Tips for the 1940s Housewife: How to Have Summer Fun With Your Kids

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Take a five-cent trip on the Staten Island ferry. Take a Fifth Avenue bus to Fort Tryon Park. Watch the planes take off and land at LaGuardia field.

In this incredible WNYC throwback, a schoolteacher and so-called authority on children offered tips to city housewives in a 1945 audio segment on how to keep kids entertained during the summer months while fathers – the presumed breadwinner – were at work.

“Good morning city mothers,” says host Rebecca Reyher, a suffragist. “For most men, the new year starts in January and ends in December. Not so with mothers. For them, the new year starts with the new school term in September and ends in June. … What may be vacation for the children, but extra worth for month with the children at home.”

Horace Mann schoolteacher Margaret Bishop suggests that mothers alternate days for each family member to choose an idea – saying having a plan is the most important part of organizing summer activities.

“The most important thing is to have a program,” Bishop said. “Plan ahead of the summer. Present the whole family program to each other, and talk it over each day at meals.”

She does, however, caution against all-day picnics and warns children can get over-tired.

“A few all-day picnics are fine, but a long afternoon can be very full and satisfactory,” she said.

Among her other suggestions:

  • Staten Island ferry
  • Fort Tryon Park (“You really sense New York is an island from that lookout point.”)
  • Cloisters
  • LaGuardia Field (“Watch the planes taxi in and take off.”)
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Chase Bank collection of money
  • Markets (“For the older children, a trip before or after dawn downtown on the waterfront on either the West Side where the fruit and vegetables come in or the East Side where the fish comes in, that’s a real experience,” she said.


Audio courtesy NYC Municipal Archives.