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Mother's Vacation: 1963

Mother's Vacation: 1963

My mother doing the dishes (with earrings and a piece of candy) in the knotty pine kitchen of our summer place in East Guernewood, California in June 1963. Note the items then regarded as fit only for vacation home use but now either antiques or retro: genuine cracked ice pattern Formica and chrome table with matching chairs; set of floral pattern tumblers (can't remember if they were glass or plastic); ceramic teapot wall pocket; incredibly neat ceramic 8-day clock. In the window: large ceramic squash-shaped shaker and a carnival ware tumbler. Not shown: the dirty look she gave me after hearing me snap off this Kodachrome slide.

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"..just a change of sink my dear.."

My dear great aunt Phyl used to say, when on a family holiday (vacation) at a summer home they had, "'s just a change of sink my dear.." meaning, of course, that for her, the mom of the family, she'd be cooking and doing dishes as always - but just in a different place - at a different sink. This photo brought the memory back to me of her voice ... thanks.

Earrings and dishes

Great history! I grew up in the 1950's (in 1963, I was 14) and don't remember my mother without her clip-on earrings. Earrings were the first thing she put on in the morning and taking them off signaled bedtime. She said that if you had on earrings, you were fully dressed, even in a housecoat.

Mom cleaned in a long dressing gown and then "dressed for the day," but always wore her earrings "in case someone should came to the door." She cooked and baked in a short apron and was always immaculate. I once remarked to her that Donna Reed vacuumed in stockings and pearls, and she replied, "Well, she has a vacuum cleaner!" Mother swept the rugs with a broom and never did own a vacuum.

Thanks for sharing the memories of a time that doesn't seem so very long ago!

The tterrace summer home

No, we weren't rich, just comfortably middle class. I'm not sure of the full price of the River place when my folks bought it in 1950, but the loan they took out was $1000, an incredible $8814 today if you go by the BLS inflation calculator. The original table and chairs were actually wooden; one of the chairs is in the shot below that I took right after the Christmas 1955 flood (I just noticed the carnival ware tumbler is there, too). The Formica set was a later addition, I believe a hand-me-down from friends or relatives, and fortuitously happened to match the kitchen's yellow color scheme. I have to confess that I didn't know the name of the Formica pattern before researching for this photo caption. For several years we only had an ice box at the River, so I actually remember the ice man coming around and the sign whose direction you could rotate to indicate how many pounds you wanted. Mother usually wasn't this dressed up to do housework, so we must have been about to go someplace. She was never really thrilled about having her picture taken, particularly candidly, and a number of her photos mysteriously disappeared from the family album over the years. And yes, I was being more than a bit ironic in my titling.



Thanks once again for a great picture. The picture precedes me by a good two decades, but I am enthralled with the domestic life of mid-century America, and therefore love your pictures. I was wondering if you were putting these pictures into some sort of printed photo book, along with your very detailed, interesting, and often humorous captions? I don't know what the offspring situation of you and your siblings is, but I know that as a member of the "younger generation," I would really love to have such a chronicle of my family's everyday lives. (If that weren't enough, the pictures are wonderful in their own right.) And finally, as a future historian with a love of microhistory, I can only imagine how much some historian of the future would love to stumble across a collection like that. Anyway, I do hope you'll put these together for you and your family in some way (maybe you already have). And thanks again for sharing with us!

Arvin Industries......

.......and Hamilton-Cosco, both of Columbus, Indiana, were leaders in the manufacture of tubular chrome and vinyl kitchen tables, chairs, step-stools, and utility carts. The furniture in this photo looks as if it could have come from one or both of those companies.

[Below: The Kuehne-Khrome "Planter" from 1952. - Dave]


This makes me feel so nostalgic for my own childhood, and my mother. It probably sounds weird but your mother's arms remind me of my mother's arms ... those arms could comfort like none other on earth!

The Family Museum

Our "cottage" up north became the family museum. Anytime something at home wasn't needed, you'd hear "take it to the cottage." Our dishes, curtains and furniture all ended up in the north! Lots of "I remember these" heard through the years!

Remember Betty Furness

tterrace's mom was indeed very well turned-out to be doing the dishes at a vacation home, but I remember the model Betty Furness who used to wear a flowing chiffon cocktail dress, dangling earrings and spike heels to demonstrate refrigerators (always full of showy desserts), ovens (with a turkey or ham cooking) and stoves (brimming with steaming pots), while her hair-do and make-up was as glamorous as a movie star's portfolio photos. I wondered if my mom was the only one who wore a cheap cotton housedress, no jewelry and loafers to schlep around the house. Also I must note that these so-called "vacations" were not much of a vacation for Moms because they still had to do everything they did at home (cook, clean, laundry and dishes) but with crappier tools and appliances. For everyone else though, it was a holiday. Did tterrace or his brother become professional photographers? Inquiring minds want to know, because they sure had a gift for capturing real life at moments in time. Many thanks.

Re: You must have been rich

The vacation home came with all the furniture. It had been owned for many years prior by another family. Much of the furniture was from the 1920s. Some of the kitchen items, the "Dutch" blue and white clock, and the pink wall teapot, and the tumblers came from our house in Larkspur. One item still in the family is the amethyst Carnival glass tumbler on the window shelf. That came with the house and is on my knick-knack shelf right now.
--tterrace's sister


I can't imagine why your mother would have given you a dirty look. After all, she's all made up to have her picture taken--perfect hair, earrings, dress--while washing the dishes. Maybe she wanted you to get her at a better pose? Your pictures make me want to go back and relive my childhood. Well, maybe not.

Mother's Vacation

I enjoyed your great candid photo. Most of the objects you pointed out in your photo were made just before or just after World War II. The floral tumblers are late 1940's and made of glass. My family was also still using them in the early 1960s. The Depression generation tended to use things until they were not merely out of style, but broken.

The ceramic clock is earlier, pre-war German. Such ceramic clocks were inexpensive and widely distributed in the US in the 1920s and early 1930s. Most were distributed by the Miller Co. of Newark, New Jersey. If its border is green it is likely 1930 or later; if blue it was made after 1924, but probably before 1930.

The wall pocket is almost certainly late 1940's American. The shape of you kitchen table suggests it was manufactured just before or after World War II. Yellow as a kitchen color became popular again in 1941 after a brief vogue in 1927. It went out of fashion again after 1952. The chair backs may be original or later replacements.

The sources for this information are period magazine ads and catalogs.

Thank you for sharing!

Back in stock

The identical kitchen table set is sitting in my late mother's kitchen right now, as it has since 1957, with the yellow "cracked ice" Formica top. About 25 years ago she replaced the worn-out matching yellow vinyl on the chairs with an annoying floral patterned "Look-O-Linen" textured vinyl, and now it's shot and I never liked it anyway. I'd never known what the original vinyl pattern was called until your posting of this photo, tterrace. And, I've just discovered that both cracked ice Formica and cracked ice vinyl have been revived by manufacturers for the Retro market. I don't know if you like the pattern, but I do very much, and I thank you. (Come to think of it, the tubular chrome folding step-stool in the kitchen used to have that vinyl too. Now look what you've done!)


The tumblers look like jelly or peanut butter jars.

You must have been rich

The stuff fit only for your vacation home was what we had in our non-vacation kitchen. The table and chairs in particular bring back memories of the 60's and 70's. Also the yellow bird and the tumblers.

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