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        #198: Life Slowly Returns to Normal in US in Years after World War Two

        作者:David Jarmul 發布日期:8-28-2013

        People move into their Levitt homes in Levittown, New York in early October 1947. Levittown served as a model for planned communities of the Baby Boom.
        People move into their Levitt homes in Levittown, New York in early October 1947. Levittown served as a model for planned communities of the Baby Boom.

        STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

        (MUSIC)

        World War Two finally ended in August of nineteen forty-five. Life in the United States began to return to normal. Soldiers began to come home and find jobs. Factories stopped producing war materials and began to produce goods for peacetime.

        At the same time, other changes began to take place in society. Many Americans were no longer satisfied with their old ways of life. They wanted something new and better. And many were now earning enough money to find that better life.

        Millions of Americans moved out of cities and small towns. They bought newly built homes in suburban communities outside busy cities. Today, we look at the growth of suburbs and other changes in the American population in the years after World War Two.

        WIFE: "And we'll have the living room right in here, and the kitchen right here so we can see the children playing in the yard."

        HUSBAND: "Yeah, the children ... Children? Say, how many are you planning on? Not more than six, I hope. Maybe I better add a few more rooms back here."

        A couple in a marketing film for the home building industry.

        The United States counts its population every ten years. The first census took place in seventeen ninety. At that time, the country had about four million people. One hundred years later, in eighteen ninety, the population was sixty-three million.

        By nineteen fifty, there were more than one hundred fifty million people living in the United States.

        In the early years of America, the average mother had eight to ten children. Living conditions were hard. Many children died at an early age. Families needed a lot of help on the farm. So it was good to have many children.

        But over the years birth rates fell. Families began to have fewer and fewer children. By nineteen hundred, the average woman had only three or four children. In nineteen thirty-six, during the Great Depression, the average American mother gave birth to only two children.

        Things changed after World War Two.

        (SOUND)

        Suddenly, it seemed like every family started having babies. Parents were hopeful about the future. There were lots of jobs. People felt the need for a family and security after the long, difficult years of the war. From nineteen fifty to nineteen sixty, the number of children between the ages of five and fourteen increased by more than ten million.

        The increase in births after the war produced what became known as the baby boom generation. An estimated seventy-eight million Americans were born between nineteen forty-six and nineteen sixty-four.

        Many of the new parents moved to homes in the new suburbs built outside the urban environment of cities.

        A photo showing part of Levittown, New York in 1948.
        A photo showing part of Levittown, New York in 1948.

        Usually a developer would buy land, maybe from a farmer, then clear it, level it and build houses on it. Young families would buy the houses with money that they borrowed from local banks.

        (MUSIC)

        Life was different in the suburbs - calmer, less crowded than life in the big city. There were all sorts of group activities. There were Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Parent-Teacher Associations at school. Outdoor cooking where families gathered in someone's backyard to eat hamburgers hot off the grill.

        Historian William Manchester described life in the suburbs in this way: The new suburbs were free, open, and honestly friendly to anyone except black people, whose time had not yet come.

        Manchester wrote, Families moving in found that their new friends were happy to help them get started. Children in the suburbs exchanged toys and clothing almost as though they were group property. When little Bobby outgrew his clothes, his mother gave them to little Billy across the street.

        People felt safe enough to leave their doors unlocked.

        Parents did everything they could to make life good for their children. Between nineteen fifty and nineteen sixty, the number of boys playing on Little League baseball teams increased from less than one million to almost six million. The number of Girl Scouts increased by two million. Bicycle sales doubled.

        (SOUND: Chevrolet commercial)

        And it wasn't just two-wheeled transportation that experienced a post war boost.

        US new car production was stopped during World War Two, to allow those factories to produce airplanes, tanks, and other military vehicles for the war effort.

        With the prosperity of peacetime, many Americans visited auto dealerships for the first time in years, to replace that tired family car with something more up to date -- even luxurious.

        For many years, popular singer Dinah Shore invited optimistic post-war Americans to take to the highway and see their country in a Chevrolet.

        (MUSIC)

        Post war prosperity also led Americans to replace outdated home appliances, buy a new refrigerator, or a television set.

        ANNOUNCER: "Come closer, sweetheart. Say, I don't think that's fair, because we can't get closer."

        BETTY FURNESS: "Oh, but you could, if you had one of the new Westinghouse television sets with the exclusive Electronic Magnifier that gives you a big close-up image whenever you want it. All you do is turn the Electronic Magnifier knob, and there -- you get the heart of the picture. And see? I'm close enough to say, 'Hello, good looking!'"

        Actress Betty Furness was commercial spokeswoman for Westinghouse.

        RONALD REAGAN: "And every Sunday night, General Electric brings you the finest motion picture stars on TV -- the great names in comedy ... mystery ... romance. Every week, a star, all summer long, on the General Electric Theater."

        STEVE EMBER: Over at competitor General Electric, actor Ronald Reagan -- later the fortieth president of the United States -- and often referred to as the Great Communicator, was for many years an effective commercial spokesman every week on the GE Theater.

        (MUSIC)

        Parents also tried to improve their children's education. In nineteen sixty, parents bought almost three times as many educational books as they did ten years before.

        Parents also bought millions of dollars' worth of pianos, violins and other musical instruments for their children.

        It was true that the average number of children per family was increasing. But the total population of the United States did not increase as much during this period as one might have expected.

        The reason for this was that fewer immigrants were coming to the United States. In fact, the number of immigrants had been dropping for many years. In nineteen ten, eleven immigrants were coming to America for every thousand Americans already living here. By nineteen fifty, less than two immigrants were coming for every thousand Americans.

        Where immigrants were coming from also changed. In the past, most came from northern and western Europe. But now, growing numbers of people came to the United States from southern and eastern Europe and from Latin America and Asia.

        Other changes in the United States population were also taking place. In the nineteen fifties, most Americans still lived in the eastern, central and southern parts of the country. But growing numbers moved west. The population of the western states increased by almost forty percent during the nineteen fifties.

        Remember we said the United States population gets counted every ten years? One reason is because populations are used to decide how many members each state will have in the House of Representatives. Population changes can mean changes in the political influence of individual states in Congress.

        (MUSIC)

        Another population change after World War Two was in life expectancy. An American born in the early nineteen hundreds could only expect to live about forty-seven years. By the nineteen fifties, however, most Americans could expect to live well past their sixtieth birthday.

        Life expectancy continued to increase with improvements in living conditions and medical care.

        The United States was a changing country, a nation on the move after World War Two. Next week on our program, we look at political events that shaped the post-war period.

        Our program was written by David Jarmul. You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.squishedblueberries.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.

        ___

        This was program #198. For earlier programs, type "Making of a Nation" in quotation marks in the search box at the top of the page.

        1945年8月,第二次世界大戰終于結束了。美國人的生活開始回歸常態。軍人從戰場返回家鄉,找工作上班。工廠停止生產軍工產品,改為生產和平時期的民用產品。

        與此同時,美國社會也發生了各種變化。很多美國人不再滿足于以前的生活方式,開始追求更新更好的東西。戰后很多人收入的增加,為他們提高生活質量提供了條件。

        數以百萬計的美國人離開繁忙擁擠的城鎮,搬進郊區新蓋好的大房子里,今天我們就要來談談二戰后美國城郊的發展和美國人口的變化。

        當時房屋建筑行業的一條廣告片里有夫妻兩人如下的對話。妻子說:"我們把這兒當客廳,這兒做廚房,這樣從窗戶看出去,還能看見在院子里玩兒的孩子們。"丈夫說:"等等,孩子?我們說打算生幾個來著?最好別超過六個。要不,我還是在后面再加幾個房間好了。"

        美國每十年進行一次人口普查。第一次人口普查是1790年進行的,當時美國人口大約是400萬;一百年后的1890年,美國人口6300萬;到1950年,美國已經有1億5千萬人了。

        美國建國初期,每個母親平均生八到十個孩子,由于生活條件差,很多孩子沒長大成人就死了,家里需要人手干農活,因此孩子當然是多多益善。但后來,出生率開始下降,到1900年時,每個母親一般只生三、四個孩子,到1936年經濟大蕭條的時候,出生率已降低到兩個。

        二戰結束后,情況發生了變化。突然之間,似乎家家戶戶都在生孩子。父母對未來充滿希望,工作機會到處都是,經過戰爭磨難的人們開始尋求家庭溫暖和生活的安定。

        1950年到1960年,5到14歲的孩子人數增加了一千多萬。戰后出生的這批人被稱為嬰兒潮一代。1946年到1964年間,大約有7800萬人出生。很多人家都搬到了城郊地區新蓋的房子里。通常情況下是開發商從農民手里買地,把地清理干凈,在上面蓋房子,把房子賣給從銀行貸款的年輕夫婦。

        郊區生活跟城市有很大區別,更平靜,沒有那么多人,有各種各樣的活動:男童子軍,女童子軍,學校有家長-老師聯合會,幾戶家庭還常聚在某個人家里,在后院燒烤。

        歷史學家威廉.曼徹斯特曾經這樣描述美國城郊的生活:新出現的城郊地區自由、開放,歡迎所有人的到來,但是黑人除外,他們享受平權的時代還沒有到來。曼徹斯特繼續寫道:"初來乍到的人發現,他們的新朋友很樂意幫助他們安頓下來。孩子們互相交換玩具和衣物,好像這些都是集體財產。鮑比穿小的衣服,會被媽媽送給街對面的小比利,大家都覺得很安全,夜不閉戶。"

        曼徹斯特繼續寫道:父母會盡最大努力,讓孩子生活得好一些。1950年到1960年間,參加棒球小聯盟的男孩子的人數從不到100萬,增加到了將近600萬,女童子軍的人數也增加了200萬。自行車的銷量翻了一番。

        戰后銷量大增的不光是自行車。二戰期間,美國汽車停產,生產汽車的公司改為生產飛機、大炮和其他軍用車輛。和平來臨后,很多美國人都跑到很多年沒去過的車行,把家里的破車換成一輛更時髦,更奢侈的新車。流行歌手黛娜.肖很多年里一直鼓勵戰后對未來信心百倍的美國人開著雪佛蘭汽車,順著高速公路,去暢游美國。

        戰后的繁榮發展時期,美國人還大量更新電視、冰箱等家電產品。女演員貝蒂.弗內斯是當時西屋電器公司的廣告代言人。她在一則廣告中說,"如果你買一臺帶西屋電器獨家電子放大器的西屋牌電視機,你就能隨時放大圖像,只要轉動電子放大器的電鈕,就能看到圖像的細節了。"

        美國第40任總統、有偉大溝通者之稱的里根,當時是西屋電器競爭對手通用電氣的廣告代言人。他在一則廣告中說:"每個星期天晚上,通用電氣會把喜劇、懸疑片和愛情片里最優秀的影星請上電視屏幕,整個夏天,每個星期天都會介紹一個。"

        戰后,家長們設法讓孩子受更多的教育。20世紀60年代,家長用在教育書籍上的開銷是十年前的將近三倍。家長還購買鋼琴、小提琴等樂器,也花了很多錢。

        美國出生率這段時間大幅度增加,而人口總數的增長卻沒有大家想的那么快,這主要是因為移民美國的人少了。事實上,移民美國的人口一直在減少。1910年,相對一千個美國居民,會有11個移民,1950年已經降到不滿兩個了。

        移民的來源地也發生了變化。過去,移民主要來自北歐和西歐;戰后,從東歐、拉丁美洲和亞洲移民美國的人數不斷增加。

        美國國內的人口分布也發生了變化。50年代,大多數美國人還主要集中在東部、中部和南部居住,但是越來越多的人開始向西走,50年代的十年里,西部各州人口增加了將近百分之40。

        美國每十年進行一次人口普查,并以此為依據決定每個州在國會有幾位眾議員,因此,人口分布的變化就意味著各個州在國會里影響力的調整。

        戰后美國人口的另外一大變化是平均壽命。20世紀初出生的美國人大約只能活到47歲,到20世紀50年代的時候,大多數美國人預計都能活到60歲了。人口壽命隨著生活條件和醫療水平的提高而延長。

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