Vintage landscape: California living

Back yard, Turlock, CA, 1943, by Russell Lee, Library of Congress

I just like this life-in-the-garden photo by Russell Lee, * of a (May) 1942 Turlock, California, backyard.  (Unfortunately, it’s not very sharply focused.)  The caption, possibly by the photographer, reads:

Housewife waters the lawn. All garden furniture and barbecue pit were made by her husband; about one out of every three houses in this town has such an arrangement in the backyard, and during the summer months people eat and spend many hours in their yards.

I particularly like the rolling sofa thing with the awning.  Turlock is located in central California between Modesto and Merced.

Lee was working for the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information at the time.  He seems to have been sent to Turlock to photograph townfolks being resilient in the face of changes brought on by the war.  He took a number of photographs of this family, described in the Library of Congress online catalogue as from the “upper middle income group.”

Grillling steaks, Turlock, CA, 1943, by Russell Lee, Library of CongressAbove: “Man of the house barbecues steaks over open grill in his backyard. This family keeps vegetables, fruits and meats in frozen food lockers in town.”

Setting the table, Turlock, CA, 1943, by Russell Lee, Library of CongressAbove: “Husband and wife get ready for dinner in their backyard. Menu: barbecued steaks, fresh peas, potato salad, potato chips, celery and olives, strawberry shortcake, and coffee.”

The package around the loaf of bread says, “Better Bread.”  Over the hedge, the neighbors seem to be putting in a greenhouse.

Tending the garden, Turlock, CA, 1943, by Russell Lee, Library of CongressAbove: “Housewife works in her vegetable garden. She lives in small town where there is ample space for gardens; says she would move to country if she couldn’t have a garden in town.”

It’s quite impressive — and particularly that she works it in a dress.  Here’s another view, below:

Son's garden, Turlock, CA, 1943, by Russell Lee, Library of CongressAbove: “Housewife helps her son with his garden.”

Arranging flowers, Turlock, CA, 1942, by Russell Lee, Library of CongressAbove: “Housewife arranging flowers in her kitchen.”

I like her dotted swiss curtains.

I’m going to take a break from blogging for a few weeks (except for “The Sunday porch”), but I’ll be back for GB Bloom Day in October.

* All photos here via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

4 thoughts on “Vintage landscape: California living

    1. It’s very 1930s/1940s Popular Mechanics. Our old garden in Chevy Chase had the remains of this period: massive stone and mortar grill and concrete round pond with large, shiny white stones spaced along the edge.

      But I think this photo really shows the beginning of the modern backyard.

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