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An Orange for Mrs. Atkins: 1942

May 1942. "Greenbelt, Maryland. Federal housing project. Mrs. Leslie Atkins taking an orange out of her well-stocked refrigerator." Medium-format negative by Marjory Collins for the Office of War Information. View full size.

May 1942. "Greenbelt, Maryland. Federal housing project. Mrs. Leslie Atkins taking an orange out of her well-stocked refrigerator." Medium-format negative by Marjory Collins for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Crosley Shelvador

I happened across this ad in the Reading Eagle from March 11, 1935 which confirms the fridge ID.

Rising Bread?

On top of the fridge is what looks like a pan covered with a dish towel. My mother always placed bread and anything needing to rise on top of the fridge and covered it with a dish towel, it was warmer up there she said to aid in rising.

Scan Furniture

jdowling23, I had no idea that was the origin of SCAN Furniture! My parents bought a number of pieces there that have ended up with me. There's a rosewood wall unit in the next room, and some teak bedroom furniture in my bedroom that they also bought. SCAN was so popular that it's been easy to pick up matching pieces inexpensively.

Darn you for this photo.

I really have to clean out our fridge. I'd rather scrub the toilet.


Very nostalgic photo. I lived in Greenbelt from 1948 to 1951. I wrote a story a few years ago based on an interview I did of a mother and daughter who lived many years there. Those interested in reading the story can find it by clicking here.

About that Co-op

Greenbelt's Consumer Cooperative was very successful, and ran several grocery stores during the 50's in the Maryland suburbs of DC. It also spawned, of all things, a Scandinavian furniture store called Scan which was around well into the new millennium. As a young, groovy bachelor in the 70's, I managed to buy a few things there.

The co-op entered bankruptcy organization in the late 80's, but another Greenbelt Co-op apparently replaced it.

The town's prospective residents were screened, it would seem, for their cooperative spirit. This turned sour during the McCarthy Era, when many Red hunters saw it as a hotbed of Communism.

[Here's a history of the Greenbelt Cooperative from the University of California at Davis. - tterrace]

Greenbelt history

Greenbelt is now and was then part of Greater Washington DC

'Fridge and 'Phone: 2012

Here is my 1947 McClary refrigerator, without door racks, and made in Canada. Eight and a half cubic feet of storage space. It still runs nicely, with barely a sound. Yes, that is cream top milk, still available in Vancouver, B.C., where I live. The telephone is an Automatic Electric model 50, installed by the B.C. Telephone Company when I moved into my home in 1977. Still in use, along with several other rotary dial 'phones. In the mason jars there is homemade red pepper jelly, marmalade, and apricot jam.

Just enough

Considering this is during the war she has plenty in her fridge. Notice the items from a co-op; was she on public assistance or did she shop at a co-op with her ration stamps? Projects were usually in/near cities (I don't know where Greenbelt, MD is) and folks shopped daily or every other day if you lived near a grocer. There was no need to stockpile food in the fridge like we do in the huge behemoths we have in our kitchens today.

I especially like seeing the waxed paper over the bowl. I saw a documentary on PBS about Tupperware the other night and Tupperware was marketed to address just this situation - to store food in the fridge in a reusable unbreakable resealable plastic container - no more buying waxed paper!


The wavy top on the milk bottle makes cream that floats on the top easy to pour off if you want cream. Otherwise you shake the bottle and get whole milk.

re: Grade A Hyperbole

The concept of "well stocked" has a different meaning in times of war. Mrs. Atkins lacked the services of the various agribusinesses that keep our larders stocked to overflowing and keeping us all fat 'n sassy.

Oranges or grapefruits?

Is anyone else with me in thinking that those are probably grapefruits, rather than oranges? In addition to the larger size, their skin looks too smooth to be an orange.

[Each of Marjorie Collins' photos taken in the Atkins home are accompanied by detailed descriptions, undoubtedly recorded at the time. So it's probably an orange. - tterrace]


The Crosley Corporation held the patent for the door that could be made thin enough and light enough to have shelves, and still be an economical appliance. Powel Crosley bought the patent from a guy who wanted cash rather than the royalty Crosley offered him. Not a wise choice!

Photo Colorists

I'm thinking that the many possible color contrasts in this picture could be nicely accentuated by one of Shorpy's talented coloring mavens if one were so inclined, although the floor tiles seem quite complex and may be challenging. Any takers?


This may be a Crosley Shelvador, the first refrigerator to have shelves in the door I think in the 30's.

The "cool tile work"

Appears to be a linoleum "rug" with a tile pattern on it.

They were available in a wide variety of colors and patterns in the Sears catalog.


Keeping the sugar in the fridge keeps the ants out. Might help keep brown sugar from hardening, too. Haven't tried that.


If that is sugar, she is doing it for the same reason I do. I keep my sugar in the refrigerator to keep the ants and other unwanted critters out of it.

Grade A hyperbole

If that fridge is "well-stocked" I don't like imagining what the less fortunate dealt with. Kind of like a college refrigerator nowadays except all that empty space would be occupied by Yuengling beer and a couple bottles of vino.

Fridge doors,etc.

When watching old films and TV shows, I always watch for things like telephones and refrigerators, and am always especially happy to see the door to one of the latter open. This picture has both! I think this must be a very early example of a fridge with racks on the door.

Seeing the latch on that door reminds me of hearing of children hiding in an old refrigerator, who didn't get discovered in time before they suffocated. My grandfather took the door to the old one they had stored in the barn all the way off, because of that.

Life was good then too. . . .

It's telling (in an incredibly good way) that in a Federal Housing Project in 1942 we see not only the well stocked fridge, but a telephone, and a tea service and some fairly cool tile work in the kitchen.


Domino? She refrigerated her sugar?!?

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