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Family Style: 1942

Family Style: 1942

September 1942. Rochester, New York. "The Babcocks at the dinner table." Continuing the saga of war worker Howard Babcock and his family. Large-format negative by Ralph Amdursky for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Nice sideboard

I could use a nice oak Empire Revival sideboard! Would go with my china cabinet.


I'd never heard of Jewel Tea Company china until I read Larc's comment, but there it was yesterday - that very bowl - staring at me in the thrift store. I was sorely tempted to buy it just for the Shorpy connection, but it was chipped, scratched and overpriced. I did snap a photo of the mark on the bottom, though. Tested and approved by Mary Dunbar of the Jewel Homemakers' Institute!

Lefties and righties

Lefties who use the knife in the right hand and the fork in the left, and wear our watches on our left wrist because the watches are awkward to use on the right. Lefties tend to be a bit more ambidexterous than righties because we live in such a right centric world. Heck, I even leave my computer mouse button placement as a right handed mouse, although I make sure it's on the left side of the keyboard.

Right, Left, Front, Back

We have friends/extended family from Wales, who visit here in California most years. I was amazed the first time I saw most of them, all right-handed, eating. NOT because they, as I often do, conveniently keep the fork in the left hand, but at the way they would use the knife to pile food on the BACK of the fork for the trip to the mouth. I'm told it's a fairly widespread Commonwealth trait.


Watches on the left wrist for righthanders, on the right for lefties.

Righties use fork in left hand

As a full-time restaurant owner and part-time people watcher, I can attest that a huge number of the 90% of right-handers in the US of A use their knives in that hand for cutting food, and wield their forks lefty-style to shovel it into their mouths.

Left-handers represent only 10% of the population, but you never see that based on how folks hold their utensils.

On top of the sideboard

It looks like a row of pocketknives lined up for easy access. Probably even more important now to carry at least a small folder, what with plastic packaging that is practically bullet-proof.

A slice of the past.

This picture certainly reflects the way meals used to be eaten, when I was a kid; the whole family gathered at the dinner table. Times long gone. I suppose meatloaf comes as close as anything to describe the main course, but what's on that table doesn't resemble any meatloaf I've ever eaten. And everyone seems to be avoiding their vegetables - perhaps just saving them for later. (Mom made sure I ate all the veggies on my plate - or else!)


My grandmother had the same sideboard in her living room. I can fondly remember the revolving (Lazy Susan) candy jars that sat out of my reach!

Interesting difference.

The table manners observed by H.i.Fla @ Piyer to us Aussies and the rest of the Commonwealth. We cut our food with our right and eat with our left.


Either way, most Europeans of that time and age would have been downright envious. Short of being major farmers with friends in the food production oversight and collection administration to look the other way, few could have put up a table like that, even on a Sunday.

So homey

What a comforting picture!!! It's sad to admit, but one of my first thoughts was the daunting task of washing and IRONING that tablecloth! But it reminds me of growing up in the 50s and I did the same family sit down dinners for my family in the 70s. Now my husband and I sit in front of the TV. Sigh..

What's for dinner?

Meatloaf w/ gravy
Boiled Potatoes
Peas & Carrots
Sliced Tomatoes
Celery Sticks
Green Olives (queen sized)
Sliced Bread and Yeast Rolls
Coffee for the adults
Milk for the kids

At first, I thought they might be having a small pot roast, until I saw the fat drippings in the serving dish. And where's the ketchup for the meatloaf? :-)

Jewel Tea

Someone mentioned Jewel Tea. My grandma often talked about the Jewel Tea man coming around when living in Superior, Nebraska in the 60s and 70s. The photo looks like it could have been painted by Norman Rockwell.

Room for one more?

It looks like they can squeeze in another place setting to Sis's right. I'm a vegetarian so I hope Mom's not offended if I don't take a slice of pot roast, but I'll make it up to her by having seconds of everything else on the table. Does anybody else want the last roll before I take it?

Sunday Dinner

Since this is during the war, I would bet that this was a Sunday. Besides the fact that they all seem to be quite dressed up, they have meat as a main course. Unless Mr. Babcock was a farmer who raised his own meat, most meals would have contained only a small amount of animal protein.

Doubling Down?

Geez, it looks like a regular dinner (meat and potatoes) in front of everyone and the making of big time sandwiches (bread, sliced tomato, etc).

The Babcocks' Dining Room Chandelier

We took off the little dangling metal tassels from our similar ones too because tall people kept bumping into them and being annoyed. It did however make them look somewhat incomplete, as did theirs.


From the positions of the knife handles it looks as if it would take the right hand to wield the knife. Dad is spreading his butter right-handed.

Hot house

Short sleeves in March in Rochester? Must have been warmer than today there--28. And those tomatoes look pretty good. Were winter tomatoes better then? The dinner looks classic though. Pot roast? gravy, boiled potatoes, peas and carrots and hot buttered rolls.

South Paws

Looking at the positions of everyone's forks, I'm 'left' to wonder if both of the boys are left-handed, while the parents and sister are right-handed.

Jewel Tea Company

That's the source of the bowl in the center of the table that looks as if it may contain what likely was oleomargarine in 1943. Jewel was an Illinois-based door-to-door grocer that provided among other things free dishes manufactured by the Hall China Company of East Liverpool, Ohio, as sales premiums. This was their Autumn Leaf pattern. Jewel sold and gave away more than 43 million pieces between 1933 and 1976.

Precious Coffee

With rationing limiting families to only one pound every five weeks, coffee was a precious commodity. My wife and I easily go through triple that and we're not huge coffee drinkers. Perhaps the Babcocks had acquired a taste for Postum.

Love the carpet pattern

It would be great to know the colors. Since people back then had no problem mixing colors and patterns I'm imagining strong colors to match the bold design.

And it looks like it's a meatloaf night at the Babcock's. I'm not surprised that the sliced bread is going begging. I'd choose a roll, too!


I love the collection of pocketknives on the chest behind Mr. Babcock. Is that some sort of succulent plant on the left windowsill?

Elegant dining

If this is a regular week night supper with no company coming, then Mrs. Babcock certainly worked hard at laying out a beautiful table with an immaculate damask table cloth, real china and many very appetizing home-made food choices. Also it is being served in the dining room, (not the kitchen) and everybody is clean, dressed and using nice manners. I believe today that family suppers are more common being eaten out of a microwave tray or a pizza box, running out the door or standing over the sink. It does bring back the feeling of the 40's and 50's family meals where we sat down together and had a civilized bit of togetherness while enjoying Mom's good cooking.

The Unfairness of It All

"Just drink your milk, boys. Your sister can have coffee because she's older than you."

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