That most-wanted vintage floor looks awfully familiar …

armstrong-5352

Do you recognize this floor? Of course you do. As do I, because: it was once at the Manse! (Photo from Retro Renovation, retrorenovation.com)

I’ve already told you (right here) about one of my new favourite blogs, Retro Renovation. It is a wildly entertaining compendium of information – much of it gathered from readers, as is much of the information here at Meanwhile, at the Manse – about period-appropriate renovation of midcentury homes. That would be the middle of the 20th century, of course (as I always feel the need to remind readers, especially younger ones): the era of bungalows and split-levels and “ranch” homes. (Just picture the home of The Brady Bunch and you’ll know what I mean.)

Now, the Manse, having been built in 1888, is a long way from a midcentury split-level. And one could very sensibly argue that, as Raymond and I ponder renovation plans for it, we shouldn’t even be looking at, or thinking about, the stuff posted on Retro Renovation. But here’s the thing: while the Manse itself may far pre-date the midcentury Mad Men era, my time in it does not; when I was growing up in this house (between 1964 and 1975),  it was the middle of the 20th century. And the things one saw in houses in those days are the very things I find on Retro Renovation now.

And not to put too fine a point on it: I want those things!

Or at least, I want to think about them as possibilities for the Manse. Those thoughts might never translate into any real renovation activity, but they’re fun to consider.

Anyway, this evening I feel that, in the interest of sheer entertainment value, I must share with you a great post from a couple of days ago at Retro Renovation. (And before I go any further, let me encourage you to read the whole post, and enjoy the great photos, here.) It caught my attention, let me tell you. Its title was this: 3 Midcentury Home Design Products We Wish They’d Bring Back NOW.

The first of these three products is glitter laminate for kitchen and bathroom countertops. Take a look and you’ll recognize it instantly. I’ll tell you honestly: glitter laminate is like a familiar friend from my past, but I could totally live without it.

The second I am not sure I can live without, however: it’s a “double-bowl, dual-drainboard, metal-rimmed, cast-iron kitchen sink.” It doesn’t sound that exciting when you say it that way, but take a look at Retro Renovation’s photos and just try to tell me that this isn’t the best and coolest kitchen sink ever designed. (I am thrilled that Retro Renovation steers us toward this sink from Kohler as a not-bad 21st-century version of it.)

Armstrong-5352-linoleum-500x290

That classic 1970s flooring, as it must have looked when it was delivered to the Manse. From the Madoc Cash & Carry? (Photo from Retro Renovation, retrorenovation.com)

Mum's floor

A scrap (thanks to our excavations of the Manse’s kitchen floor) of the brick-patterned flooring we had in my youth here, and that is now apparently so desirable once again.

But the third and final “midcentury home design product we wish they’d bring back NOW” was what really caught my eye, and made me laugh out loud. It was our kitchen floor at the Manse!

Not the kitchen floor that Raymond and I have now, you understand; the current swath of brown and off-white vinyl that the Manse kitchen sports is one floor (and a couple of decades) later than the one that Retro Renovation has deemed most worthy of a comeback. But, as I reported in a long-ago post here about excavating down through the layers of floor in the kitchen, it is the floor that, in the early 1970s, fulfilled my mum‘s dear wish to cover up the turquoise-and-white-tile linoleum that greeted my family when we first crossed the threshold of the Manse in July 1964. (My mother never liked turquoise.)

Retro Renovation helpfully tells us that Armstrong #5352 flooring, which you have all seen, the one with the sort of brick-like pattern, is “believed to be the most popular flooring of all time.” It continues: “This floor was made from at least 1935 through to the mid-1990s — 60-some years!”

And it goes on to call Armstrong #5352  “classic.”

Well! Who knew? I guess my mum did, when (in conjunction with the Manse Committee) she chose it for the Manse’s kitchen, all those years ago. (Then again, it might just have been the flooring that was on sale at the Madoc Cash & Carry that week.)

At any rate, I found it highly amusing to see that this early-1970s-floor that is so familiar from my past has now been deemed a must-have decor item if you’re doing retro renovations in 2015.

Truly: everything old is new again.

Maybe that Indian guy is still crying.

If you watch the TV show Mad Men, you might remember the startling little scene in the video above from the first season, set at the dawn of the 1960s. In it, the outwardly perfect Draper family – Dad Don, Mom Betty, daughter Sally and son Bobby, are finishing up a picnic and packing up to leave. Watch the clip (it’s only a minute or so long) and get a load of what happens just before they get into the car.

Amazing, right? Yet it says just about everything there is to say about how cavalier people used to be about leaving trash – cups and cans and bottles and napkins and other detritus – not only at picnic sites but perhaps most especially by the side of the roads. How easy it was to just toss things out the windows of our cars and trucks!

Which goes a long way to explaining why, back in my childhood here at the Manse, a group of kids could spend a lucrative afternoon walking along the pretty country roads outside Queensborough – or anywhere else, for that matter – collecting soft-drink and/or beer bottles for the nickels and dimes they would bring when turned in. While that’s a happy childhood memory for me – I wrote about it in this post – I have to say I am very glad those days are gone. Remember how they resulted in this TV public-service announcement, which surely is seared into the brain of every North American over the age of 50 or so?

Anyway. Sometimes I wonder if those days are as long-gone as they should be. While there are a gazillion things that I love about living here in Queensborough, and while I see new beautiful things in the countryside around us every single day, one thing that upsets me is the trash I see by the side of our pretty rural roadways. It’s not just around Queensborough, of course; I see it along rural roads in many parts of Hastings County and beyond. And I have to stress that the problem is far, far less pronounced than in the days of my Pure Spring-bottle-collecting youth. And I know that the culprits are a very small minority among the people who live here.

But there are enough coffee cups and soft-drink and beer cans and plastic water bottles and assorted fast-food-resto wrappings to indicate that some people still don’t get it. To prove it, let me show you what I picked up this past Sunday morning in a stretch of no more than two kilometres along Queensborough Road:

Roadside trash

People, come on. If you’re finished with that coffee, or that hamburger, how complicated is it to toss the cup or wrappings into a bag in your car, or at least into the back seat, and dispose of it properly when you get home (or to a gas station with a trash bin)? Don’t you realize it’s your own surroundings you’re fouling? Please, please – we live in a beautiful place. Let’s show that we recognize and appreciate that, and keep it that way.

Is this the perfect “chesterfield” for the Manse?

Mad Men couch

I have loved this couch – or chesterfield, as I once would have said – for more than two years. Perhaps it is time to finally buy it and install it at the Manse. What do you think?

First things first: why doesn’t anybody say “chesterfield” anymore? When I was growing up here at the Manse in the long-ago 1960s and ’70s, that’s what we (that is, my family) always called the “couch” or “sofa” in our living room. Were we just weird? Or is “chesterfield” a word that was genuinely common back then but has simply faded away?

Anyway, leaving that pressing issue aside: I want your vote on a chesterfield – oh, all right, couch – that I’ve been eyeing for the Manse’s living room for quite some time. It comes from a relatively prosaic place: The Bay. I first spotted it in a glossy Bay flier that came tucked into our Gazette (the former workplace of both Raymond and me) a couple of years ago in Montreal. I loved the midcentury style, and I loved the colour. And the price was right too; it was on sale for something under $1,000.

Which, as it turns out, this couch often is. (On sale, I mean.) Every time I check it on The Bay’s website or in the big downtown-Montreal Bay store, it seems to be on sale once again. This past weekend I tracked it down at that store (hence the photo) with a tag on it saying, “This weekend only! $799, regularly $1,599!” Except when I went to The Bay’s website just now (that would be Tuesday evening), it was still on sale for $799. Not that I’m complaining.

In the store they had it displayed along with a bunch of fabric swatches, showing that you could get it in quite a variety of colours. Including a nice red, my favourite colour in the world. But I have to say that that bright lemon-lime shade seems just perfect for the Manse’s living room. Or is it? Perhaps it is a colour that Raymond and I will get thoroughly sick of in less than five years, and wonder a) what we were thinking and b) why we didn’t just buy something in a nice sedate beige or cream? Is this lemon-lime Mad-Men-style couch my own variation on the late-1960s Avocado-Green-appliance craze that I remember so well?

To help you make an informed decision on this weighty matter, I offer up a photo of the couch that the lemon-lime model would replace. It came with the Manse when Raymond and I bought it back in 2012, and while we were a little snickery at first about its pleather upholstery and evident wear, we got a little less so when we realized that a) it was actually pretty comfortable and b) it was the only couch – oops, chesterfield – that we had. Here it is, with Sieste the cat as the crowning touch:

Old couch

Our current living-room chesterfield at the Manse. (And our current cat.) I hope you’ll note the vintage curtains in the background – the same ones that adorned those windows when I was growing up in this house in the 1960s. I think the lemon-lime couch would look just great with them! (Please note too the bit of crocheted-by-hand doily – which is not, as I have explained before, an antimacassar.)

And here, just to confuse matters further, is another 1960s-style chesterfield that I found at The Bay last weekend when I was seeking out my lemon-lime model. This one’s a hundred dollars or so more expensive, a bit more comfortable to sit in, and has those funky Jetsons-style rounded lines:

Jetsons couch

Perhaps this is the one I should be considering? Do you like the rounded lines? Do you like the colour? It’s retro like the other one, but I am not quite as enamoured of it.

I don’t, however, much care for the colour, and while there were other upholstery options with it too, none of them really grabbed me. But I don’t know; maybe this is the chesterfield for the Manse.

What do you think, people? Let’s hear from your inner (or, heck, outer) decorator. I need some advice!

New York, New Orleans, Aspen … and Madoc

Madoc ad for Seagram's V.O.In a little over two years of doing this blog, I have learned that you just never know what’s going to turn up. I have been delighted by so many surprises from readers: bits of information, first-person stories, photos, and so on. Now here comes another one: thanks to reader Steve, we have a vintage advertisement for one brand of the longtime beverage of choice of this part of the world. And what group of people was used as an example of the very sophisticated drinker of this beverage, Seagram’s V.O. Canadian Whisky? Why, the people of Madoc, of course.

In case you can’t read the small print, here’s what the ad – which Steve found on Page 4 of the Ottawa Journal of March 6, 1964, so almost exactly a half-century ago – says below the headline “As goes Madoc, so goes the world”:

In Madoc, Ontario, Seagram’s V.O. is extremely popular. Not just because V.O. is produced in Canada, but because the mellow flavour of V.O. combines brilliance of taste with lightness of tone. This Madocian preference reflects a world opinion. In 130 countries around the globe, people of discerning taste buy Seagram’s V.O. Not merely because V.O. is imported from Canada but because they, too, like their whisky to be light, yet brilliant. This balance of good taste – which never varies – is the reason why Seagram’s V.O. is the largest-selling Canadian Whisky in the world.

To which I can only say: “Madocian”? Who knew that was a word?

Actually I do have something else to say about this very interesting find that Steve made. It is the answer to the question you are probably asking yourself – which is, “Why Madoc?” – and it comes thanks to yet another reader.

Grant (who I am becoming convinced knows almost everything there is to know about the history of Madoc and Madoc Township) shares the information that several decades ago a chap called Jack Baker, who was from Madoc, worked for Seagram’s and rose quite high in the company: He “sold a fine Canadian whiskey called Jack Baker’s Special. The lounge at the [Madoc] Kiwanis Centre was called the Jack Baker Lounge.”

rye at the Madoc LCBO

The rye-whisky selection at the little Madoc LCBO outlet is pretty darn substantial.

Aha! It’s all coming together. It’s the Jack Baker connection – plus, did I mention that Canadian – or rye – whisky has long been very popular in Madoc and area? When Raymond and I first started coming to this area from Montreal, after we’d bought the Manse in early 2012, we were quite startled to see the hugeness off the rye-whisky section in local L.C.B.O. outlets. There seemed to be more space devoted to rye than to practically all other spirits put together. That is not something you see at liquor stores in Quebec, or in other places I have been.

Anyway, I am quite tickled by the idea that Madoc was used as an example of good taste in drinks back in 1964 – the Mad Men years, and let’s not forget that Don Draper is partial to another Seagram’s rye whisky, Canadian Club.

And so I went looking for some other V.O. advertising from the era, and found a little gallery’s worth of gorgeously illustrated ads that strive (successfully, if you ask me) to convey worldliness and elegance in sophisticated places. Click on any image to make it larger and see a slide show. They really are quite gorgeous:

So there you have it: the French Quarter in New Orleans, Carnaval in Quebec City, the Winter Olympics, the slopes of Aspen, and Broadway and an art-show opening in New York City. Why, Madoc fits right in!

The hassock has landed!

Raymond and the vintage hassock

Here’s Raymond putting our new vintage hassock to excellent use at the Manse. Gracious – that hassock’s 1960s or ’70s gold colour almost matches his shirt!

Back in January of this year, I did a post (you can read it here) wherein I wondered what had ever happened to a piece of furniture that was once in every North American living room: to wit, the hassock. And I recounted how Raymond and I felt we needed at least one hassock for the Manse in Queensborough, not only because its presence would be true to my midcentury childhood there, but also because – well, because we needed something to put our feet up on. Simple as that.

Since then I’ve been carefully scouting every antique barn and collectibles place that we’ve gone into (and believe me, we go into a lot), and also searching eagerly at yard sales and auctions. I found a handful of hassocks, but nothing that seemed just right for the Mad Men-era look that I rather like for the Manse’s decor. Also, as Nancy Abdalla pointed out in a comment on that first post on hassocks, it was kind of part of the deal that the hassock be round, so that a kid could turn it on its side and roll on it (particularly, as I recall, during The Wonderful World of Color, later The Wonderful World of Disney). So I was looking for a round hassock with just the right fake-leather fabric in the perfect garish midcentury colour.

vintage gold hassock

Our newly acquired hassock, stashed in the back seat of the car. Is that not a handsome hassock?

And now I’ve found one! Yes, the Stratford (Ont.) Antique Warehouse, the source of several recently discovered treasures, has done it again.

The new (to us) gold hassock (with wheels even!) looks just right. Like it belongs. And it is very comfortable to put one’s feet up on it while reclining in the rocker.

The only problem? There’s only one of it, and two of us. Clearly we need another hassock.

A catalogue of wonders from Green Stamps

Me at the Manse? No, this is a vintage "Idea Book" (catalogue) from the S&H Green Stamps company – filled with good stuff that you could get by collecting and redeeming Green Stamps.

Me at the Manse? No, this is a vintage “Idea Book” (catalogue) from the S&H Green Stamps company – filled with good stuff that you could get by collecting and redeeming Green Stamps.

Despite some helpful comments from readers on yesterday’s post, I still haven’t got to the bottom of those “green stamps” (using the term generically rather than the official title Green Stamps, which were a product of the S&H company in the United States; I still don’t know whether we had those in Canada) that my mum (and other mums) used to collect way back in the ’60s in Queensborough. What kind of “green stamps” were they, and what store gave them out? Do any longtime residents of the Queensborough-MadocTweed area remember?

But leaving aside the Great Green Stamp Mystery, let’s have a look at the vintage catalogues showing all the good stuff you could get by redeeming your S&H Green Stamps. Talk about a blast from the past. It’s like an episode of Mad Men, before Betty got all cranky. In fact, this looks to be Betty now:

Green Stamps and Betty

Here is a look inside one of the catalogues:

Green Stamps living room

According to a fun post at CreativePro.com by “Scanning Around with Gene” (where I found this photo and the one below), what we have here is “Mrs. David Dunkley of Colorado … with her daughters Cathy, Christie Sue, and Virginia amid a room-full of items purchased with trading stamps.”

Green Stamps stuff

Just look at all that good stuff you could get for your home! (Thanks to “Scanning Around with Gene” for the photo.)

1956 Green Stamps

For the man of the house! (Photo from PaperSponge.com, “A Frequent Look at All Things Ephemera.”)

Ideabook 1971

A 1971 edition of the S&H catalogue. Groovy, man!

Last fall, at an auction sale that I wrote about here, in a bunch of magazines and stuff that were being sold was a vintage redeem-your-stamps catalogue. I believe it was for the Lucky Green Stamps that Loblaws supermarkets gave out once upon a time. It was classic, and I wanted it desperately, but an antiques dealer wanted it too, and was willing to bid way more than I could. Drat.

But I have made up for it tonight. As of about five minutes ago I am the owner of a 1959 S&H Ideabook that I found on Etsy:

my Green Stamps catalog

I’m sure it will be full of great merchandise just right for the Manse!

A postcard from the past, just before the world changed

Ah yes: life was good at The Golden Shores (819-820 N. Ocean Blvd., Pompano Beach, Florida) on August 12, 1959. Just before the world changed.

Raymond and I were driving back to Montreal from the Manse in Queensborough one recent sunny Sunday afternoon and on a whim stopped in at an antique shop in tiny Lombardy, Ont. We did not exactly exhibit big-spender behaviour: Raymond bought some small thing or other, and I paid $2 for an early-1960s shopping guide for American tourists in Quebec City, which was rich in its funkiness, and a princely $1 for the GIANT POST CARD (as it is billed on the reverse side) that you can see at the top of this post.

I loved many things about the GIANT POST CARD, including the fact that it came from the era when GIANT POST CARDs were a big deal in postcard-land. I loved the colour photos on the front showing people enjoying the pool and the palm trees and the sunshine at The Golden Shores motel or resort or whatever it was in Pompano Beach, Florida. I loved the message to the recipients written on the back in what looks like fountain pen, and more on that anon.

But what really got me was the date the card was written and postmarked: August 12, 1959.

1959: The Year Everything Changed is a book by American writer Fred Kaplan. In it, he argues that all the things we think of as “modern,” and many of the things we think of as having originated in “The Sixties,” actually came about in 1959. He talks about architecture, art, science, politics and so on, and how what was happening in all those areas in 1959 pushed us from the postwar era into the modern era.

Whether you subscribe to Kaplan’s thesis or not, you have to admit that the world on Aug. 12, 1959, was probably a simpler place for the average North American couple/family sending a postcard back from Pompano Beach to friends in Eastern Ontario than it would be just a few short years later, as their children came of age and rock and roll and protest and God knows what (free love!) suddenly happened. I felt a particular pang when I found the GIANT POST CARD and its postmark because, growing up at the Manse in the 1960s, I had a front-row seat – albeit a child seat – to those epochal changes.

Anyway, here is the fountain-pen-penned message written Aug. 12, 1959, at The Golden Shores in Pompano Beach and sent back to Eastern Ontario on a GIANT POST CARD. I kind of feel like its author could be Betty Draper:

“Dear (two very anglophone names, not repeated here in order to protect privacy):

“Well we made it and are recuperating after four tough days of driving. It is super here & we’re living the life of Reilly. Have been swimming all day & are now drinking Pink Ladies under the palms. Oh me, what a life. I could take this forever.

“I do want to thank you both for the most enjoyable holiday week-end at Muskoka. It was the kind of lazy one I enjoy & it was so nice to get acquainted with your three dear wee ones.

“Haven’t seen much of the stores yet except groceries but they all look very nice.

“Well am off to the poop-deck to watch the kids play in the breakers.

“Many thanks again kids & hope you have a good holiday. My love to you both, the girls & Miss Mooney.

” – (Signed by another very anglo name kept private [by me] for, well, privacy)”

Really, all there is left to say is this: Pink Ladies!