Thursday, July 28, 2011

How To Entertain At Home (1952)

Well, bust my buttons! If it isn't the old blogger crowd! How-dee-do? It's been more than a week since I've taken MCM pop culture under the microscope. Between the crazy schedule at the library, marathon viewings of Rupaul's Drag Race (BEST. SHOW.), Wii Fit commitments (29 days straight...and counting! I'm going all Conan the Barbarian on you all), thrift store rounds (mostly successful), and a winning night at Drifter's trivia (team "Touch My Butt" for the fifty dollar gift certificate! What now!), I've been M. and I. and A. But that doesn't mean I haven't still been nosing through fifties' hostess manuals for hot tips... no sir. I submit, for your approval, Today's Woman's How to Entertain at Home, published in 1953.

While I wasn't initially impressed by the cover, the inside of this book proved to be a lavishly illustrated treasure trove of quasi-candid party photos, hints and helps, etiquette to keep in mind... just right up my Eisenhower-influenced alley. I love the subgenre of "You needn't be afraid to throw a party!" hostess literature, because it really does speak to the fundamental fear of those lacking a state representative in the family or a family tree that dates back to "Washington, George"... simply said, "What if I do the wrong thing and people hate it!". The tone of How to Entertain at Home reminded me a little of the indispensible Entertaining is Fun by interior-decorating doyenne Dorothy Draper. The tone of both texts share the constant reassurance that you, the timid hostess, are perfectly capable of throwing a ball or a barbeque, if only you set your heart and mind to making it so. And you follow through with a few helpful guidelines set forth in the text. Cue weeping, thankful me, poring over party set ups while skewering cocktail weenies.

I! Want! To! Be! Unharried! In my regular life as well as in my hostessing duties. Like I said earlier, a lot of the photos, while obviously shot on dummied-up sets in a studio, have realistically non descript models in realistically posed shots. You feel a little like a fifties' fly-on-the-wall in scrutinizing their living rooms.

We get a double shot of this lady's Jane Wyman-esque hair, and I can't say that we are the worse for it. While you check the ice box for more mixers, I'll be admiring your pert neckerchief and pretty white party dress.

In the photograph below, our Wymanite is emptying ashtrays and clearing party clutter in a (probably futile) attempt to nudge guests towards a departure. I always like the last group of people at the party... maybe it's the Rat Pack in me, but the last four or five people to go are usually pretty cool. Like that guy on the right. Get it, with those socks, mister! Get it!

I am deafened to all other commentary by my great and heaping jealousy of this lady's nineteen inch waist, excellent mid 19th century portrait above sideboard, her Sven-lookin', turtlenecked boyfriend, and XXL salad bowl. Where do you store that for occasion in which a mixed salad the size of New York is not necessary? Ah, nuts. To be the people in the book sometimes.

"The host will lose his suavity in the eyes of the guests if the equipment seems to be his master." And how! This "grillmaster" has turned into a smoky mess... sometimes, however, the epic nature of your failure to be master of your own party's destiny, with the right amount of panache and self-deprecation, can actually turn into comedy gold. By the bottom, they seem to have gotten a handle on the situation, and we the viewers are now at leisure to admire the ladies' Mexican skirts. And how!

Below: gonna need that couch. And that op-art skirt. This illustration reminds you not to let the life of the party turn into the death of the party by letting them go on and on about an uninteresting subject. I've worked hard to become an ace at interjecting to change the subject, coming from a Barbara Walters like- focus on getting everyone involved in the conversation. I've made it part of my life's ambition to make social gatherings just that... SOCIAL. How I hate people to feel shy and unwelcome at a party! And nothing better serves to alienate people at a party than a) cliques of people who know each other only talking to each other about things that only pertain to themselves or b) one person holding forth on a topic that is of interest only to himself, but in that regard, is INFINITELY OF INTEREST to him, and possibly verging on offensive or at the least insensitive to others. Stamp out bad manners, party planners!

Look at the one lonely little placard at stage right. I wonder what it is!

Do you see what I mean about the models looking like regular people for the most part? I'm really into the guy at right's t-shirt, slacks, and sunglasses look. I wonder if this would have looked needlessly casual when readers in the 50's saw it, ie, is this supposed to be an example of a half dressed, sunglasses-on-indoors guy who's bombed on Old Fashioneds, or is he INTENTIONALLY pulling a James Dean and actually looking pretty cool at it? We won't know, I guess.

All the different glasses you need to have a fully stocked set of barware. I have like 14 of these 17 glasses, and how often do I use them? Oh, about twice a never. Plasticware all the way at the parties... I can't have people thoughtlessly breaking my cordial glasses!

My bathroom has this same (I'm assuming) pink tile and black border tile as this bathroom! Also have a little vanity shelf like that. Wish I had the same sink.

Look. At. The. Dress. YES. Dear Lord, make me over as a wasp woman, so I can be my own Amazonian size but still fit into tiny dresses like this. Amen.

"Who do? You do?" the dinner partners seem to be saying to one another. There's that cute dress from above again below at stage left. Taunting.


I always thought patio furniture like this was more of a 70's or even a 90's thing when I see similar sets at estate sales, but lo and behold! Of 1952 vintage, here's a set of wrought iron chairs. REEEALLY need to replace dumpster-dove wicker pieces (which are actually falling apart) out back with a MUCH less unsightly set. These would do! Craigslist, I'm looking at you.

I love the look on the bow-tied man's face. What exactly did the lady in the kerchief (kerchief #2! Yes!) say to be deemed by the author as "in bad taste"? "Have some smokes, Jim." "HOW COULD YOU?!" ((stamps away)).

Remind me to make my own card table over in this one's image at the next party. Could it be prettier? Possibly with the addition of decorative doilies, but just by a hair.

The woman above has surprisingly little hair even for a fifties' person. I wonder if she's the victim of a drastic "chignon"ing or what is going on. Her makeup looks great.

Below, the perfect table setting for me to burst forth with my silver pheasant shaped salt shakers (I have two like this one). Let it roll!

Sandwiches like a song!

As I continue to iterate and reiterate, if you come by my house after 10 pm on a weeknight, you will not be greeted by delicious po' boy sandwiches and hot chocolate. You will probably be greeted by a locked door and a sleeping Lisa. I am sorry for this, but it is the true state of things.

What to commend first? The wallpaper? The sylph like blonde in the cute shorts? The man rocking both a tocque AND a bowtie? Beauty #2's hair? You decide.

So beatnik of that gal to have those cute Carolyn Jones bangs. Do we ever approve.

My bar cart does full-time duty as a shelf to display all the glassware I won't let people use at parties... I really must loosen up a little and let it free! Look how cool this looks!

A girl that looks like someone James Bond would chat up in a bar is talking to the wasp waist woman's boyfriend Sven! Right in front of the 18th century portrait I was coveting earlier! For shame, Sven. For shame.

There is not one thing wrong with this picture. See the great deck chair? The portable cooler chest? The woman at right's perfect hair and family?Later, a swim with the neighbors on vacation. Framable.

I don't know how I feel about cutting out hamburgers as you would biscuits, but there you go.

There's a whole fifty page section on drinks and bartending I was too lazy to post... do I smell a sequel? :)

How's the summer treating you all? Any great party blow-outs to report? Will keep you posted on the hostess brainstorming I do before the hostess BARNSTORMING I do. Ciao for now!


  1. That was just utterly amusing, haha, thanks for posting. :-) Just wondering what's going on under that striped skirt?

  2. I was about as happy as that kid when bubbles were everywhere!lol.

  3. Lisa- love these pics! I have similar ones from an Emily Post Etiquette book about weddings :)

  4. Lisa this was the best post I have read by anyone in a long time. More Humor bloggers More Humor. And Sven you are a naughty boy!!!

  5. What a find! How fun is this post! I, too, wish to be an unharried hostess. I have Entertaining is Fun, but I'm actually a bit intimidated by it. :-(

  6. All I'm saying is after you shake hands with Sven, be sure to count your fingers.

  7. I love this post! It makes me want to have a party. Oh, who am I kidding? It makes me want to GO to a party. Hopefully one with a giant salad bowl.

  8. More picture perfect vintage parties and ever hilarious vintage etiquette! If I were to write the dialogue for the "Bad Taste" picture it would go something like this: "So Jim, am I correct in assuming these are your cuff links then? I mean, they aren't Madge's husband's, that's for sure. I gave you these for our wedding anniversary Jim! So, tell me you two, just what were HIS cuff links doing in YOUR bathroom cabinet!?!" and as the advice goes, if the hostess makes an embarrassing assumption, its best to just ignore it! Ahahahaha! OK, just one other thing....egg salad and hot chocolate? Served at 11pm? What were these folk's smoking> That sounds less like a planned menu and more like a munchies induced dinner!

  9. Sequel, sequel!! That was just brilliant. And do you think that perhaps the bad taste in the picture with the cigarettes is that she has helped herself to one first and has it hanging out of her mouth? Not sure about smoking etiquette in the 1950s, but I'd assume that usually you offer first before taking?

  10. Thanks for sharing these fabulous images, very entertaining! :)



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