How to entertain 1950s-style

August 28, 2015

entertaMy mother was a housewife. The home was her domain for better or worse and by today’s standards, she probably fell short. But as a young married woman, she was quite interested in entertaining properly. I know this because squirrelled away in my childhood home I found a number of handy booklets concerned with how to give a party. They epitomized 1950s entertaining. I loved their retro vibe and snagged them, thinking I might look at them later.  Later, it turns out, is now.

table setting

The look and feel of the booklets were irresistible, but, didn’t pay off in the way I thought. It turns out that entertaining hasn’t changed all that much in almost 70 years. Holy crap. That is a L-O-N-N-N-G time.  As you can see, the correct table setting for the young hostess is pretty much the same as it would be for the old hostess. Of which I am one. Not that I have ever measured to be sure I allowed 24 inches for each place setting or thought about starting one inch from the table edge. If memory serves me, my mother didn’t, either.

But, like algebra, these things are good to know in case you ever need them. And as you remember, I’ve noted here recently that I have never used algebra. At least not yet. Or not that I  know of. I mean, I might have. But I never thought of it as algebra.

I digress. Back on track now.

communityThis booklet had a section devoted to the “community party,” you know, when you have to give a party for your women’s club or the PTA.  I can not ever remember my mother and her friends sitting around in pedal pushers or clam diggers at one of these hen parties. In fact, I can’t remember a gathering like this at all. It is entirely possible that mom had them before I was old enough to remember. But knowing my mother, I don’t think she did. Still, I just loved this illustration, don’t you?

aspicHere is another thing I don’t remember: my mother never made anything called “aspic” and thank God she never made barbecue tomato aspic. I mean, seriously? Just the recipe alone makes me a bit ill.

butterThen, I found something else that seemed to be of another era: butter paper. What is butter paper? The first person to tell me correctly will receive these very booklets as a prize. No joke! I promise!



Yes, it was Scott Paper who provided this particular resource, so it’s no surprise that a few pages had 1950s-style craft projects. Here’s one you could do with toilet paper rolls.

firecrackerThankfully, my mother never made firecracker place card holders out of bathroom tissue rolls. Today’s craft bloggers are far more creative. Usually.

Of course, the corporate lawyers had to have their say, so I found this in the back of the booklet:

for safety

And then, of course, I couldn’t help a little snicker about “gay, lovely colors:”
1950s entertaining
Question for you: have you ever found something in your parents’ or grandparents’ files that was so anachronistic you simply had to save it? Inquiring minds want to know!

31 comments on “How to entertain 1950s-style
  1. ryder ziebarth says:

    THIS brings back memories, as my mother was the ultimate entertainer. My birthday parties were the talk of the town…..let alone her holiday and dinner parties. She and Dad had little money to spare and a tiny house, but she was creative and inventive and could, as she likes to say, ” make the eagle on a nickel cry.” And yes, tomato aspic was a biggie ( although never barbeque flavor) as was ambrosia, salmon mousse and chicken fricassee. Although I don’t know what butter paper is, she precut the butter for guests, laid the pats in a pattern on a plate, and stamped each piece with a butter press…or we used butter knives. Actually, I still use butter knives when I set a table.

  2. hillsmom says:

    I think butter paper is what is now called Parchment Paper. You can buy it in rolls like aluminum foil…also made by Reynolds.
    I actually have some as my DD was baking cookies last visit. No I’ve never used it. ;^)

    • Could you be right? LOL

      • hillsmom says:

        Well Miz Scarlett, I done have gone to look it up… So it seems that there are different opinions in the definitions.

        Some say Parchment Paper and Butter Paper are the same. Another says that Butter Paper is Wax Paper (or Waxed Paper) and is sometimes referred to as Butter Paper. So you can decide which you prefer…;^) There was information from Martha Stewart, too.

        (I also use wax/butter paper when cutting onions so the cutting board is easier to clean…)

  3. Diane says:

    I love coming across these things! I found a booklet that mom had been given in her early school years addressing maturation. Surprisingly similar to one I was given thirty years later!

  4. pia says:

    My father was a waiter at cheap hotels in the Catskills his parents rented and ran for the summer so I could set a perfect table by age 8. Actually it’s the only thing I can do perfectly.

    I guess socializing and entertaining runs in our blood as my parents had a party about every 6 weeks and went out the other five Saturdays. To this day the smell of stale scotch and cigars makes me nostalgic though neither of my parents smoked and barely drank. They seemed to encourage others to. Something I did understand later.

    My parents loved theme parties—give them a country and they would have the food (my mother was a great cook) decorations and music. I guess this was a precursor to their traveling the globe many times over beginning in the mid 1960’s.

    People then ate, drank, talked. laughed and played a lot of cards. I always felt that our generation was missing something by meeting in restaurants—though it’s much more practical. Actually my parents ate out a lot too. They had a lot more energy than I could dream of having. My father, actually. My mother was there because he was. And they went out seperately

    My sister “bought” the house so she got the Settlement House Cookbook with my mother’s handwritten notes and all the other domestic stuff. As I entertain more than her I thought she would share now that I have an actual house but…..

  5. I am allergic to entertaining. True. And I am crap at math so I wouldn’t get the table measurements right. 🙂 My mum recently gave me her old cookbooks. Not sure what I am meant to do with them as I am allergic to cooking and baking. Also cleaning the house. I am not allergic to writing, painting or having long lunches with friends – so it isn’t all bad. One odd thing I have from my mum is a wooden ‘mushroom’ thing she used to stretch my dad’s socks over to darn holes. We were very poor and could not afford new socks until the old ones had darns on darns and fell apart. I am allergic to fixing socks too so none of these things are any good to me. Lovely post by the way – on a serious note – I do like nostalgia. Thanks.

  6. This is so funny! I love the little instructions and tips. And, I am not sure what butter paper is either haha!

  7. Sasha says:

    My grandmother had tons of these things laying around when I was a kid. I still find the occasional retro dress pattern in my own mom’s stuff these days.

  8. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    I actually.have stuff like this, cookbooks I inherited from my mother and grandmother. I would never make aspic, blecch. But I love holding onto a piece of history so I don’t throw the cookbooks out. Not yet, anyway.

  9. Alana says:

    I did an Internet search (cheater!) since I had never heard of butter paper. My Mom did not use butter; what she used (I’m talking early 1960’s here) was a vile substance called Miracle Margarine which CAME SIX STICKS TO THE POUND. Yes, it was a big deal. It must have been the big selling point for this stuff. Anyway, I remember those aspics, too. UGH. How did we survive the 50’s? (I agree that butter paper is “probably” parchment paper, btw ) Do I win?

  10. Roz Warren says:

    Really enjoyed this trip down memory lane. My mom was a housewife too, and she LOVED to entertain. I have great memories of being able to stay up late enough to say hello to guests at her dinner parties. And then off to bed. Falling asleep to the noise of grown-ups having a blast downstairs was very pleasant. Made the world seem like a happy place.

  11. Carolann says:

    This was a nice trip for sure Carol. My mom was like that. She even sent me and my sis to get this..charm school lol. I think I’ll write a post about that experience lol.

  12. Mary says:

    I loved reading this post! I’m sure If I go through some of my mother’s kitchen cabinets she will have several of the same type of books! My mother was quite the entertainer, she loved the whole process. Now that she is 90 she prefers I do all the entertaining!

  13. Estelle says:

    I love seeing these old entertaining tips Carol. Glad your mom never made aspic. That seems dated even for those times.

  14. Colleen says:

    What a genuinely fun find!:) I love the illustrations as well! I really enjoy the vintage guides to going things. I have found a couple of interesting books at garage sales from the 50’s, the sorts with a lot of homespun advice in them, I loved reading them but unfortunately have no idea where they are now. 🙂

  15. Jo Heroux says:

    I believe butter paper (in the 50s) was the waxed paper butter came wrapped in. My Grandmother kept a sheet in the refrigerator all the time. As it was used up, she’d keep the next one.
    I love nostalgic things! I have lots of very old cookbooks and documents from my parents that I’ll never part with. The feel of holding them and sharing those days…it’s a wonderful feeling.

  16. I envy you folks. My maternal grandmother was a bit of a hoarder, so my mother threw/throws everything out or finds other ways to get rid of old stuff. Unless it’s really, really old and can be considered a genuine antique. Even then, she doesn’t have a lot of them. I do have some old crochet patterns from my great aunt, and I did score a couple of my mother’s old cookbooks, but they don’t seem that old or retro – although the edition I have of The Joy of Cooking probably is.

  17. candy says:

    Old cookbooks and 20’s to the 50’s fascinate me from styles, entertaining, decorating.

  18. I’ll have to get out my Fannie Farmer Junior Cookbook and see what memories get revived there Carol! I was definitely reared (“reared” not “raised”) with butter knifes, doilies, and tea sandwiches. I walked with a book on my head and was taught to read sonnets. I balked at learning to play the harp, however. Loved your post! We should send in our memories one day!

  19. Kim says:

    So funny…I guess those booklets were the original blogs:)

  20. Jessica says:

    I feel like butter paper is just an extra step I’m never going to do….and too many people felt the same way! Haha! The products they used to try to sell us o ease those age-old problems like butter-cutting…

  21. sTACEY says:

    My mother had the same kind of books. She also had a ledger in which she listed how she spent every penny. Didn’t help much as she was a bit of a spendthrift. That more than likely was because she and her seven siblings didn’t have much growing up.

  22. Gelatin molds (in all kinds of interesting flavors) were definitely the rage in the ’50’s, lol. But I agree with you about those- Yuck! 😉 Love seeing vintage books like these!

  23. Wow! I love hosting parties. We live in a condo so I don’t get to do much hosting. It’s great that you still have these booklets. So vintage. I have never heard of firecracker tp rolls before until today. Thanks for sharing.

  24. I feel like people were better at throwing parties back then because they followed the etiquette rules, which I love! Fun to see how things have changed.

  25. What a great classic! Even though the wardrobes and recipes may have changed, I still find that the basics of entertaining haven’t changed all that much: be a gracious host is pretty much number one in books old and new, right? Having said that, that image with the woman’s group in the pedal pushers is flawed in that it is missing some booze!!!

  26. Bo says:

    Loved reading. I don’t know if this has been answered, but butter paper is the paper wrapped around a stick of butter when you buy it as sticks and not containers.

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