by Roger M. Goetz
SUMMER AND FALL 1950
Tuesday, August 8, Mom went shopping in Des Moines and bought four things. Two were for her bedroom: a boudoir chair for $27.64 and a night stand for $30.09. She also bought a server for the dining room for $65.79. At that price it must have been silver! This was just one of the things she bought in order to be able to entertain properly as the wife of the Head of the Chemistry Department [on November 16 she paid $195.75 for sterling silver table service and on December 14 she made a payment of $150 on silver].
The fourth item she bought on August 8 was a Persian lamb coat upon which she made a payment that day of $35.00. That fur coat I remember well and was it expensive! It cost $450, which is a bit more than $4,000 in the year 2010.
After shopping, Mom made the observation, "Things are getting scarce already on account of the Korean War – prices are going up."
My parents had a fun way of saving money to buy things not part of their normal living expenses. Back in those days, fifty-cent pieces were in circulation much more than they are now. Every time Dad got a half dollar, he gave it to Mom. She saved them up to be deposited in the bank periodically. The money so saved would be used by Mom for various projects around the house.
Another major project to get read for formal entertaining in our home began on Saturday, August 12. We drove that day to Webster City where my folks bought wall-to-wall carpeting for living room, dining room, front hall, stairs, and upstairs hall at the cost of $1434. Except for the dining room, they had the old rugs cleaned and made over to carpet the bedrooms. This cost about $50.00.
After the old rugs were removed from the first floor, the new carpeting wasn’t installed right away. Another major project had to be done first. Mom wrote it up in her diary a couple weeks later:
Aug. 25 we started on the interior decorating job. Took off wall paper in living, dining rooms, halls, and stairs. What a mess.
This is the understatement of the year! I still remember this vividly because I helped do this. We had to "paint" some chemical liquid on the walls to loosen the wallpaper paste and then scrape, scrape, scrape the wallpaper off.
This was not an easy task, for it took us the better part of three days to get the walls ready for painting. And that liquid got on my hands and stung like stink! The burning sensation from that chemical kept right on even after washing my hands.
Mom’s account continued:
Started painting the 28th. Next nite we finished first coat at 2:25 a.m. 29th started the 2nd coat and finished the morning of 31 – 9 a.m. Got up at 5:00. Chas. was all in and so was I.
He left for Chicago that p.m. for [American Chemical Society] meeting and some graduate study meeting. While he was gone, I scrubbed and waxed floors, took blobs of blue paint off the white woodwork, washed all the white woodwork.
It’s good that they got all that work done by the end of August, for Mom hosted the Colonial Dames at our house on Wednesday, September 6. And two days after that, Dad came home from his meetings with a soar throat and was home sick for five days before returning to work.
The new carpeting was finally installed on Saturday, October 7, and Monday, October 9. From that time on, our family was no longer allowed to use the front door. That was reserved for company.
Now we had to enter the house through the garage into the kitchen. Inside the kitchen door, we were all required to remove our shoes before walking on the new carpet. We lined them up on the floor along the wall between the stove and the back door. I’m not sure any longer but I think there was newspaper on the floor for that purpose in case our shoes were wet when we came in.
About one and a half years later, our dog Pal was in the house briefly (he was rarely allowed in the house) and threw up on the carpet in the front hall. Mom was horrified.
Fortunately it cleaned up fine. After that happened, though, Mom decided that family members could use the front door. But we had established the habit of coming through the garage and just continued doing so the rest of the time we lived there. In fact, after I was married, it still felt like I should remove my shoes upon coming home and I often did: it was more comfortable!
On Friday, November 17, the finishing touches were made. Mom wrote about it this way:
We put up gray Venetian blinds last Friday evening and our home looks lovely – new paint, new carpeting, new blinds. I feel guilty having so much.
Those blinds, which cost $42.62, were fascinating to this ten-year-old boy, for I had no prior experience with them and how they worked.
While that ended the interior decorating project, there was another addition to the house–in the kitchen–on Saturday, December 2. We got a new Crosley Refrigerator which cost $404. It had that newfangled automatic defrosting of the freezing compartment, and Mom thought it was wonderful. Since they had the previous refrigerator repaired in June (for $2.86), replacing it a few months later may have been necessary.