Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Vintage Style Kitchen - Memories

When I was a little girl, 'coffee klatches' were the main form of socializing for my Mom's generation. Mom always had one of her neighbor friends, sisters, or one of her two best friends, Helen or Janet over for coffee at least once a week.

She would get us off to school, tidy up the kitchen, and bake a coffee cake. I remember her coffee percolator. It was electric, with a thick, black, cloth covered cord, shiny chrome metal, with a little glass nob on top where the coffee could be seen 'perking'. When it stopped perking up through the little glass knob, it would be done. I loved to watch it perk.

Mom's coffee cakes were divine. Moist, sweet, but not too sweet, with a cinnamon crumb topping.

Sometimes her coffee klatches lasted until I got home from school and I was invited to sit and chat with the ladies. They always had the most interesting conversations. Books they were reading, politics, husbands, a little gossip, fashion, current events.

There was usually a couple of pre-schoolers playing nearby or a baby in a carriage, 'sunning' on the porch. In those days, babies were put outside in net covered carriages for fresh air and a little sunshine.  I guess those were the days before Vitamin D was fortified in foods.

Mom would cut me a big slice of coffee cake and make me a cup of 'coffee milk'. She would pour a little bit of coffee in a cup, add some sugar, and fill the rest with milk. I felt so grown up. But soon, the conversation would turn to grown-up matters and the baby would start to fuss, so I was sent away for baby-sitting duty.

I was the eldest girl of 5. I learned very young how to run a house-hold, how to care for my younger siblings and cousins. I was also one of the eldest grand-daughters. There were many aunts and uncles and I was the prime baby-sitter for all of them and for the neighborhood. My earnings helped out at home.

But those precious times when I was allowed to join the 'ladies' at the coffee klatch made me feel so grown-up.

Those days are long gone. The ladies are all at work during the day now. Nobody has time to linger over coffee and cake all morning.

And that's a good thing. Women have control over their own lives now. But back then, they were dependent upon their husbands. And some of those husbands were not very nice. There was actually a 'rule of thumb' on the books. It meant that a husband could beat his wife or child as long as the stick was no bigger than his thumb. I am not kidding. Society frowned upon divorce and there was a lot of stigma with being a "divorcee' ". Other women shunned them. They wouldn't allow their children to play with 'children from a broken home'. It all seems so silly now. But it was reality back then. I am talking about the late 50's and early 60's.  

My Mother was very fortunate. She had a loving husband who's main goal in life was to make his wife and children happy.

Back then, men ruled the world. Women only worked in certain professions and many of them only until they had children. Teacher's, Nurses, and Secretaries. Anyone who is a fan of the television series, 'Mad Men', will get an accurate depiction of how women were treated in the work place and at home.

Of course there were always exceptions. But they were not the rule.

The world was rapidly changing as I grew older and became a teenager. 'Woman's Lib' was just beginning.

But they were still teaching Home Economics in High School. There was a club called "The Future Homemakers of America".

I took full credit classes in sewing and cooking. An hour each, 5 days a week. For two years. All of my life I was training to be a proud 'Homemaker'.

But what I really wanted to be was a Veterinarian. I secretly wished it more than anything else on earth. I took college prep classes besides my 'Home Ec' classes, just in case my secret wish came true.
Alas, it was not meant to be.

That window of opportunity was not opened for me. My parents didn't believe in educating a daughter. They felt that it would just go to waste. That they would educate me and then I would end up getting married and having children and waste my education.

Women's Lib came too late for me.

But I absolutely have no regrets.

I married a wonderful man. I have had a fulfilling life with many adventures. I dearly love my family.

But I raised my children differently. I wanted them to understand how important it was to follow their dreams. Especially my daughters.

And they have.

And for that I am happy. I was fortunate to be able to stay home with my children. Not many women have that opportunity these days. But the good news is, women have choices today. They have control over their destiny.

I could have gone to college, after I was married. It was my choice to stay home with my children. Hubby would have supported whatever I wanted to do. But practicality ruled my choices. Child care was not an option on our limited budget.

And it worked out the way it was supposed to. I made the absolute best of my situation. I enjoyed my life as a wife and mother.   

But I did get to go to night school, once my children grew up. I took computer classes.

You are never too old to learn.

What have you learned today?  


  1. Great one today Karen!
    Prior to moving to Enumclaw in the 4th grade, my brother and I attended a private school in Renton. My mother worked at the school part time and was able to transport us to and from school. Once we moved to Enumclaw, she was a stay at home mother the rest of our school years, taking care of the home and ill family members. She too has accomplished alot in her lifetime. In her early 20s, she attended schooling and recieved her private pilot's license. But unfortunately a tragedy derailed her from continueing on with her studies and licenses. She had married young, her husband at the time was also a pilot. Months after they wed he was killed in a plane crash.
    Years after, she met my father at the same Eugene airport she had met her first husband at. Also a pilot, my father vowed to make it his goal to be the greatest husband and father. That he has been very successful at.
    I feel so blessed to have a mother who has experienced love, loss, heartbreak and life lessons. If I could speak of one (ok, maybe two things) I have learned from her, it would be strength and unconditional love. I give all credit to her. She and my father have been amazing role models for my brother and I. We don't always make the best decisions, but we were raised with a loving foundation and understand when an apology is necessary and a lesson needs to be learned.
    Sounds very similar to the credit your loving family gives to you :) Amen for strong mothers and fathers today! Thank you again for sharing today

  2. What a lovely tribute to your Mother! She raised a loving and thoughtful daughter. How wonderful that your Father took such good care of all of you. I wish they could read your beautiful words. I am sure they know how much you love them. xx

  3. Good Morning Karen,

    I wanted to be a Veterinarian also, but I knew I also wanted to be a wife and mother. I just could not see going for that long to school and be able to have my children too. So, I became a Veterinary Technician and I worked in that profession for 30 years. It of course had its ups and downs like most jobs but all in all I loved it. I retired from there to work in my husband's law office in 2008 when the economy collapsed. He needed me and I was happy to help. So after 3 years I am still here! And what I have learned today is that life is what you make it.....good, happy attitude....good, happy life! :)

  4. Hi Cherie, I really like that saying; Good, happy attitude - good, happy Life! So very true. How wonderful of you to help out Hubby in his law office after your long career. He is a very lucky Husband! Being a wife and Mother is fulfilling in ways beyond any other endeavor. Thank you for sharing.xx

  5. Whoo this post took me back - vivid memories of the percolator, and at least the phrase "coffee klatsch" though I wasn't invited to attend any! What you say about how the world has changed - and Sarah's and Jurisdobes' comments - sparked off so many thoughts in me... I remember being aware that my mother had to get my Dad's permission to apply for a credit card. But I'd forgotten the origin of the phrase "rule of thumb".

    I was born in 1960 and my parents did not support my education. My father told me I should be an airline stewardess so I could support him in his own age. I was determined to go to college, and I ended up getting a Ph.D in fact. My sister just finished her college degree last summer.

    I worked my way into a career as a college professor by age 28 - and then gave it all up to follow my husband to Scotland and raise a family! In fact, I've continued to teach and work in academia all through the last 20 years but it's been part-time work with no career path. And I don't regret it at all. In my job I get to help students, and that brings me a lot of satisfaction if not a lot of recognition.

    Our teenage daughter is now growing up in a world where it seems no matter how brilliantly you succeed at academics, you're still not going to find much of a job, nevermind a career. Our hopes for her have always simply been that she is happy, which we believe includes finding some kind of way to contribute to this world, some kind of work you enjoy.

    I suppose I think that women can be happier if they have choice in their life, rather than not. But I also think the "Superwoman" ideal of the 1980s did us a lot of harm. Everyone has to make choices, and that includes men. And success is not measured by your salary or your title.

    Great post, thanks!

  6. Hi Christine, thank you for sharing your thoughts! It speaks of your persistence and focus that you pursued your education all on your own, at a time when women were just beginning to follow their dreams. Being a woman is more complicated than being a man, I believe. We want to be able to pursue our dreams and still have a family, but sometimes that involves timing, which complicates the whole process.

    I think women are more in tune with 'quality of life' and wanting to have that rather than just a career.

    I whole heartedly agree with you on the idea of being a 'superwoman' and how harmful that has been. I think that women tried to achieve the way men do, but we need to do it in a different way, incorporating family and quality of life. It somehow balances out after time and now you see that things are leveling off and both women and men are realizing that you can't do everything.

    You are an example of how you have chosen quality in your life.

    I hear you on worrying about your daughter's future in this competitive world. She is bright and creative and I have no doubt she will find her little niche.

    Thank you for sharing and for your insight. xx

  7. I learned that sometimes dreams change...some of the things I wanted as a young girl (like lots of travel), I don't want anymore. And some things I wanted (like to be a writer) never changed. I think we evolve and become who we are - but in any case, everyone is entitled the chance to attain his (or her!!) dream. <3 P.S. I thought I "followed" your blog, but I don't receive emails of new posts. Any suggestions?


Thank you for stopping by! Your comments are important to me and are very much appreciated. xx Karen

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