Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


WARM COZY NORMAN-ROCKWELLESQUE images used to be ubiquitous in advertising. And, indeed, it’s fun to look back at them.

Atomic Home: A Guided Tour of the American Dream, by Whitney Matheson, Collectors Press, 2004.

Whitney Matheson discusses “that picture-perfect, economically ripe period between World War II and the swingin’ 1960s.” Here are tidbits gleaned from the book, together with nostalgia-tinged recollections.

The Radio-Phonograph Cabinet. In those days, they weren’t called “sound systems,” and stereo didn’t arrive until the 1960s. But before that, a fancy radio-phonograph was just the thing.

This and other images from Atomic Home.

This Westinghouse Model 191 had “Rainbow Tone FM, super-sensitive AM, an automatic intermix record changer, and a Regency cabinet in rich mahogany veneers.” But what with Sonny liking Bach and Sis being into Samba, Dad just wanted to listen to Lawrence Welk.

My home stereo system is, relatively speaking, almost as ancient, dating from the 1980s: On one of his visits to Southern California, Innes Ireland and his girlfriend Susie helped us assemble it.

A Proper Living Room. No longer the “parlor,” and never the “sitting room” as it was known in England, the proper living room had a fireplace, a bookcase, comfortable accommodations for mingling, and maybe a game table for Scrabble: Matheson observes, “The game becomes an American family favorite by 1952 with 58,000 sets sold that year alone.” 

To modern eyes, that rectangle on the left wall looks like a moderately large flat-screen TV. But it’s evidently a fireplace. I admire the bookcase, though it’s rather more orderly than any bookcases around here. People back then evidently didn’t “Keep Sheep, Y’know.”  

A Room for Dining. Matheson says of the dining room, “Don’t get too cozy in this part of the house, however. Thanks to TV dinners, emerging fast food chains, and increasingly busy schedules, the dining room is about to become a tradition of the past.”

Why does this guy remind me of The Shining?

1881 Rogers. As described by Brian Adler at Our Pastimes, April 12, 2017, “Rogers Brothers Silver dates back to the early 19th century. In 1847, the company became a household name when it perfected a process for electroplating silver…. The new electroplated pieces were so popular that other individuals named Rogers actually joined with the original Rogers brothers just for the privilege of using the Rogers Brothers name.” The 1881 Rogers Company evolved from this business activity. 

The ad’s fine print identifies the firm as part of Oneida Ltd., which Wikipedia says is “one of the world’s largest designers and sellers of stainless steel and silverplated cutlery and tableware for the consumer and food service industry.”

There’s a good backstory here: The Oneida Community was a utopian religious communal society established in 1848, members of which believed Jesus had already returned in 70 A.D. Wikipedia says, “The Oneida Community practiced communalism (in the sense of communal property and possessions), group marriage, male sexual continence, and mutual criticism.”

The Oneida Community purchased the Wm A. Rogers and 1881 Rogers companies in 1929. 

Kenwood’s Silver Garden. Though not nearly so bizarre, I too have a silverware backstory. Back when our cats had in/out privileges, we kept a kitchen window ajar for their access. 

Ha. But it also gave our Malamute Husky Kenwood outside access to silverware drying in the dish drainer. In moments of idleness, he would take one or two pieces of silverware and bury them in the backyard. 

Well, not always completely buried: Some mornings, it looked like a little garden of a fork sprouting here, a spoon sprouting there.  

Fellows and the Girls. Back to Atomic Home vintage images, several of which suggest a degree of socialization along gender lines. The “girls,” as they were known, would be gardening, playing with the kiddies, or serving wine. Guys were doing guy things like cutting the grass, comparing fishing gear, all the while drinking glasses of beer.

Which reminds me of a tale related by Rob Walker, who with his wife Betty would visit their married daughter in Australia. 

Chatting at one end of the patio, Rob asked his Australian son-in-law why all the women invariably congregated at the other end. His son-in-law thought for a moment then explained, “Well, the Shielas don’t drink beer now, do they?”

Maybe Atomic Home Karens didn’t either. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022


  1. Mark
    March 14, 2022

    I caught an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show the other day and remarked to my girlfriend on the layout of the home… a sitting/reading area just inside the door by the front window, a conversation area in front of the fireplace across from it, the couch/tv watching area on the other side of the bedroom door, and finally a dining area just outside the kitchen (with of course another eating area). Strange how the style was all these defined areas.

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