I'm heading down a new road, so to speak. Instead of the long articles relating a roadtrip down a complete highway, I'll now be posting much shorter articles. And the scope will be wider, covering just about everything from the year 1962. This should allow me to post more often, and allow you to have more fun reading. I'm not sure just how often I will post something, but this page will always show the five most recent articles, with the newest at the top. Older articles will be archived at the Blog Archives page. I may even include articles from other people, so if you have something to say about 1962, please let me know. Topics will cover:
- 1962 News of the World
- 1962 News of the Nation
- 1962 Local News
- 1962 in Sports
- 1962 in Entertainment and the Arts (including movies, TV, music, art, fashion, architecture, design, books, comics, and more)
- 1962 in Science
- Cars of 1962
- Consumer Products and Retail in 1962 (including just about anything you could buy, plus the stores you could buy it in)
- On the Road in 1962 (road and roadtrip topics, including things I typically covered on my long journeys)
- More Fun From 1962! (everything else that sounds like fun, like special events and more pop culture)
Roadtrip Highlights of US-15
After a couple of trips west, Roadtrip-'62 ™ is back east today, taking a look at some highlights of a US-15 roadtrip. The highway currently runs 792 miles from Painted Post, New York to Walterboro, South Carolina. Before 1974, US-15 began 101 miles farther north, in Rochester, New York. This route takes US-15 from ALMOST the Great Lakes to ALMOST the Atlantic Ocean, but a bit short on both ends. Beyond Painted Post, US-15 has now been replaced by two freeways that will take you to Rochester: I-86 and I-390. And from Williamsport, Pennsylvania to the northern terminus at Painted Post, the highway has been completely upgraded to a freeway in preparation for re-signing as I-99. This segment may lose its US-15 signing soon. Let’s start at the north end of US-15 and travel south, just because that’s what I always do with these trips. The US numbering system starts with the lowest numbers in the north, so I like to follow that. I’ve noticed that Wikipedia does the opposite.
Someplace we could have seen right near the north end in Rochester, New York in 1962 is the Eastman Museum. The museum was opened in 1949 in George Eastman’s mansion and stayed there until 1989. At the time, it was one of only two American museums with a photography department and one of only two American museums with a film department. It is now the world’s oldest photography museum and one of the largest film archives in the United States. In 1989, the museum moved into a new building on the Eastman site that had climate-controlled vaults for collection storage, larger exhibition galleries, libraries, offices, and photographic conservation and film preservation labs. When the museum moved out of the mansion, a complete restoration of the historic mansion and grounds was undertaken. So we see the mansion in its natural state as a grand residence today, and can view the photographic museum in a proper museum setting. The mansion was built between 1902 and 1905 in Colonial Revival style and George Eastman lived there until his death in 1932. Besides the museum and house, there are landscaped gardens on the property to enjoy. George Eastman made his fortune as the pioneer of popular photography, founding and controlling the Eastman Kodak Company in 1892. Thanks to the company’s innovations, easy-to-use cameras made photography widely accessible, the practice of professional photofinishing became widespread, and flexible film critical to the motion picture industry was created. In 1962, the familiar red and yellow Kodak signs appeared everywhere film was sold.
Farther south in New York we pass through Corning, home of the Corning Glass Works and the Corning Glass Center. The center is located just two miles off US-15. Corning Glass Works was founded in 1851 in Somerville, Massachusetts as the Bay State Glass Co. It later moved to Brooklyn, New York before eventually coming to Corning in 1868. The company is now one of the largest glass manufacturers in the world and has an active laboratory where they constantly find new types of glass and new uses for glass. Corning produced the heat resistant glass for the United States’ space program, as was used on the Mercury flights of John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, and Wally Schirra during 1962. Another type of glass from their labs that has a 1962 connection is the glass used on the touch-screen faces of modern smart phones. The previous year, Corning developed a chemically strengthened glass it began marketing under the Chemcor brand in 1962. Chemcor glass was tried in tableware, ophthalmic products, and applications for the automotive, aviation, and pharmaceutical industries, but never found much of a market. In 2006, the formula was modified further in cooperation with Apple, who then used it in their iPhone. It’s now branded as Gorilla Glass.
Though we can’t take a factory tour, since 1951 we have been able to visit the Corning Museum of Glass. The museum was a gift to the public to celebrate Corning’s 100th anniversary and now cares for and displays the world’s best collection of art and historical glass. There are over than 3,500 years of glass history displayed in the galleries, from the glass portrait of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh to contemporary sculptures made in glass. The museum also features glassmaking demonstrations every day, and hands-on exhibits in the Innovation Center where you can explore the concepts behind optics, containers, and windows.
Continuing south, we find that we cannot drive the old route of US-15 between Tioga, Pennsylvania and Mansfield, Pennsylvania because it dissappears under the waters of the Tioga Reservoir! The dam for the reservoir was built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers between 1973 and 1979. The old road is now part of a boat ramp where, at least a few years ago, you can see the double yellow lines run right into the water. Following the new highway, we cross our US-6 roadtrip route at Mansfield, Pennsylvania. Then, it’s on to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of Little League Baseball. The sport was founded by Carl Stotz in 1939 as a three-team league here. Since then, it has developed worldwide under a system in which local volunteers organize and operate Little League programs chartered through Little League International. The annual Little League World Series is held in Williamsport in late summer, where the first Little League Baseball World Series was played in 1947. In 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed a National Little League week and baseball pro Jackie Robinson attended the Little League World Series. We could not have seen the Little League Hall of Excellence that year, as it was not established until 1988.
Williamsport also has the Millionaire's Row Historic District, a national historic district containing 263 contributing buildings. The town was the lumber capital of the eastern United States during the early to mid-1800s, spawning dozens of millionaires. In fact, at one point it is estimated that the city had more millionaires per-capita than anywhere else in the world. They poured much of their money into grand homes and churches, and these buildings now form the historic district. In their honor, the local high school still uses "Millionaires" as its teams’ nicknames. While in town, we can visit the Peter Herdic Transportation Museum to see their fully restored GMC 1962 bus and other historic transportation exhibits.
From here, US-15 follows the West Branch Susquehanna River south from Williamsport through rock cuts, long mountain vistas, and great fall color to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the state capital. The capitol building was dedicated in 1906, with the cost for construction and furnishings at $13 million. It was designed in the American Renaissance style by Philadelphia architect Joseph Huston, who envisioned it as a "Palace of Art." The idea was well-executed, as it features paintings, stained glass, a green glazed terra cotta tile roof, and Moravian mosaic tile floors. Rooms are influenced by Italian, French French, Greek, Roman and Victorian styles, all blended into a uniquely American style. The Capitol's centerpiece is a 272-foot, 52 million-pound dome inspired by Michelangelo's design for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The building was the tallest structure between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for 80 years. The dome is topped by the gilded brass statue of Commonwealth by Roland Hinton Perry. You can take either a guided or self-guiding tour of the Pennsylavania State Capitol.
A special historical site along US-15 is the Gettysburg National Military Park, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The park is the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, the most ambitious invasion of the Union states. Gettysburg was also the Civil War's bloodiest battle with 51,000 casualties, which President Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" memorialized. A variety of battlefield tours can be arranged at the Museum and Visitor Center. Weekends host the Living History at Gettysburg program featuring volunteer organizations portraying Union and Confederate soldiers and demonstrations at selected sites in the park. And don’t forget the Gettysburg Cyclorama: a 377 foot long, 42 foot high painting that was moved to park visitor center in 1962! The painting was originally done in 1883 by French artist Paul Philippoteaux and underwent a massive restoration project before being displayed here by the National Park Service in the building later known as the Cyclorama Center. It was restored again in 2003-2008. The nearby National Civil War Wax Museum recently auctioned off many of its exhibits and life-sized figures. That museum was opened in 1962 and is now undergoing major renovations on its way to being renamed the Gettysburg Heritage Center. They sold off more than 300 items, as they move the exhibits in a new direction. Apparently wax museums are no longer in vogue.
At Thurmont, Maryland, we find Cunningham Falls State Park, located in the picturesque Catoctin Mountains. Cunningham Falls is the largest cascading waterfall in Maryland, at 78 feet high. The park is divided into two separate but unique areas: the William Houck Area has a lake, the falls, and a camping area, while the Manor Area has the Scales and Tales Aviary, more camping, and the historic Catoctin Iron Furnace Ruins. There is ongoing work to stablize the ruins of the historic Iron Master's House. The park is bordered on the north by Catoctin Mountain Park and on the south by Frederick Municipal Forest, providing plenty of additional recreational opportunities. It came to be a park after the timber was exhausted through a couple hundred years of cutting it to supply charcoal for the Catoctin Iron Furnace. The area was purchased by the Federal government in 1935 and the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps began constructing facilities. The northern portion was transferred to the National Park Service in 1936 to become Catoctin Mountain Park. The Cunningham Falls State Park trail system has something for everyone: short and flat hikes, steep and rocky climbs, waterfalls, rock cliffs, and trail distances from 0.5 mile to 7.5 miles. Another water feature on Big Hunting Creek, west of the main falls, is "Dunkards Trough". This is a natural rock formation like a deep trough in the stream. It was used by an early local religious group of German settlers for baptisms.
Our US-15 route through Virginia finds us passing President James Madison’s home Montpelier, at Orange, Virginia. Madison was the fourth president of the United States, and Montpelier was his home off and on for 76 years. Though the oldest part of Montpelier was probably built by James Madison’s father in the 1760s, the home was privately owned as a residence through 1984. We would not have been able to visit during 1962, but it is a historic house museum today. In 1984, the previous owner William duPont bequeathed it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had owned it since 1901. Montpelier had many additions and changes over the years, some made by President Madison after he and his wife Dolley moved in after 1797. Madison moved to Washington, DC when he became President, but moved back here when retired from office in 1817. It has been restored to the way it looked when James and Dolley Madison lived there in the 1820s, including removing 22 rooms added since then!
Highway US-15 skirts the west side of Fort Bragg in North Carolina, as mentioned in my page about traveling US-13. Highway US-13 is on the other side of the Army Base. I discussed Fort Bragg on that page, so let’s continue south. Santee, South Carolina, is located on the south shore of the state’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Marion. Two things stand out to the tourist here: golf and wildlife. Santee has a trifecta of great golf courses, Lake Marion, Santee National and the Santee Cooper Country Club within 5 miles, and four more courses within about 20 minutes of town. I’m not really a golfer, so I’m closing out my trip at the Santee National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was created in 1941 and is located on the north shore of Lake Marion. It is a major wintering area for ducks and geese, as well as a nesting and stopover site for other migratory birds and local waterfowl. You may also see alligators. Stop at the visitor center for educational exhibits before heading out to the nearly 40 miles of trails or going hunting or fishing. If you’re into water sports, there are also over 8 miles of canoeing or kayaking trails. Or if you want an easy way to see wildlife, you can take the marked 7.5 mile auto tour route. I’m hoping to see a male Painted Bunting, one of North America's most colorful songbirds with its bright blue, green, and red plumage. If I do, I’ll tell you about it sometime on Roadtrip-'62 ™!
Local News Highlights from 1962
Roadtrip-'62 ™ has discussed news before: world news, national news, and other big headlines. Today, I’m going to look at some local news. These are the types of stories that might have made a small newspaper or radio station but never moved into the national conscience.
Some businesses start small and stay small, some become giants. Both of these businesses probably made little or no news when they opened in 1962. Warren Jackson started Jackson’s Window Shoppe in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1962. He had been employed by the local downtown department store, Piersol Co., but lost his job when the store was bought out by another company. Over the many years between then and 2007, Jackson’s Window Shoppe remained a small business, serving mostly local residential customers. That year, Warren’s grandson Brian Jackson decided to go after commercial customers and pushed the company to pass the $1 million sales mark for the first time. The company is still in business in Lancaster, now grossing over $3 million a year.
At the other end of the spectrum is a company that also began in 1962, as one man and a trash truck in the Chicago, Illinois metro area. H. Wayne Huizenga was only 25 years old when he borrowed $5,000 from his father and started hauling trash. Over the next five years he consolidated around 100 other small garbage pickup companies into Waste Management, becoming the largest trash hauling company in the country. In another five years he had become a multimillionaire and eventually Waste Management became the largest solid waste disposal company in the world. Mr. Huizenga left the company in 1984 with a value of $3 billion and went on to build two more multi-billion dollar businesses: Blockbuster video rentals and AutoNation automobile sales. In the 1990s, he diversified further, creating a Florida-based sports empire by bringing major league baseball, hockey, and football to Florida with his Florida Marlins, Florida Panthers, and Miami Dolphins.
Just like businesses, some buildings have long-term staying power and some fizzle out. The YMCA opened their Arlington, Florida branch in 1962 but closed the facility in 2017. They cited declining participation and increasing costs, which also forced them to close additional buildings in other nearby towns. On the other hand, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Marine Plaza, a 22-story skyscraper built by Marine Bank, opened in June, 1962. It was designed by the New York architectural firm Harrison & Abramowitz as a wall of glass in the “international” style. It was the second-tallest building in downtown Milwaukee: only City Hall was taller. It remained the largest office building in Milwaukee until 1973, when the U.S Bank Center was constructed. The building was later renamed Chase Tower when JPMorgan Chase bought Marine Bank and is still leased for office space.
Newsreel footage of snow in Dallas, Texas, March, 1962.
Weather news is often local news because it seldom affects a large area. In 1962, Dallas, Texas suffered through a rare snowstorm, as captured on a local TV station’s news broadcast. In this case, the weather did make national news, as the footage was incorporated into this newsreel. Newsreels such as this were still a popular way to add news to your experience at a movie theater, as discussed at Roadtrip-'62’s ™ All the News of 1962 page. Two inches of snow fell in Dallas in March of 1962! It would not snow that much in March in the Dallas area again until 2008.
Of course, no discussion of local news would be complete without an item from my hometown of Saginaw, Michigan. I have sports news today, about football pro Al Hinton. Hinton was born in Georgia, but moved the Saginaw when he was 3 years old. At Saginaw High School, he played football, basketball, and on the track team, breaking the school’s shot put record in 1958. On a scholarship to the University of Iowa, he earned MVP there and was named to the Coaches All-American team in 1961. Though the Dallas Texans of the AFL drafted Hinton in 1962, he signed to play for Toronto in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Probably just as well, because the Dallas Texans folded after the 1962 season. He played in the CFL for six years with Toronto, Winnipeg and Montreal. He had studied art in college and worked as a commercial artist during eight years of living in Canada. Hinton earned a master of fine arts degree from Cincinnati University in 1970 and went on to become a full professor at the University of Michigan. His stint in football was so short that he has no page on Wikipedia and I still had to find all info on him from our local newspaper!
What was happening in your home town in 1962? Stick around and I just might find out and report it here on Roadtrip-'62 ™!
US-14 Through Some Classic Roadtrip Destinations of the West
Today, Roadtrip-'62 ™ takes a look at highway US-14. Highway US-14 travels from Chicago, Illinois to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. It is 1,398 miles long today but was an extra 33 miles long back in 1962. It was cut back a bit at the Chicago end, strangely to end once again at exactly the same point it ended at in 1939. Though for much of its length it runs roughly parallel to the I-90 freeway, it has not been replaced by it. We’ve already covered some of the route in Illinois and Wisconsin as it cross-crossed US-12, US-16, and US-18, so I’ll focus on the western states. The western end is shared with both US-16 and the eastern segment of US-20.
Through Minnesota and into South Dakota, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway uses US-14 for part of its route. The Highway is a convenient way to see locations where the Wilder family, made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series of books, lived. The Highway was not established back in 1962, but Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes was founded in 1957, and has worked since to open locations mentioned in the books to the public. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum is located along The Highway in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, which is where the "Little House on the Prairie" television series was set. In 1947, Garth Williams, who illustrated the books, found the location of the sod dugout house site on the banks of Plum Creek. After Mr. Williams pointed out the significance of the site, the current owners erected a marker and opened the site to visitors. Also in Walnut Grove is the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. It includes a replica of the dugout, a covered wagon display, and more. But De Smet, South Dakota has the most sites, as the family lived there for the longest time. In De Smet you can visit the Ingalls homestead and the Surveyors’ House that were on the shores of the now filled-in Silver Lake, the house where Ma and Pa lived after Laura left, DeSmet Cemetery where most of the family is buried, a replica of the Brewster School where Laura taught, and even the hill where Laura and Almanzo's homestead once stood. The cottonwood trees that Pa planted, one each for Ma, Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace, are now 120 years old and enormous.
Farther west in South Dakota, we come to Pierre, the capital. It is one of only five state capitals not on the Interstate Highway System, served by only US-14 and US-83 instead of a freeway. Pierre was almost not the state capital: there were three public votes on whether to keep it there! First, Pierre won the election to be the temporary capital in 1889. It won again in 1890 to become the permanent capital and again in 1904, which finally put an end to attempts to move the capital. If you head out to Montana, you may notice that their capitol looks almost the same as South Dakota’s. That’s because South Dakota hired the same architects and used their previous design for the Montana State Capitol, with some variations, to save money. Construction began in 1905 and was completed by 1910. It boasts a copper dome, Corinthian columns, and walls of local granite, Marquette Raindrop sandstone, and Bedford limestone. The interior rotunda includes two sculptures by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore. A restoration that took 22 years beginning in 1977 has restored everything in the capitol back to the building’s original colors and shine. Tours are provided by volunteers and take about an hour.
Out beyond the prairie lie the badlands, displayed at their best at Badlands National Park. The park was designated as Badlands National Monument in 1929 and changed to a National Park in 1978. Though US-16 travels through the park, our US-14 meets it just a few miles north, at Wall, South Dakota, so it’s fair game for our roadtrip. The park protects a vast expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs roam. It is also the primary site for re-introduction of the black-footed ferret, North America’s most endangered land mammal. But of course, the big attraction is the extensive badlands. During a period between 26 and 75 million years ago, layers of tiny grains of sand, silt, and clay lay under an inland sea and cemented together into sedimentary rocks. The rocks were rather weak and have eroded quickly and easily over the past 26 million years, since the sea dried up or receded. Rivers cut down through the rock layers, carving buttes, pinnacles, and spires into what had once been a flat floodplain. The Badlands are still eroding at the rapid rate of about one inch per year! Much of the landscape still appears to be clay, mud, and silt after a good rain. Hikes through the badlands range from flat stretches through the prairie landscape to uphill climbs through the rock formations. Because of the difficult ground and hills, the trails in the park include numerous boardwalks and stairways. Several of the trails are less than a mile long, one way, allowing even the casual tourist some great views of this unusual landscape.
A college student describes her experience at the Fossil Preparation Lab and fossil hunting. (Public domain video from National Park Service.)
Besides the strange landscape, the area is well-known for its fossils and has been since Native American tribes inhabited the area. The Lakota found large fossilized bones, fossilized seashells and turtle shells, leading them to surmise that the area had once been under water. Organized paleontological interest in this area began in the 1840s, as Europeans began exploring. By 1854, when Dr. Joseph Leidy published a series of papers about North American fossils, 84 distinct species had been discovered in North America, including 77 found in these badlands. From 1899 to today, the South Dakota School of Mines has sent people nearly annually and remains one of the most active research institutions working here. There is a a Fossil Preparation Lab in the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The center was built in 1957–58, so we would have seen a fairly new building in 1962. You can see paleontologists at work and learn more about the scientific discoveries being made. You might even find something important yourself outside! In May 2010, a seven-year old girl found a fossil near the visitor center and reported her find to rangers. It was an exceptionally rare and well-preserved saber tooth cat fossil, which led to the discovery of additional fossil material nearby.
After a visit to Badlands National Park, we come back to US-14 and Wall for a visit to Wall Drug, a sort of cowboy-themed shopping mall that began life as a small town drug store in 1931. Wall proved too small and too poor for pharmacist Ted Hustead to make a good living, until in 1936 his wife Dorothy thought of advertising free ice water to travelers heading to the newly opened Mount Rushmore National Monument. They began selling whatever the tourists wanted and today’s Wall Drug is the result, including a jewelry store, book store, western apparel and hat store, ice cream parlor, restaurant, gift store, rock shop, toy store, and even an art gallery. Wall Drug has over 300 original oil paintings in its Western Art Gallery Dining Rooms. This is one of the best private collections of original Western and Illustration Art in the country, with works by NC Wyeth, Dean Cornwell, and Louis Glanzman. Oh, and don’t forget the jackalopes everywhere in the store and yard, including the giant fiberglass jackalope the kids can pose for photos on. In case you’ve never seen one, the jackalope is a fantasy creature that is some sort of cross between a jack rabbit and antelope. Like other successful tourist destinations that began in the 1930s, Wall Drug was advertised extensively all around the country with billboards. At the peak of their signing in the 1960s, Wall Drug had over 3,000 signs along highways in every corner of the United States! I remember my first approach to the town in the early 1970s, when I noticed Wall Drug signs at ever-decreasing intervals along I-90, beginning back near the Minnesota state line. By the way, the ice water is still free and there still is a real pharmacy inside. As for the restaurant, I think this is the first place I ate a bison burger.
Devils Tower National Monument was designated in 1906: the first National Monument. It was known to some of the Native Americans living in the area as The Bad God’s Tower, and it was that name which was modified by the US Geological Survey when they surveyed the area in 1875. It is still considered sacred by some indigenous peoples. The tower is composed of igneous rock from some ancient volcanic system, eroded over millennia to expose the columns of basalt seen today. Hundreds of parallel cracks divide Devils Tower into hexagonal columns that make it one of the finest traditional rock climbing areas in North America. Besides the tower, there are many trails surrounding it, where you can see broken columns and rocks that have fallen off over the years, along with wildlife such as a large prairie dog colony. There is also a campground along the Belle Fourche River, if you want to make this a stop on your own roadtrip. The closest major highway is conveniently US-14, which is just seven miles from the entrance.
The first western canyon I ever saw was Shell Canyon, along Shell Creek as it tumbles down from the Bighorn Mountains. The small town of Shell, at the bottom of the canyon, has an elevation of only 4210 feet above sea level, whereas some of the mountains are over 10,000 feet tall, making for quite a downhill experience! Make sure you have good brakes and transmission before you try this route. The canyon is beautiful, with many layers of colored stone that reminds one of the Badlands but on a larger scale. The canyon is within the Bighorn National Forest, which was created as a US Forest Reserve in 1897. Highway US-14 is so scenic that it has been designated the Bighorn Scenic Byway within the forest. There is a visitor center at Shell Falls Interpretive Site, located adjacent to Shell Falls about halfway down Shell Canyon. The falls are 120 feet high and tumble over granite. There are interpretive trails, scenic views, and educational displays about natural features at the falls. At the bottom of the canyon, you come into fairly flat, dry, cattle country, which extends west to Yellowstone National Park.
One of my favorite things to do along US-14 is also in Wyoming: the Cody Nite Rodeo at Cody. I saw this the first time I went out to Yellowstone National Park and it was the first rodeo I had ever seen. It was a great evening of watching professionals of the Rodeo Cowboys Association ride, rope, and interact with horses and cattle. There were also kids’ events, special fun announcements and real rodeo clowns to keep the action moving along. And you can watch the sunset from the stands! I’ve been back two more times over the years and recommend it to everyone.
Route US-14 ends at Yellowstone National Park and there is so much to see there that I will leave it for a separate article. We come in at the Lake Yellowstone entrance, after traveling back up into the mountains from Cody. Watch for elk as we enter the park. From here, Roadtrip-'62 ™ can exit the park of any of several highways: US-16, US-20, US-89, US-191, US-212, or US-287. See you soon on one of these!
Your New 1962 Kitchen
Let’s say we just had a new house constructed in 1962; what would the kitchen look like? My dad was building homes at that time and comparing what I remember with photos from advertisements and internet sources, it appears that his homes were fairly typical. His homes were small suburban ranches, generally with three bedrooms and a dining area attached to the kitchen instead of a separate, formal dining room. So let’s hop in our Roadtrip-'62 ™ Chevy Impala and visit one of these homes, to see the kitchen.
Immediately after World War II, the country experienced a home building boom that went on for a couple of decades. There was a pent-up demand since the 1930s Great Depression, and returning military personnel had money which fueled the buying spree. Homes began at less than 1,000 square feet, but by 1962 had moved upscale to around 1400 square feet. Kitchens had started out with white steel cabinets, moved through a pastel steel cabinet phase, and by 1962 had begun to move to wood cabinets. Steel was cheap after the war because it was no longer in demand for military vehicles, ships, airplanes, munitions, etc., so it found new markets in things like kitchen cabinets. During the 1950s there were almost 90 manufacturers of steel cabinets! But while steel might last forever, it was subject to denting, rusting, and it showed fingerprints. Additionally, as homes became a bit larger, family rooms began to be built adjacent to kitchen areas and people wanted the kitchens to look more like they had furniture in them. I once owned a home with GE steel kitchen cabinets. It was built in 1958 and the cabinet doors were faced with plywood, giving evidence of the trend to wood. By 1962, you could still find new pastel steel cabinets, but other bolder colors were offered in an effort to be unique. Wood had its own range of colors, and 1962 kitchens are seen in all shades from light blonde to dark walnut. Wood cabinets eventually won the battle and that’s mostly what we see today: only 2-3 steel cabinet manufacturers remain. I’m fairly certain that my dad used wooden cabinets.
Typical kitchens of the time appear to have used Formica countertops and vinyl or linoleum flooring. Formica is a laminated composite material consisting of many layers of kraft paper, phenolic resin to bind them together, a decorative paper on top, and melamine thermosetting resin to cover and protect it all from damage. The material was invented in 1912 at the Westinghouse Electric Corporation in a search for a less expensive electrical insulating material to replace mica. In 1927, Formica Insulation Company obtained a patent on an opaque barrier sheet for the top layer that allowed the use of printing to make a wood-grained or marble-look product, and Formica became a decorative interior product. In 1938 melamine thermosetting resin was developed by American Cyanamid Company, which was substituted for the top layer of the laminate. It resisted heat, abrasion and moisture better than the phenolic or urea resins then used. Soon after, the Formica Corporation was buying the entire output of melamine from American Cyanamid! During the post-war housing boom, the company created many designs that are still iconic of the 1950s, such as Brooks Stevens’ “Skylark” pattern, Raymond Loewy Associates’ “Sunrise” line, Prince Sigaard Bernadotte’s “VirrVarr” pattern, and the “Boomerang” pattern. Other companies make a similar product, including Wilsonart, Pionite, and Arborite. Wilsonart was founded by Ralph Wilson Sr. in 1956 and at the time, there were 16 competitors in the decorative laminate industry. Formica held a 65% market share, but that left plenty of room for competitors. Arborite is a more recent entry that is unique in using 22% post-consumer waste as recycled content, primarily in the paper layers. It does not contain any formaldehyde and is certified by Greenguard and NSF.
Kitchen floors of the time were mostly vinyl sheet or tiles. I remember laying the tiles because the glue smelled terrible! Hardwood floors were often used in the remainder of the house, but they became easily water stained in a kitchen, and were avoided. In higher end houses, brick, tile, and stone were used more, especially on walls as accents. Those homes would also have used stone for countertops, as has become very common in recent years. Note the photo above which has tile on nearly every surface! As with the typical kitchen in the other photo, cabinets are strictly wood, with a hint of colonial styling that was becoming popular. Gone are the pastel colored steel cabinets of just a few years ago, though the appliance companies were still offering pastel ovens, refrigerators, and dishwashers. And the wall oven and sculpted chairs complete the 1962 styling.
Lighting also helped set the mood of a kitchen in 1962, and there was a lot to choose from. Chandeliers ranged from atomic or starburst styles of the 1950s that had not yet gone away, to Early American Colonial, to cone-shaped down lights, to novelty themes like wagon wheels and anchors. Fluorescent lights were available in both concentric circles or hidden in soffits. You could also find bubble lights, spotlights (either recessed or hanging), and ceiling mounted glass fixtures. My dad usually went with simple circular ceiling mounted glass fixtures. These cut construction costs and gave home buyers the option of installing any special lighting of their own taste after they bought the house.
As always, there were innovations that showed up in kitchens. Lawndale-Cole came out with a Dial-Flow Kitchen Faucet in 1962; one of the first single handle kitchen faucets. This faucet included another innovation, the front part of the spout pulled out to become a sprayer. This is now a very popular design on kitchen faucets. Henry Uihlein, Sr. founded the U-Line Corporation in 1962 and the company developed and patented the first undercounter residential ice maker. The company is still in business, having added other home refrigeration products including small freezers, drawer model refrigerators, and wine cooling systems. All products are still built in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Microwave ovens were brand new in homes for 1962. Raytheon Corporation had sold the first, their Radarange, in 1947. It was the first commercially available microwave oven. But it was both to large and too costly for home use, being 5 feet tall, weighing about 750 pounds, and using about three times as much electricity as today's microwave ovens. Oh, and it needed plumbing, because it was water-cooled! In 1961, Sharp developed Japan's first microwave oven and the following year began selling them to consumers. A US-built microwave for home use wasn’t sold until 1967, when Amana released one.
And finally, a peak at toy kitchens of 1962. As you can see below, the pink kitchen is a bit behind the trend of grown-up kitchens: there’s no wood here. The set is noted as easy to assemble corrugated fiberboard (cardboard). Kitchen sets have remained popular toys right up to the present. By the 1970s, when we got my daughter a toy kitchen, it was steel construction. In the late 1980s, plastic became common and if you see a toy kitchen today, it’s likely plastic. They also generally look more cartoony and much less realistic than that 1962 toy. Of course, if you didn’t have room in the house for a toy kitchen, you could get your child Miss Cookie's Kitchen, a Colorforms set made in 1962. These stick-on plastic pieces allowed the kids to pretend to cook and serve and came complete with accessories such as mixing bowls, spoons, and butter, milk, and eggs. Let’s grab some cookies from the kitchen and get Roadtrip-'62 ™ back out on the road for next time!
All photos by the author and Copyright © 2018 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.
All other content Copyright © 2018 - Milne Enterprises, Inc.