Acquired in Vancouver

Photo by Gayla Trail

I didn’t buy much in Vancouver — I’m not really a shopper but am more of a walker and picture-taker. In fact everything I acquired in Vancouver was collected within a single block. Upon arriving in the neighbourhood of my scheduled two-hour coffee I happened upon a thrift store that I could not pass by without a quick peek inside. Like most urban thrift stores it was overflowing with banal junk but I did make a small score of four seventies era women’s magazines for 25 cents each. The magazines all appear to be very informal and naive in tone, suggesting that they were produced in someone’s living room. When you think about it they are not at all unlike the blogs of their time — first person musings and experiences as told by your average Jane packaged according to the popular media of the time.

The best of the bunch is “Women’s Household” from 1977. The cover seems rather progressive, depicting a bride and another woman who appears to be presenting the bride with a ring. Given the “a woman’s place is in the home” and religious content inside the magazine my bet is that the second woman was meant to be a bridesmaid. But with a man suspiciously absent from the scene and the title “Women’s Household” (as-in a household of women) I prefer to imagine it as a covertly disguised message to the closeted second-wave woman’s libers of middle America.


But I digress. Let’s get to the gardening portion.

The first article is a garden club newsletter meets Better Homes and Gardens style feature on “handicrafter” Grace Swanson, a Floridian retiree who lives in a mobile home with her husband Chester and toy poodle “Grace’s Black Beauty.” Grace and Chester are avid gardeners who love to decorate their home with Grace’s macrame and beaded fruit projects.


Also within the gardening vein are features articles on balcony gardening, crafting beads from rose petals and a large column called “Garden Talk” which functions much like our forums section today. My favourite section called “Golden Age” features photos of Mrs. Albert Unger and members of her local Garden Club with a gigantic macrame plant hanger and floral wall hangings crafted from rug scraps.


The above is an ad in the magazine. No exaggeration there. Hey look! It’s a “Tomatoe Tree!” Times have not changed that much. This sort of thing still resides at the back of even the most reputable gardening magazines.


The “Write These Shut-ins” column is not about gardening, but I could not resist showing it to you. I just really like the idea of a “card shower.”

The “Workbasket and Home Arts” magazines (1972-1979) do not contain much in the way of gardening information but they are chock-a-block with old gardening ads. This magazine is a bit more sophisticated/professional than “Women’s Household” so the most interesting and charming ones are found in the classifieds and the “Shopping with Ellen Jordan” sections most of which are devoted to pyramid-type schemes that sell craft kits to individuals and women’s groups under the pretense of making quick cash.

I stopped at a used bookstore on my way to the coffee meet-up and picked up the book, “Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times” by Steve Solomon for $7.95. With so many books, seed catalogues, magazines, and assorted reading materials on tap I haven’t even had a chance to break the spine but it certainly sounds up my alley.

My final acquisition in Vancouver were two packs of seeds traded with long-time You Grow Girl member and contributor Janet Martin whom I finally had the pleasure to meet and chat with. I can’t recall what she took in exchange but I grabbed one pack each of ‘Tuscan’ Kale and ‘Graham’s Good Keeper’ Tomato from her. Predictably, I chose the tomato entirely because of the olde-thyme-ish name although I told myself it was because it’s a large, long-keeping disease-resistant determinant.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla

3 thoughts on “Acquired in Vancouver

  1. Excuse me for being so blunt, but I’ve decided to make you a role model, Gayla. I saw you on Recreating Eden today (a repeat I imagine), and it was refreshing. Refreshing? Yes. Inspiring.

    I had decided to get my first community garden plot many months ago, but hearing your message and seeing your work through this blog and the forum, has given me a new enthusiasm, and a belief that I can do this gardening thing.

    So thanks! Keep up the great work!

  2. Hi Gayla, long time no see! Will be nice when Spring arrives and we wave to each other on our bikes. I just wanted to tell you that I liked this post about your retro magazines so much that I blogged about it on my work blog,
    Also: Happy Birthday, YGG! cpf

  3. I live in the Fraser Valley . Not far from down town vancouver . I saw you on the Recreating eden show as well and have come to be on your site . I am a novice gardener and am here to learn and share . Thanks for all the great articals and blogs .
    Keep up the good work !

Comments are closed.