September 18, 1957 – Wednesday Night Tuna Noodle Casserole

Mmm, mmm, good

On September 18, 1957, American housewives may have celebrated the half-way point through their week by making a sure-to-please family dinner favorite, Tuna Noodle Casserole.  There were probably as many recipes for tuna casserole as there were families, but some ingredients seem classic – canned tuna, egg noodles (no one called it pasta, yet), condensed soup, and something crunchy.  The following recipe is shared by a ’50s kid who relates, “One of my childhood favorites.  My mom made it even better than all the other mothers because she used potato chips in it.”

1950s Tuna Noodle Casserole

1 lb bag of broad egg noodles
1 large can of condensed Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, and the same size can of milk plus one more cup
2 large cans of tuna, drained (prefer light instead of white)
1 large bag of salted potato chips, crushed
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°.  Cook the egg noodles according to the directions on the bag.  Combine the cream of mushroom soup with the milk.  Crumble the drained tuna.  In a bowl, combine all of the above with 3/4 of the bag of crushed potato chips and salt and pepper.  Place in a buttered casserole dish.  Sprinkle remaining chips on the top.  Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes.

Image Credit: Sas/

September 12, 1957 – [Subliminal] Messages

Popcorn and Coca-Cola. [1957 Time Capsule].

On September 12, 1957 [1957 Time Capsule], market researcher James Vicary revealed at a press conference in New York City that 45,699 movie-going guinea pigs [1957 Time Capsule] had been recently exposed to what sounded suspiciously to alarmed Americans like thought control.  The Wall Street Journal reported the following on Vicary’s presentation about his new subliminal [1957 Time Capsule] projection technology:

“This story may sound as though a flying saucer [1957 Time Capsule] is lurking behind the scenes, but you can rest assured that all characters in this drama are real.  The tale begins some months ago when several closed-mouthed men walked into a New Jersey motion picture house [1957 Time Capsule] and fitted a strange mechanism to the film projector.  Over the next six weeks, as 45,699 unsuspecting movie goers watched Hollywood’s newest epics [1957 Time Capsule],  a strange thing reportedly occurred.  Out of the blue, it is claimed, patrons started deserting their seats and crowding in the lobby.  Sales of Coca-Cola [1957 Time Capsule] reportedly rose 18.1% and popcorn purchases zoomed 57.7% over the theater’s usual sales.  These claims – and the explanation of this purported phenomenon – were made at a press conference yesterday afternoon [1957 Time Capsule] by executives of a new firm called Subliminal Projection Co., Inc.  The movie patrons had been subjected to ‘invisible advertising’ that by-passed their conscious [1957 Time Capsule] and assertedly struck deep into their sub-conscious.  The trick was accomplished by flashing commercials past the viewers’ eyes so rapidly [1957 Time Capsule] that viewers were unaware they had seen them.  The ads, which were flashed every five seconds or so, simply urged the audience to eat popcorn [1957 Time Capsule] and drink Coca-Cola, and they were projected during the theater’s regular movie program.”

Vicary claimed that subliminal advertising [1957 Time Capsule] would revolutionize the advertising industry – which was moving rapidly to take advantage [1957 Time Capsule] of the growing popularity of television – by promoting products directly to the drives, needs [1957 Time Capsule] and desires of the unconscious mind.  The cool, rational processes of conscious recognition and evaluation [1957 Time Capsule] would be disabled.  The public was worried: were they about to become [1957 Time Capsule] the victims of brainwashing?

Image Credit: Faux Food Diner

August 30, 1957 – The Labor Day Weekend Begins

1957 Corvette Travel Trailer with Fun Accessories.

On August 30, 1957, the Friday before Labor Day weekend, Americans young and old, big and small, got ready to celebrate the last official weekend of summer.  Whether it was to the beach or the pool, the mountains or the desert, the grandparents’ or the Grand Canyon, everyone worked together to pack the station wagon, the trailer, or the ice chest with everything needed to enjoy these final lazy days in the sun before school started and the routine of life kicked in.

Depending on where you were going, you might have packed fishing rods, tennis rackets, horseshoes, inner tubes, a ball and mit, or a new-fangled Frisbee.  Into the Plaid Kooler might have gone Oscar Meyer wieners, jello salad, three-bean salad, watermelon, grape Nehi, and iced tea.  The cupboards in trailers, the baskets and hampers, could have bulged with Del Monte catsup, French’s mustard, buns, Ritz crackers, Mix Trix (or Chex Mix), marshmallow bars, and butterscotch brownies.

Dads packed their portable grills and asbestos mits to do justice to the thick steaks and ribs buried in ice (don’t forget the Lawry’s Seasoned Salt!).  For breakfast, kids were already busy laying dibs on their favorite mini-boxes of Kellogg’s Variety Pack cereals.  Mom and Dad looked forward to eggs, bacon, and Chase & Sanborn coffee – lots of it – or Bisquick pancakes with Log Cabin syrup.

Don’t forget the aluminum folding chairs, kerosene lantern, and bug spray.  Tuck in beach towels and baby oil.  Grab the dog, lock the door, and hit the road!  Summer’s almost over and there’s no time to waste.

Image Credit: Tin Can Tourists

August 25, 1957 – Jello Salad for Dinner!


On August 25, 1957, the best remedy for a hot summer day may have been a popular, sweet, jiggly treat: Jello Salad.  Many, many recipes abound for this shiny slice of Americana, which took the country by storm in the 1950s.  Ingredients included Jello, of course, in one of its many flavor and color incarnations, fruit, cheese, mayonnaise (!), vegetables, nuts, and marshmallows.  After Cool Whip was invented in 1967, it became a popular addition and an easy way to create a fancy, creamy layer on the top of a molded gelatin salad, often shaped into a ring with architectural patterns.

In 1957, however, convenient Cool Whip had yet to be created.  Housewives who wanted the same rich smoothness needed to use something else, like cottage cheese or real whipping cream.  From Strictly Personal: The Family Book, by members of the Emblem Club of the Elks Club, Dover, New Jersey, 1956-1957, comes this classic version by Mavis McDougall:

Cottage Cheese and Jello Salad

1 package lime Jello
3/4 lb. cottage cheese
1/4 cup light cream (top milk)
1 small can crushed pineapple

Drain juice from pineapple, add enough water to make 1 cup.  Heat and add to Jello.  When it starts to thicken, stir in cheese which has been mixed with cream.  Stir in pineapple.

Mavis didn’t explain to the readers of Strictly Personal that they would need to refrigerate the salad in order for it to set.  She didn’t need to – it was common knowledge and part of our 1950s culinary heritage.

Image Credit:

Vintage 1957 – A Tale of Two A&Ws

Hot Shoppe

The year 1957 was pivotal for two very different A&W franchisees.

A&W got its start when Roy Allen and Frank Wright (“A” and “W”) partnered in a Sacramento root beer stand in 1922. Allen bought out Wright and then began franchising the brand in 1925.

Two years later, in 1927, newlyweds J. Willard and Alice Marriott partnered with Hugh Colton to open Washington, DC’s first A&W. Hot summers in the capitol created demand for the signature “frosty mug” of root beer, along with the hot food items at the aptly-named “Hot Shoppe”. One year later, Willard and Alice open two more Hot Shoppes, one of which was DC’s first drive-in. Adding to their string of firsts in 1937, the Hot Shoppes expanded into catering by delivering box lunches to travelers at nearby Hoover Airport. In 1953, Hot Shoppes stock went public and sold out in two hours of trading.

Who was this savvy couple? Their business minds came up with an entirely new venture in 1957 – motor hotels. Arlington, Virginia was the first site of many to come, bearing the family name, Marriott. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Root Beer StandTwo other couples followed in the first steps of the Marriotts by franchising an A&W in 1957. Mick and Nancy Ridenour, along with Jim and Catherine Clark – Nancy’s parents – opened Sharonville, Ohio’s A&W Root Beer Stand on the outskirts of Cincinnati. Their location on one of the main north-south routes from Michigan to Florida guaranteed them a steady string of thirsty truckers and drivers, along with local residents. Since Mick was a school teacher, the stand was a summer-only operation. Catherine’s chili recipe led the hot offerings ferried to waiting customers by the black and white-clad car hops.

In 1982, the Ridenours and Clarks let go of their franchise identification. “The Root Beer Stand” remained a summer season favorite at the original, only slightly expanded location. In 1990, the Clarks had both passed away and the Ridenours were ready for retirement. Scott and Jackie Donley purchased the stand. Today, Cincinnati Magazine’s “best place to quaff a root beer” and number 12 on the list of “Top 100 Places in Cincinnati” is run pretty much as it always has by the Donley’s daughter Abby and her husband Eric. You’ll need to stop by soon – before the summer season is over – to sample their small-batch root beer with a side of Catherine’s chili.

World-wide domination versus small-town favorite. Either way, success can taste “frosty” and sweet.

Image Credits: Marriott International; The Root Beer Shop

Vintage 1957 – Vintage 2018

Two questions to ponder:

How is life in America significantly different than it was in 1957? How is it significantly the same?

First, a significant difference: our political climate in 2018 is hyper-polarized. Politicians and pundits pride themselves on their strongly-held views, whether liberal or conservative. They stress their unwillingness to compromise, seeing it as a matter of integrity and dedication to principle. Voters use litmus-test issues to guide their choice of candidates. Tendencies for media outlets to lean left or right have led to charges of “fake news” and growing distrust in reportage in general.

In 1957, President Eisenhower was serving his second term, having been elected in 1952 on a deliberately moderate ticket. He promised to “get things done” by working cooperatively with those in his party and across the aisle. Strong anti-Communist Richard Nixon was added to the ticket as Vice President in a token nod to the more conservative side of the Republican party. Eisenhower did not particularly like Nixon nor seek his input. The memory and record of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, was still widely respected by the public. Americans counted on the news – think Walter Cronkite – for fair and impartial information.

Next, a significant similarity: advances in technology were both eagerly welcomed and deeply feared. Today, new Apple products and other high-tech gear are embraced quickly. Brand loyalty and identification create communities of adherents. Social media, online banking, self-driving cars, drones, video-streaming, and fitness trackers all have a following. And yet, we are wary of what might happen with our digital footprint if bad actors gain access. How safe are we? Who is listening and watching and what will they do with what they learn?

In 1957, Americans were also eager adopters of new high-tech products. Food industry innovation responded to the consumer desire for convenience foods. New packaged products included Minute Rice, canned tuna, Jif peanut butter, and Tang. New cold-processing technology made frozen dinners, fruit and vegetables, waffles, and turkeys ready to purchase year-round. Developments in the space program were counting down to putting a man in orbit. Television broadcasting expanded into almost every living room and kitchens began humming with appliances. And yet, it was the Atomic Age of nuclear weapons – and there was no putting the genie back in the bottle. More powerful bombs were being developed and tested and stockpiles were growing. The Soviet Union was a direct Cold War threat, looming over the Artic pole. The potential for incoming ICBMs had everyone practicing “duck and cover”.

Would the Americans of 1957 be surprised that we haven’t found a way to better cooperate politically? Would they also be surprised that we still haven’t better resolved our love-fear relationship with science and technology?

Image Credits: Swanson; Apple


July 27, 1957 – A Summer Saturday Chore


1955 Hotpoint Refrigerator


On July 27, 1957, many housewives across America may have taken advantage of a warm, summer Saturday afternoon to defrost the fridge.  Mass production of refrigerators for household use had begun shortly after the end of World War II.  By 1955, roughly 80% of American homes had replaced their iceboxes with large, humming, porcelain-covered, cooling and freezing machines.  But in 1957, “frost-free” was still in the future for most owners of this modern appliance.  When ice built up around the coolant coils there was only one thing to do.

Step one: unplug the fridge.  Step two: remove all the food from both the main compartment and the freezer.  Step three: place a large pan under the freezer coils to catch the melting icewater.  Step four: keep checking the pan and empty it before it overflows.  Step five: when the freezer coils are free of ice, clean and wipe down the inside of both compartments, replace any food items, and plug the fridge back in.  All done!

The best timing for defrosting the fridge would be just before a trip to the grocery store, when food supplies were growing low.  Packing remaining food in ice could help preserve valuable items.  After this periodic chore was over, it was time to go to the grocery store to stock up on more supplies of meat, dairy, and vegetables.

But maybe a Saturday night dinner at the drive-in and a movie (Loving You? Bernardine? Silk Stockings?) were in order first!

Image Credit: flickr