CALL IT HOME is a laserdisc history of suburbia from 1934-1960. It collects 55 minutes of running footage from government, industrial and educational films with 3000 stills from related official and ephemeral documents. The disc explores the hyper-capitalistic partnership between the federal government and private enterprise in the 30's wherein suburban residential fabric became a currency, an economic indicator, and major U.S. industry not unlike the automobile. In an exaggerated version of the long-standing American tradition of abstracting something as specific as land into a generic product, this period produced not only the assembly line house, but the assembly-line site. The material attempts to complicate the typically amnesic perception of suburbia as a mid-twentieth century tract house phenomenon, resetting the beginning of this trend in the thirties and looking at the many waves of suburban growth which this more recent chapter obscured.
Long before the G.I.'s returned, the Depression had created a housing emergency. The federal government fashioned suburbia into a flagship industry, hoping to increase demand for jobs, materials and mortgages. Houses and lots were designed in the marketplace shaped by new mortgage formulas and traffic calculations, the demands of the home-building industry and the dictates of federal agencies like the Federal Housing Administration. The home-building industry became a monolith that leveled the previous diversity in residential development. Ephemeral period evidence helps to demonstrate why the new residential fabric was calibrated as it was and why it has had such a peculiar neutralizing effect on all its parts.
Films and stills on the disc successively yield the floor to various speakers, replaying the persuasions of the federal government, the planners and designers, the home-building industry, the Realtor, the mortgage banker, the appliance salesmen and stylists, and, intermittently, the home buying couple. The movement was fueled by a giant publicity campaign in which each industry advocated the primacy of its sponsored agenda, enlisting both tradition and modernity and privileging home ownership as a nostalgic, patriotic, or progressive cause. More than any of America's suburbs, this new experiment, in the end, became the product of its prime agenda; a negotiation of property and consumption.
While the film clips are not available on line, CALL IT HOME on Mosaic is a dense encapsulation of stills from the disc providing documentation of a major shift in programming housing, land and infrastructure from 1934-1960. It traces the change from an urban America with a diversity of housing arrangements to a suburban America based on generic templates. The collection contains among other things, evidence about prefabrication, infrastructure, financing, Federal direction and private industry response. A list set of images is linked to instructional commentary as well as a chronology sprinkled with quotes from critical voices of the period.
Among the evidence found in this selection from the disc is: