Sunday, June 5, 2016


I watched the weather forecast all last week. I couldn’t believe that a cool week was going to morph into a hot weekend. Well, it did, though. On Thursday it was a cool 60 at the farm, but Friday the cloud cover was gone and the sun was hot. By Saturday, the town temp was 100. Now I feel  guilty that I didn’t provide more protection for the tomato plants at the farm, but that’s the way it goes. I’ll take care of it next week.

Breakfast in the Dobson backyard, c. 1954
When I was a child, it was hardly ever hot before the Fourth of July, and then the norm for highs was in the 80s. Okay – you’re right. I was just a kid and memory may not serve, but it seems to me I remember my dad looking out the kitchen window and remarking, “It’s 92!” – as if that were out of the ordinary. But this I do remember – the downside of taking swim lessons with the first class in June was that the mornings were cold. We stood on the deck with our teeth chattering. Sometimes we even endured rain. We couldn’t depend on the advent of summer until after the Fourth of July. These days summer seems to come with Memorial Day.

A recent review of family photos put me in mind of the backyard gatherings we used to have during those lazy summers of the 1950s. Sometimes it was a breakfast party. My dad would go fishing in Little Canyon Creek and come back with his limit of trout. The next morning he would serve a breakfast of trout, biscuits, eggs, etc., to family and friends in our backyard. It must have been a lot of work, but I don’t remember anyone complaining.
Dobson backyard gathering, 1955

We also had evening parties. I don’t remember what occasioned these gatherings. I don’t think we needed much excuse. And I don’t remember anything about food. Did we roast marshmallows in the old stone fireplace? The point was that we gathered informally to pass the evening, and I thought it was just great fun. We had plenty of outdoor chairs – colored canvas stretched across a white metal frame. If my parents didn’t have enough, my grandparents brought theirs. 

One time family friend Ebba Bullock fell over backwards in one of those chairs. One second she was sitting there and the next she was flat on her back with her feet in the air. She was the first to burst into laughter. No, she wasn’t hurt, but after that we were more careful to make sure those lightweight chairs were on level ground.
Portfors' patio gathering, c. 1954

My Portfors grandparents also hosted outdoor gatherings, such as the one pictured here. In those days, we had frequent house guests. If they said they were coming, we got ready, and the fun included evening outdoor gatherings. If it was chilly, we put on jackets.

My dad's family, 1961
Mother reminisced about the backyard parties once and lamented that we no longer gathered in that way. She blamed TV, and I suppose she was right, but things just change. I could say the group dynamic changed, but in the ‘50s, as elders passed and young ones grew up, the group dwindled away quickly. I just happened along in time to observe this mid-century activity before it disappeared altogether.

When we visit the South, Mike also laments that the summer lifestyle has changed. People used to sit outside on their porches or in the shade with cold drinks in order to find some relief from the heat. Air conditioning changed that. 

[Photos: 1) Vance and Dorothy Dobson, Augusta ("Mom") Fairchild. Note the strawberry pyramid in back corner. 2) Grandma Naomi Walrath Burns. I can't identify the women in the background. Note the "real" dishes on the table. They carried all that out of the house and then carried back and washed the dishes. 3) Uncle Porkie took this picture, which I have identified with Harriet's help. 4) A backyard breakfast with my dad's family, 1961. Starting at left: Shirley Dobson Shockley; her daughter, Marilyn; Myrtle (Aunt Lynn) Dobson; Ethel Dobson Robinson and her husband, Ernest (note the suit); my mother, Dorothy Dobson holding her granddaughter, Becky Reece; and me, Kathy Dobson. On the front side of the table: Earle Dobson (in charge of photography) and my dad, Vance Dobson.]


Hallie said...

I'm not sure I see the strawberry pyramid. Are you talking about the easel-like thing at left?

Kathy said...

The strawberry pyramid is right behind the table in the back corner. "Mom" Fairchild is sitting next to it. I don't know what the easel thing is.

The strawberry pyramids were a mid-century item. You filled the bottom ring with soil, then placed the next (smaller) ring and filled it with soil, etc. The folks experimented with it but didn't use it long, as I recall. They took the top rings off, removed the dirt, filled it with sand, and it became my sandbox.

This section of the yard became carport and parking space.

Hallie said...

Oh, it's BIG! It's a terrace. I was looking for something the size of an urn.

Kathy said...

OH-h-h-h-h! The tripod thing is the corner of my swing set!

And I don't think those are strawberries growing in the pyramid, but I think the pyramid was meant for strawberries.