Let’s Read Western Family, May 1957!

Finding historical background on Western Family was harder than I thought it would be. For a magazine that boasts a circulation of over a million on the cover, there’s not much information out there on it.  It’s certainly a very conservative homemaker’s magazine that was distributed in the market west of the Rockies. Going by the volume number, the magazine started in 1939 and I estimate that it ran through the mid-late 60s, going by the availability of back issues on eBay (not a great source of info there, but it’s all I’ve got). While it may be possible that the magazine is connected to the Western Family store brand of grocery products, nothing in the magazine itself supports that. So, enjoy this week’s forgotten gem of American housewifery that your grandmother or great-grandmother probably read cover-to-cover every month for new recipes involving evaporated milk.

This month’s featured cover artist is Pierre Sicard, whom the editor is quick to point out is French but LOVES America. I don’t find it a particularly interesting cover, and Sicard definitely painted more interesting things, but going from a Google search of covers from around this time, Western Family seemed to be breaking out of a rut of covers featuring pretty ladies wearing fancy hats, so more power to ’em.


These coordinate beautifully with a linen closet full of powder-pink toilet paper.

I like how Mrs. Nelson’s pride in Cornish pasties was so wounded that she included her own prized recipe, so that readers could truly make them properly. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mrs. Bateman.

“Of Western Significance”, aka “What America Is Doing Better Than Those Starving Commies”.

I had a library patron come by the reference desk a few weeks ago and tell me just how happy she was that we had “real” Scotch tape for the patrons to use, so evidently this campaign is still effective over sixty years later.

If you haven’t noticed yet, the hot trend in late 50’s advertising design was disembodied women’s hands framing a product. I’m sure there’s some anti-feminist significance there about dehumanizing the housewife into a tool, but maybe the top graphic artist of the time was just really good at hands?


I love that Honey Grahams proudly advertises that it has sugar, and Gravy Master proudly advertises that it has MSG. I’m surprised that the liquid smoke product doesn’t proudly advertise that it has carcinogens.

Kind of insane how this stuff hasn’t changed one tiny bit, isn’t it. I think the only varieties they still make are chicken and onion. Can’t imagine why they would discontinue the pea…

I sense a kind of Carol interaction happening here.

Snark aside, Reminder Of How Good We Have It In 2018: women no longer need to wear a complicated jockstrap-like device to hold up a maxi pad.

I like the pretty pink bottles that my mommy’s pills come in!

Another friendly visit from Mrs. Gerber and her parenting advice that anyone can follow, such as “your baby has a mouth!”

The disembodied floating heads of millions of white women aged about 25 reassure you that they like tampons and so should you!

Also check out that review of Raintree County, a movie that nearly killed Montgomery Clift with car, nearly killed Elizabeth Taylor with a corset, and was a notorious critical bomb. Somehow it was still nominated for a bunch of Academy Awards, and Elizabeth Taylor lost to Joanne Woodward. Nerts.

I’m giving this one to Fleischman’s, it actually doesn’t sound too terrible. But something tells me that chicken crepe casserole is about as authentically French as rumaki is authentically Polynesian.

Foil freshness seals were a new breakthrough in preservation after all the tin and aluminum foil had been rationed in the war.

Ok, let’s review:

  • Frozen mini tacos were a thing in the 50s?? They seem so mid-2000s Trader Joe’s.
  • The amount of effort that has gone into reinventing the English muffin pizza for all these years really astounds me. Also “process cheese”, which I’m sure is what we nowadays call processed cheese but sounds like cheese associated with severe trauma.
  • Prunes with Velveeta? Perhaps apricots with bacon and peanut butter? How high were these people?
  • Nothing says “ranch burgers” like underseasoned meat sauce over a biscuit.
  • Keep your sour cream and horseradish the hell away from my guacamole.
  • I dare someone to make the Three Cheese Dunk and eat it. I dare you. Just the name “Dunk” sounds like some kind of desperate food that prisoners of war cobbled together out of ramen packets and canned cheese.
  • Butterscotch pudding, step 1: make butterscotch pudding. Step two: eat ice cream instead. Effort!
  • “Susan dear, are you home from school? I made orange and coconut snack! You just take the orange and roll it in the coconut flakes, see? Isn’t that fun? Isn’t that clever? ORANGE AND COCONUT SNACK!”

I am weak to cute doggy illustrations.

I don’t know if this was a regular feature or not, but this is a very charming article once you realize that it’s written in the voice of a cocker spaniel named Sandia and not a housewife that has gone stark raving mad.

Why did most of America stop celebrating May Day, anyway? Did the conservatives finally catch on that it’s pagan as all get out? Did the candy companies fail to launch a mascot that pressured everyone to buy armloads of special May Day chocolate? Did everyone just decide that they were all just Easter’d out and it wasn’t worth the effort of winding ribbons around a tree? Was the expression “May Day!” triggering PTSD in veterans? Who knows. None of the food here sounds terribly egregious, although I do wonder about how much they loved adding evaporated milk to everything.

The Hale Telescope is still in use today! Suck it, Soviets!

Once upon a time there was a housewife who couldn’t get out of bed because she never felt like she could live up to the expectations of society. Then her fairy godmother appeared and gave her a new product that promised to make her happy! Faultless ironing starch – because it’s certainly not the tablecloth’s fault that you’re dead inside.

Nothing says Real Mexican Meal like German brand-name chili and tamales from a can!

As for those life-hack recipes on the right hand side, I was with you until we got to orange-raisin-mayonnaise paste sandwiches.




Have you ever noticed how strongly dogs and dog food products are marketed to women’s magazines of this era? I believe dog food started to be advertised to men in the late 70s, probably as the divorce rate exploded, but it’s clear that the responsibility of a dog was to be handled by the lady of the house, just like everything else.

I can’t resist a happy anthropomorphic pepper shaker telling me to eat pepper. And maybe it’s just me, but I get a kick out of instructions for frozen food that are just “prepare frozen food”.

Billy, come in for dinner! We’re having FISH TREAT!

Aw, MAA!

Pouring what looks like granulated concrete into tomato paste is really not selling it to me, guys.

Indoctrinating your daughter for hostess life early (which will come in handy when she runs away from home to join the Symbionese Liberation Army in a decade).

Can’t sleep, Clorox Clown will eat me. Love that list of synthetic fabrics.

Hooo boy. Hopefully I’ll have time to re-upload a better picture of the second half of this article before this posts – otherwise I’ll edit it in. This is some classic misogynist bullshit that must be seen to be believed.

Um, if I’m reading this right, my 1957 horoscope just told me that my husband will cheat on me during a business trip, possibly in a tryst with his boss, and I either need to move his stuff out to the garage or carry my acknowledgement of the affair to my grave. What does yours say?

KABC-7 is a Los Angeles station, so now we know where this magazine came from. What kind of nightmare fuel is CHUCKO THE CLOWN?

I’m so sorry.

Yes, because all the problems in your marriage can easily be summed up in the natural ph balance of your vag.

Retching-amounts of mayonnaise aside (mix mayo with boiled squash-water?!), it’s interesting to think mayo in the 50s was probably a good few shades deeper yellow than the creamy off-white we associate mayonnaise with today.

Aaand there was a little more to this but unfortunately I’m having some family emergencies to deal with today so there isn’t much time to workshop this (everything will be fine). I’ll upload a nicer less-blurry version of the marriage manners guidelines next week.

Next week will be…a magazine! Choose for me:

  • Spin, 1991
  • Wired, 1993
  • Mad, 1976
  • Seventeen, 1962
  • YM, 1997
  • Cavalier, 1965


I’m Chucko…I’m Chucko…