What is our fascination with the 1950s and 1960s? Why, 30 years later, do we cherish the ideals of that period so much that an alarm clock from 1957 becomes an art object and a Hula-Hoop becomes a portal to nostalgic nirvana? To help us answer these questions, teacher and architecture critic Thomas Hine sets forth in clear, entertaining prose his textbook of consumerism in the Push Button Age. This is more than just a coffeetable book, though it does contain 250 well-chosen, if rather small illustrations that perfectly expand the text. This book is a historical/psychological analysis that documents the evolution of the American Dream through the things we bought in that period to keep up with the Joneses.
Hine's title, "Populuxe," is a synthetic word, like autodynamic . It combines the concepts of popularly available with the luxury those goods afforded eager post-World War II consumers. In these products can be found the optimism and innocence, the hunger for speed and embracing of the future that Americans shared as a nation.
In the Populuxe years, 1954-1964, the American appetite for fashionable, disposable and downright whimsical new products--like TV dinners and Con-Tact paper--stretched even this country's capacity for invention. But like an archeologist on a bone, Hine looks behind the front-grille smiles on our Buicks to see who we were as a people--a happy, Eisenhower-led "Father Knows Best" bunch with war behind us, space ahead of us and money in our pockets to buy the latest refrigerator with all the options. (Need we ask further why we long for these times?)