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Family Dinner: 1952

Family Dinner: 1952

1952. "Photo for U.S. Information Agency propaganda poster titled 'I Choose to Be a Miner,' distributed in Asia; poster includes photographs of coal miner Walter Ward and family in David, Kentucky." Gelatin silver print. View full size.


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I'm trying to figure out what they were eating that night.
I can distinguish the green beans and bread and the consensus on the lumpy main course is that it's fried chicken.
I'm curious what's in the bowl underneath the chicken. Potatoes? The side plates look like they have salad on them and that's maybe pickles next to the bread?
I have to assume the cake on the table was for the benefit of the photo. No mother then or now would put dessert out first! I also have to wonder if the ice in the water was there to indicate prosperity, along with the mixer and the frig.

Here's what I see….

Mother's Swiss-dot curtains are torn on the left panel; her drain rack for her dishes is in its place by the drainboard. She normally uses her table for her counter space, but since the table is set for dinner, she's using her sink drainboard for her Sunbeam Mixmaster which whipped up the frosting. Ah, yes, that tiny black spray nozzle on the sink. Is that grated cheese in the cheese shaker or do they use a lot of salt? The younger daughter has her eyes on the boiled frosting cake, as would be mine as well. Father and the boy are eying the fried chicken. Deviled eggs on a side plate with lettuce? There are sweater 'pills' on the older daughter's sweater, at the farthest point West. Nice white bread, hard to find nowadays with all the nutritious breads forced on us in our stores. Father's hair is combed in a 'combover' on his bald spot. Bet any money that Mother's wrist watch is a Bulova. Mother ironed and 'starched' the tablecloth, so it must be Sunday. Father's shirt is ironed, older daughter's sweater is ironed, younger daughter's dress is ironed, younger son's t-shirt is ripped with holes. The plant at the window is a 'Wandering Jew.' The tin pots and pans are surely much lighter to lift than my All-Clad set today. All in all, the scene resembled by own childhood in 1952, right down to the floral design on the linoleum on the floor.

Youngstown Kitchens

The logo in front of the sink is from Youngstown Kitchens. Yup, I grew up with them.

The most used utensil

in my grandma's kitchen was the soup ladle hanging above the stove. Having come from a Pennsylvania coal miner grandfather, my 'take' on this picture is that it was staged, posed and fully planned in advance (unless this was on a Sunday when they would have their best meal of the week). The other six week-night suppers were mostly home-made soup and bread, every kind of soup imaginable, more than Campbells could ever come up with. Having a large family, my mom said there was nothing else that could satisfy seven or eight hungry, hard-working people as a filling, hot and inexpensive meal like soup and fresh bread & butter. She was a master soup cook too, taught by her mother, and I was pretty much raised on soup, some heartier than others, but never disappointing. It can be time-consuming to prepare but I've never felt deprived and it really stretches your meat to feed any number of people. (If someone got a big chunk of chicken or beef in their soup, or too many clams in their clam chowder, we used to say "the string must have broke").

I recognize the sink/counter!

Unfortunately, it's because I see it every day in the kitchen of the house I rent. I love the style, but those cupboards are mighty small.

Running Water

The faucet water flow may be intentional, if the supply is by gravity through an uninsulated pipe from a mountain side spring. Otherwise, it could be too hot in Summer, and frozen solid in Winter.

Jelly Glasses

Love those bird themed water glasses on the table. I have the same glasses my Dad used as a kid. They came from the grocery with jam or jelly in them and then you used the glass later.

A Not-Christmas Story

Am I the only one who looks at this kitchen and sees the "eat like a pig, Ralphie" scene from A Christmas Story in the making?
(Of course I also have one of those Sunbeam mixers, and so does my mother. They are/were indestructible).

they even had a swimming pool...

Put in circa 1949...whoda thunk?

Another vote for the Mixmaster

That Mixmaster brings back some pleasant childhood memories for me. My mother had one very similar to the one in the image. I was about the same age range as the boys in the photo in 1952 and I always lobbied to lick the bowl and the beaters after the cake was finished.


OK everyone, would you like dessert first or these lovely string beans?


My mom had one of those. It was an ergonomic beauty: you operated the speeds by rotating the black dome-shaped knob at the far end, and you released the beaters by swiveling the black handle 90 degrees. Ah, and the glass bowls. Seeing that Sunbeam in use on the kitchen counter meant something aromatic and yummy was on the way.

P.S. A place named David! I’m okay with that.

Miners' Houses

The Wards' house (at right, with the tree), and their neighbors. Click to enlarge.

I'll Second That

It looks like the second-hand one in my kitchen--a Sunbeam Mixmaster, which gets frequent use and works perfectly 60+ years on. I bought it minus beaters and must have bought about 50 pairs of beaters before I found the right ones. I have a drawer-full. Maybe they fit tterrace's "Sumbeam".

Miners at table

No miners I grew up with ever lived that well, dressed that well nor ate that well. With all the fresh haircuts, clothes, appliances, etc, this was nothing but a stage production. Folks my age will recognize it as such.

[The worn-out stool for a chair and the T-shirt with holes are probably props, too. - Dave]

So 1950s

The Mixmaster, the teapot from the Jewel Tea Company, the General Electric range, and all the gleaming surfaces that wipe clean with a damp sponge. Why can't I have a kitchen like that?

It still works...

I bought this Sunbeam Mixmaster for $25 on a trip to Tacoma, Washington, over 20 years ago.


It looks like a '40s Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

[Looks like a Sumbeam Mixmaster to me. -tterrace]

Need a new washer on that faucet?

If they're under financial constraints, they could help their water bill by either a) turning the faucet off, or b) putting a new washer in it.

... and look! Cake!

I do love this photo. It's all shiny and full of bounty. Once you look closely you'll see the financial constraints this family must have faced. I'm left to wonder if she normally served cake at dinner.

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