Interviewed by the Washington Post about TV tray tables … What do you think of these oldies but goodies?

vintage-tv-trays-quakerThe Washington Post’s home and design reporter Jura Koncius recently emailed me, wanting to talk about TV tray tables. She was working on a feature to go with the launch of the new fall TV season: a what’s-old-is-new-again look at these throwbacks to the early days of television and how they still might relate to our lives today. Did I use them? What did I know about them? Are folks into them? It was a lot of fun talking to her! Read her story here.

And then, Open Thread:

Do you use TV tray tables? Do you have stories about growing up with them? Are you on the lookout for vintage, like the set above from ebay seller heathers684 (affiliate link). Even: What are you watching on TV this season that you’d like to recommend?


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  1. Roseana Auten says

    I have a set of metal TV trays from the 50s, and we use them. They’re not in pristine condition, but that’s okay. One of the four trays has been modified for casters. Looks like that was more convenient for a previous user!

  2. Mary Olson says

    Jeff Foxworthy was once interviewed and he said that his family always raced inside for dinner when his mother called because the last one in got the tray table with the bent leg.

  3. Victoria Carlson-Casaregola says

    Yes, we used t.v. trays. I am almost certain ours were one of my parents’ wedding gifts from the 1950s. They were like the floral design pictured here, only with a white background. I remember sitting in front of the “Art Linkletter Show” and “Captain Kangaroo” with a blue melamine bowl of snacks or cereal, using the trays. I remember the elaborate way they detached from the stand, with grooved hinge. This way, the elegant tray could be removed and used to transport and serve all kinds of food. I also used ours for play and coloring (on paper, not the tray, which would have been a great desecration, as they were valued functional and decorative items.)

  4. Kate Ferris says

    When I was 11 I got a black TV tray like the one in the photo. I thought it was beautiful, and used it as my bedside table for years. We now have some very ugly ’80s-style faux-woodgrain tables but use them every night. We eat later in the evening, and take our dinner downstairs and watch TV (the only time in the day the TV is on.) Works for us!

  5. Mary Elizabeth says

    Here’s my TV tray story. When I was little, we didn’t have a TV, so no TV trays and TV dinners (now called “frozen entrees”). Plus, eating in the living room was never allowed. How I loved to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, where there was a TV, and the trays, and the dinners if we asked for them. Why were they such an exciting idea when Grandma cooked much more delicious meals than that? It was just the whole combination of feeling indulged at Grandma’s, I guess.

    The thing I remember watching while eating off those “tole” TV trays was the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth (God save her) in 1953. A wonderful, fairy-tale experience for a little girl–a REAL princess stepping out of a REAL gold carriage. The dinner was Swanson’s fried chicken.

  6. Jamie L Longson says

    We have a set of 6 TV trays with the Eiffel Tower on them. They are likely one of those things I will keep forever. Still searching for a stand for them though.

  7. Evan says

    Grew up on a farm in the south so no we never got to eat on TV trays. Always on the kitchen table. But I have always had a peculiar attraction to the old metal trays and I’m currently on the search for a good set. Why don’t I EVER see things like this (NOS set of trays) online. I look at CL and eBay all the time. *sigh*. Frustrating. 😏

  8. Neil says

    Oh yes. In the early 60’s my mother – who’d already been, in the late 40’s – the first girl to be allowed to graduate married and pregnant (with me) from her high school) went to college to secure her identity as a modern woman. As a result, my sis and I came home from school to an empty house, stuck a pair of frozen dinners (in aluminum trays with an aluminum cover back then) in the oven for 30 minutes, and dined in front of the living room TV on those very hip folding trays.
    Luxury! Sophistication! Modernity! Grownup-ness!

  9. Laurie C. says

    After college, when my best friend and I were actively estate sale-ing, he was on a quest for tv trays. We quickly found out that you had to be the first in line or the tv trays would be gone. He finally found a pair, not as retro-cool as he’d have liked, but after sale upon sale upon sale, beggars can’t be choosers. If I remember correctly, some years later he found more at an antique mall (once we had “real” jobs and could actually do more than just look) and replaced the originals with ones he liked better. Even today, I rarely see them when I’m going to sales with my daughter.

  10. Amy says

    Yes, I remember well! And Swanson TV Dinners on those TV trays! My parents would set us up when they’d get a babysitter to go out (brave gals – there were 5 of us!) of course we thought this was such a treat! I wish they would make those tables again. The raised edges keep spills contained, and they were lightweight and easy to put away if you wanted to. Difficult to find any variety nowadays.

  11. Lisa says

    We had them & used them all the time! We even upgraded from the flimsy metal ones to some solid wooden ones w/ parquet wood tops! They were quite handy for much more than just eating from. You could have a little port-a-table wherever & whenever you needed! To have a TV dinner on a TV tray in front of the TV was quite the treat!!!

  12. Pat says

    We have a set similar to those, the floral design is a bit different. Use them every day, the design is getting worn off, wish I had protected it before we started using them, never thought about it. I prefer these to the wood ones, the lip on the tray keeps everything contained on the tray! Bought mine at a church sale for very little probably 20 years ago.

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