The Fifties / Los Cincuenta

La versión en español está después de la versión en inglés.

MY MOTHER THE DOWAGER DUCHESS had custom slip covers made for the furniture she chose for their first living room in 1950 (see yesterday’s post). She had the wing chair custom-sized so her arms were supported but not obstructed when she was knitting.

Most stories my mother told about those early years began with, “We had no money.” When I asked as an adult how they could afford custom slip covers and furniture, she explained: “Well, it was just the one chair. And you had to have slip covers for summer.” Yet another reason San Geraldo and I called her The Dowager Duchess.

Everything moved with us to the suburbs in 1956 and back to Brooklyn in 1964. I remember the slip covers being used but I don’t know for how many years. These photos are from my father’s 35mm slides. I wish there were more of the interiors. I find the style very cool. I think they were preparing me for Fuengirola fashion.


MI MADRE LA DUQUESA VIUDA hizo que se hicieran fundas personalizadas para los muebles que eligió para el primer salón en 1950 (ver la entrada de ayer). Tenía el sillón de orejas de tamaño personalizado para que sus brazos estuvieran apoyados pero no obstruidos cuando estaba tejiendo.

La mayoría de las historias que contaba mi madre sobre esos primeros años comenzaban con: “No teníamos dinero”. Cuando le pregunté cuando era adulto cómo podían pagar las fundas y los muebles personalizados, me explicó: “Bueno, era solo una silla. Y tenías que tener fundas antideslizantes para el verano”. Otra razón más por la que San Geraldo y yo la llamábamos La Duquesa Viuda.

Todo se mudó con nosotros a los suburbios en 1956 y de regreso a Brooklyn en 1964. Recuerdo que se usaron las fundas, pero no sé cuántos años. Estas fotos son de las diapositivas de 35 mm de mi padre. Ojalá hubiera más interiores. Aunque encuentro el estilo muy guay. Creo que me estaban preparando para la moda de Fuengirola.

Dale and the summer slip covers in 1952. The knitting chair at right.
Dale y las fundas de verano en 1952. La silla de tejer a la derecha.
Winter 1955. I can’t imagine I was allowed to play with that doll for very long.
Invierno de 1955. No puedo imaginarme que me permitieran jugar con esa muñeca por mucho tiempo.
No cats, so they installed a Dale door.
No hay gatos, así que instalaron una Puerta Dale.
1955. My eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the patterns.
1955. Mis ojos aún no se habían adaptado a los patrones.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

30 thoughts on “The Fifties / Los Cincuenta”

  1. LOVE that green lamp in that last photo!
    I get it why your Mom wanted the ‘right chair’ for knitting…..nothing worse if those elbows can’t be free to swing freely while knitting. Trust me, I know.
    That sofa slipcover is quite nice. I see why she liked it.
    Your photos brought back that feeling of the fifties………a good thing.

    1. Jim:
      I also like the sofa slipcover — and the knitting chair slip cover. And they even worked together for me. I wish I had that green lamp now. I don’t know what happened to it. We didn’t have it in the house on Long Island.

    1. Judy C:
      I had never really thought about it, but in later years my mother returned to lots of color and patterns. Not quite as wild as 1950, but it was still there. I’ll have to pull out those photos. Dale always looked so happy at that young age.

    1. anne marie:
      Individually, I like them. But all together, I’m not so sure. I know I wouldn’t do it now.

    1. Steve:
      I just didn’t know they were the style all at once. Then again, when you see photos of the ’50s, they’re often black & white.

    1. Mistress Maddie:
      It DOES surprise me. Although she loved color and pattern in later years, I don’t think she would have put those together.

  2. Wow! The Dowager Duchess liked bright colors. Nothing neutral for her home. When we got married, X was still going to school. His parents kept telling us that they were so poor the first years they were married that they had to choose between soda and ice cream; they couldn’t have both. We laughed as soon as they were gone. We had nothing in our refrigerator except a pitcher with water in it. My in-laws ended up sitting on a big stack of $ because they always insisted they didn’t have money, so they didn’t spend it. When their children were grown up, they bought a big fancy house. My MIL’s taste pales next to the Dowager Duchess’s.


    1. Janie:
      My mother’s 1950 style does surprise me. I don’t remember the slip covers being used very long in the house. And, after that, things were much more subtle. My parents used to play-argue about who was poorer as a child. I remember my mother saying, “I never had a new pair of shoes. Every pair of shoes I had was a hand-me-down from one of my sisters.” My father’s response: “You had shoes?!?”

  3. Considering the actual fabric of that sofa (…plasticated is the best way to describe it–I still remember that stuff as we had a similar sofa), the slipcovers had to be an improvement–at least the feel of them. Tad bright, for my tastes. 🙂

    1. Mary:
      I wish I had a better picture of the sofa. The fabric was actually a nubby tweed. It was quite beautiful and luxurious in a dark cocoa color. The chair with the striped slip cover had the same fabric in kind of a salmon color (which was never my taste).

  4. Sheesh, and I thought the seventies were ugly! At least you and Dale were cute. I am not apologizing for this one 😀 !

    1. Deedles:
      Hah!!! You’re not alone this time either. And thanks for saying we were cute… at least.

  5. The last photo, a shirt in the drapery pattern, shorts in the stripe, white socks and sandals and you are ready for the beach

  6. Oh what a lovely post. Your family is a hoot.
    Love all the prints quite eye searing but what fun.
    cheers, parsnip

  7. The second picture is rather curious. Full color on the inside, but if you look outside the window, it’s black-and-white! Probably something to do with the lighting.

    Which reminds me, wouldn’t color film had been rather expensive in 1952? In my family’s photos, you don’t see color until about 1968 or so. Another reason to believe your mother exaggerated her early poverty.

    1. Kirk:
      I hadn’t noticed how B&W the exterior appears. Definitely to do with the lighting. My father had a Kodak Retina camera. Since there are plenty of B&W prints, I assume he shot print film in B&W and 35-mm color slides. He had hundreds of slides that we had digitised before moving to Spain.

Please share your thoughts...

%d bloggers like this: