|The vacation culture of the late 1950s and early 1960s has become a unique slice of Cold War period Americana. World War II veterans now had families. Their children were teenagers. The American middle class was at its prime. At the same time man was faced with the realization of an atomic age, where opposing nations, steeped in vastly different ideologies, could destroy each other at will. The United States and the Soviet Union became gripped in a technological and social race. This battle affected the soul of every citizen, and revealed itself in unusual ways.
On July 24, 1959, Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev spent hours publicly debating cultural ideology at the American National Exhibit in Moscow. What was the catalyst of this argument? An all-American kitchen, designed by architect Stanley Klein, Andrew Geller and Raymond Loewy Associates.
The Moscow house became the prototype for a 1963 housing development dubbed "Leisurama." A full-scale model of the house was built on the 9th floor of Macy's Herald Square store in Manhattan. The homes were to be built in Montauk, NY and came fully furnished down to the toothbrush. Some models sold for $12,995. The marketing approach was genius.
One woman reported stopping into Macys to buy a brassiere and walking out with a house.
The Leisurama story is one of ambition, creative marketing, and a desire to leave the daily grind behind and escape to a fun, playful utopia. It is a story about a post-war nation searching for peace and diversion on the home front. It is a story about the clash of ideologies. It is a story about suntans, fishing, and outdoor barbecues.