Scanning Around With Gene: Kitchen-Table Wisdom

One of the clichés of this election cycle is the image of middle-class Americans sitting around the kitchen table having heavy discussions about our times. And while it is true that many families do still sit down for dinner, and certainly do have heavy discussions and plenty of concerns, I think the kitchen table as gathering point has changed.

This is due to many things, of course, such as the changing dynamics of work schedules, busy kids with lots of out-of-home activities, the role of meal-time television viewing, and smaller families. However, I like to think it may also have to do with the fact that kitchen tables just aren’t what they used to be. I dug around in my archives and came up with these images of kitchen tables from 1938 through 1962. Click on any image to see a larger version.

In my home we had a firm dinnertime of 6 PM, and we three kids were expected to be in our regular seats at that exact hour. Meal-time discussions, fueled by quite a few martinis or whiskey sours (and milk for the kids) were passionate and long.

Both of my parents worked, so most dinner arguments (“discussion” is probably too mild of a term) were a not-so-subtle battle of one-upmanship as to who had either the harder job or the worse day. My mother almost always won these battles.

Our kitchen table was an ordinary fake-woodgrain Formica job that came from Sears, nothing like some of the wonderful cracked-ice beauties shown here. And our chairs were a very ugly 1960s floral pattern. These chairs, on the other hand, are of the two-tone type I always lusted after at neighbors’ homes.

I knew of only one family who had a built-in booth, and they had 12 kids, so I guess it made sense. I never really cared for booths as a kid, since it meant you couldn’t lean back on your chair when bored with the adult conversation or when the topic turned to you.

Because I was the youngest, I had an end-seat, with my middle sister stuck between my oldest sister and myself. (Years of therapy haven’t addressed the emotional trauma of that.) My dad sat at the head of the table, and my mother sat alone on the side opposite the three kids. No one sat at the other head, which was against a wall. We never deviated from this seating arrangement; all that changed was when someone became old enough to move out, thereby leaving his or her seat empty.

Go to page 2 for more vintage images and more Gene memories.

Posted on: October 10, 2008

Gene Gable

Gene Gable has spent a lifetime in publishing, editing and the graphic arts and is currently a technology consultant and writer. He has spoken at events around the world and has written extensively on graphic design, intellectual-property rights, and publishing production in books and for magazines such as Print, U&lc, ID, Macworld, Graphic Exchange, AGI, and The Seybold Report. Gene's interest in graphic design history and letterpress printing resulted in his popular columns "Heavy Metal Madness" and "Scanning Around with Gene" here on

5 Comments on Scanning Around With Gene: Kitchen-Table Wisdom

  1. Hi Gene,
    Don’t worry we had a wood dining table and it didn’t help our family dynamics any. Of course I would constantly change my place at the table and was therefore considered a problem. Such a rebel.

  2. Hello Gene,
    Brings back memories of life in Australia during the 1950’s-1960’s when things were tough for my Family. They were good times really as we did sit and talk at the dining table, not like today when we haven’t got time.

  3. I’d like to place my order for the Virtue Chrome Dinette, in Lipstick Red. ;-D

    I remember ours was a drop-leaf table, not fancy like the ones in the photo, but expanded like our family did back in the ’50s. Brings back memories of simpler, more uncomplicated days. (Probably due to the fact that I was a child then, and had few worries.)

    As always Gene, thanks for the wonderful posts!


  4. Thanks Gene.

    Our current kitchen table looks strikingly similar to the Chromcraft beauty in the second image. Goes very well with the vintage lunch boxes we have displayed.

  5. Anyone know where to find the replacement material for green chrome set? I believe it is called “crushed ice”. Found a set like my folks had and i just had to have it. Just want to fix it and use it. Any info id appreciate it.

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