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Never Again: Inside the life of a traditional American mother, 1941

In 1941, LIFE magazine decided to document the lives of one of the biggest single demographics in the U.S.: the 30 million housewives who did most of the washing, made beds, cooked meals and nursed almost all the babies of the nation, with little help, no wages and no other jobs.

The magazine chose Jane Amberg from Kanakee, Illinois as its subject, a “modern, young, middle-class housewife.” Around 1927, she went on a blind date with Gilbert Amberg. Three years later they were married, when Jane was 21.

LIFE documented the jobs Jane performed to make sure their household ran smoothly. It represented the responsibilities of millions of other American women at the time: seamstress, chauffeur, laundress, chambermaid, cook, dishwasher, waitress and nurse. In Jane’s case, a maid came in occasionally to vacuum the floor and wash the windows, at $0.35 per hour.

Through all of this, Jane had to be her husband’s “best girl” outside the home. Once per week, the couple went to dinner, the movies or visited friends. They also entertained at home. All this would soon change. Just over two months after the article was published, the Japanese navy launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. America entered World War II.

… More at Inside the life of a traditional American mother, 1941

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  • pfsm March 11, 2020, 11:05 AM
  • Andy Havens March 11, 2020, 11:33 AM

    I’ve been the stay at home dad since our oldest of 2 was in Kindergarten. Quitting my job and eliminating any need for outside care saved us money.

    Jane and I would have a lot to talk about. I have a lighter load than she did, because we have a cleaner come twice monthly for the things that take most of the effort – toilets and showers, dusting high and in the corners, etc. And even with that help, there is a lot of work. My God, the laundry, the dishes, the cooking, the vacuuming, the driving. As a kid I HAD NO IDEA. I mean we did chores and were expected to help out, but holy shit. My mom, like so many others, was a silent angel.

    As I was typing this, I received the email that was destined to come – my daughter’s Jr. High school is closed as of tomorrow. I suppose the boy’s elementary school is soon to follow. Life as the at-home parent will be a bit busier for a while. Jane the war-time mom, Andy the plague-time dad.

    I do find that for all the talk of shifting roles, I am still the rarity. I have encountered relatively few full-time dads, and by far the most common situation here in Seattle is two working parents, with an au pair for the kids. I like it better my way, but to each his own.

    And it is worth noting that the overwhelming notion is that getting out of the house and getting a career has been the best way for women to break out of the stifling limitations of a patriarchal society, because all that housework prevents the realization of talents and potential. But when I tell a woman that I am a stay at home dad, they think it’s absolutely wonderful.

    For my part, I agree. It is wonderful. I do understand the other perspective, though. The sense of dull routine and thanklessness of homemaking. Lack of accomplishment. Those feelings can easily creep in. Still, I have been a lot of things, including a soldier for 8 years, and nothing has been more fulfilling and rewarding than raising a family and taking care of my people firsthand.

  • James ONeil March 11, 2020, 12:50 PM

    Raised in the ’50s, I remember my mom worked maybe 2 years while I was growing up, after we moved from Ohio to Florida. My impression is/was she was damn glad to get back to just being a mother and a housewife.

    My wife was a stayathome mom when our kids were young though she did do some teachers aid(ing) when both kids were in school. She did work after the kids graduated, I suspect as much to avoid the empty nest syndrome as for the extra money, though I never discussed such with her. Some discussion are better left on the shelf.

    I do feel our society took a very wrong turn deciding homemaking is stifling and both parents need be in the work place.

  • BGarrett March 11, 2020, 1:13 PM

    Life was like this in 1951 and in 1961 too

  • ghostsniper March 11, 2020, 1:37 PM

    This method worked very well for many, many years, when 1 income was sufficient to raise a fambly.
    Seems like all this started going down hill and picking up speed all the way back in the 70’s and by the 80’s a whole new “normal” had taken over and all sorts of spin-off problems were occurring as a result, many of which continue to this day.

    The mothers back then were the home borne command hubs in all the ways that are important. They kept track of their kids and the entire neighborhood including all the school things. They ran the house and started learning how to do so when they were young, from their mothers. The future fathers learned their roles from their fathers. A 2 member head of household with each member knowing their part in keeping the machine functioning well.

    When my youngest brother was about 16 or so I believe my mothers function was diminished quite a bit as most of us older kids had already flown the nest and her day to day routine became easier. I think she became bored. I don’t doubt the outside influence of society had an effect on her too. By about 1978 she got a job working in a small department store and seemed happy. She did what needed done in the morning then by about 10am she got ready, got all dressed up and went to her job. She was part time at first and my dad was against it the whole way. I never heard what his take was on all of this because he died of a heart attack in 1980 at age 47. By then my mother was working full time and my little brother was in the navy stationed on the carrier Midway off the coast of Iran. My next youngest brother was out hound-doggin around somewhere with his bitch of the day or in jail, my sister was married to a navy lifer in San Diego and my youngest sister was married to the VW dood in Naples. And I was all over the map trying to find myself, and I’m still searching.

    So yeah, society was goading my mother to “be all she can be” and trash talking the slave like existence of motherhood and running the residential command center and with the kids mostly gone there was a vacuum there, then my dad died and she needed to make money full time.

    My own wife and I started our family the same way, the tried and trued traditional way, and it worked well til our son was 5 and started school then the same things that over took my mother over took my wife. She worked before we got married and up til about the 4th month of pregnancy and I insisted she stay at home. Her jobs up til then were mostly inconsequential stuff and I was making good money at architecture firms so she stayed at home. When the kid started school she had about 6 hours in the middle of the day with nothing to do. She got bored. One night after supper she said she’d been thinking about it for awhile, and then she found this little part time job doing accounting work for a pool construction biz. She said she’d still be able to drop the kid off at school and pick him up at 3pm (we never did school buses – cringe) and everything was fine.

    In a few months I started noticing cracks in the system but didn’t say anything. The mutt didn’t get fed one morning and when I got home that night he was ravenous. One day my wife called me at work and asked if I could pick up the kid from school cause her boss wants her to work later to do end of fiscal year paper work. No problem. The light in the kids room blew and I didn’t find out about for a week. Little stuff. Cracks.

    The next year I took our paperwork to H&R Block to do the taxes we didn’t get back the usual $1000 or so we were accustomed to. In fact, I had to pay a couple hundred. WTFF??? My wifes income, which I never seen any of, pushed over an invisible line that only I was held responsible for. I jokingly said she should reimburse me for half the money I had to pay the IRS and was met with dead silence, and a severely cold shoulder for awhile. A buck in his prime notices a cold shoulder immediately and tries to find remedy. This is where in depth communication is key and the worst kind of communication happens between husbands and wives. Feelings. And different viewpoints. The cracks were spreading.

    Because she was driving more now my wifes ride was requiring additional attention and the only attention a ride recognizes is the kind that normally lives comfortably in the husbands ass pocket. I asked my wife what she was spending all her money on and I got non-answers. Sentences with lots of emotional words that don’t really mean anything but sound like important stuff. Womens are good at this stuff. Mens ain’t. When doods yap they don’t need to use a lot of words to get the point across and emotions are never part of the equation unless someone is severely injured. No, crying is never accepted. So yeah, them cracks were getting to be chasms.

    I started my architecture business in 1986 and was spending a lot of time at it. Leaving the house at 7am and not getting home til 7pm or later, working weekends, doing all nighters to meet deadlines, all that normal stuff. The chasms became canyons and my wife and I were 2 ships in the night and conversations were short, abrupt, and damaging, but neither of us really noticed and were concentrated on our own slivers of life. Our son was the common bond but that alone was not enough to pull us through.

    One day in 1992, it was a Friday, and an especially arduous day that ended quite well business wise. After working on it for months I had completed the construction documents on Deion Sanders new crib and got paid. Lawdy, Lawdy, Lawdy. We’re going to Red Lobster tonight and then later I’m gonna get “some”!!!! I hit the liquor store on the way home and got a case of brews for the weekend, then I laid rubba back to the house.

    It was about 6pm that Friday and when I pulled into the driveway my wifes car was gone. No big deal, she probably went to the store. I had not talked to her since the night before. So I walked into the house and got knocked the fuck out. I just stood there in the foyer, suffering from extreme sensory overload. It took a moment to come to grips. Everything in the entire house was gone. Everything except the dining table which was collapsed on one side on the floor. And my clothes and personal items. I dashed into our sons room. Empty. Our bedroom. Empty, cept for my stuff. Looked in the kitchen cabinets. Empty. There was food in the fridge and pantry. There was no note. There was no phone call. There was nothing. (He and she are in the “house” but there’s only “me” at home – anagrams) I called my mother in law (she didn’t take the landline) and there was no answer. I called my office and checked the messages, none. Called the MIL again. Nothing.

    I let the mutt out to do his business and then him and me went out on the back porch and I cracked a brew. This was all new territory for me. I’ve faced some pretty tough dilema’s in my life and usually get through them but most dilema’s are based in similarities. This time is was different. I only had one wife so I didn’t have a previous marriage to draw upon.

    Zoom ahead 28 years to now. We celebrated our 36th anniversary last month and we go years without argument and we both work at home in our golden years. Mike Powell was the general contractor on the mansion I mentioned above and when he described the initial parameters for me to attain the contract for the design work and construction documents I was doing so in direct competition with one of the largest and most successful architecture firms in Florida. It would be a miracle for little ol’ me to get this job. At the meeting Mike was gung ho and upbeat and told me, based on other projects we had worked together on, that he had complete confidence in my putting together a bulletproof proposal and presentation for the clients and their attorneys. Mike’s exact closing words to me as he left my office, “You can have this job, if you want it.” Then he left. I sat there for a couple hours pondering the choice of words he said to me. “If you want it.”

    Everybody wants stuff. But it takes more than want to attain. It takes something else. Something special. Maybe something that not everybody has. After many hours over several days I taught myself what want means and I could tell you, but I believe each person has to learn it for theirself. It is one of those things that has to be learned but cannot be taught. I could litter this up with all kinds of flowery and prose and inspirational puffery but at the end of the day you would know no more than you do already. A smart dood once told me, “There are people that let things happen and their are people that make things happen, but most people just wonder, “What happened.””

  • BGarrett March 11, 2020, 2:28 PM

    I think theres too much noise about how hard it is to take care of kids. My wife left when the baby was 3, the older boy 5. They lived with me until they graduated from college. One is an Electrical Engineer, one a Certified Jeweler. I worked a full time job, renovated renthouses and maintained them, built a 1935 Ford pickup from a bare frame and several antique Harleys, from the bare frames. It was fun and nothing difficult about it

  • BGarrett March 11, 2020, 2:30 PM

    One other thing. I have never owned a tv

  • RBrunette March 11, 2020, 4:22 PM

    Interestingly, our man Gilbert was a sculptor. His grandson self published a book of his carvings, along with a bit of a family scrapbook and some of Pamela’s (the daughter in the pictures) memories of her father. I suspect being an Amberg in Kankakee would link him to the Amberg File Company, and they would appear to be very prosperous. Nothing wrong there, but perhaps not quite the average American family of the time.

  • Bunny March 11, 2020, 5:28 PM

    Mr. Garrett, I salute you! No woman I know could be the stay-at-home parent of young children while working full time, renovating houses, and building trucks and Harleys from bare frames. Did you accomplish these things simultaneously or sequentially? How did you manage to do it? I guess Bill Burr would agree with you, the difficulties of motherhood may be highly overrated, pardon his French, ha ha.
    But motherhood is not entirely without hazard. 700-900 women die each year in the U.S. from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

  • Tom Hyland March 11, 2020, 6:05 PM

    So ghost…. what happened? You’re standing there in the broom closet of your life… crack a beer… crack a fart… no one to hear… where to start? Where did she go? When did she come back? Any apologies? From both sides, I hope.

  • James ONeil March 11, 2020, 7:34 PM

    Ghost: Good years, rough years, part of my sophomoric philosophy (Shucky darn, of course it’s sophomoric, I started building most of my philosophy when I was a sophomore.) is that everything leads to now and, oddly enough, when ever I recall it, now’s a damn good place to be.

    After the kids graduated & my wife started working I never had any real problem with the ‘what’s our is ours, what’s yours is ours but what’s mine is mine female mind set’, she/me/we had enough to get by anyway, & I’d learned long before to just make jokes about the curious strange.

    After she ran away from home to live at the northwest end of the property with her sled dogs things were rough for a while (No need to do into details, any more than there is for you to elaborate on your intervening 28 years.), but again all that lead to now, and now, right now, is a damn good place to be (& I end this with a legitimate exclamation point.)!

  • Auntie Analogue March 11, 2020, 8:32 PM

    I clicked on the link in the post, perused all of the photos at the linked site, now for some observations:

    1) It’s Kankakee, not “Kanakee”

    2) In the photos: no fat people; no adult dressed like a child; no bizarre hairstyles, piercings, tattoos, &c.

    3) None of the women wears pants; this changed abruptly right after the outbreak of the war

    4) The Amberg family is upper middle class: they belong to a country club; Gilbert has a tuxedo & Jane has gowns; they afford a part-time maid; they own a new automobile; the children have more than one pair of shoes; their (leased) house has nice curtains in all windows; the family has lots of books, even in the boys’ bedroom; their wallpaper is contemporary; their furniture is ample, well-made, & modern; they have a private line telephone

    5) Their house is leased, more than likely at a very affordable rent, as the Great Depression was still grinding property owners whose vacant rental properties made them desperate for cash income.

    6) All photos with husband: Gilbert does not look thrilled to have LIFE photographers imposing upon himself or his family

    7) Lawn surrounding house is rather expansive – Gilbert most likely cut that lawn with an unpowered mower, unless his lease specified that the lessor performed lawn care

    8) General impression: the LIFE photo shoot gave Jane a big opportunity to put on the dog, to get out the good china & silverware, to even use place mats & egg cups for breakfast, and to drape the good guest towels on the rack above the bathtub

    9) House is large, with some wedding cake exterior ornamental brackets: unless the lessor took care of maintenance, then husband Gilbert, the lessee, must have had a hell of a job doing the prep-work & painting that place; there’s also the canvas awnings, the bamboo porch curtains, the window screens that all probably had to be taken down for winter storage, and brought out & installed again each springtime – but did the Ambergs own all those accoutrements? After all, the first photo’s caption tells that they leased their house

    10) Breakfast photo: daisies centerpiece is a lovely touch. They use cloth napkins (same seen in the lunch & dinner guest photos)

    11) Living room cleaning photo: sofa front has upholstery tear at bottom edge, about 1/3 of the way from the left. Sofa’s right hand cushion reversed, showing its zipper (could be a beverage stain or a rip on its meant-to-be front end, that got the cushion turned around). And wouldn’t it be fascinating to read that partly obscured newspaper?

    12) Bedroom making beds photo: this is the two boys’ bedroom, and look at the boxing gloves on the footboard bedposts (today those would get the parents arrested for “child endangerment”). On the nightstand between the beds, is the laid-flat nearest object a crucifix?

    13) Bathroom cleaning photo (& bathing daughter photo): on the windowsill, what is that Addams Family “Thing” hand sprouting from the bowl?

    14) Living room ladder photo: lower left shows a piano, but a radio doesn’t appear in this one or in any of the other photos

    15) Basement laundry photo: Jane probably let all that laundry pile up because she’d been real busy tidying up the rest of the house, getting out the good china and silver, getting the boys their haircuts and braiding daughter’s hair for the LIFE photo shoot. There’s no clothes dryer, so Jane had to haul wash loads up & out of the basement and hang the clothes on the backyard clothesline, which today remains a means of cutting energy consumption were it not for Homeowners Association bans on “unsightly” clotheslines. Also, note the glass bleach jug which would be prohibited today.

    16) Gas station: What’s the make of the car (chrome script above its grille reads “Super Deluxe”)? Tires on the car look new – betcha they had to last for the duration of the Second World War. Who put the dark smudge-scratches on the left front fender? Note the water spigot sited awkwardly high on the island’s lefthand lamppost (perhaps to prevent children from opening it during off-hours?). Jane’s floral print dress is quite pretty, and she’s also wearing smart spectator pumps. Suspended from the front of the mechanic’s belt is a coin dispenser. Also, notice the rubber hose at the bottom right: cars running over that thing rang a bell inside the station building to alert the owner & employees to the arrival of a customer – or to the presence of mischievous kids who delighted in jumping on the hose to make the bell ding

    17) Lunch photo: why is there a pair of children’s shoes beside the cake caddies on the countertop beside the table?

    18) Street-crossing photo: Note toy tractor in Peter’s right hand. How lovely are the artful forms of the lampposts and their frosted glass globes? (In the second story window of the building across the street the signage shows a two word name above the word “BEAUTY” or it could be the word “REALTY.”)

    19) Lunch prep photo: at far side of range top what is that hourglass-shaped glass continer with the tall tube atop it? Some sort of coffeemaking device?

    20) Playtime photo: Toys, swing set, sandbox, & steel pedal car indicate family’s relative affluence. But let’s hope none of the children got butt splinters from that wooden slide.

    21) Country club dance: all men in tuxes, all women in fashionable gowns yet ladies’ jewelry apparantly minimal

    22) Dinner guest photo: on the table . . . not just ash trays, but also a box of matches! Those were the days, alright! Also, note bird cage, upper right

    23) Sock darning photo: despite the Amberg’s upper middle class affluence, Jane is darning socks, mending clothes. That says a lot about how people who strive to maintain things get ahead, how they afford other things for their families. Living room chairs wear slipcovers – many people did that to preserve the underlying upholstery. Today we live in the wasteland of Disposable Abundance: when was the last time most people took their old shoes to the shoemaker to be resoled, to have new heels affixed? When was the last time anyone had a TV repairman come to fix the set? I have a 1980’s alarm clock radio/cassette player that had been a great appliance, and then its tuner wore out, yet no one, not even the manufacturer, can repair it; indeed I can’t find – and I’ve scoured the internet and the phone book – anyone willing even to try to repair it. Hundreds of thousands of jobs vanished because repairmen, who’d once made a solid living, became obsolete

    24) Curious Detail: in none of the photos is Jane or Gilbert wearing a wedding ring, nor does Jane wear an engagement ring.

  • James March 11, 2020, 9:02 PM

    BGarrett – same here. She left leaving me with our twins who were still very young and in diapers and my older daughter. The ONLY problem I had is the bajillion dirty baby bottles. Ended up buying a roll around dishwasher because I was wasting so much time washing baby bottles by hand. Other than that it wasn’t a big deal. You just do it and there’s no reason to complain. It has to be done anyway. They are 28,28, and 30 now. I am really thankful I had all that time with them… when they were cute and innocent ha.

  • Annie Rose March 12, 2020, 1:03 AM

    I’m blessed with a good husband who has been supportive of whatever direction I’ve wanted to go in during our almost 38 years of marriage. When I was pregnant with out first baby, he told me if I could find a way for us to live on one income, he was fine if I wanted to stay home. I had fully planned to go back to work within the first year after the baby was born. Loved my job. Had earned early tenure and a year’s sabbatical and they would hold my job for me when I was ready to come back. I was totally the modern liberated working woman. Hear me roar. Right. Such a crock. Then our first baby was born and I fell head over heels in love with her. I wanted to be there for all her firsts-first smile, first step, first word. I didn’t want to hear about it from some stranger that we were paying to watch her. I got books on budgeting and tweeked our spending way down to where it was very doable, and found a way to stay home full time. All my working friends told me that they wished they could do the same. I taught two of them how to do it and they quit their jobs. Twelve years later (We had naively figured it would be five, tops), I started back to work part-time and then went to full-time, because my husband asked me to delay going full-time. Those 12 years when I was a stay-at-home mom are golden for us. Our kids have told me a number of times how glad they are that I spent that time with them, because of the wonderful memories. Yes, I had days where a good day with the kids was when I could shower before 5 pm. Some days I felt overwhelmed and unappreciated. The world was passing me by-so I thought. I definitely longed for those days when I could grab lunch with work friends and have conversation about something other than diapers and kid things. But then there were those perfect days when the kids and I could pack a picnic and spend a day at the zoo in the middle of the work week, or spend the day building a cave for bears down in the family room, or have the neighborhood kids over to splash in the kiddie pool, run through the sprinkler and paint pictures on paper hung from the fence. Many years later, when the kids were finishing high school my husband finally admitted two things to me: 1)He had complained about money being tight from time to time during those years, but secretly hadn’t wanted me to go back to work, because my taking care of the kids, the cars, and home freed him up to focus fully on his job in emergency services. He told me that he loved coming home to a clean house, home cooked meals, and happy kids every night during that time. Guess he had forgotten all the craziness of some nights he came home to burnt dinners, frazzled wife, and screaming kids! 2)He also wished that he could have taken off a few years to be home with our kids, because he felt he had missed out on those special moments when they were very young. I wish he could have to. I work with young parents and their kids with developmental delays in their homes. It is very hard work for these parents raising their little ones. I tell both stay-at-home Mom’s and stay-at-home dads to enjoy these years, because in the blink of an eye, they will be gone, the kids will be grown, and they will miss this time.

  • ghostsniper March 12, 2020, 3:49 AM

    Annie Rose sed:
    “I tell both stay-at-home Mom’s and stay-at-home dads to enjoy these years, because in the blink of an eye, they will be gone, the kids will be grown, and they will miss this time.”
    Probably one of the most important things ever written. Entire societies are based in that premise, though few seem to realize it. I didn’t realize it enough while it was going on but my wife did from the beginning. She referred to those special moments as, “Take a picture with your heart”. Nice name by the way. Our grand daughter, now 5, is Abby Rose.

  • Missy March 12, 2020, 6:43 AM

    I was cared for by a “hired girl,” as my mother was on television in Philadelphia and absent during weekdays. Then came the criticism from my father at the dinner table when I reflected the values of the hired girl. It was very conflicting being torn this way, as I felt most loyal to the hired girl. When my son was born I quit my highly compensated job in p.r. to stay home with my enchanting baby son. I had no idea how to be a parent, as described above, but it is intuitive. One thing we did regularly was tape that old, pin edged computer paper to the floor of my son’s room, and we would draw cities with streets and traffic indicators. Matchbox vehicles were part of it. Hours and hours of this. Maybe years of this. And a blackboard in his little bedroom enabled him to write words by age 3 and design traffic signals. We went to the library twice a week and brought home armloads of books. Guess who is now a senior transportation planner? Guess who calls me from far across the country most every day? Guess who, knowing his father was months from dying, and unbeknownst to me, made all of the arrangements in advance for his father’s perfect, simple and beautiful military funeral? I am convinced that my son would not be the man he is without the influence of a mother at home, to say nothing of a father who loved said mother and son more than life itself.

  • Andy Havens March 12, 2020, 9:46 AM

    As a parent of still very young children, I enjoy reading these stories from proud parents of older and well-established children. I have a brother who is evidence that even good parenting and a healthy upbringing is no guarantee of success; so bravo, kudos, and have a little pat on the back. It is heartening.

  • ghostsniper March 12, 2020, 1:16 PM

    @Auntie Analogue, quite a detailed eye you have there, and an inspiration to me to go back and look further. The car is a 1941 Ford Super Deluxe with a flat head V8 engine, so that baby can bring home the bacon like nobody’s bidnit. It was the last real Ford made until after the war and the 1942 was a hastily thrown together version of the 1941 and didn’t sell well. If you do a google image search for the 1941 Super Deluxe you’ll see a small hole in the grill close to the bottom. A holdover from the old daze that wasn’t a bad idea. If the battery was dead and you weren’t on a slope you could put the jack handle in there and crank the engine. At 10.5:1 compression it would usually fire up on the first try.

    Everybody knows the new cars back then were released in the fall, usually around Sep – Oct, and to look at the tires on that car you can see there is plenty of tread, so my guess the pik was taken in the spring of 1941. Also, the edge of the front tires are not worn, like they would be if the driver went fast around sharp corners, indicating the Mrs was probably the most frequent driver of the vehicle. If so, then it was probably she that caused the drivers side front fender scrapes and the dent in the headlight rim and the curb scrubbing on the whitewall of the tire. In those days, in urban environments, it was common to park on the left side of the street so the driver didn’t have to exit the vehicle into traffic so the tire scrubbing can be expected. If the Mr had installed “curb feelers” behind the front tires this could have been prevented.

    Notice if you will the Super Deluxe is a 2 door model and this parlays mixed signals. 2 doors were the models of choice among the single crowd as they looked more sporty, but caring parents of young children are also attracted to the 2 door as it is impossible for a child to fall out of the doors while moving. The 1941 Super Deluxe 4 door had “suicide” doors and that could be even more troubling regarding children, though fancy well dressed ladies preferred them for exiting. Contrast the car color with the white of the Mrs dress and I’ll suggest it was a light yellow or green color and a 2 tone cloth interior, maybe in tan and brown. Quite fetching, no?

    Lastly, the car dood was just a pump jockey, for no mechanic of any worth would ever lean over a car fender with metal objects attached to his britches. The normal oil rag is missing from his left ass pocket (the wallet is in the right and no sane person puts the rag in the same pocket as the wallet because, well, you know) so I’ll presume it is in his hand as he holds the dipstick and tells the Mrs that it’s down a quart and does she want him to put in a quart of 30 weight high detergent? She, knowing the car is almost brand new with little wear and tear, also knows that it can not possibly be down a quart and explains to the budding shyster that she doesn’t want the quart and that her husband takes care of such things as all husbands did in those days. I’m pretty certain it was the lines in the back that caused him to go into rutting mode. Or maybe the Mary Janes. shrug, both do it for me.

  • Auntie Analogue March 12, 2020, 5:02 PM

    My dear ghostsniper, thanks for identifying the Ford make of the car. I’d suspected that it’s a Ford because it looks quite like my Dad’s 1940 Ford (which he sold before I was born, but some photos of it are in my Archives), but I felt it would have been presumptuous to have made that a guess in my earlier comment.

    My guess is that the Ambergs may have opted to buy the 2-door coupe because it was less expensive than the 4-door sedan. I recall that well into the 1950’s quite a few families bought the cheaper 2-door models – their split front seats had no locking latches to hold them upright, and they were easily tilted forward to allow back seat entry & egress. Back then chauffeuring one’s children to an assortment of activities wasn’t a daily task as most children walked to and from their schools, or they rode the school bus; and children’s other activities – Scouting, 4-H, church choir, library visits, and such – were most often nearby in their own neighborhood, so a 2-door car served adequately for a family with children.

    Like you, I didn’t think the “mechanic” is a mechanic, and I, too, noticed the absence of the back pocket oil rag. The other clue to his not being a pit monkey (most gas stations of that time didn’t have hydraulic lifts and instead had actual pits over which the vehicle was driven & parked) is his belt-suspended coin dispenser which would get in the way of performing mechanical work. Another clue is his rubber boots, which seem to mark him as an attendant hired to pump gas, to check oil, to wash customers’ cars, and to make change in coins.

    Curious to see the price of gas I tried to blow-up the image, but upon magnification the meters on the pump turned into indistinct smudges.

    Did you notice the Quaker State oil can perched on the island? I blew-up the image to find that out: although the can body label lettering isn’t fully readable, when magnified the brand name printed vertically on the can seam sure is!

  • Juliann March 12, 2020, 6:02 PM

    Auntie Analogue, my guess is that the Addams Family “Thing” hand sprouting from the bowl in the bathroom photos was meant as a place to put rings and other jewelry while she was cleaning, etc.

  • ghostsniper March 12, 2020, 6:25 PM

    I must bow to your eyesight Auntie for it is far better than mine, even when I tilt my head back and use the most powerful of my trifocals. It is indeed a Quaker State can and you can see a very clear version of it right here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/620468552/vintage-quaker-state-motor-oil-metal-can?gpla=1&gao=1&&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=shopping_us_a-art_and_collectibles-collectibles-advertisements&utm_custom1=d67a694b-ea17-41b8-b45d-81ae38dad0cd&utm_content=go_1844702580_68645564374_346428874769_pla-354119749163_c__620468552&utm_custom2=1844702580&gclid=Cj0KCQjwu6fzBRC6ARIsAJUwa2S3mV4ymM-3MN8dHN5bcLalqNxlGYNN1a7tQeusHxzH7gABstnhsr8aAtXzEALw_wcB

    (copy and paste due to word wrap)

    At just $95.95 it is quite a deal. Just guessing but that can of oil probably cost about 25 cents in 1941. I worked at a Shell station in 1972 and QS was less than a dollar then.

    I also believe Juliann is right, too. If you, in Chrome, right click the bathroom pik on the website and “Open image in a new tab” you will see the larger version and it appears there are 2 rings on that ghastly hand. After all, what kind of woman would scrub the tub with her marriage rings on?

  • Auntie Analogue March 12, 2020, 8:17 PM

    My dear Juliann: Wow! Never in seven months of Sundays would I have guessed that the “Thing” hand-bowl is a ring holder. Thank you! Yet I still can’t get over that in all of the photos Jane and Gilbert wear no rings, so I suppose that’s a mystery that will ever remain unsolved.

    My dear ghostsniper, thank you for the link to the image of the vintage Quaker State can. Now if only I could today hold my oil the way I’d held it in a fair share of yesterdays – too many blood pressure meds now for me to enjoy a shot of my old favorites. (!)

  • Tim Huslander March 12, 2020, 8:35 PM

    I was born in 1951. My mom worked in an office full time and kept house and laundry, shopping and us three kids, with no help. Dad worked in a mill which rotated shifts so he was either going to work or getting some sleep . Mom did it all.
    Mom was orphaned at 8 during the depression and spent her early life being passed from family to family so she never knew anything else but work.
    I wish I could thank her once more….

  • david March 13, 2020, 7:23 AM

    I’m 61, oldest of 6 raised on a dairy farm that I still operate today, along with my 22-year-old son. Mom worked at the telephone office as a switchboard operator, she wanted to quit when I was born, 1959, the phone company was going to direct dial-in 16 months and offered mom double pay to stay on till the conversion was done so they didn’t have to train someone else, her and dad decided that they couldn’t pass that up and so I stayed with my paternal grandma. She lived with us on the farm, after that mom stayed home till the last of us were in high school, then she worked at the local farm service office till she developed some health problems (about 5 years), then did freelance work for the local paper.

    Now for the good stuff. she and grandma shared the housework, gran liked to cook and did a lot of the meals. however, she didn’t get along with the washing machine. It ran seven days a week, what with 6 kids mom dad and a bachelor uncle living in the house and it included filthy farm work clothes besides.

    Mom also helped milk the cows morning and night, all on her own when there was fieldwork to do, plus had a HUGE garden, the two of them canned and froze food all summer and fall, two to three hundred quarts of tomatoes, whole, and sauce. Also made her own ketchup, at least a hundred bottles a year, she canned them in old pop bottles and had her own manual capper ( it was a treat to use bought at our house) also hundreds of jars of green beans, carrots, purchased peaches by the bushel, and pie cherries from her mother my paternal grandmother.

    We had our own animals butchered, both beef and pork, got chickens and eggs from my maternal grandmother. everything involved driving when you were on the farm, car odometer spun like a slot machine. Poor Jane above didn’t know how good she had it. Dad passed year and a half ago Sunday after thanksgiving at 84, mom still going (much slower) at 83. She still does the farm accounts to keep her mind active. And she still claims she was a slouch compared to HER Mother, god I miss dad and love mom tell her every day.

  • david March 13, 2020, 7:26 AM

    I got some of the paternal and maternal mixed up so ignore, type too fast