Thursday, April 3, 2014

Living in the 1950s

A "Little Golden Book" from the 1950s.
For the past few months as I've been writing this book, 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 under a post-1950s gossamer web. I spent my childhood years quite removed from any details of the Vietnam war, riots, protesting, or the Civil Rights movement.

"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.
The early 1960s, for most young American suburbanites and their children, was not much different than the 1950s. 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.

There could be no 1950s kitchen without Betty Crocker.
As a child I was mostly interested in kitchens and pantries and food. 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.

The 1950s American Kitchen, to be published by Shire Books, will be available in Fall 2014. This blog will include other images and video clips not found in the book as a means of accompanying it with more detailed information on certain topics or items of interest. As there is a necessary word count and image limit, this seems the best way to share more than is possible in the book itself.

Please visit often and I also encourage you to submit original photographs of yourself or your parents, friends or relatives in their 1950s kitchens. Feel free to email your crisp jpeg files to me at and I'll post them on this blog. Send as much information as you'd like along with the image.

The 1950s was a pivotal decade in American house design and within the weave of our national social fabric. Post-war societal change and new design and technological innovations were the backdrop for home-owning adults and the childhoods of most of the "Baby Boomers" who were born after World War II between 1946 and 1964. These were also the early years of the Cold War and the flowering of the Atomic Age. While the greater world often seemed threatening, the 1950s home and its increasingly more livable and centralized kitchen provided a comfort zone for American families privy to a new and booming post-war prosperity. The kitchen has always helped define the story of our lives and it's arguably the best place to be any where in any home, and in any era.

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