The Life of Barbara Lautner

About six months ago, I had a podcast idea I was really excited about — to interview several generations of women in my family about what the world was like when they were young. My list of questions included things like, “What was your first car?” “What were high school dances like?” and “What did you wear?”

I started by interviewing my grandmother, Barbara Lautner, or “Missy,” as her grandchildren called her. We got a few hours of interviews done, and we planned to do more. But life didn’t work out that way.

Last week, Missy died. I won’t get to talk with her again. But I’m tremendously grateful for these recordings. In these conversations, Missy is charming and funny, and she has a wonderfully clear memory for the details of everyday life.

I’m sharing these conversations here primarily so my family (and anyone who knew and loved Barbara) can enjoy them. But I’m also posting them because Barbara gives us a window into life in a small town in the American South in the 1950s. She paints a clear picture of a football game at Tate High School, a Halloween carnival with boys bobbing for apples, and the breakfast table at her “Mama and Papa’s” house in DeFuniak Springs. And it’s not all bobby socks and Coronation Dances, either — she shares a bit about the Garden Club hat sale that was “whites only,” and how unfair life was for the first black student at the University of Florida, where she studied interior design.

You can listen to the conversations through the links below, or download the mp3s here if that’s what you prefer. Thank you for listening — I know that Barbara would’ve loved

Thank you to my cousin Beka Harmon (another granddaughter of Missy’s) for editing the sound on these conversations.

#1: Honeymoon in the Plymouth: Cars in the 1950s

In this episode, we meet Barbara Lautner. She tells us about the day she got her driver’s license, whether or not car ownership was a right of passage for teens in the ‘50s (spoiler alert: it wasn’t) and takes us on her first road trip. 

#2: When David Met Barbara: Love and Weddings

Barbara tells us how she met and fell in love with David Lautner. We learn about weddings in the 1950s and learn why David joined the Navy.

#3: Take Me out to the Ball Game: Football, Dances and Coronation Queens

Barbara went to Tate High School in Pensacola, Florida. We talk dances, football games, carnivals, cheerleading and more.

#4: The Style of the Times: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

We talk about the styles of the 1950s and what people did without washing machines and refrigerators. We also talk about segregation and what life was like as it was ending.

#5: The Little House Boat that Could

David Lautner announced that he was building a houseboat, and Barbara didn’t bat an eye. She shares stories about the boat, plus a few from the house David later built for them in Woodbine Springs.

#6: To Grandmother’s House We Go

Little Barbara Jones used to take a bus to visit her grandparents in Defuniak Springs. “Mama and Papa” lived on a farm with very little to do, but Barbara liked to see her cousins, MJ and Frank Menge.

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