102. “Oh no, they’re bombing Levittown!”

The episode:Fire Maidens of Outer Space,” ep. 416

The riff: Exclaimed with concern by Tom as the hero’s plane flies over a grid of tightly packed homes and roads.

The explanation: The first “Levittown,” as it turns out, was a suburb on Long Island built between 1947-1951 as a planned community. It is considered one of the first “truly mass-produced” suburban areas, featuring the kind of antlike conformity that the American middle class would all grow to love in the 1950s. There were many other Levvittowns, such as Levittown, Pennsylvania, which set the standard for planned communities. Naturally, these communities have been criticized in the years that followed for being completely soulless.

Novelty factor: It’s all new to me, although I am familiar with the idea of these communities. I did grow up in suburbia, after all. What a reference to use as a joke, though. Did they really expect anybody to know this one?

NOTE:¬†Please watch the below video for the ridiculous 1950s “progress” montage music.


6 thoughts on “102. “Oh no, they’re bombing Levittown!”

  1. I grew up in East Meadow, Long Island (one town over from Levittown) and never heard this. My father picked our house because it had a basement and garage, whereas Levittown housing was bare minimum. Both towns were actually built specifically for the returning servicemen and the base at Mitchell Field.

  2. I lived in Minnesota my whole life and I knew about Leviotown. Its just one of the jokes in Joel’s “Over 40″ collection” Or to use a line from Rifftrax, “Anyone under 55 will be completely mystified” (Used recently to refer to a gag about the TV show Sea Hunt)

    If you look at Old Pictures of the place, the houses are as alike as two boxes. Sixty years of people has fixed that more or less, but at the time it was unique. Goggle a song called “Little Boxes” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Boxes It will tell you a lot.

    • “By that time, my lungs were aching for air!”

      For the sake of context, I’ll tell you that I’m 26 years old, so that should help you understand what eras of pop culture I am most familiar with. I know a lot more older stuff than most people my age, but you can see where there are gaps.

  3. I learned about Levittown, NY in detail in my History of American Cities course in college. Yes, it was the very first planned city. The second was Lakewood, CA, where I grew up. It’s based on Levittown, so it’s very similar. gpcox above is right– part of the GI Bill for returning WWII servicemen included help paying for a house. So America was hit with a sudden demand far greater than it could supply. Hence the idea of planned cities– they were built quickly and fit many houses into every square mile. Lakewood was built right next to a facility that fixed airplanes for what became McDonnell Douglas, and then Boeing. So at first, the majority of homeowners in Lakewood worked at that facility. Levittown and Lakewood also restricted home sales to whites only, which interests me because neither of them were in the south. Perhaps that was much more widespread than I had thought. I’m not sure when the laws were changed.

    • Just came back and watched the Levittown video. Yep, it looks just like Lakewood, right down to the public pool. The only difference is that Lakewood’s houses didn’t need such steep roofs since we don’t have to deal with snow. I also enjoyed the bit where they advocate the use of asbestos siding.

      Here’s a similar video, albeit shorter, about Lakewood. Note how it boasts of being the first planned city since Washington DC, making no mention of the fact that Levittown came before. It shows Lakewood Mall, which looks nearly the same now. In fact, much of this video shows Lakewood as it still is today, lily-white and stiflingly conformist.

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