My older brother, just a toddler, had a jumper chair back in 1946. We have the picture of him looking quite happy being able to bounce up-and-down and kick his feet in this device. He is outside in the yard and his eyes are fixed upon either mom or dad. It’s likely that one is trying to hold his attention while the other parent takes the picture.
It must be summer as he is dressed in lightweight clothing but on his feet are the sturdy baby shoes of the era. Mom had labeled the photo “1946 – Owen in his jumper chair.” Since he was born in February 1946, he would be about 6-months-old in August of that year. Does this look like a 6-month-old or would it be from the next year? In June 1947, he would be 16-months-old.
I was curious about the chair and found an advertisement for it in a 1946 newspaper.
New, Springy Teeterbabe
The modern jumper chair for any baby 3 months and up. Ideal for home, auto or anywhere, so mother can be relieved. Positively safe. Convenient foot rest and play beads.
This looks identical to the chair that Owen is sitting in. Just imagine putting this in your auto today to take your toddler for a ride. “Positively safe,” the ad says, but we know better now.
I found a later advertisement for it and it touted the benefits of the child getting natural exercise and not bothered by constipation. Baby will be happy and contented and can be placed in the yard to get sunshine.
Mom used to make ham salad for a sandwich spread back in the 1960s. It’s what they call Poor Man’s Ham Salad because it used a chunk of bologna, not ham, that was ground up for the spread. We called it baloney, and looked forward to those tasty sandwiches in our school lunch boxes. It was much cheaper, but tasted exactly like ham spread.
Here’s the recipe:
an unsliced roll of Bologna
Miracle Whip (or salad dressing of your choice
Sweet Gherkins (or pickle relish)
The amount of each isn’t crucial. You needed a meat grinder. Ours fastened onto the kitchen counter. Grind up the hunk of Bologna in the meat grinder and the sweet pickles too. Mix enough salad dressing in to make it spread easily on the sandwiches. Done!
We never put boiled eggs in it but other people did. The boiled eggs were used another day for egg salad sandwiches. Our bread back then was often Rainbow brand or Sunbeam.
A Lunchbox Like Dad Had
Fixing the School Lunches
With six children, packing the lunch boxes on a school day took teamwork. Someone would get the cookies and wrap them for each box. Another child would get the fruit (a banana, an apple, or some raisins). Someone else assembled the sandwiches, then cut them in half.
I was good at wrapping the sandwiches with the wax paper. Mom had taught me how to make the double fold where the edges came together, just like the butcher would wrap meat at the supermarket. Then I’d make a triangle at each end and fold that to the back.
We had those metal lunch boxes with colorful designs of our favorite television shows. I browsed around on Etsy which is a good place to find vintage items. Wow, some of these are for sale for over $100. I should have saved mine.
Anyone who grew up in the 1950s will remember these summertime activities. There were no excursions to theme parks or money spent on activities. We kept ourselves occupied by playing in the yard or neighborhood.
Catching lightning bugs – maybe you call them fireflies. Once it was dusk, you ran about the yard capturing these with your hands. Putting the captives in a jar turned it into your very own blinking lantern. I think we poked holes in the jar lid for them to breathe.
Playing outdoor games – There were all sorts of games you could play with your siblings like “Mother May I?” or “Simon Says” or games that involved running like Tag or Hide-And-Seek. After we wore ourselves out with these games, we would relax in the shade for a while.
Playing with the hose – If you had a lawn sprinkler, it was fun to run through on a hot summer day. It wasn’t necessary though, you could just put your finger over the end of the garden hose and spray the other kids. You didn’t have to go anywhere and you didn’t even need a swimsuit.
Stretching out on the grass and watching the clouds – We looked for special shapes in the cloud formations and tried to imagine they were animals or people’s faces. Kansas has marvelous skyscapes with thunderheads that shifted and reformed as we watched.
Cloud photo by Virginia Allain
Pretending – After watching National Velvet on television, we spent hours pretending to ride our imaginary horses over jumps that we placed around the yard. Other times, we created a playhouse by stamping down the weeds in an overgrown area to form rooms. Of course, we could always resort to making mud pies and decorate them with the pokeberries that grew wild. The big leaves made great plates for our concoctions. (Don’t worry, we knew not to eat those.)
My mother was born in 1924, so she was probably a little old to be playing with paper dolls at the time that these were printed in the Sunday funnies. Boots and Her Buddies was a popular comic strip from that time. It ran in U.S. papers from 1924 to 1968 according to the Wikipedia article on it.
Someone had the bright idea to print these cut-outs of Boots to entertain the children. The character had quite a glamorous wardrobe. It was fun browsing the old newspapers for genealogy and discovering these.
In the 1940s, Gail McGhee was attending high school and after graduation, working at Boeing Aircraft during World War II. Below, you see her with a friend, probably someone she worked with or maybe a friend from the boarding house where girls lived while doing war work.
I think Mom looks pretty spiffy in her suit. She’s the one with the dark hair.
Gail McGhee and a friend in Wichita, Kansas.
I think Mom would have made quite a cute paper doll herself. You can read more about her 1940’s years in these posts:
My mother, Gail Lee Martin, was 87 when we lost her. I started this blog to share my memories of her and now, over 500 posts later, I’m still finding things to write about her life, my childhood, and a general nostalgia for things of the past.
Remember rickrack? If that term doesn’t resonate with you, think back to the 1950s and 1960s when you saw zigzag decorative touches on little girl’s dresses.
Sometimes the rickrack was there just to pretty it up. It could also serve to hide the line where the hem was let down on a too-short dress. Often a dress was made to grow-into with an extra-wide hem that later extended as the child grew.
Rickrack appeared as an accent too for something like an apron. In the picture below, there’s rickrack on the pocket of the red apron and along the edge of the feed sack fabric apron.
I did some quick research and found that it was used even back in the 1860s where it was called waved crocket braid. It fell out of favor for a time in the 1890s through 1910 as other types of braided accents were used.
Wikipedia says, “In America in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, rickrack was used to decorate feed sack dresses. These dresses were worn as everyday attire, and were constructed from the brightly colored and patterned fabric bags that animal feed, flour, and other goods were shipped in.”
Perfect for a recipe of new peas and baby potatoes
Little things trigger your memories. Someone passed around a meme titled “Snapchat – the Old-Fashioned Way.” The meme’s picture showed a grandmother on a porch swing with a lap full of string beans. She was snapping the beans into the right size for cooking.
Next to her on the swing sat a grandchild who was also snapping beans. Several more children sat on the nearby steps as they listened to their grandmother tell a story. Their hands were busily snipping the ends off the beans and breaking the green beans into short pieces.
My aunt Cj Garriott commented, “Oh, this brings back great memories! Mother and I also hulled peas, sitting on the back steps. Occasionally, one or more would pop out on the sidewalk. Our dog Tippy would snap them up! Then one day mother caught him getting some off the vine. Daddy had to put a fence around the peas.”
We didn’t need a knife if the bean were fresh and crisp. We also didn’t make the pieces this short.
Putting all hands to work was necessary if the family grew a large garden. Preparing enough beans for canning was quite a bit of hand labor. Over the winter months, we were glad to have Mason jars filled with vegetables for the eight hungry people around our big oak table.
I think our interest in history and in the way that people lived in earlier generations is shared by many of my sisters too. This has Kansas City on the cover, so likely I discovered it at a yard sale on one of my visits back home.
I wondered if the little booklet might have been included in a box of starch back in the early 1900s or maybe it was a premium that you sent in a box top and a dime to get. I found an 1899 advertisement in the Emporia Democrat telling that the small book was free from the merchant upon request.
It includes some advertising text and then turns to some stories to amuse the kids.
No Sticking Irons
“Housewives who use Faultless Starch are never troubled with irons sticking and burning or scorching their clothes or linens.
It is not necessary to use any preventive for sticky irons with Faultless. It is already in the starch — so is everything else that is necessary to make it a first-class starch.
Try it just once. Learn what housewives in millions of homes have learned in the last 35 years — that it is a “Faultless” Starch.”
Faultless Starch Company, Kansas City
The booklet includes a poem, some riddles (called conundrums), and some games.
The list of state flowers gives us a hint for the date of this booklet. Arizona is not listed and it became a state in 1912. I researched the company history and found this:
1886:Major Beaham goes into business in Kansas City; Bon Ami soap is first produced. 1891:Beaham’s company changes its name to Faultless Starch Co.
I’m not much for ironing and haven’t used starch for years but couldn’t resist checking to see if Faultless Starch was still around. It is, but in a spray can now! Our grandmothers would have loved that convenience.
For the month of April, I’ll be featuring tidbits about my mother’s life. The inspiration will be ephemera (notes, booklets, bits of paper from her files) and newspaper advertisements and clippings. I’ll put my subscription to Newspapers.com to work for me triggering topics from A to Z.
My mother, Gail Lee Martin, was born in 1924. I’m sure at that time, her mother was baking bread for the family. They lived in rather remote areas of the Flint Hills in Central Kansas where one couldn’t dash off to the store for a package of store-bought bread.
The woman in this advertisement even looks like my grandmother did in her early years. Below is a picture from our family album of Gail’s mother, Ruth McGhee, feeding the chickens.
Ruth Vining McGhee with the family chickens in the early 1900s. This is before the Rhode Island reds.
Mom talked about the family trips to town for supplies and selecting bags of chicken feed and bags of flour. They looked for colorful print on the cotton feed sacks. Her mother then used that fabric to make clothing for the family once the sacks were empty.
Each week I get ideas from a blog called Sepia Saturday. This week, their inspiration photo shows three ladies with their bicycles. You can see that photo at the end of today’s blog.
Immediately, I thought of my grandmother on her brother’s motorcycle around 1914. It’s such a unique photo that I’m sure I’ve shared it here before. My photos are from Tyro, Kansas.
Ruth Vining on the Flander’s 4 motorcycle (photo from the Gail Lee Martin collection.
Closer to the example photo is one that I have with my grandfather and two other young men. It was merely labeled Albert Vining. I think the middle fellow is his future brothers-in-law, Clarence McGhee who married Ruth Vining. The fellow on the right is likely Jesse McGhee, the brother of Clarence McGhee.
The McGhee family and the Vining family lived across the street from each other. I don’t recognize the house.
Here’s the Sepia Saturday site where you can see what other bloggers shared.
Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, I remember Mama receiving gifts at Christmas time. Did I personally give her a gift? I just don’t remember but perhaps I can blame that on the many years that have passed and how self-centered children often are.
I searched for a picture of a slender, cobalt blue perfume bottle. The one that matches my hazy memories is Evening in Paris. Probably Dad got this for Mom rather than it being a gift from her children. I see the bottle alone is $20 on Etsy these days.
As children living in the country, our only trips to town were with Mom, and we had no allowance or money to save towards such a present. Even though the price at that time seems modest by today’s standards, Dad was only able to afford a single bottle, not the gift set like this one I found advertised.
Right above the perfume ads, I noticed one for Old Spice aftershave. That was what Dad used. Probably that was his Christmas gift from Mom.
Perhaps at school, the teacher had us make a Christmas card for our parents or we might have made something from popsicle sticks.
Now it’s 50, even 60 years later. What would I give my mother for Christmas? I’d choose the gift of preserving family history. It was something she worked on for years.
I’m trying to carry that work on and want to turn it into something concrete, something she could hold in her hands. So far, I’ve created drafts of some family books and need to redouble my efforts to turn these into actual books. Mom’s not here anymore, so I wish that it was something I’d tackled earlier.