If you grew up in the mid-20th century, there’s a good chance your house featured some of these amenities. What else did your house have growing up that kids today wouldn’t understand?
1. Razor blade slot
Today’s newly built homes still have medicine cabinets. But what those medicine cabinets don’t have is that tiny slot built into the back wall that was meant for used razor blades.
Back in the days when Dad often emerged from his morning grooming routine with tiny pieces of toilet paper dappled on his chin, those blades were easily disposed into the slot.
Where did all those used blades go? Ask a contractor who is tasked with refurbishing an older home. He’ll tell you of the “thousands” of old razor blades found behind the bathroom wall.
2. Phone nooks
Many homes had built-in cubbies that were designed to house a telephone. The desktop variety, that is, which was such an improvement over the old-fashioned candlestick design that it was given its own pride of place in houses built during the 1940s and 1950s.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that some households succumbed to the Bell System advertisements and added additional extension phones in the kitchen and bedroom.
3. Laundry chute
This small door that opened to a tunnel that led to the basement was a boon for Mom, who didn’t have to lug hampers full of dirty clothes from the upper floors to the laundry room. Of course, said chute was also a thing of wonder for small children, who regularly dropped various objects down it just to see if they’d land downstairs.
It was also a handy way to aggravate a sibling who’d upset you — dropping a favorite Matchbox car down the chute was always the perfect revenge.
Remember when almost everyone’s backyard had two iron T-shaped support poles with lines of rope stretched between them? Some folks didn’t have automatic dryers, and some folks just preferred that “outdoor, sun-dried” freshness that soaked into their bedsheets, pillow cases and bath towels when dried “naturally.”
One downside to “outdoor freshness” was the embarrassment (from a kid’s point of view) of having your underthings hanging on display. Another downside was having to rush outside with Mom and frantically unpin everything from the lines and take them inside to “beat the rain” when the clouds darkened.
5. Milk chute
During the Baby Boom, many moms were unable to run to the store on a moment’s notice for household staples such as milk, bread and eggs. There were no SUVs back then, much less baby car seats.
Thank goodness we had the milkman (and the breadman) who delivered door-to-door, without the extra charge of today’s current food delivery services. Sometimes Mom was busy changing diapers or was otherwise occupied when the delivery person arrived, so he simply left Mom’s grocery order in the milk chute, and collected the money that Mom had left in the chute to pay for the goods.
6. Rooftop TV antenna
“How does it look now?”
Remember Dad balancing precariously up on the roof while lashing the metal aerial to the chimney of the house and calling down to whomever was inside the house monitoring the TV screen? He’d position it this way and that until all three of the major networks (CBS, NBC and ABC) came in clearly.
A major TV antenna innovation was provided by Channel Master in the late 1960s, which sold a prefabricated hinged antenna that actually rotated via a control box that sat on top your TV set. Folks could now adjust their aerial to pull in more remote stations without climbing a ladder.
7. Patterned Formica countertops
The high pressure laminate known as Formica was invented in 1913 but it wasn’t until some tweaks were made to the original formula in 1938 that it became a popular coating for restaurant tabletops, thanks to its durability and resistance to cigarette burns.
The company hired some professional industrial designers in 1953 and their efforts sent Formica’s sales into orbit (pun intended). Their new patterns, such as Skylark (more commonly known as the “boomerang” pattern) and Starburst, were now found in kitchens and bathrooms throughout suburban America instead of just roadside diners. It’s interesting how the shapes and colors that were inspired by the Atomic age and meant to give a subliminal futuristic “feel” to the household décor now inspire warm fuzzy nostalgia.