Cookout – August 1958 – Sepia Saturday 190

My uncle Hugh by the gate.

My uncle Hugh by the gate.

I remember several cookouts in my grandmother Cleage’s backyard. There was the one where the tables were set up right in front of the gate that looked out on the street. There was some sort of minor argument about this. Afterwards, my sister and I called any sort of family argument a “cookout.” On that occasion Grace Lee Boggs dropped by, not for the cookout, but for some political reason, dating it in the 1960s.


You can just see Hugh’s head behind Louis, my mother, Henry.

The cookout pictured below took place during the summer of 1958. My uncle Louis bought a big blue plastic swimming pool that took up most of the cement part of the yard. I don’t remember it being there any other summer. Once, my sister Pearl was drowning when my uncle Henry noticed her on the bottom of the pool, reached down and pulled her out. I don’t know why she didn’t stand up.  She was 9 and I turned 12 that August.  The bushes on the fence were full of tiny, pink roses during the season. Those are still my favorite roses.

Pearl remembers: I am still mystified as to why I didn’t just put my feet down. I don’t remember being at the bottom of the pool. I remember going down and splashing my way back up to the top and not being able to stay with my head above water. and then Henry came over and grabbed me and pulled me up and out. who knows what was going on? and we had those little plastic life preservers, too. how deep was the damn thing anyway?


Pearl, my aunt Gladys, Kris, cousin Ernie in the pool. It was blue plastic with a metal frame.


My mother sitting beside the pool.


My aunt Barbara standing by the fence between my grandmother’s and the Smith’s.


To see more picnics and such, CLICK!

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30 Responses to Cookout – August 1958 – Sepia Saturday 190

  1. Little Nell says:

    Food and a swimming pool – sounds like heaven. In fact I’m just about to try it. I like the idea of a cookout being a euphamism for a family argument.

  2. Josna Rege says:

    These snaps, along with your narrative, full of those telling details, really captures the feel of the rich and nurturing social life of family and friends that gave you your love and appreciation of family and community. Love ’em both. I wonder if your sister remembers that near-drowning episode? Love the pose of your Aunt Barbara, too. And yes, that family code language–“cookout”!

    • Kristin says:

      She does remember the accident. We mention every year or so.

      • Josna Rege says:

        But does she remember what was going through her mind–why she didn’t think to (or wasn’t able to) stand up?

        • Kristin says:

          That’s a good question. I will ask and report back.

          • Kristin says:

            My sister remembers and I’m going to add it. Can’t remember why she didn’t stand up though.

            “I am still mystified as to why I didn’t just put my feet down. I don’t remember being at the bottom of the pool. I remember going down and splashing my way back up to the top and not being able to stay with my head above water. and then henry came over and grabbed me and pulled me up and out. who knows what was going on? and we had those little plastic life preservers, too. how deep was the damn thing anyway?”

  3. ScotSue says:

    Lovely photographs of happy family occasions – and I just love the pool. My little granddaughter would have a marvellous time in it.

  4. Jo says:

    Lovely photos, everyone looks like they are relaxing and enjoying themselves, despite any ‘cookout’ arguments. My in-laws’ above ground pool was always great fun for their grandkids, while the adults relaxed with afternoon tea in the back yard – definitely not the front however!

  5. Brett Payne says:

    I love those roses too, but they tend to become somewhat unmanageable.

  6. Karen S. says:

    Awesome pictures! I remember our family calling these cookouts as well! Don’t really hear that term around here so much. Your pictures look like everyone was enjoying themselves!

  7. Rosie says:

    You can many things in the yard, when we were little children in the 1950’s, we even had a circus in the backyard. I have never forgotten it, it was such fun!!

  8. LindaRe says:

    Beautiful summer pictures, you all knew how to enjoy the season.

  9. We are too wet here in the mountains too, and now so cold that the furnace came on this week! Keeping cool in the pool seems pretty unlikely now. Those summertime picnics in the back yard were once a feature in my family when I was growing up, but somehow they diminished and stopped.

  10. Wendy says:

    Near-drownings still had to be frightening. And thank goodness Pearl didn’t have to suffer the humiliation of drowning in a pool where she could have easily stood up.

    Calling a family argument a cookout sounds exactly like the kind of response my family takes when we want to keep some stupid memory alive.

  11. Joan says:

    Absolutely delightful trip back to a 60s family summer. Perfect!

  12. Jackie says:

    Great when our blog posts prompt our family’s memories and add to the whole picture. I remember when my cheeky nephew started swimming lessons, he thought he couldn’t swim and so decided to go to the bottom of the pool with as many other kids as he could grab onto – then one day he realised it wasn’t so hard to swim after all – attention seeking kids eh!?

  13. Nonnie says:

    what fun memories and photos! 1958 was the year my honey and I married. :)
    I like code words that families seem to enjoy because no one else understands.

  14. That was fun. It takes me back to our backyard in the 50’s, but we weren’t lucky enough to have a pool. The kids next door had one . They used to jump off their roof and into the pool. One pretty much like yours.

  15. Helen McHargue says:

    I was sitting at a pool once with my friend when a child nearly drowned quietly in the nearby fairly shallow jacuzzi. My friend saw something out of the corner of her eye and did the same thing as your uncle…reached in and pulled the child out. The parents who showed up a little later were unfazed. Other than the near drowning, lovely memories of summer.

    • Kristin says:

      Yes, drowning doesn’t look like the movies. Had an experience like that this summer where the parent was also unfazed. Don’t understand that.

  16. Sheryl says:

    The picture of the above-ground pool brought back wonderful memories of many enjoyable times playing with my cousins in a similar pool.

  17. TICKLEBEAR says:

    Kids and water mix well,
    only under proper surveillance…
    Glad the outcome was a happy one.

    PS: what did Grace Lee Boggs stopped by for?!?…
    Do you know exactly?
    Surely you do…

    • Kristin says:

      She used to transcribe my father’s sermons for a newspaper column he contributed to the Michigan Chronicle. Perhaps it was something to do with that. I remember her coming by my mother’s house where my father would come over for strategizing during that time. This is the first and only cookout I remember her appearing. I do not remember her sitting down to eat a hot dog though.

  18. Bunny says:

    Loved your story…

    We lived in Los Angeles and had no relatives around, but every summer we drove to Texas for two weeks when my Daddy had his vacation. We made the rounds…Dallas, Waco, Texarkana, and my all time favorite, Austin. Aunt Mildred, the Belle of Austin (LOL), always had a huge family gathering when we came. It was the only time we got to see extended family. Cousins, and grown folks… Lot’s of food, but I especially remember Kentucky Fried Chicken ’cause Aunt Mildred did not cook.

  19. Bob Scotney says:

    The term cookout is new to me but I can see how appropriate it is. As we have only ever had inflatable paddling pools I can’t imagine a situation like Pearl’s. Unfazed parents – I’d be frantic.

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