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The Frugality of 50s Appliances and Canning

As a baby boomer, Denise and millions of others are becoming senior citizens. She explores what it means to be over 60 today.

Don't ya love a parade?

Don't ya love a parade?

The 1950s

I am a 50’s child. I love that era, the diners, the ducktails, the poodle skirts, the music, the cars. It is all a wonderful era. Plus, it has the added charm of being the decade I was born. Just saying. I fell in love with Richie on Happy Days. Who didn't want to be a Cunningham? I know all the lyrics to the Laverne and Shirley theme as well as the lyrics to Grease. I was right there with Marty McFly in Back to the Future. I actually love black and white movies for the artistry of it. My father was very resistant to getting a color TV (because of the cost I think) until all the programs were being aired in color and he finally couldn't take the suspense any longer. He just had to see what Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke looked like in color. He wasn't disappointed!

I have the added pleasure of being married to a wonderful man who actually worked on the Laverne and Shirley and Happy Days set (behind the scenes) and who actually owns a pair of boots once belonging to the Fonz. When the Fonz blew on his fist and rapped the jukebox, my hubby was backstage making the music come on. Someone had to make the magic. How many people can say they have Fonzie's boots in their closet (other than Henry Winkler’s wife)?

We have old episodes of "Life with Elizabeth" with Betty White on DVD (what a tiny waist that woman had) and "Halls of Ivy" with Ronald Coleman (what a voice that man had) on DVD. The old episodes of "What's My Line?" and "Queen for a Day" give me thrills. And who could forget the "$64,000 Question" as well as the "You Bet Your Life" Chrysler-Plymouth show with Groucho Marx (what a funny man)?

I still wear hats I find at the antique and thrifts stores; why would anyone want to part with those treasures? I’m a little bit anachronistic; someone lost in time or living a life of the time she would prefer.

Vintage phones next to a computer

Vintage phones next to a computer

Changing Times

It was a time of innocence and growth for many countries, and it was a time of change. If you love the 50's as much as I do, you may be surprised to know that many appliances from that era are still working and available. A few are reproductions but very cool looking. Like phones. Phones from the '50s were so cool. You could practically kill an intruder with one. They were made heavy and to last.

Ice cream makers, refrigerators, toasters, bottle openers and can openers (manual and electric), televisions or television consoles with a record player and radio (now there was a piece of furniture!), vacuum cleaners, and electric mixers.

Root Cellar

Root Cellar

Canning

One of my favorite sets inherited from those days is my canning equipment. I have Mason jars and Ball jars that date to my grandmother’s use and maybe even beyond. The big aluminum pot for immersing the jars still gets used. I had to replace the tongs that pull the jars out of the water bath and was surprised that I could find them so easily. I must not be the only one who still cans fruits and vegetables in the summer.

Corn Field

Corn Field

Old people shouldn’t eat health foods. They need all the preservatives they can get.

— Robert Orben (1927) American humorist.

Canning with My Mother

Every summer we canned not only what my mother grew outback but also what we would glean from the local farmers. If you have never gleaned in the fields, you have missed out on something special. After the pickers have passed through and the farmers will be plowing under what is left on the vine, so they let it be known to corner gas station attendants and friends that it is okay for gleaners to come. Mom came in announced we would be gleaning the next day. It didn’t matter for what. We all groaned. It would be hot and tiring, but there was no arguing with Mom. We kids would drag boxes and cartons through the long rows to load them with tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and sometimes green beans. In the orchards, we loaded peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, pears, and sometimes apples, dragging the heavy boxes to the waiting get-away car. It was hot and sweat glistened on our brows as we complained but still picked the treasure. Mom hauled us out of bed early to beat the heat, to canal banks for free wild blackberries as large as apricots.

By the end of the summer, our pantry was stocked with sweet pickles, dill pickles, pickled watermelon rind, relish, spiced peaches – light on the cinnamon and heavy on the cloves, sliced peaches for cobblers, sliced apples for pie, sweet apple butter, pear butter, corn, green beans, spaghetti sauce, our own Mexican salsa (mild), whole stewed tomatoes, and every kind of jam and jelly; all just aching for their favorite partner: peanut butter.

Continue the Tradition

When I started my own family, I couldn’t go a summer without doing the same as my dear mother and preserving every fruit and vegetable I could get my hands on. I even tried a few recipes that my mother didn’t try, such as corn cob jelly (tastes like strawberry), cured olives, green tomato relish, and lemon mead (which is a mild fermented fruity wine). I inherited many of my grandmother’s canning jars, some of them so old they were blue and green with age. I find them almost too precious to use for canning.

Many preserves, jam, and jelly recipe books can be found for free at your local Agricultural Extension Service. Look them up on the Internet or in the Phone Book. They have recipes you’ve never heard of before, but I’m sure there are lots on the Internet as well.

Dad churning the ice cream maker

Dad churning the ice cream maker

The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.

— Ezra Taft Benson

Preserving Food

Now a summer doesn’t arrive without my thoughts returning to those days of picking, cleaning, peeling, slicing, dicing, stewing, ladling, sealing, and labeling with my mother. The hard day ending with the music of “phump, phump, phump” coming from the sealing jars on the kitchen table as I lay down to dream of sweet pickle relish in my potato salad and on my hot dog, of apple cobblers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

the-frugality-of-50s-appliances-and-canning

Frugality Lost

There was a special frugality that my mother passed on to me. It was more than just saving money. She taught me that by saving money on groceries we would not need to buy that year, we were in fact, earning it. We were earning money for the family and for my father. This was a lesson I never forgot. It was the legacy I passed onto my daughters; the lesson that you do not need to be in a paying job to earn money. Saving money is earning money too. In the spend-thrift society we live in today, our children need to know that simple truth. Benjamin Franklin said it before my mother did: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

My mom in her garden

My mom in her garden

Final Thoughts

Have you got a great story about a favorite 50’s appliances or activities? Do you remember using them or are you still? Did it mean something to you and you just can't wait to tell me about it? Have we become such a throwaway society that we forget some of the older things still have value? ­I can't wait to hear about it in the comments below.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 27, 2021:

Bill Holland,

These are good things to know. I'm glad you made the effort to learn it. The way the world is going, who knows but that it may be a necessity someday instead of a "nice to do activity." Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 27, 2021:

John Hansen,

Well, then, you are just a kid. Haha. I'm glad you enjoyed my memories and thoughts. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 27, 2021:

Rosina S Khan,

Not everyone can remember these TV shows or the same experiences but I'm happy you enjoyed hearing about them. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 27, 2021:

Dora Weithers,

Yes, I feel special owning those Fonzie boots. I've moved a few times myself and lost a few things but the canning continues. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 27, 2021:

Pamela Oglesby,

Like you I gave a lot (almost all) my canning supplies to my daughter and I know she is using them. She gave me a quart jar of her tomato sauce for Christmas. Now I dry and can only a small amount for my hubby and I. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 27, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

I knew you were a kindred spirit. You're welcome for the memories. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 27, 2021:

My grandparents canned. My parents never did. I had to teach myself when I was older. I actually loved the 50's and 60's. I consider myself lucky for being born when I was.

Anyway, thanks for the memories, and blessings always!

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on July 27, 2021:

Nice article, Denise. I love that "penny saved is a penny earned" quote too. This brings back memories, even though I was born in the late 50s so have more memories of the 60s.

Rosina S Khan on July 26, 2021:

I am not a 1950s person but I loved to know about the TV shows, appliances, canning and other activities from that era. It must have been really good and golden. I loved your reflections back to the era indeed. Thank you for sharing, Denise.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 26, 2021:

I think that you resemble your mom. You're the ideal 50s woman, and owning a pair of Fonzie's boots makes you so much more special. Migrating back and forth was enough to make me lose any cherished object I may have liked to keep. I really love your article. Thanks for the memories.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 26, 2021:

I also remember the wonderful 50s. I watched those shows and I use to can everything I could also. I think had a bit more variety than I, but we sure enjoyed those vegetables and jams. I recently gave all my canning supplies to my granddaughter, and I hope she will use them.

I really enjoyed your article, Denise, as it brought back so many memories.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 26, 2021:

I fondly remember all of those shows you mentioned. I grew up watching my mother can and preserve foods, and when I had a gigantic garden in Wisconsin many years ago, I also canned foods. Thanks for all of the memories this brought up when reading your article.

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