What happened to the single-car garage? It is just about extinct. As a senior citizen, I remember this symbol of days gone by with a bit of nostalgia. To me it represented a time when my father used the family car to go to work, and my mother stayed home to raise the children and care for the home. It was a time that I was expected to rake the leaves and mow the lawn. My sisters were delegated to helping with the domestic chores. Buying anything on credit was a symbol of poverty. As the song went, “I owe my soul to the company store.”
Then came the revolution, houses with double-car garages were being built. What did that mean, what lay in store for us? It would become clearer as a dramatic change took place. Women found that there was a world out there beyond cooking meals and cleaning house. They needed a car to reach this full potential. The two-car garage was born and the world changed.
Gender equal opportunity was born. We now had two people competing for the same job. We now needed two cars. What else would we need? We still had one household — or did we? With independence came the question, does there need to be a husband and wife for parenthood? Why can’t there be single parents? And so we were off to the races with a new family model. Independence, a noble objective, came with a price. More people competing for the same jobs contributing to higher unemployment, and the resulting lower wages. Children being raised by persons other than their parents. In some cases this resulted in modification of family values. It became a time when Coke was no longer known only as a bottled drink. Teenage mothers became less of a stigma. Truly a revolution was underway. Low-wage jobs such as lawn care, house cleaning, and child care were outsourced to our new residents from Latin America. Documented workers or not, they had become an indispensable part of the American fabric.
The march to the two-car garage and beyond was accelerated by the political decision to scrap the Depression-era safeguards in banking. That would enable loans to both the credit worthy and non-credit worthy. This cemented the need for the two car and a three-car garage. Upon inquiring of one resident as to why the three-car garage, the response was “for the boat.” It was an era of free money using the increasing value of one’s home as a piggy bank.
We wanted more at a lower price. What our expanded work force had been producing was too expensive. There appeared a demand for more at cheaper prices. It was found that this could become available from products made in other countries as well as increased productivity resulting from new technology. Now these former household single-garage parents can buy more for less; however the hidden price was to be further job loss. This complicated their dream of a better life on the cheap. The piggy-bank-house-equity Ponzi scheme fell apart.
Many were not prepared for this massive change. They became part of a new underclass to be supported by the government.
What else does the future hold? With the advent of increased apartment living, the two- car garage may yet be replaced by the car-apartment-parking space.
JERRY BERKMAN is a La Cañada Flintridge resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org