50s: Mom Held Court in the Kitchen

On most afternoons, middle to late fifties through middle sixties when I left home for college, Mom held court in her kitchen. She’d talk with whoever sat on the kitchen stool while she worked. When I’d sit on that stool, she’d drop her guard with me, open up, and share her views on the issues of the day. 

The kitchen window looked out over the street, across the quarter mile or so of open untended weeds, over a distant grove of high trees beyond the field, to the seemingly carved brown hills on the other side of the San Francisco Bay. We could see folds on those mostly bare brown hills, and dark spots where trees collected. They hinted of travel and adventure. In fact, one of the multiple moments of disillusion for me in my later teenage years was the discovery that those romantic distant hills we saw from the kitchen were the same empty foothills that formed the edge of the very unromantic town of Milpitas, a town that eventually took its place in the low end of the Silicon Valley, but was always a wrong side of the tracks kind of a place for us. But that was later, years after those kitchen stool days. 

Mom dearly loved the radio in the kitchen and talk radio, KGO, so much so that even decades later I can still remember the voice, commentary, opinions, and callers of Jim Dunbar and Ron Owens, the talk radio KGO stars who kept mom company every afternoon. When I was in elementary school, she and the radio talked about the Russians, and Sputnik, education, Kennedy vs. Nixon, and society. 

Sometimes I’d get home to find her and one of her two liberal friends sitting on a kitchen stool, drink in hand, talking while Mom cooked up dinner. That would be with Dorothy Gormeley, next door neighbor, wife of an executive at some big international enterprise. A true liberal, a great talker, and a pretty good drinker too. Or with Hester Beard, mother of a kid in my class, another great talker and true liberal. Mom loved their politics. And before-dinner drinks were a national custom.