1950 Census: Those memorable Charboneau family dinners

Sepia Saturday 650. Twelfth in a series about family history discoveries in the 1950 U.S. census.

The holiday season brings to mind memorable family dinners, with generations of relatives gathered around the table sharing a meal and (if all went well) enjoying one another’s company.

My childhood holiday meals featured my maternal relatives — my grandparents Liz (Stoutner) and Tony Laurence and, before she moved to California, my mom’s only sibling Aunt Rita. The dinners were held either at our house in Endwell, N.Y., or my maternal grandparents’ home in Altamont, N.Y

Meahwhile further north, in Otter Lake, N.Y. and perhaps later in Holland Patent, N.Y., my dad’s four older brothers and their wives and children were invited each week by my maternal grandmother, Mary “Molly” (Owen) Charboneau, to come to Sunday dinner with her and Grandpa (Wm. Ray) Charboneau.

Grandma Charboneau’s dishes (2022). Many memorable Charboneau family dinners were served by my maternal grandmother Mary “Molly” (Owen) Charboneau atop these dishes. If only they could tell a tale! Photo by Molly Charboneau

Charboneau dinner roll-call

Who attended these Charboneau family dinners? The 1950 US census provides a snapshot.

Uncle Owen and his wife Aline “Gig” (Desjardin) Charboneau and Uncle Fred and his wife Jean (Bastow) Charboneau would have been there. They lived near my paternal grandparents in Holland Patent, N.Y. in 1950.

Also invited were Uncle Franny (Wm. Francis) and his wife Marion (Warner) Charboneau and their children, who lived in Utica, N.Y., in 19501Utica, Oneida New York, ED 73-38; scroll to page 7, and Uncle Hube (Hubert) and his wife Doris (Chandler) Charboneau and their son, who lived in Boonville, N.Y., in 1950.2Oneida, New York, ED 33-7; scroll to page 4.

They all grew up in Otter Lake, N.Y., so the Sunday family dinners were a sort of homecoming.

Grandma Charboneau’s dish pattern (2022). Grandma’s dishes were Homer Laughlin American Vogue Rambler Rose pattern on eggshell pottery, which seems to fit with her Welsh-Irish heritage. This is a more traditional pattern by the company that later made Fiesta tableware. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Aunt Gig remembered those dinners

In 2005, on a visit to Aunt Gig with my parents Norm and Peg (Laurence) Charboneau, I asked about the Sunday dinners at my Grandma and Grandpa Charboneau’s house.

“She was such a wonderful cook. Every Sunday we went up there [to Otter Lake],” Gig said. “It’s a wonder she didn’t kick our asses out. She cooked all day Saturday and we went every Sunday. She could depend on that. It was just such a natural thing to go home. We never thought of all the work it comprised.”

“What did she serve?” I asked, and Gig described the fare.

“She made a big ham. Also roast pork. And a pot roast of beef with a rich brown gravy. And mashed potatoes, but we loved them because of that gravy. She was such a good  cook,” Gig said, then covered her mouth. “We’d better stop talking about this, it’s making me hungry.”

Some animated discussions

Then Dad chimed in, “But the men used to argue at those dinners, too.” And I remembered a cousin telling me that at one dinner Grandpa Charboneau and my four uncles — none of them farmers — went on for hours on the best way to plant and grow peas!

How to grow peas was a topic of hours-long animated discussion among Grandpa C and the Charboneau brothers at one of the weekly family dinners. Photo: qtree/Pixabay

“Well, it’s no fun if you don’t argue,” Gig said, and we all laughed. “But they didn’t think of it as arguing, because there was no anger there. They were ‘discussions.’ ” We all laughed again at that.

Grandma Charboneau had grown up in a large Welsh-Irish household in Baltimore, Maryland, so I doubt that animated dinner discussions phased her.

More important, I imagine, was gathering her sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren around her for as long as she was able — every Sunday and especially during the holiday season.

Please stop back for the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.

© 2022 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

  • 1
    Utica, Oneida New York, ED 73-38; scroll to page 7
  • 2
    Oneida, New York, ED 33-7; scroll to page 4.

18 thoughts on “1950 Census: Those memorable Charboneau family dinners”

  1. Hi Molly! I am just getting acquainted with the Holland Patent family members via the blog, and it certainly makes me yearn for a town where many of the extended family is close enough to come to Sunday dinners. Life is so very complicated and unfortunately distant these days.
    Thanks for writing such lovely portraits of your family,
    Cousin Barb

    1. Hi Barb, So nice to read your comment here. I know what you mean about family dinners. When I recently visited Syracuse, where my siblings live, there were a couple of fun family dinners together — something I miss being the “away” relative in New York City. Fortunately, technology and “virtual” get togethers are now possible — but they are certainly no substitute for a pot roast of beef and gravy with everyone gathered around the table. Happy Holidays and New Year!

  2. Wonderful memories, wonderful photos of those old dishes that could tell quite a lot of tales! “It’s no fun if you don’t argue” is so true of so many family gatherings!

  3. Really lovely post. Great use of quotations. Good for you for having those available to you. How did you get them? Were they recorded some prior time?

    1. Thanks, Nancy. The quotes are from a visit my mom, dad and I made to Aunt Gig (widow of my dad’s oldest brother) at her nursing home in 2005. I had a notebook with me and, as the conversation turned to family history, I took notes, which I transcribed later. Aunt Gig was a great talker and quick with a quip, so it’s a pleasure to finally share her observations on Molly’s Canopy.

  4. I love this glimpse into your closer generations and all of the stories, memories, and interactions that makes it come alive! When I lived with my grandmother for a while when I was little, I remember Sunday family dinners! Sadley, the next generations did not carry that on. It was quite common for many a few generations ago. But, of course, there were still, and still are, the holiday gatherings, which include arguing, etc. 😉

    1. Family dinners were always interesting in my family. Although we missed the Sunday dinners because we weren’t close by, there was always a big family dinner somewhere when we visited my mom and dad’s relatives.

  5. I remember coming to town to visit my grandchildren (pre-teens probably) and taking them out for a ride with me. They were incredibly beligerant…if I asked them things, they would reply off the cuff, and disagree with whatever I asked. I do remember their dinner conversations which were always heated, to spark their intellectual curiousity. But I sure was stymied and had to ask them to be a bit kinder to me.

    1. Thanks for this, Barb. That is definitely the problem with heated dinner conversations — they are not always comfortable for everyone. I’m just glad my dad was finally able to laugh about his family’s “discussions” over the dinner table.

  6. This was a great genealogy topic for the season. Recently I discovered a list my dad made some years ago of the many places he was at during Christmastime. Being in the army he/we were often too far to attend family gatherings, so there was always a good trade in holiday dinner snapshots. It would make a good game to guess which holiday went with the different meals.

    The picture of your family china was fun but I think the cutlery is more modern, right? I laughed at the toothpick holder, as my inherited dishware includes many similar small glassware for pickles, celery, salt, etc. They don’t make mustard knifes like they used to. We still have some of my grandmother’s silver plate as well as English china from my wife’s mother which are reserved only for the most fancy service.

    1. Those dinner table photos sound like a great way to include your family in the gatherings even when you were far away. We also had lots of cut glass dishes for similar condiments — which are spread among my siblings. I settled for a toothpick holder 🙂 And the modern flatware is mine as my brother got the family silver.

  7. I love that you thought to include a photo of your grandma’s dinnerware. That captures the era so well.

    When done with respect arguing can be fun.

  8. When we were visiting my p. grandparents in my childhood, my grandmother’s sister and brother-in-law would nearly always come over for either dinner or afternoon coffee, too (if not for both). (They lived only a couple of houses away.)

    1. It’s nice to remember those gatherings this time of year. I missed out on the weekly Charboneau family dinners because, unlike his brothers, my dad (and our family) lived to far away to attend.

  9. I remember extended family dinners at my grandparent’s homes, especially on the Cleage side. Since several of the seven children lived at home for their entire lives, along with one of my cousins, there was always a full table. And it was always full of talk and discussion. I really miss that table.

    1. I miss those large tables, too. As I research my family, I still remember relatives I met only once or twice at large family get-togethers. It’s a pleasure to get out my grandmother’s dishes this time of year as they evoke my extended family on both sides.

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