Epitomizing the optimism of the United States post-WW II economic expansion and rise of the middle class in the 1950s, this scene from 1956 features John (Val's father) with two of his prize possessions: a champion German Shepherd named Rocky and his brand new Ford Fairlane. This vehicle, bought on Aug. 28, replaced a failing used car, and John took great care in its upkeep, including frequent cleaning and polishing.
John had married Evelyn two years earlier. She took this photo in the driveway of their recently purchased house in Ingall's Park, a neighborhood in Joliet, IL. With a combined income of almost $9000 a year, the couple cautiously accrued various financial obligations associated with living the American Dream. The house cost $8500 and, with the second mortgage they took out to build a garage, their monthly mortgage payments in 1955 were around $75, about the same as they had previously been paying to rent an apartment. The payments on the automobile (which cost over $4000, although the trade-in covered a portion of that) were $55.80 and continued for several years. Interestingly, their first major purchase as a couple occurred two years before they married; they bought a wood and canvas Old Town canoe for $213 in the summer of 1952.
The 1956 Ford was not only the first new vehicle they owned; it was also the first to have an automatic transmission, which certainly expedited Evelyn's learning to drive in the hilly terrain of their home town.