"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

April 2, 2014

Living in the 50s

"Our house, in the middle of our street." 2024 Ayers Avenue, c. 2009.
The house was built in the post-war housing boom of 1949 and we lived in it
from 1961-1974. The Japanese maple, planted in 1961, now looms over the yard.
A wonderful "Little Golden Book" from the 1950s.
Lately I've been living in the 1950s. As I was born in 1962, this isn't much of a stretch: we had the 1949 post-war house that my parents purchased in Akron, Ohio in 1961, complete with pink-applianced kitchen, "atomic" flecked linoleum (black with white, pink and gray flecks––I thought it was the entire universe on our kitchen floor!), and pink-outfitted bathrooms. We had all manner of barbecue gadgets and funny aprons that my father used alongside the charcoal grill outdoors. We were your typical 1960s suburban family living beneath a post-1950s gossamer web. I spent my childhood years blissfully removed from any details of the Vietnam war, riots, protesting, the Civil Rights movement.

A Marcelline Stoyke tray from the 1950s.
My parents had one. They have an
interesting design history: read here.
The only hippies I ever saw hung around Sand Run Park in large gatherings and I only learned of anything to do with any sort of national unrest a year after the Kent State students were killed in May 1970. I was in second grade when the incident happened and read about them in Reader's Digest a year later. Kent State was where we would later go ice skating with my cousins. So you could say I had a rather protected post-50s childhood. When my parents abruptly separated and then divorced in 1973-74 it all rather ended as childhood is want to do at a certain point in one's life. You move on, or at least try to do so.

The only politics in my book will be a mention of the Nixon-Kruschev "Kitchen" debate
at the American National Exposition in Moscow in 1959.
We didn't have the 24-hour news cycle that we have today on more than one television channel or the constant presence of the Internet. We didn't watch television when having dinner. We didn't have "smart" phones in our pockets or at our dinner tables, either. As children, we really didn't see or hear any news. Extended family gatherings included lively dinner table discussions of politics and humorous kidding. Politics was decidedly right leaning and I knew, even then, that the direction of my belief system would make a gentle, more moderate departure from that which I had been exposed.

There could be no 1950s kitchen without Betty Crocker.
I was more interested in kitchens and pantries and food, paintings, old houses, music, singing and reading books. When I wasn't building townscapes out of American Bricks or Lincoln Logs, I was doodling house plans. I wanted to feel, experience and define the diverse architectural spaces and the suburban landscapes where I lived. It's still true today.

I've been finishing a book for Shire Books in England on The 1950s American Kitchen. It will be available in Fall 2014. I'm holed up in a Hampton Inn as I write this to complete my image gathering and fact-checking. This process has been a bit daunting with still no DSL at home (although a Facebook friend said that they are getting theirs on the ridge as we speak––I remain hopeful). I even brought in my trusty, fast iMac from home (as my laptop is so slow on the Internet). Like our two cars, both were purchased almost ten years ago so trying to get as much mileage here as I can! However, technology has long ago passed me by––even Internet marketing is changing each year. Blogging is even being replaced by some with Vlogging but I'll stay with the "print media" delivery system of the Internet, just as I stay true to books and magazines and have no interest in purchasing an e-book. Call me old-fashioned.

Pink was a prevalent color in 1950s kitchen decor.
I realize one thing about not having regular access to the Internet in the past eighteen months is that I haven't been writing as regularly on my blogs. Blogging keeps the pencil chiseled and sharp. It's like a warm-up for my other writing. I might develop another off-shoot blog for The 1950s American Kitchen, depending on DSL access in the near future. **Either way, I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, on the farm, we just got ten pregnant "hair sheep" (no shearing!) to raise our own lamb meat (this is our youngest son Eli's plan––he will be fourteen in a few more weeks). We eat a fair bit of lamb throughout the year but don't like to purchase it too often given how expensive it is (and I realize I haven't reconciled the cute lamb thing yet––one part of farm life is that you deal with constant loss and death and you just have to deal with it if you wish to remain a well-tempered carnivore). We have about fifty new calves and many more on the way. I'm down to one chicken (long story). And, we're finally going to break ground this spring for that once and future farmhouse we've been planning.

The hay fields are greening up. The rhubarb is poking its reddish shoots through the soil. The forsythia is just about to burst after a very prolonged, cold, dreary, drizzly, and frozen Kentucky winter. Did I mention the water has been fixed at the cottage (it burst in the severe below-zero cold of Epiphany, January 6th)? We'll be moving back there (from the doublewide across the way) by Easter...once I get the book and images to my publisher on April 15th. A nice day for deadlines, don't you think?

**YES! There is now a blog to coincide with The 1950s American Kitchen: check it out here. I will continue to post on this blog, too, especially when DSL arrives on our ridge..."in the spring"...

You come back when you're ready!