Dining out as a member of the Silent Generation

From a member of the Silent Generation, for the new weekly challenge of Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist.)

Prompt 1: The First Time I Remember a Restaurant Dinner.

When a child back in the days of the Great Depression, during which we were actually better off than many families because my parents lived with my grandparents, who were solvent if not wealthy.   Partly due to the living-in of my Great Grandmother, who owned the house in which they all lived.  It was a big enough house to comfortably hold the whole family.    Once my brother came along, in 1936, and my parents and I moved into rental housing of our own, we continued to spend a lot of time with the grandparents.

Few people during those years before World War II went out to  restaurants for casual dinners, although there were various events like weddings or church groups, or lodge affairs, at which dinners were served.

I don’t remember going out for dinner at a restaurant until I was at least eight or nine years old, which would have been near the end of the 1940s.    Then I recall a restaurant called Kaase’s… which was also a string of bakeries in the Cleveland area.    The restaurant was known for its fine food, but as far as my memory goes the Star Attraction was the large tray of dinner rolls that was brought to the table from which we had choices of poppy-seed rolls, plain rolls  in a variety of buns and twists, nut bread or bran muffins, and other bread dough delights.    Being an incorrigible life-long bread enthusiast, that is my main memory of Kaase’s menu.

There was another restaurant nearby, which featured fish in various recipes…fried, broiled, deep-fried, seafood of various types.  Of course the fish was served with french-fried potatoes (chips,) and other vegetables which were required fare.

All excursions to restaurants were in the late afternoon, early evening.   Always it was my grandparents who took us out to eat in a restaurant, and they always included only one of us four children in the party at a time.   Speaking for myself only, I always tried my best to show off my good manners…which included sitting up straight, ankles crossed nicely, no elbows on the table.

Ordering from the menu was encouraged, politeness at a premium, but no exotic choices, which meant reasonable care in ordering only what we knew we liked and would eat.   Cost was a factor, of course.  And as for that Kaase’s bread tray…the fact that the tray was laden with exquisite fancy rolls and luscious breads did not signal approval of helping myself to one of everything that appealed to me.  It was necessary to choose…and that was very difficult for the little bread queen here.  🙂

In my young teens it was very rare to go out to eat with our parents.   We did go out with friends or on dates to one of the few-and-far-between fast-food places…burgers and milkshakes if we had the money or else just an order of fries and a Coke to avoid being kicked out of the place for just hanging out.   Real restaurant meals were an infrequent thing to me until after high school, and working in Cleveland.  Even then financial restrictions limited activities that involved higher-class restaurants.

Weekend Coffee Share 2nd January 2016 | Reflections and NAsightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

23 thoughts on “Dining out as a member of the Silent Generation

    1. cafeterias were always a favorite with me…something about getting to pick out what I wanted. I still like buffets, Chinese, and such as Golden Corral. Thank you for your nice comment.

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  1. My mother used to tell my not to put my elbows on the tables, but in dramas and things, it seems everybody does it now. (I can’t vouch for people in very exclusive restaurants, though.) 🙂

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      1. I know…had dinner at a Chinese buffet with 8 and 10 year olds who ate nicely, cleaned their plates, were polite… on the other hand we had a 2 1/2 year old. There’s just no reasoning with him. He did elect to be civilized this time though. 🙂

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      2. we did, actually it was very good food and an extra-variety of foods. also, I enjoy children that age very much…they are still intrigued by “wow factor” and they dont yet know it all. 🙂

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  2. I can’t remember ever going out to eat except on Sunday after church or when in another town. Oh, with the exception of going to Fern’s for a hamburger or hot beef sandwich. It was only two blocks from our house and an easy place to go when our mom went to Pierre or someplace on a school day. We could walk there from school, which was even closer. It was an L shaped lunch counter with perhaps 20 stools. And oh, those hot beef sandwiches. $1 would fill you up!!!

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  3. We, too, hardly ever went out to eat. Two or three times a year my brother and I shopped in Memphis with our mother, and that necessitated eating lunch downtown. I always ordered a chicken salad sandwich, a favorite to this day.

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  4. Hi Grandmama, Thank you for participating in the challenge. You were lucky to have your Grand parents during the Great Depression. I don’t know what my Grandparents experiences were as I feel that where possible they kept reality from their children but I think it affected them for the rest of their lives. My grandma (G.I.Generation) supplied her own vegetables for most of her life and had real difficulty spending any money except on necessities despite at the end being comfortably off.
    Loved hearing of your dining experiences and that you were taken as children singly to dine with your Grandparents. I symphathise with the bread – I’m a breadaholic also.
    I’m glad the challenge has introduced me to you and I look forward to coming back and reading more of your memories.
    Cheers Irene

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    1. Thank you! I know, those depression-era people were very frugal. My late husband was born in 1917, and although he was in a comfortable position as an adult he pinched pennies too. He would go out to a fancy restaurant on occasion, but that was a special occasion. We did go out every Saturday. He was a bachelor for 55 years, so when he married me he wanted to do some of the things that he had never done…like go out to plays and the like, and travel. He would have turned 99 today…in fact.

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      1. It is hard to conceive the hardships that they must have suffered to have that lifelong effect. At least your husband sounds as though when he married you, you had a wonderful time. 99 would have been a good age. Lovely to have these memories, especially on the day he was born.

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      2. I think it was growing up during the depression years…about 1930=1941 that made people in general more frugality-conscious. Then during the war effort there was the sacrifice and the recycling projects in cities. The less people have the less inclined they were to waste food and resources. 🙂

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