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A mix of pastel-hued memories of Florida in the ’50s |

A mix of pastel-hued memories of Florida in the ’50s



I love the 1950s — at least when it comes to the California ranch-style houses that Michigan Homes built in our Rainbow Groves neighborhood in Fort Myers.

Most have been altered, but when I was a boy, they were painted in pastels and jewel tones — pale greens, shell pinks, turquoise and yellow. It was positively pretty.

Anyone who has driven along McGregor Boulevard or driven through the neighborhoods of Tanglewood or Morse Shores, also in Fort Myers, has seen homes by Michigan.

Ross was the big builder of similar homes in the Palm Beaches — think of all those 1,200- to 1,800-square-foot houses you see around Forest Hill Boulevard and Olive Avenue in West Palm Beach or along Park Avenue in Lake Park. Those are Ross homes.

They were modest, but well built. Sixty years later, they stand the test of time.



I remember being parked in a high chair in my grandparents’ yellow kitchen. Grandma stood at the yellow GE cooktop heating up Campbell’s tomato soup and grilling a Velveeta sandwich (they called it “toasted cheese”). The kitchen had a matching GE wall oven. When Grandma baked a cake, she blended the ingredients with a yellow Hamilton Beach hand mixer my sister now owns. The refrigerator they brought from Indiana was professionally painted yellow to match.

That post-World War II era was a time of great economic expansion, and my grandparents fit right in, moving to Fort Myers in their mid-40s.

Their home remains a beauty. My mom remembers that the quality shone through when the place was new, from the sparkling terrazzo floors to the shiny enamel kitchens and glistening white gravel roofs.

Forget the Hoosier cupboards of the past and bulky iron sinks with drainboards and a curtain to hide the pipes. Built-in was better, designers decided.

The cooking spaces were efficient and pretty. One neighbor, Joy Bell, had a pink kitchen, complete with a rose-hued fridge.

As I remember, my grandparents’ nextdoor neighbors had a turquoise kitchen, replete with a built-in refrigerator — it seemed the whole neighborhood availed itself of the gas stove in 1960, after Hurricane Donna left the area without power.

Hurricanes aside, it was swank.

These were the days before shabby was chic.

No self-respecting decorator or housewife, for that matter, would have settled for anything less than matching appliances and accessories.

My own 1955 kitchen still boasts the original yellow Formica Cracked Ice pattern laminate on its counters and backsplash. When I sanded the cupboard doors, I found traces of the original matching yellow paint underneath the coats of white. I’m sure the appliances of the day also matched.

What was modern then now is vintage.

When I see a 1950s kitchen or its accessories, it takes me back to my youth. After all, there no finer meal than a toasted Velveeta sandwich served with canned soup that was stirred by the hand of a loving grandmother. ¦


An early 1950s pink Sunbeam Mixmaster stand mixer

Bought: Noah’s Ark Helping Pets Inc., 824 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach; 561-833-8131.

Paid: $45

The Skinny: I have found the Holy Grail of kitchen appliances.

Or so you would think, based on the text I received from my friend and colleague Jan Norris, the noted food writer: “OMG! Where and how much?” she responded to a photo I sent her. “I will be glad to double your money.”

She didn’t know how much I had paid at the time, either.

Of course, I had a similar reaction when I spotted the mixer on the shelf of the thrift store.

Truth is, you don’t see these pastel mixers of the 1950s very often. Turquoise also is hard to find, and I regret that I left my grandmother Dorothy’s yellow Mixmaster in her Georgia kitchen — hey, the truck was FULL.

These pink mixers are special. On eBay, they start at around $60 for one with no bowls.

This one is missing its small bowl and its juice attachment. But at nearly 70 years old, it still revs up to full speed with no problem.

In fact, the only problem I have is finding a proper place to display it.

If I can’t find one, something tells me a certain food journalist will be acquiring it. ¦

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