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And Now the News: 1956

And Now the News: 1956

November 22, 1956, Larkspur, Calif. My brother reading The San Francisco News, at the time one of four dailies published in the city. He's home on Thanksgiving break from Cal Poly, where he'd just taken up the pipe. We're hosting a big crowd of relatives for dinner, hence the kitchen chair in the living room for overflow dinner seating. In the upper right corner on top of the TV cabinet I see my coin collection, ready for me to show off to my uncles and anybody else I can waylay. At the lower left, an item familiar to just about anybody who grew up in the 50s, an anodized aluminum tumbler. The magazine rack has a Coronet, a Life, undoubtedly some Saturday Evening Posts. To prove we're in California, a souvenir redwood wishing well coin bank on the window seat, along with my mother's African violets in their occasional living state. My sister snapped this Kodachrome slide with brother's Lordox. View full size.

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Aluminium Tumblers

I was a child of the 50s and in our family only the little kids used the aluminum tumblers. My mother threw those out, along with the Fiesta pitchers she had. Yow! I have collected aluminum ware for many years and I have dozens of tumblers, as well as many natural aluminum pieces that were hand made in the 30s and 40s. The main problem with the anodized colored aluminum ware is that it scratches easily, especially if the anodizing was not done well. The anodized layer needs a coat of clear lacquer to protect it. Some manufacturers just didn't bother.


I feel cheated. Having been born in 1964, I never was myself acquainted with those aluminum tumblers. My era was plastic.

Aluminum tumblers

My Aunt Daisy presented us with a set of those aluminum tumblers one Christmas in the 50s. I think it was six of them, each one a different bright color. They were put away on a high shelf and my mother never used them. She was convinced that aluminum cookware, etc. was a danger to one's health. She never mentioned anything to her sister about the deadly gift.

[If Alcoa ever fields a gymnastics team, you know what they should name it? The Aluminum Tumblers. - Dave]

The Chairs

Hey - We have one or two of those Kitchen Chairs today. Really, and the table they went with!

-- Mary and Lane

Niece to Will (the guy in the photo)

What, the curtains?

I now know more about the window decor I lived with through my entire childhood than I ever knew before, including the "dotted Swiss" business and that those drapes (which I would kill for) are of "barkcloth."

Dotted Swiss Curtains

Good for Mattie for noticing that. Our mother was always very proud of having "real" dotted Swiss curtains and not just "flocked". Mother would be pleased. She came into a bit of money and had the living and dining room windows "done" by a decorator from a local store. Not seen are the custom made wooden cornices above.

Stylish window fashions

My house was built in 1950, and I'd love to have those frilly dotted swiss curtains for my bedroom and the floral barkcloth drapes for my living room.

Learning to Inhale

Smoked a pipe for many years. I needed to learn how to inhale to enjoy that other smokable that became increasingly popular in the '60s.

-- Will, the guy in the photo

Call-Bulletin's newsprint color

was actually purple as I recall for the front section wrapper, if that's the correct term. My grade school friend Charles McGowan and I used to joke at the top of our lungs when coming back from Saturday matinees in San Anselmo to Larkspur about it being made my microbes that would eventually consume the readers. Great 1940s smart-aleck 10-year-olds' humor in those days. BTW, the S.F. Chronicle's Sporting Green then was printed on green newsprint....

-- Will in the photo (Paul's brother)

Hungarian Monks

I go to Mass most Sundays at a local monastery that was founded by Hungarian Cistercians who escaped the Communists. Those that are left of the original group are all in their late '70's or early '80's. Odd to think of them winding up in Texas.

I swear my grandma had those exact same drapes in 1952. We had commercial knitty sleeves for the tumblers that fit smoothly around the bottom, so you could set them down. Their iciness made the peculiar water in my mom's old home town at all palatable.

Our family artifacts

The turtle: Good eyes! Actually, it's made of sea shells: cowries for the carapace and head and snails for the feet. I actually still have it, as well as a twin of the wishing well. Fish bowl: it served two purposes: to temporarily house goldfish that one of us would win at a festival game booth by throwing a ping-pong ball in their bowl, and to temporarily house tadpoles and polliwogs we'd catch at the Russian River. "Temporarily" because in each case their survival rate was depressingly low. Aluminum tumblers: ours had come with cottage cheese in them originally. Funny, I have that foil-gum-wrapper sensitivity thing too, but I never had a problem with the tumblers. Newsprint: no, the SF News came on uncolored newsprint. The Call-Bulletin, which The News later merged with, had a pink front page, as I recall; and a red masthead, I think. Ginger pots: my mother's shopping expeditions to The City (via Greyhound bus, with me in tow) would generally include Chinatown to get candied ginger and watermelon, so we always had several of those around.

Ginger pot

Those green pots that candied ginger came in and that no-one could ever bear to throw out -- they must have sat by the millions on window ledges across America, just like the one here. I haven't seen one lately, though. Does candied ginger come that way any more?

Scrap Aluminum Tumblers

My dad worked for Alcoa for years and they offered employees blemished aluminum items that were being reprocessed for scrap priced by weight, 50 cents per pound. Sometime in the 50s he bought about twenty of those tumblers in their unfinished aluminum state. I sold the old home place in 2002 and I think they are still there in the basement.

He re-roofed a carport in the early 70s with 4.5' x 12' corrugated aluminum sheeting bought at 50 cents a pound.

Two things

Two things. Is it possible that the paper is on pink newsprint? Pink, light green and yellow were used back in the day along with white. And my mother still has some of her anodized aluminum tumblers, but I find the taste and feel to be like chewing gum wrapper foil (try it, you won't like it).

At Seventeen

My mother made knitted booties to surround the anodized aluminum tumblers. Of course the seam was at the bottom, so the tumblers never sat quite straight. Neither did they prevent the terrible sensation of icy medal clinking on my teeth -- the horror, the horror. I came home for my Thanksgiving break from Cal Poly with a boyfriend; perhaps a pipe would have been better. Our souvenir from Sequoia was a redwood plaque fringed with bark that said, "There's no place like home." Times were so much simpler then -- frilly white curtains and all. Or maybe it was because I was just seventeen.

College fun

Did your goldfish die or was your brother trying to see how many he could swallow?

Time Capsule

This is another example of a photo that people would have barely looked at when it was first developed but is hugely interesting to us 50 years later.

It's one of the reasons I find it difficult to delete any photos that I take.

What's with the empty fish bowl? Was there a recent death in the family?

Nodding turtle?

Could that be a nodding turtle with a half walnut shell carapace, just to the right of the wishing well? Wow!

Where there's smoke

The contrast between his shirt and the color of the newspaper is striking; I can definitely see that a different process is used now. That's the evening paper, which would indicate that it's new, and hasn't sat out in the sun to yellow, and yet the color looks like it's been sitting in the driveway for three days.

Also I have to admit to being deeply amused by a freshman with a PIPE. Heh. Wonder how long that particular affectation lasted!!

Cold Hands

I remember those aluminum glasses, how cold they were to hold when full of an icy liquid.

Stark History

So much to comment upon in this scene, besides it being my last Thanksgiving in the SF Bay area (Hayward). The newspaper headline shows the aftermath of the short-lived 1956 Hungarian Revolution. It had been a busy month of news, even for a fourth-grader, what with the Suez Crisis and Ike being reelected as well.

My modest coin collection had not yet advanced to the point of needing those Whitman Coin Books to stuff them into. Checking any change for the supposedly super-rare 1943 copper penny was almost a reflex back then. I was also totally ignorant of the silver in those WW2 nickels! (And never imagined that less than a decade later newly-minted US coinage would be almost totally devoid of silver.)

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