House and Home, Staycation Vacation

Life in the 1960s: When Families Had “Company”

Humans are not logical creatures.

We commit to spending tens or hundreds of thousands to buy houses or condos, or to rent apartments. We spend thousands more to furnish them. We choose just the right paint colors. We choose just the right sofa, chairs, draperies, area rugs, lamps, bedding, and dinnerware patterns – both everyday ironstone and special occasion fine china. We debate faucet styles and stare at samples of flooring and countertops until we are seeing double. Then, when all is said and done, the plans we make that we look forward to the most are those events that take us out of the house and away from home!

“Meeting friends” has come to mean “going out.” We meet in restaurants. We meet in bars. We meet in the lobby of the movie theater or outside the stadium gate. “Home” has become the place we retreat to when the fun is over. Few entertain guests at home except for our closest of friends. Almost no one entertains drop in “company” as our parents once did.

Who that grew up in mid 20th century America doesn’t remember the mad rush to shove a pile of magazines or a sewing project under the couch when family friends unexpectedly pulled into the driveway? It wasn’t that the guest “just happened to be in the neighborhood.” Guests planned their drop in visits. The family would “get cleaned up,” put on their nice clothes, shine their shoes, and climb into the car to go visiting. Only the host was unaware that the visit would occur. Few of our families friends had telephones in the 1960s. But in any case, a phone call to pre-arrange the visit was neither made nor expected. When the guests arrived, they would politely linger a few moments in their car or stop to admire the flowers along the front walk, giving those inside the house a chance to comb their hair or quickly clear the dirty dishes off the dinner table. Every kid in the house understood that his job was to immediately grab the first mess he saw and either clean it up or stash it out of sight.

Slowly, the arriving guests would approach the front steps and our parents would open the door with a wide smile and encourage the visitors to “come on in and sit a spell!” No one paid any attention to the layer of dust on the top of the TV or the baby’s toys spread out in the corner of the living room. Our parents dropped whatever they were doing or had planned to do and they would spend the rest of the evening talking with their friends over cups of hot coffee and whatever treat Mom could find in the kitchen – a dish of ice cream or some cookies from the cookie jar. It would not be unusual for Mom to stir together one of her fast-baking gingerbread or quick bread recipes and slip it into the oven. Ladies sought after and shared recipes for treats that could be mixed, baked, and ready to serve in 30-ish minutes. Kids would run off to play with those their own age while the adults might spend the evening playing cards or a board game. Maybe it was because there were so few available entertainment options in those days, but “having company” was not seen as an inconvenience to our parents. It was a joyous surprise that was viewed as a special treat for both visitors and their hosts.

Dropping in on someone today, without having a visit prearranged, would likely be considered rude to today’s younger generations. With all of the activities people fill their lives with, as well as varied work schedules, a drop in visitor would be more likely to find an empty house than a welcoming friend at the door. Families that need two incomes to make ends meet no longer have a full time homemaker in the house to keep things neat and presentable for guests as our mothers did. Stashing a pile of magazines wouldn’t be enough to make many of today’s homes tidy. The change in American’s working lives and family economics impacted life at home and changed the way we use our houses. Now Covid is changing much of that once again.

When the pandemic first struck, many of us began updating our homes to make them more comfortable for ourselves and our families. I used some of our unspent vacation dollars and purchased a small hot tub. By May, you couldn’t find a hot tub or a backyard swimming pool anywhere. Games like Uno and Monopoly began to fly off store shelves. A friend purchased a fancy Margarita maker for his kitchen. Other friends built a nice deck and furnished it with comfy seating. We were making our homes more entertainment friendly for ourselves.

By Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Then, following the initial months of pandemic isolation, we slowly began to socialize once again. For many, still uncomfortable going into public spaces, our homes have become the natural place to get together with family and friends. Many have rediscovered the pleasure of relaxing in our own living room or grilling burgers on the patio of a friend. We do not know what life will be like in the future. But our homes seem destined to once again be places where we will enjoy entertaining “company.”

Check out these simple recipes that Mom could bake up in just a few minutes whenever unexpected company dropped in.

~Applesauce Cake

~Streusel Topped Coffee Cake


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