The Great Suburban Experiment Of The 1950s: Its Promise And Collapse with Fred Setterberg

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The 1950s were full of promise. The “American Dream” was seemingly within the reach of most Americans. It was a time of innocence. The economy was booming and optimism was the norm in the suburbanized post-war landscape of possibility. But over the next twenty years, life will change for Fred Setterberg’s blue-collar family as tract homes proliferate, wages soar and then collapse, the inner cities burn, and another war begins in faraway place called Viet Nam. Setterberg takes us on a journey into the ordinary lives that build a country. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Fred Setterberg is an award winning author. He earned his B.A. in English at the University of California at Berkeley and his M.A. in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University. He is a former staff writer for the East Bay Express and has been a visiting writer with the Chautauqua Writers Center.

His books include:

To learn more about the work of Fred Setterberg go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • What was a blue-collar suburb in the 1950s like when suburbs were a new phenomena
  • How was the war in Vietnam different from WWII
  • How some immigrants had never seen a lawn and thought them as manicured pastures
  • What was the irony of the concerted efforts to keep blacks out of suburbia and the widespread adoption African American music
  • How, in the 1950s, people valued being able to fix their own houses and cars

Host: Justine Willis Toms         Interview Date: 1/16/2012         Program Number: 3423