It is a very windy and cold and snowy and icy night out tonight. Which means it is an excellent night to stay home and have a nice dinner and watch some TV. (The PVR is busily recording the finale of 30 Rock as I write this.) And what do you need for dinner in front of the TV, people? Come on, think… And think mid-century.
Aha! You’ve got it. TV trays!
Unfortunately Raymond and I do not – yet – have a set of TV trays, either in Montreal or at the Manse in Queensborough. But I think we will have to acquire one.
This won’t mean much to anyone under the age of 40, but once upon a time every household in North America had a set of TV trays, as far as I can recall. They always came four to a set, and when you weren’t using them they folded and stacked up together in a corner of the living room or dining room.
Now, when I was growing up at the Manse we never ever ate in front of the TV. Our family always had meals together around the dinner table in the kitchen, two rooms away from the TV. (Which, come to think of it, was very civilized; aren’t we always hearing these days about how families need to get back to having meals together around the table? And it makes me feel rather guilty that now I eat a late dinner in front of the TV all the time.) But anyway, the long and short of it is that we never used our TV trays for what they were intended for.
Come to think of it, what did we use them for?
That’s a good question. But we must have used them for something, because I remember stacking and unstacking them many a time.
TV trays are of the same era as hassocks, which I wrote about not so long ago. It seems like all kinds of semi-forgotten furnishings and accessories were created in the 1950s and ’60s to accommodate families spending time around that new invention, the TV. (As I noted in that post, the hassock was generally where the youngest kid in the family sat when everybody was gathered around to watch a program and all the other chairs and sofa [or “chesterfield,” as we called it at the Manse] space was taken.)
Thinking of those long-ago things that used to be everywhere and now are almost nowhere reminds me of something.
I’ve mentioned many times that Raymond and I love to frequent antiques-and-collectibles warehouses. At one a few years ago I spotted the same awesome hassock that I remembered from a time when my family was invited to dinner at the home of a family in the congregation of the church my dad served in the village of Eldorado. That hassock was probably the coolest piece of home decor that 8-year-old me had ever seen: clear plastic filled with air, and inside, an artificial (doubtless plastic) red rose bush. I never forgot it. And one day I spotted one just like it – or maybe it was the same one! – in an antiques barn. But it was faded and quite pitiful to look at, which is why I didn’t buy it.
Another time, in another antique barn, I found the same set of TV trays that my maternal grandparents, my Buh and Didi (Stewart and Reta Keay) used to have at their gracious home in Leaside, and then in Peterborough when they moved there after my grandfather’s retirement. Many an evening snack of soft drinks and chips (and maybe Christmas cookies, if it was the season) was served to us kids on those TV tables.
And again, I didn’t buy them.
And I have regretted both decisions – and have been vainly looking for that same hassock and those same TV trays – ever since.
So I guess the lesson I want to share from this post, which started out as a reminiscence about, and paean to, the almost-forgotten TV-tray phenomenon, is this:
When you see something you like, buy it, before someone else does. And when you see something that brings you fond memories of your mid-century childhood? Run, don’t walk, to the checkout counter.
Trust me: you’ll be glad you did.