Swinging in South CA

Added: Jared Ganley - Date: 07.04.2022 00:47 - Views: 43549 - Clicks: 706

You can change your preferences at any time. South Bay Club, Torrance. Photographer: Arthur Schatz. March Innovelist Cynthia Buchanan published Maidena parody of mass-market post-collegiate life in the bleached-blonde world of Los Angeles when the birth control pill was still new. The hapless heroine is Fortune Dundy, a thirty-year-old virgin looking for Mr. Right in all the wrong places. The Fun Scene! The Sun Scene! Sea Weekends! Ski Weekends! From a distance the complex looks ordinary: plain-vanilla stucco boxes overlooking a freeway.

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Now mostly forgotten, Maiden generated much discussion and high praise when it was published. Some saw it as a feminist statement. Other commentators worried that a whole generation of young people — raised on Pepsi and the Beatles in a culture of mind-altering pharmaceuticals and body-altering cosmetics — was susceptible to the trendy, Day-Glo glamour of places like Villa Dionysus. Photographer: Don Ornitz. July I would argue: not much. In fact, we might say Buchanan ripped her story from the headlines: born in Arizona, she wrote the novel while living in Spain.

She had never visited a singles complex.

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Yet beyond that, I would argue, the complexes heralded a new era for young adults, especially women. In this light Maiden raises provocative questions. Can we dismiss the swinging singles residence as a tawdry relic? A site of financial and sexual exploitation? Or can we view it as a creative response to specific housing and cultural challenges — and as a bridge from the early postwar era of mass suburbanization, the rise of the nuclear family and the triumph of the single-family house, to the more recent history of intensifying interest in urban life, alternative households, and gender equality?

Was the singles residence as rearguard as critics suggested? Or if we look beyond the surface — beyond the Bacchus bashes and Jacuzzis — can we see it as part of the countercultural turn — even as a force for social progress? In particular, the singles complex emerged in response to the growing desire on the part of young unmarried adults for well-serviced, well-equipped rental housing outside of traditional urban centers. As such it benefited from a long history of experimentation with the now familiar garden apartment.

Beginning in the late 19th century, housing reformers pioneered the mid-rise courtyard complex as an alternative to the working-class tenement; in the s, deers like Clarence Stein and Henry Wright advanced the model at low-rise suburban communities like Sunnyside, Queensand Chatham Villagenear Pittsburgh. The trend accelerated after when the newly created Federal Housing Administration promoted an even lower-density variant: multiple two- and three-story buildings arranged loosely around spacious green commons.

This type proliferated during World War II to provide housing for defense workers, and during the postwar period it offered expedient if temporary accommodations for veterans and their families. By the late s, when the singles complex began to take shape, the garden apartment — along with regional variants like the California dingbat — had become a standard housing type.

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While the rise of singleton middle-class households dates to the late 19th century and gained traction in the s, it was the midth-century that saw unprecedented growth in the of unattached young adults who could afford to live on their own, rather than with their families or in residential hotels and boarding houses. Better educated and better paid than any generation, young adults came to constitute nothing less than an important new demographic for specialized housing. Left: South Bay Club, Torrance. The early driving force was the aerospace industry. By mid-century, the industry was employing hundreds of thousands of well-educated and well-paid engineers and managers — a ready market for upscale apartments.

But there was a hitch. The bachelors seemed increasingly to reject the de facto segregation. In the casual culture of postwar California, they wanted to live near the bachelorettes, and so in complexes dominated by men, turnover proved unacceptably high. It was the effort to attract female tenants that spurred one landlord after another to introduce innovations in the garden-style apartment.

Some of these innovations involved interior planning. By the mids, most U. These suited professional men, but were usually beyond the means of young working women, who could only afford to live with roommates; in addition, women often preferred shared living for reasons of safety and propriety — a revealing indicator of the persistence of a cultural double standard. Eventually — paralleling trends in other markets with a similar clientele — they introduced larger units expressly deed for as many as four unrelated adults: the super, or luxury, two-bedroom, which included two master bedrooms as well as two full bathrooms, a plumbing extravagance all but unheard of at the time.

Yet the most striking innovations of the new complexes involved not physical de but social program: what distinguished them were management efforts to encourage ongoing interaction among tenants. Although large cities like Los Angeles offered myriad social opportunities, building owners recognized that many tenants sought not just safety and respectability but companionship as well. In an era when early marriage was still common, single life could feel isolating, especially after the intense social experiences of college. We want them to develop a mother image.

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Still, none of these residences was explicitly created for unmarried men and women. To be sure, this kind of programming itself was not new. But Parkview was among the first communities to focus on young people, and its various amenities suggest a mix of family resort and summer camp with a dash of the Playboy Club. All were overseen by an on-site recreation director. The apartments rented well. But the social club format did appeal to young, unattached adults. The early baby boomers were entering adulthood, unleashing a wave of demand for rental housing on the part of an affluent generation of enthusiastic consumers; still more important, the singles complexes were responding to rapidly shifting social values.

Second-wave feminism and the birth-control pill were changing the dynamics of dating and sex; early adulthood was no longer necessarily a period of marriage and child-rearing but instead a kind of extended adolescence; divorce rates were rising, too, creating another new cohort of singles — and a new and experienced client for places like the South Bay Club. Indeed, the of singles living in U. But the great outdoors had its limits. Where can a school-teacher find a mate — outside of school?

One place, as it turned out, was the swingsite. Of course, suburban complexes encouraged other kinds of coupling, too. This was a switch from earlier days, when many landlords shied away from young tenants. Within a year Never On Friday was sponsoring dances at hotels and country clubs across L. By it had recruited 20, members, and the offerings had expanded to include nightclubs in Long Beach and Santa Ana, and weekend travel packages. Deed by the Los Angeles architect Robert H. Skinner, the South Bay Club comprised a compact cluster of three-story, stucco-veneer buildings with off-the-shelf aluminum windows and a covered parking deck that doubled as a podium for tennis courts.

The interior of the club, however, was anything but ordinary. Here sportif tenants found lush plantings, swimming pools, tennis and volleyball courts, gymnasia and weight rooms, hot tubs and saunas, party rooms and snack bars, bowling lanes, beauty salons, barbershops. Tennis, badminton, and volleyball tournaments were popular; so were softball and bowling leagues. Indoor activities included bridge, yoga, and sculpture. Club directors organized field trips to the beach and sports arenas, to museums and theaters. Every national holiday rated a party.

The frenzy portrayed in the now obscure but then popular film For Singles Onlyset in a thinly fictionalized South Bay Club, is hardly exaggerated.

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They tailored the clubs to the transient rhythms of the young and unattached. For a small fee they offered apartments that were furnished, and because — as it would turn out — most tenants stayed less than a year, they eliminated leases.

They even managed to transform high turnover — what most landlords sought to avoid — into a virtue by charging premium rents and retaining in-house crews that needed just a day to spiff up an apartment for the next fun-seeking single. For a while it all worked: especially in the early years, singles complexes delivered on many of their promises.

Meanwhile, a lot of people had a lot of fun. The singles apartment-club phenomenon had grown quickly, but the culture was moving quickly, too. At the same time, being suburban and single became more common as household demographics diversified. Inevitably the gap between marketing promise and everyday reality would lead to growing disappointment. Top: South Bay Club, Torrance. Photographer: Bill Ray. It was not until that U. Today few traces of the singles club remain.

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