment of all those trips across the Plains and down to Florida that the elderly remember, back when all we were worried about was nuclear war, or, earlier (and it does go that far back), Hitler. It has that quality that much university-oriented work has these days: this is what my colleagues are talking about, these are the topics I've written up in unreadable academic journals, this is what I've tormented my students with.

The book was donated to the Zero Public Library and put in the "Free" bin by the Friends of the Library. I can see why. Yet the topics are rather interesting, if you're the right sort of reader.

I really only read one chapter carefully, the chapter on Jim Crow. This chapter was, in large part, written about the behavior of the concessionaire to the National Park Service in Shenandoah National Park. This concessionaire would sluice black visitors to the Lewis Mountain campground, only, instead of two or three others. If you've camped at Shenandoah, you may be aware that this is the smallest campground. I myself camped there, a couple of years back. There's nothing in the interpretive material, signboards, etc. that would clue you in to this background. Unfortunately, though the author tells an interesting story, it would have been more interesting and more genuinely informative if she had compared practice in other NPS areas in the Old South: Great Smoky Mountains, Mammoth Cave, battlefields (if any blacks visited those). But she doesn't do this. Rather typical of academics (as well as pop culture blowhards) that she gets the story she thinks she understands, and stops there.

After finishing that chapter I threw it back in the donation slot.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Since I well remember my own family vacations during the 1940s and 1950s, "Are We There Yet?" naturally stoked my memory. Author Rugh evokes the rustic summer camps, roadside cabins that predated the oncoming flood of motels, and the absence of glitz and sameness that colors so much of the vacation landscape nowadays. A nostalgic read, with emphasis on the postwar Midwest, it should appeal to a wide range of readers, especially those over 60 and a younger set curious about what people did during the summers in "those days." A good sampling of vintage photographs accompany the text.
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"Are We There Yet" may be a bit of a surprise for casual readers expecting a lighthearted look back at travel in the postwar era, as it's instead geared more towards a more scholarly audience. Susan Sessions Rugh instead focuses specifically on the evaluation of automobile travel in the postwar era and what it meant to specific segments of the population. While automobile travel was common before the war it exploded in popularity following it, spurring the growth of the travel and hospitality industries and domestic tourism, but it wasn't all lighthearted fun. As Rugh points out, it also introduced Americans into a potentially hostile environment they sometimes were ill-prepared for. And not all tourists were welcomed everywhere in a time of Jim Crow and segregation. Amongst one of the interesting developments Rugh explores is the creation of the Green Book which listed black friendly establishments and how that publication and those who used it wound up challenging both overt and subtle racism.

"Are We There Yet" is actually most interesting when it delves into more difficult issues, such as racism, segregation, and the mayhem of travel. It's also notable for omitting certain segments completely, such as the LGBT community, save for a brief mention; a fairly inexcusable oversight as the subject is not only ripe for discussion but because discrimination against them continued until fairly recent times. The appeal of "Are We There Yet" will likely be limited to historians and social scientists, but lay readers may find it an interesting read as well. Rugh's prose is quite accessible and the stories and topics she covers an insightful glimpse in our recent past.
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