I have an incomplete BS in Environmental Resource Management with a Concentration in Housing

My father was born in 1924. He grew up on a farm in Indiana during The Great Depression.

He shared a room with an uncle, probably the same uncle who was unemployable due to permanent lung damage from mustard gas exposure in World War I. Said uncle could still do chores on the family farm to help earn his keep so that's what he did.

Their room was likely added onto the wood cabin his parents had. It had a dirt floor and tiny snow drifts formed in winter as snow came in through the gaps in the wooden walls.

There were a few hooks on the wall for "overhalls" -- as Hoosiers in Indiana apparently say, going by my father's pronunciation at least -- and a "coffee box" for some foldable clothes. You saved your best overalls -- the newest ones, the ones not yet full of rips and such -- as your Sunday Best for attending church and wore your shoes to church, IF you owned them.

Cola drinks existed but few people could spare the nickel they cost. Dad was one of five kids and they apparently ate pretty well most of the time. He knew poor neighbors with more kids where the dad would say "Take big sips of buttermilk and little bites of cornbread" or, alternately, "Take big bites of cornbread and little sips of buttermilk" depending on what was in short supply that day at dinner.

As the 1930s went, dad likely had a pretty comfortable existence. Some families moved every thirteen months to take advantage of landlords offering one free month's rent for anyone able to pay the first twelve on time and in full. Other families moved into the basement and rented out the house to try to cover the mortgage and not lose the house to the bank.

Dad dropped out of school at age fifteen because he was a big guy and could earn "a man's wage." This was extremely common at that point in time. A lot of people did farm work and a high school education was not considered essential if you were not going to go on to get a colledge degree and become a doctor, lawyer or similar.

World War II began in 1939 and lasted six years. The US didn't enter it until December 1941.
On December 7, 1941, following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on Japan. Three days later, after Germany and Italy declared war on it, the United States became fully engaged in the Second World War.
Dad had recently turned seventeen. He once said his dad had to sign the papers to let him go into the Army because he was only seventeen.

World War II marks the end of The Great Depression in history books. It is described as a time when they were able -- to their surprise -- to make both "more guns and more butter" in order to rise to the occasion for the sake of the war.

People were encouraged to grow Victory Gardens so food grown by farmers could feed the soldiers overseas. Car factories were shut down and converted to making military jeeps. Luxury goods were rationed or simply unavailable.

Women were actively encouraged to fill traditionally male jobs in order to meet production demands while most men were in service. Many households were de facto two-earner couples with few or no children and no ability to have more children.

As Lucille Ball once said "You can't phone that in."

Victory Gardens, war-time rationing and the baby bust meant these two-income households couldn't spend all their money even if they wanted to do so. Savings rates were extremely high, exceeding fifty percent for part of the war.

At the end of World War II, thanks to The Great Depression and the war, there was a huge unmet need for housing. The boys came home and all had military benefits to help them buy a house and most had money in the bank.

This confluence of events gave us the birth of the modern suburbs.

The organized efforts of an entire nation that had so recently been used to great effect to win the war now turned its baleful eye on building enough housing for its many veterans and their families. Federal programs and policies helped pave the way for financing mechanisms, among other things.

The suburbs themselves and the many policy and financing mechanisms which birthed them have shaped this nation physically ever since and also shaped the mindset and expectations of Americans concerning what "good" housing is supposed to look like. In the American collective subconscious, a "good" house is a single family detached house in the suburbs.

Only, you know, a little bigger. A little fancier. With a littler more sparkle.

Dad went up in rank quickly during World War II and then went home to Indiana when the war ended, leaving the service. He stayed six months and decided he would be better off in the military, where he got to sleep in an hour later and the work was easier if no one was actively shooting at you.

He was a young man and did not yet have children. He did not buy a house in the 'burbs until more than twenty years later, the summer I turned three, when he dropped his retirement papers to get out of doing a second tour of Vietnam.
In the New York and northern New Jersey suburbs 67,000 mortgages were insured by the G.I. Bill, but fewer than 100 were taken out by non-whites... I think I got to grow up in a house in the 'burbs not simply because my father had been career Army but also because he downplayed his Native heritage
With dropping his retirement papers, he needed to buy a house FAST, while he still had a job -- his military job -- with which to qualify for a mortgage. There wasn't a LOT of time to house hunt and my mother was never satisfied with the house they bought on short notice.

It wasn't big enough. It didn't have enough bedrooms. There were only three bedrooms and she had three children.

To remedy this issue, my parents used what was supposed to be the den as their their master bedroom and each child got one of the bedrooms. Being a den, it had wood panels on the walls.

One fall evening when I was four, I was left with my dad while my mom, sister and brother attended parent-teacher night. That was the night dad and I tromped into the patch of woods behind our house just before sunset and he cut wooden "hooks" and stained them himself to match the wood paneling in that room.

He applied the stain on the carport next to said impromptu master bedroom, with the door between the carport and that room standing ajar so he could color-match the stain by eye.

Upon these hooks, he mounted two shotguns. For safety reasons, they were not loaded. Instead, two shells were stored visibly in the groove of the barrel in case they needed to be loaded quickly for some reason. The rest of the ammo was locked up in daddy's closet.

One of the many deficiencies the house had according to my mother was a lack of insulation. She would stuff strips of cloth into the cracks around the front door and just leave it shut for months at a time.
I was on the street about a year before it dawned on me how upper class my mother's expectations were. It took even longer for me to begin to comprehend how well off my parents had actually been at one time.
The carport door -- the door leading directly into my parent's bedroom -- was the primary door we used to come and go. If the front doorbell rang, we knew it was a salesman or Jehovah's Witness. People who knew us all came to the side door leading into the master bedroom.

It was the norm to leave doors and windows open to create a cross breeze rather than run up the electric bill by running the AC. As anyone in the neighborhood who knew us stood knocking at the side door and looking in through the screen door, they could see the shotguns with two shells hung on the wall above where my father slept.

No one had to tell them those guns were NOT locked up and could be accessed swiftly. No one had to tell them there was ammo ready to hand to load them promptly. Anyone could see that with their own two eyes from the step at the sidedoor and many people in the neighborhood no doubt did.

Dad was a twice-decorated veteran: Purple Heart and Bronze Star with "V" for Valor designatin (aka earned in battle). He had absolutely killed some people in the course of his long military career and his country had awarded him for doing his job well.

The fact that he was a military retiree was common knowledge, but you didn't really need to know the man to infer that. He continued to get his hair cut short every single week and had other mannerisms that visibly marked him as former military, mannerisms easily recognized by locals in the town where I was born and raised who had high exposure to military members due to the large local military installation nearby.

All the houses in the neighborhood had a flimsy glass door at the back of the house. It was a significant security issue and one year there was a spate of burglaries where all the houses got broken into through that sliding glass door.

All the houses except ours.

I imagine the person or people committing the burglaries were locals who KNEW it would not be in their best interest to break into THIS house. Either they had personally seen the shotguns on the wall and the obvious military retiree sleeping beneath them or word had gotten 'round about the guns on the wall and about my father being a veteran.

Our house was physically essentially the same as all the other three bedroom houses with a sliding glass door in that neighborhood, as all were based on a handful of floorplans that were occasionally flipped or some such. The difference in outcome was due to something other than the physical details of the building itself.

It was due to social factors, and not because my dad ran around threatening to kill anyone. People simply inferred he shouldn't be messed with and chose to skip taking the risk to rob our house.
"There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans."

I like many of the points made by the video. I like it enough that this is the second post I've written that includes it.

But it essentially repeats a lot of lies about how we got to the unhappy place where we currently are in the US. The easiest and best lies are partial truths.

I know the popular framing for how White supremacists and upper class jerks intetionally designed the suburbs to exclude poor people and people of color and essentially zone them out of existence are, at best, half-truths not only because I have studied the history of housing in the US but also because personal anecdotes from my father's long life color my understanding of life during that time, giving me context for the dry stats and such that so many people view through the eyes of the present and fail to see at all clearly.

The road not taken is not one in which Whites and Blacks, rich and poor live in harmony in housing designed to be inclusive. It is one in which even middle-class people could not find housing because there simply wasn't enough housing.

We are victims of our own success. The suburbs are a problem because they are a gift of the ghost of Christmas past and they still haunt us and haunt our dreams and bias our ideas of what "good housing" looks like such that many Americans fail to see that currently, we are CHOOSING to simply not build enough housing and this is why too many people are out in the streets.

The suburbs got built in spite of their deficiencies in part because the people who made them understood that they were better than simply NOT having housing. So they rammed through what was feasible, what was practical, what was socially acceptable in a racist world and they made sure more people had housing because of it.

Maybe THIS time around, we can be more Woke when we vow to double-down and FIX this housing shortage and do so sensitive to some of the issues that people complain so much about in criticizing the suburbs of Christmas past. That would be wonderful.

Or maybe we will continue to bellyache about everything wrong with the suburbs and STILL not build enough housing, as seems to be our default norm in recent decades while we underbuild housing in every state, have a documented and worsening affordable housing shortage in every state and then claim the homeless people don't exist due to the lack of housing.

No, it's a personal problem. They are all junkies and crazies and housing simply can't fix their issue, and never mind that we call their issue homelessness.

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