When my father returned home at the end of World War II, he found a much-changed country. He had left a nation still recovering from the Great Depression and came back to a newly-ascendant power, now an industrial and economic giant, the world’s unchallenged superpower. War-ravaged Europe would take years to recover.
It took a while for America’s industries to convert from wartime to the manufacture of civilian goods. Dad was so happy to be back in the States and out of the military after three years in the Army Air Corps, he threw his spare uniforms overboard, only to discover that there were no civilian clothes to be had at any price. He had to wear his one remaining pair of khakis for months until he could buy a new pair of pants.
But America was on the march. Millions of returning soldiers found work in our new factories, churning out a bewildering array of consumer goods at an unprecedented rate. We were on top of the world, fast becoming the wealthiest nation the world had ever seen, secure in our economic dominance and our military supremacy. We had won the war, and we had the Bomb. Who could possibly challenge us?
Who, indeed. In 1949, the Soviet Union successfully tested their own nuclear device. By 1953, they had their own hydrogen bomb. The Cold War was on.
Then, on October 4, 1957, the Russians challenged America’s technological supremacy once more.
Stay tuned for the next Sleeper Ave. story.