Saturday, September 28, 2013

Choosing A New Oilcloth

I was washing some place mats in a load of laundry this morning and thinking how much I'd rather use them than a table cloth on Grandma Lynam's nearly 100-year-old table. I used to keep a cloth on it when we lived in West Des Moines, but somehow, now that we're using the table again after thirteen years in storage, I like seeing the beauty of the wood. I even like seeing all the scars and wondering how they got there.

Thinking of place mats and table cloths reminded me of another type of table cover - one that was a big part of my childhood. There was a square oak table (much like the one I use now) in the kitchen of my parent's home. That was before they joined the modern movement and purchased the Formica table and chair set seen in the picture above. That would have been in the late 50's or early 60's because that's my first-born, Douglas, in the bath pan in the winter of '62-'63. (The wood burning stove was only brought into the kitchen during the winter months.) One of the joys of Formica was that it was easily wiped off, no table coverings required, and resisted stains.

Mom used table cloths only for company or for a big family dinner when she needed to cover the entire, stretched out table. For everyday use, an oilcloth was used. And because our family of six only required one leaf in the table, the oilcloth was purchased to fit that length. I vaguely remember the oilcloth on the table in this picture from 1954. (My little brother is going to get tired of seeing this picture in my blogs.)

What I mostly remember about oilcloth table coverings was the anticipation of getting a new one. As long as our choices weren't too far out, Mom would let Betty and me pick out the new pattern. Granted, that didn't happen as often as we wished. She would use the old one until the pattern was worn off everywhere except the edges.

Finally, finally, on one of our weekly buying trips to town, 'new oilcloth' would be on Mom's shopping list. The two places I remember buying them were Lauvstad's Drug Store - where Mrs. Lauvstad sold wallpaper and other sundries, like oilcloths, in the back - and the Dimmler Paint & Wallpaper Store. The oilcloths came on fifty-four inch wide rolls, sold by the yard, just like fabric. You told the clerk how many yards you needed, it was measured, cut off and folded to take home.
Sometimes the choices of pattern were very limited. As I said, Betty or I got too decide the new table covering unless what we wanted was something Mom just couldn't live with day in and day out, then she chose. I can see her being okay with any of the seven patterns after the plain white and before the flags in this photo of currently available oilcloths from The Vermont Country Store. And while oilcloths are still available, the prices have certainly changed. I believe I remember them being 89 cents a yard when I was very young and then increasing to something like $1.59 a yard by the time the Formica table was purchased.

I did have a patterned white oilcloth on Grandma's table when we first moved it here. It was an inexpensive one from Walmart, purchased to protect the table top while we used it as a receptacle while moving in boxes and putting together component bookshelves, etc. Once we began using the table as it was intended, the oilcloth came off.
I do have some table cloths I use occasionally, but mostly I use the place mats. This time of the year, I can see using an oil cloth like the one above, though. Isn't it a pretty background for an autumn vignette? Only $44.95 for one 52" x 70" from the Vermont Store.

1 comment:

  1. Love the autumn-leaf pattern, but $45?! Yikes. I think I'll look at the oilcloth-by-the-yard options next time I visit the Fabric Depot.