My father use to yell at us kids for wasting energy when we’d stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open, trying to decide what, if anything, we wanted to eat or drink next. Growing up there was always something in the fridge to ponder, and eventually we would find something to snack on.
I still stand in front of my refrigerator with door ajar, bewildered. But now it’s not because there are too many choices. Rather, my astonishment is at how few items there in that vast and empty space. All of the images in today’s column are from 1940 to 1967. Click on any image for a larger version.
Looking at refrigerator ads makes me feel inadequate. I’ve never had whole hams, rows of parfaits, neatly organized frozen goods, or delicious-looking cakes in my fridge. No, my freezer has a couple packages of Chicken Tikka Masala from Trader Joes, a couple trays of years-old ice cubes, and a half-used bag of frozen peas.
The refrigerator section has the typical assortment of mustard, salad dressing, and other condiments in the door, along with very limp vegetables and an out-of-date carton of milk. I also keep my bread and breakfast cereal in the fridge so it lasts longer.
Did you know that you once could by a refrigerator powered by gas instead of electricity?
I think the quality of your refrigerator food stock has a direct relationship to your willingness and desire to shop. I like going to the store and perhaps that’s my problem. I don’t do weekly shopping and stock up on items; I drop by the market pretty much daily and pick up just what I need to get by for that day.
Consequently, there is rarely anything to really eat in my refrigerator and houseguests often gasp in surprise when they open the door. You can easily hear an echo. But in these ads, that’s certainly not the case.
Selling refrigerators has always been about capacity as much as anything else. One model is pretty similar to the next except in size. Most refrigerators are just big metal boxes, though I do love this ad from 1956 for Westinghouse refrigerators that were available in over 50 different color combinations. And then there’s the “wall” refrigerator from General Electric, also from 1956.
Go to page 2 for many more fridge ads, including a shocking image in which unwrapped Jello molds fraternize with whole turkeys and chocolate cakes. Don’t let your children turn the page!