Commonplace Book #88

The car and the family vacation was one of the best expressions of family “togetherness.”  By 1963, 43 percent of all American families reported averaging six hundred miles on extended annual vacations.  For a week or two families could exercise complete control of their lives as they entered the vast system of American highways.  Considering the break with the past Americans faced, it was no coincidence that historic sites predominated as destinations.  Vacations to historic sites not only allowed parents to control family leisure for didactic purposes, but also served the purpose of raising patriotic future citizens.  At the same ti me, historic restorations at Disneyland, Sturbridge, Williamsburg, Mystic Seaport, or Gettysburg entertained members of a visual culture on the road just as on television and in the movies.  Few, perhaps, realized that family-centered consumption of goods or travel to historic sites supported American family values and aided Cold War supremacy.  On the road, as in the ranch house, supermarket, or church, Americans acted out of their nation’s freedom and abundance as a counterpoint to godless communism.

Jim Weeks, Gettysburg: Memory, Market, and an American Shrine, 156.