You may have already heard about Honey Maid’s “This is Wholesome” ad campaign and the very big reaction (both negative and positive) that it has garnered. If you haven’t heard about or seen the ad, I’ve posted it above. The thirty second spot features families of all types enjoying Honey Maid graham crackers in their daily lives. While the mixed race couple and the tattooed hipster dad haven’t garnered much attention, the gay dads in the commercial brought a firestorm of comments. Not surprisingly, some religious groups and conservative thinkers see the ad as an affront to their beliefs.
Food has played an important role in my adult life. My first jobs were in the food service industry, as a short order cook and later in a tiny sandwich shop near the university I attended. When I met my Mr. Blandings I wooed him with home cooked meals (proving that the way to a man’s heart is indeed through his gizzard). After we got married, my love of food and cooking increased as we began entertaining as a couple. I like nothing better than preparing a hot and hearty meal for friends and loved ones. So it really seems fitting that the town’s grocer used to live in the Dream House.
As you might have guessed from the name of our humble little blog we’re old movie buffs. When we decided to name our blog after the 1948 film Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, paying homage to one of our favorite old Cary Grant screwball comedy, we had no idea that we would one day have the opportunity to see the very house that was used in the movie. And yet last weekend on a little jaunt to Los Angeles, we made a detour to Malibu and stood in the exact spot where Cary Grant and Myrna Loy had filmed over sixty years ago.
What ghosts walk the halls of the Dream House? With a hundred year old house, it’s a natural question to ask. I grew up in a house older than the Dream House, one that creaked and moaned its secrets throughout the night as I lay wide-eyed in my bed wondering who (or what) might be lurking behind the closet door, or in the attic, or even under the bed itself. It was a happy home, made so by my family and the richness of my childhood imagination and play in its every room, but there was always something forlorn about its dark corners; always a sense of being somehow observed. On one of my sleepless childhood nights, I’d actually (or think I may have actually) seen someone, some thing, in the hall outside my open bedroom door, pausing to look in at me: a woman, and yet not a physical being. It may have been a dream, of course, but it was still a well-remembered image in my mind when some years later my dad, in the course of insulating the attic, found a cache of old letters hidden under the floorboards. They’d evidently been secreted away up there by a woman named Anna, likely a boarder in the house during its previous incarnation as a rooming house during the First World War. The letters told the tale of an ill-starred love affair; he was not only married, but fearful of being drafted in the war, and together he and she were plotting their escape from the war and his wife to Canada. In spite of some sleuthing into old residential records in my town’s library, I was never able to find out their identities, or what became of their plan. Perhaps he’d been sent to war after all and had never returned, or perhaps he was a victim of the great influenza epidemic of that time. And perhaps she had then passed on in the house, though hadn’t really left. Was she my watcher in the corner, my visitor in the night? Or perhaps my ghost wasn’t she at all, but instead was the woman who had owned the rooming house, whose young son, I discovered in looking through old newspapers, had died of illness and had been laid out in the parlor. Under other floorboards in the attic, my father had also discovered a small crystal bowl filled with a boy’s treasures: marbles; a stick of gum; a dog tag from 1912; a lighter; gumballs. “Adventure” magazines of the era were also found hidden behind a false wall in the closet of my bedroom; likely his room also. Was I being watched over by another mother? Perhaps so. But also, oddly, mysteriously, once the house revealed these secrets, the house quieted. The sense of something apart from me and my family there departed once these artifacts were uncovered, and I chose to cherish them. Who knows – perhaps it gave whoever was lingering there their release at long last.
And now, I live in an another old house, one with an equally rich history, but one in which I detect nothing but great peace. It’s palpable as one moves from room to room in the Dream House; I even challenged myself once to stand in the middle of its basement in the middle of the night with the lights out and…nothing. There’s nothing there: no feeling of anything watching or lingering or moving through. From what we’ve able to learn about the house’s history, it has always been a well-loved space; built by its original owners as a retreat, and that sense about it remains. I sleep well when I’m there, even alone. There are no bumps in the night; no monsters under the bed or in the closets to contend with; only space for dreams. A Dream House, indeed.
Now, I wonder what might be up there in that attic?
— M. Blandings
Image: Mr. and Mr. Blandings
Part of the fun (and challenge) of becoming the stewards of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home is in being able to speak to its pedigree and history. While we do know some of the story behind the Dream House and its place in Wright’s career, there is much more to learn. But here’s what we know so far:
First of all, it must be mentioned that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to previous owners, who gave the house its “birth(W)right”. The evidence of their care and hard work in getting the house identified and recognized as a Wright work was compiled into a folder which was left with the house. The folder is teeming with the fruits of their research: letters, information, and photos from scholars, architects, and the now-deceased daughter of the original owners. It has provided a terrific head start for our research into the house.