Tech Marvels & the TV Tray.

(Please click on ads to read small print.)

Some of you may recall, I previously posted prior segments of this 1950’s series, ending with photos from Betty Crocker’s house and barn and anything else I found there to photograph (See October 11 post under Tech Marvels.).  My mother Eleonore came with me on this adventure , as we browsed at the antique barn and acted like undercover paparazzi, snapping shots incognito for your pleasure and edification.  This was so exciting.  I couldn’t stand it.

Today, part four ( for those who are numerically challenged, like me) we will be discussing that integral part of the 1950’s-60’s life,  The TV Tray.

TV trays were of course made to eat TV dinners on in the 1950’s & 60’s.  TV dinners started out rather small,  so the original TV Trays were rather small too.  Everything in the 1950’s was small, bathrooms, closets, me.

images (5)

I think this retro-ceramic TV dinner from the 1950’s for sale on ETSY for the incredible steal price of $450.00 will be a perfect launching point for our discussion of this fascinating topic.  There is only one of these ceramic beauties available, so if you must have it, you better move quickly.  Here is the website:

And here is the ceramic product,  I mean art piece ( it looks good enough to eat just like a real TV dinner):

The original TV Dinner made by Swanson’s was this delectable turkey delight that cost only $1 in 1953:

It came out just a couple of years before I was born actually, and was advertised as the “perfect solution for women who worked out of the home,” and didn’t have time for pesky things like making dinner, and who also had no intention of engaging in boring activities like a family dinner, and would rather watch TV as they enjoyed this gourmet repast. See ads:


Swanson sold millions of these babies, so they ramped up production and diversified to things like my favorite as a child, “Salisbury Steak.” See example. YUM!


So truth be told, millions of kids like me were sitting in front of tv screens, numbing our brains in the 50’s/60’s watching TV.  The computer now at least requires some type of cerebral activity in users.

For those too young to remember what a TV tray is. (Sacrilege!) I have included some helpful examples.  For the rest of us, these will just serve as memory prompts for our already severely challenged senior cerebellums.  TV Trays, the point of all this ramble in the first place, were designed and released in 1954 as the perfect technological advancement to make eating and watching TV not only possible, but darn easy.  Here are a few examples of this wizardry in actual operation in the 1950’s.  They were sold in 4-paks with an innovative device developed to store them after use:

images (4)
download (1)


By the time the 1970’s rolled around, TV dinner’s technologically advanced one more time.  “Hungry Man” larger TV dinners were developed. This was in response to the men’s movement (or something).  Anyways, ads came out with a song & jingle, whose lyrics were, “How do you handle a hungry man?  The manhandlers.”  I kid you not!  It was sung in basso profundo by lumberjacks or something.  Anyhoo, “The Man Handlers,” were an innovation by Swanson again (The Apple of their time) to handle the big appetites of big men, who were obviously not happy with their TV dinners and must have been bitching, I mean complaining about them at home.  I ate them so I can attest to the fact they consisted of an additional two ounces of something approximating chicken noodle soup, a delectable three ounces of “fruit” (I use the term loosely) cobbler, and an extra couple of ounces of something resembling vegetables.


This huge leap forward in innovation required additional modification of the TV Tray, which became outdated just like your original i pod and pad.  “The King Size TV Tray,” was invented to bridge this gap. Here is an example:

The best thing about the invention of the TV dinners was that a woman no longer had to wash dishes if she didn’t want to. The TV dinners could just be thrown away after use!  This prevented the sort of dish washing drudgery that I shared with you in a previous post:

This is where my expertise about all this incredible 50’s innovation ends. My parentals would go on “date night, ” the sitter would arrive, and my brother and I would sit contentedly in front of the boob-tube, I mean TV, watching Bonzana and eating our favorite “Man Handler’s” on our TV trays.  Those were the days……

I am exhausted now by all this extensive history, I am sure you are too, and I am too tired to make dinner.  Where are the damn TV trays?

18 thoughts on “Tech Marvels & the TV Tray.

  1. I haven’t had a chance the read the entire series you’ve posted about the ’50’s but started with this one. I liked this! It was interesting to see the photos of TV dinners and TV trays from years ago.

    1. Nicole-
      Thank you. I like your blog as well. I think you have a real writing talent. I love the ads from the 50’s. They seem like dinosaur days where women were concerned. Nice in some ways, the clothe,s but not in others. Keep on postin-

  2. Loved it! You brought me back to the family home.
    I can smell the supper cooking!
    Sadly it was not Mom over this pile of dishes 🙂 it was me and the boys fighting over who was going to wash,dry and put away 🙂
    Guess we did not have too many quick easy TV dinners as I always remember DISHES


  3. I came over to thank you for the ‘like’ and found this post….I don’t think TV dinners had hit the U.K. when i was growing up…and i’m pretty sure that if they had my mother would have refused to use them… meals were for sitting at the table and i still remember the ticking off she gave my father for switching on the TV while we were eating…point proved when what we were watching as the image became solid was a lion eating some young antelope…

    1. Helen-
      Thank you! Lucky UK. My mother is a great cook, but date night for the parentals was TV dinner night for the kids. I actually used to like them. Go figure! Your story is HILARIOUS! Bet that took away your appetite!

  4. I loved going to my grandma’s house partly because she was the best, most attentive, doting grandmother a child could ever have AND because we always ate dinner, salty boiled chicken frozen peas or green beans and 1/2 a baked potato on a TV tray watching HEE HAW, not my favorite, and Lawrence Welk… which I loved.
    And then those frozen dinners, not allowed in my mother’s house except for that special night of the year. Halloween. I got to pick it out too.

    1. Ah yes, good old Lawrence and the the “beee-yute-tee-ful Lennon sisters,” in their chiffon dresses and bouffant hair-do’s plastered with hair spray! What’s not to love? 🙂 I actually live somewhat in the distant vicinity of Lawrence Welk Village. Essentially I pass it when “returning to civilization.” This is what we call leaving the holler. Never been in to Lawrence’s village though. Can’t imagine why not? LOL!
      Grandmother’s rock. Mine let me buy heels (my mom was pissed) and a nylon negligee off a mannequin no less. Do you suppose she did this on purpose to irk her daughter? I just thought of this!
      You history and reading your blog is fascinating, and your recipes, oh my GOD! Wonderful.

  5. Unfortunately, Cindy, it was the first step to litter the environment and to produce tons of garbage. The other thing, people loose the good habit to have a conversations while have dinner or other meal together. This was the direct way to modern style of behaviour when you see all of the people around the table watching their phones. Honestly, I do not like that.
    Sorry, probably I am not right to make such notes but I am who I am. I do not like political correctness. My opinion is that will destroy the World.

Leave a Reply