One year after it began on WFIL-TV, "Bandstand" was a bona fide hit. For the show's host, Bob Horn, it was a time to take stock of his new-found fame and start building on his future. The following excerpt is taken from my book in progress, "Bandstandland":
That meant finding a nice place where he could settle in with wife Ann and their three young daughters. A place that provided all the modern comforts of 1950s life without the noise, clatter and clutter of the city, a place where young girls could breathe sweet air, run through lush green fields, walk safely to school and mature into fine young women.
He found his paradise just 20 miles away, in Levittown.
Levittown was unlike any other community in Pennsylvania. In fact, the only other place in all of America that came close was the other Levittown, in Long Island, N.Y.
It was in New York that brothers Alfred and William Levitt refined their vision of the perfect planned community. Philadelphians eager to flee the city joined the lines around the Levitts' model homes, some people waiting hours for just a glimpse.
The Levitts finished a house every 12 minutes, as their crews combined the construction techniques Bill Levitt learned as a U.S. Navy Seabee with the assembly line techniques pioneered by Henry Ford.
Levittown included schools, churches and shopping areas. Streets were designed so that the heaviest traffic went around each section, rather than through it. No child ever had to cross a major road to get to a school in Levittown.
It was an idyllic life in Levittown, where as many as 10 bread and milk companies offered porch-side delivery and Fuller brush salesmen were greeted as benevolent visitors. It was a community of one-car families, stay-at-home moms, baby sitting clubs and where young girls got demerits in gym class for having dirty sneakers.
It was here that Horn moved his family, to 66 Sweetgum Road in the relatively ritzy Snowball Gate section of Levittown.
Horn bought his wife a station wagon so she would fit into the suburban lifestyle. The kids were entertained by Rin, the boxer who was the family’s pet. Horn mowed his own lawn, while the girls entertained themselves with their own swing set in the backyard.
Horn allowed himself a few indulgences, too. His Cadillac was prominently parked in the WFIL parking lot most afternoons. He bought a 42-foot Richardson cabin cruiser, which he appropriately dubbed Bandstand. The boat was moored at Stone Harbor, N.J., where the Horns had a summer home. Horn loved to fish and spent many a weekend patrolling Chesapeake Bay with his good friend, Ray Jackson, owner of the Carman skating rink. He also found time to pursue his passion of hunting each fall and described himself as a “better-than-fair” marksman.
Excerpted from Bandstandland © 2016 Larry Lehmer