Saturday, May 16, 2015

Our Future Is Now - Musings on Storage Space in a Trailer in 1948


(In working on my dad's life story, Joni told me to contact
my oldest brother to get my parents' love letters, and stories my mother
had written.  He had been injured on the landings at Normandy and was sent
stateside to an army hospital for surgery on his hand and arm.
She attended a dance/party for the servicemen and they met there.  
They married in July of 1945 and he wasn't released from the service until January
of 1946.  They moved from Utah back to Wisconsin where he was from.
Housing and jobs were in short 
supply after WWII, so they moved into a trailer that was placed
on his parent's farm in Wisconsin.  He couldn't find a job locally, so he worked out of town
 from Sunday evening to lateSaturday night for the first five years of their new marriage.  
They kept letters from when they were dating and those first five yeas of marriage.
She was an aspiring author when they were first married.  
 She used her time at night to write the short
stories and magazine articles,
and successfully published three or more short stories.  There is quite
a collection of stories that she wrote, that had been returned from publishers.
None of us had ever read any of this material before. 
 What a treasure to find!
 This is one of her short articles.)

(A picture of them on their couch in their "house trailer".)

When we purchased a house trailer, which was to be used as a stationary dwelling, we thought of it as makeshift at best, something of a substitute nature, and at first we lived in it temporarily.  We planned to stay in it until an apartment became available in our price range, or until building materials became more plentiful and less expensive.  But the apartments which were occupied, and priced within our means, remained occupied, and after awhile, the prices went beyond our means.  Building materials became plentiful, but the price tag placed upon them was exorbitant, and so what we had planned on living in for a few months “until fall”, became our home for an indefinite time.

We lived within the confinement of a home 24 feet long and 8 feet wide for quite some time before we became aware of the fact that we couldn’t continue to live there on a substitutional basis.  We must begin to accept it as the now, the present, and govern our actions accordingly.  It is a human fallacy to consider what today provides as only the circumstances of the present and to continually project oneself into the future as the time when living will actually take place, when this luxury or that foible will be an integral part of daily living. 

There are advantages and disadvantages in living in a trailer house.  The space is small, and therefore, it is not necessary to keep a very large area clean, but it is extremely important to maintain order, for without order, chaos soon develops.  In a trailer a housewife can not possibly walk the multitudinous miles often accredited to her in an ordinary day’s work in a kitchen.  Everything in the small kitchen is within arm’s reach.  One movement is all that is necessary to get from one side of the working space to the other.  The storage space, though not as plentiful as might be desired, is within convenient reach.  It is well to remember though, that one person working in the kitchen area is sufficient, in order to avoid much confusion and collision.  Probably the most important thing to learn about preparing food in so small a space is to use a minimum of dishes.  Otherwise, you become surrounded with the pots and pans you have just used and there is no place on which to put the ones you are about to press into service.

We were, at first, much inclined to put off having and enjoying many of the little luxuries available for the use of the American housewife.  When electric mixers became plentiful after the critical war years, I wanted one very much.  Where would we put it?  There was no tuck-away shelf on which to hide it, no convenient cabinet where it could be placed, nothing but the working counters and those were already well-occupied by the canister set on one side and on the side where the sink was placed, the cleaning materials, soap, floor wax, cleanser, etc., for which there was no other room, were stored.  Months went by during which we decided that we must wait, that a mixer actually did not belong in a trailer, that it would take up more room and be more of an inconvenience than an aid to efficient housekeeping.  But our self-arguments were to no avail and one day we purchased that handy appliance.

Now I could mix my cakes, using a minimum of effort and one bowl, to a feathery lightness.  Whipped potatoes could be served from the same bowl in which they were prepared.  Here was an appliance which worked wonders with egg whites, whipping cream, cooked frostings, and took so much of the tiring arm work out of so many jobs.  Also, there was an attachment which came with it, the juicer, which enabled me to extract juice from oranges speedily and with practically no effort.  Later, when they became available, a food grinder attachment was added to this equipment.  This is in use many times during the week, for grinding sandwich meat, for making a palatable and readily prepared hash from the left-over roast, potatoes and vegetables, and for grinding nuts, fruits, and many other foods to just the right texture, determined by the type of cutting blade used.  A cheap cut of meat can be ground easily and quickly to make patties which are delicious and oh-so-tender.

Where did we put this equipment?  By moving the canister set closer together it fitted nicely into the niche in the corner, and covered with an attractive plastic cover, became a part of the decoration scheme of the miniature kitchen.  The juicer attachment has a spot of its own in the shelf directly above the mixer and the grinder parts are also placed there, in a plastic bag, through which a drawstring has been run, thus avoiding misplacing the small pieces of the equipment.

I am a working wife and after inspecting the many and varied pressure pans on the market, I became quite convinced that meals could be prepared rapidly, with a minimum loss of food value, in such a pan.  Of course, since our living was temporary we could do without it and what if it did take longer to cook the potatoes when we were in a hurry?  But the months stretched out and the indefinite stay became quite definite and the pressure pan was ultimately purchased.  Only it was not a small pressure pan, but a small pressure cooker, a seven quart capacity.  We reasoned that such a size would do large cuts of meat nicely, a whole chicken, and what was more important, the cooker could be used to do a small amount of canning.  Now I cook large pots of chili, old-fashioned vegetable soup, or tenderize an old chicken, which later is browned to a delicious crispness, very handily in this utensil.  In the summer I do some canning, just a few jars of our favorite fruits and vegetables, not too important a part of our diet perhaps, but the main thing is that it is available if I so take the notion.

Where is this large cooker stored in our place of limited storage area?  There are two racks in the oven and these are arranged so that there is room for the cooker, its lid, two frying pans and covers to fit handily into it.  Of course, when the oven is to be used they have to be taken out and placed on the top of the range, or if that is in use, on a stool, and when the oven is turned off, they are returned to their storage space.

An electric toaster, once thought to be too cumbersome for our little home, now has its own space reserved beside the electric mixer.  It is covered with a matching plastic cover to blend with that of the mixer. 

The heat of cooking in itself is a problem in such a confined area, but we partially solved that by installing a ventilating fan in the window over the range.  This, too, was purchased after a long period of temporizing.  Still, it is necessary to open all windows and the door in order to allow the odors and heat of cooking to escape before eating, especially if we have guests.

Guests are as momentous a problem as any connected with this type of living.  Though our trailer is not one of the luxurious houses on wheels that one sees in the trailer sales lots today, it does have some ingenious features, one of which is the table.  It is a collapsible affair which folds up against the wall, the benches included.  When in place to be used there is room to seat four persons quite comfortably, but when the service for four is arrayed on the table, there is little room left for serving dishes.  Part of these are placed on a stool, and this suffices, though the arrangement is an awkward one.

Recently we purchased a folding chair to use at the long end of the table, and thus seat five people.  This also comes in handy when the table is in place against the wall and we have more guests than our davenport can accommodate.  When the chair is folded, it fits behind the davenport, against the wall and out of sight.

There are definite shortcomings in this way of life, most prominent among them would be the lack of storage space.  But we have found that if each article is kept in its own special nook, the difficulty is reduced to a minimum.  A good rule we have found is PICK IT UP – KEEP IT CLEAN.  This is more than a rule, it is a code to follow which becomes a prime necessity.  A scrap of paper on the floor, an unwashed coffee cup, a jacket draped over the davenport, stands out like a sore thumb.

We are learning important things in this way of living.  We are learning to conserve time, to make space count, and above all, to be neat and tidy.  When we at long last have our home, and be it small or roomy, it will seem infinitely capacious to us, we can apply this knowledge to good advantage.  We will try to remember to live each day to the utmost, in the present, the now, enjoying the goodness of the things which make life more bountiful; never dwelling upon that far off Utopia, the tomorrow when all things will be composed of perfection.  We will keep in mind that our sterling silver was as much at home when it graced the fold-down table in our trailer house as it will be in any other place we live.

Written by Nedra Littlefield Culp

Chocolat - French for Chocolate. I adored chocolate from a young age when I had to sneak in the cupboard to find where my mother had hidden the Nestle's Chocolate Chips. Having read about the famous chocolat shoppes in Paris, when I finally got there I was determined to try a chocolate from every Paris shoppe. I invite you to share my adventures in creating, in travel, and in life.


  1. What a great story! Thanks for doing all this hard work and helping me to learn more about my grandparents!

  2. I love this little snippet of post-World War II life! I cannot imagine living in a trailer like they did for so long. Imagine the Wisconsin winters. I am glad that her stories have seen the light of day. Her belief that we should always live in the present, rather than think that your situation is just temporary, was very wise. Thanks for sharing this story, and the work on all the stories. "Pick it up and clean" it up is a good motto. I feel like we lived in a pretty uncluttered home, maybe because of this motto. Joni

  3. Wow, did this ever strike a chord with me! Two years into dental school Matthew and I realized we were constantly living for the future. As our student budget limited us from doing many things, we'd often think "In two more years then we will be able to do this or that". We found it to be really depressing to live that way and decided to start finding ways to live more in the present and enjoy the journey. I pictured myself as a grey-haired granny holding my sweetheart's hand and reminiscing about our life, and I realized that these are the moments when we are young and working to build our dreams, when we don't know how all our dream will pan out, that we will reminisce about. So we made a conscious decision to make "the future now, and not dwell on the tomorrow when all things will be composed of perfection" as your Mom says. It made all the difference in our happiness and the way we approach our life, because those two years, turned into 4 more years when Matthew decided to specialize. ;)

    I recently finished the book "The Joy of living with less" which also struck a chord with me as I read about your parents small home. When we moved into our apartment we got rid of so much junk and it felt SO GOOD! I spent all day today gathering things around my house to do another purge, as I only want things in my home that I use on a regular basis or truly love (as far as decor goes). I have wanted a spiralizer for years now, but I do not have room for another kitchen gadget and all the gadgets I do have are essential and I can't get rid of one to get another--so I totally laughed and identified with your mom in that regard. ;)

    I have really enjoyed reading your mom's writings. By seeing her interests and talents I can see where you and Jeanie get it from! I enjoy reading the autobiographical ones best as I feel like I get to know her, you, and Jeanie even better. Thank you for all the hard work you've put into doing this!

  4. Loved your comment Heather. So true. We sold a big house and moved with three kids into a two room condo while rebuilding and I found I was just as happy. Thanks for your great insights! Love you!!

  5. What a treasure to find! I loved reading this account of early married life and getting a glimpse of that period of our history. And what a wonderful writer she was!

  6. What an enjoyable read. It must be so rewarding to have this insight into the early years of their lives together. Having owned a motorhome and learning the difficulties of confined space my mind could follow along easily with her thoughts about the tiny kitchen and the need to always keep everything clean and neat. It sounds like she was a very resourceful woman!

  7. So inspiring.
    And I can see you in your mother's words and advice. The thrill you always seem to have with the little things...
    Thank you for sharing,

  8. I loved reading this. What a great blessing and treasure this is! You amaze me. Thanks for sharing and keep sharing! Love you!

  9. What fun to read! I wish I had known your Mom!

  10. I so enjoyed reading this! My hubby also read it :-) Thanks for sharing with us.

  11. Wow! That was a fun adventure to read her story. It is funny how we just move through life and forget how it once was. I remember when Auj and I got married, we lived in a nice two bedroom apartment. We felt so blessed, but as the years have gone by, we have "felt" that we needed more space for our growing family. The reality is, we probably could still fit in that two bedroom and make it work. We all are so blessed with so many conveniences and items that we take for granted. I have never been lacking for space for my appliances.

    I also appreciated the last paragraph that reiterates the need to live in the present and not live as if the future had already come to pass.

    Thanks for sharing!

  12. Wow, Jacqueline, what at story! We can all learn a lesson from this, which is certainly counting our blessings and learning to live with less. What a treasure!

  13. Jacqueline, what a treasure to find these writings. Thank you for sharing. Just last night I was talking to a friend about our parents and the hardships they endured in those times. Makes me count my blessings!

  14. That is so exciting that you opened her stories and are getting them into digital format!!! I bet you are having a blast! We have our parents love letters as well, so much fun to read them. We lived in a 14 x 70 1972 immobile mobile home! For our first 12 years of marriage. This makes me realize that I need to write all those memories down as well along with the pictures we have of that time. I know our children who lived there would appreciate those memories. Now we live in a larger home that is too big, now that all our children are adults. 2 still are coming home during the summer to work for college money, but the house seems so quiet and HUGE when it is just hubby and I!
    What a wonderful record you have found!
    Thanks for sharing it with us!

    1. And, I didn't know if we would ever be able to build a house. So, like your Mom, I decided early on to make the most of the home we had and the best of our fun experiences there. Just recently someone reminded me that a long time ago I had said to her, "If I can't be happy in my trailer, I won't be happy in a new home." We added shelves and shelves and shelves with drawers and more shelves... But we have some fun fun fun memories of that old little home. Home is where you love, and that is all you need to focus on!

  15. What an absolutely charming, well-written treasure from your Mom! Such a lovely piece of the past, with so much meaning and wisdom for the NOW snd the future.

    The choice to live in the Now, rather than wait til everything is perfect and as we planned, is seldom so sweet in the THEN as it could have been had we heeded her words and taken in what IS with the fervor with which we wish for that nebulous TO COME.

    say rachel, who is trying SO hard to be secure and content amidst all the boxes and lugs and pans of our worldly goods, as we await the completion of our emptied-out kitchen. Counters and paint and new fridge and range hood are wonderful---just what I planned, but the awaiting of the finish seems to stretch out like taffy. I hope I can consider it that sweet.

    And I can only hope that someday someone will remember me---the NOW of me, the midnight ramblings, the reminiscences, the memories, in all those pages and reams of writings I've stuffed into boxes and closets and drawers all over the house. What a lovely legacy that would be, as is your own trove left you from your Mom.


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