Saturday, January 17, 2009

16 & 17 January 1955 "Head transplants, Shoes, Vintage Pets, and Starch"

From TIME magazine 17 jauary 1955:
Encouraged by his successes (of dog heart transplants), Dr. Demikhov tried the reverse operation. He removed most of the body of a small puppy and grafted the head and forelegs to the neck of an adult dog. The big dog's heart, as Blok tells the story, pumped blood enough for both heads. When the multiple dog regained consciousness after the operation, the puppy's head woke up and yawned. The big head gave it a puzzled look and tried at first to shake it off.
The puppy's head kept its own personality. Though handicapped by having almost no body of its own, it was as playful as any other puppy. It growled and snarled with mock fierceness or licked the hand that caressed it. The host-dog was bored by all this, but soon became reconciled to the unaccountable puppy that had sprouted out of its neck. When it got thirsty, the puppy got thirsty and lapped milk eagerly. When the laboratory grew hot, both host-dog and puppy put out their tongues and panted to cool off. After six days of life together, both heads and the common body died. (My husband is skeptical of this story and as the article contained no photos, we can only guess at its accuracy. It does show, however, that in this atomic age in which I am living we are working already on how to make us all live longer and healthier lives.)

Here is the cover of Sports Illustrated for today. It looks like there are no bikini clad Brazillian models yet, but bull fighting seems of interest. I know that toreador pants were quite popluar and I think they are basically capri pants. I remember an episode of I Love Lucy where she mentions toreador pants.

Well, I have four new pair of shoes that I am quite excited about. It does a 55 housewife's heart good to take off the apron and adore her feet now and then.
It seems that mid 50's shoes have both rounded toe and fuller heel, as well as the pointed toe and kitten heel that really became de rigeur by 1960. I tried my best to find what I felt looked vintage. I have a large foot (size 10) and it is hard to find vintage shoes in this size. I found three pair of new shoes and one actual vintage pair.

I love this pair. They have a low heel, and though they have the pointy toe, are rather comfortable. They have a nice sparkle to them so they could go to evening as well. They also look good with my grey wool circle skirt I recently made.

I was worried that this heel was maybe too modern, but it has a very vintage feel, I think. They are rather tall so these will be for lunch with the ladies where I have to wear them no longer than a few hours.

I think these look right out of the magazine vintage. They are very comfortable and I wore them ALL day yesterday. You can actually see a little of the salt form being out in the snow with them. The little laces are adorable. I greeted hubby last night wearing these with my full grey skirt and my new full red apron. It looked adorable, and I forgot a picture, but will wear it again and remember to get one.
These are actual vintage shoes and similiar to another pair I have. These may, in fact, be mid to late 60's shoes, but I did find this toe and heel in my mid 50's magazines, so I am unsure. I do know that I love them and they are comfortable for vacuuming in. I picture a fitted red suit for these or a fun red cotton full sundress for summer. I am not sure if these need to stay in my closet until after memorial day, as they are white. But, they also are red, so not sure how the rule of white shoes applies to these. I would probably guess this would be summer shoe what do you think?

I found this great article in my "American Magazine" from 55. It is about this bird hating individual who falls for a parakeet and gets and keeps one as a pet. I guess after the war the importing of birds was relaxed and more Parakeets or Budgies were suddenly available. They became THE pet to have. I love this paragraph from the article where the author quotes one of the largest budgie breeders:
"Mr. Van Wiseman says that men often get some emotional satisfaction from budgies that they dont get from their wives."
The article was quite cute and on further study I found that a parakeet in the home was rather the normal thing in 1950s. Now, I don't want anyone to think that I got my cute new pet as a prop to my experiment. I have often thought of having a parakeet. I had a friend who had one that was so tame it would sit on her cereal bowl as she ate. So, I figured this would be a good opportunity to have one. She, for we think she is a she, sits in our dinning room now. That way she is present at all meals and I move her into my sitting room in the evening when I am on the computer and reading, so she is near me. She is a darling. We are uncertain of her name, as of yet. We thought Peg after Peggy Lee and it does sound rather 50's. Madge or Midge was also toyed with for their vintage sound. I think a 50's housewife may have named it something like cuteypie or sweetie, but I don't know if I can stomach that type of name. Any ideas for names? Maybe if I can get at least three suggestions for names from my readers, we could do a poll here and the winner will become her moniker?

I just won these two books on ebay and am really excited to get them. They are even published in 1955, so how perfect. I can imagine having got them when I purchased my little darling. I bought her from a breeder not a pet shop, as I wanted one hand raised as I have heard they are much easier to train. Here she is, the little darling.

This is her home in the corner of the dinning room. The cage is vintage, though I believe it is from the 1920s. I am on the lookout for a cute 1950's plastic version.

Here is the little darling sitting atop my pen cup on my desk in my sitting room. You can see my guilty afternoon pleasure of an empty cake plate and a half-full pot of tea. You can just make out the picket fence out the window: that is going to be whitewashed this summer. Part of my year is going to be gardening and doing up the house with some 1950's era decorating and gardening books I am getting. No, there won't be any pink flamingos! I don't think I would have had them then. I would be a more 'early american' decorator than the very modish styles of the day.

Now, my laundry challenge is going to be to try and incorporate starch into my monday laundry routine. This is largely due to the great blog "Destination 1940" which I adore. Her list of various breakfasts and laundry from that decade have inspired me to incorporate starch. Honestly, to not have and use starch would probably be unheard of in 1955. I do understand all the adds for rayon and non-wrinkle fabrics in my 50's magazines. The amount of time I now spend on ironing is enough, but I will be adding the starching and I am sure I will be praying to the great scientists in the sky to hurry up and create polyester and any other unnatural fiber to lessen the ironing! I cannot find out when spray starch was first available on the market. Before spray starch was commercially made, it was powdered.

Here are two boxes of starch that I may purchase on ebay. I think the pink one might actually be from the 30's but I know that the second actually has a 1950s date on it. I am intriqued to use a product from that time. I often imagine that inanimate things take on a certain energy of their time. Maybe it is just my romantic notions, but to know it once graced the wall of a laundry room of that time drums up all sorts of imagery. I see its place of importance among the monday wash day. The trail of dirty play clothes marched by it and the endless 'sunday best' dresses and collars it graced. The crinolins it gave stiffness to and the pride it ellicted from it's happy owner. The idea that it will be resecitated from some attic box and instead of some decorative object on a collectors shelf, will, again, be applied with tentative strokes of the irons heat, as the houswife tries her best to make wrinkle-free and sharp and bright, her families clothes.
I did find this bit of info about starch interesting in a modern blog: "And what a funny thing to actually sell, as spray starch is really just corn starch and water. Get some Argo corn starch, mix it with water, buy a plastic atomizer, and you have starch for shirts."
I am not sure if this is true and perhaps in the 19th c., when brands and advertising were not as such a norm, the maids of the day did indeed make spray starch from such a recipe. An interesting aside: I found, while researching starch, that there is somewhat of a resurgance in its purchase now that so many have returned to natural fibers, as they need to be wrinkle-free. Hmmm, maybe we are all becoming the Benjamin Buttons of housework, where instead of physical aging backwards, we are in fact going backwards in the way in which we keep our homes, dress, and respond to the world.


  1. I'm not sure if you are familiar with Dorothy Draper, who was a famous decorator of the day...though her career was longer, she was most popular from about about 1940-1960. She wrote two bestselling books, originally published in the 1940s that have recently been reprinted (including reproducing the original dust jackets), Decorating is Fun! and Entertaining is Fun! which might be helpful for your project. Entertaining is Fun! discusses things like how to entertain without servants and hiring help for parties if you didn't have a daily. She was popular enough in the 1950s (with lectures, columns, articles, fabric and furniture lines), that housewives would have still referenced her books.

  2. "Hmmm, maybe we are all becoming the Benjamin Buttons of housework, where instead of physical aging backwards, we are in fact going backwards in the way in which we keep our homes, dress, and respond to the world."

    I like this thought. I think in the fight to gain equality in the women's lib movements, something was inherintly (sp?) lost. It's great that we now have so many options available to us....but the choice to be a housewife and take pride in creating and keeping a home is no longer seen as a valid one. I think that's a shame.

    All of your new shoes are great, but I LOVE the third pair! And thanks for sharing the meatloaf recipe, I'm trying it tonight. :)

  3. eewww about that dog - I just can't imagine it. Your shoes - I love the white and red pair, I'm not really a shoe person but I do like those ones :-)

  4. ooooh, I'm loving the vintage shoes. I'm a big fan!!!

  5. Your bird is very sweet, I'm glad you let it out and about in the house. I like Lori as a name (which was number 81 in popular girls names in the 50s, apparently), Peggy is also nice. Love your Benjamin Button remark, you know, I look forward to reading this blog every day at work!

  6. Darling bird and spectator pumps! I don't believe that a lady of your era would wear them outside of the Memorial Day to Labor Day season. Looking forward to seeing what you choose to pair them with for summer!

    As for the aerosol starch, I'm afraid that it was not invented until the 60's.
    Faultless Spray-On Starch

  7. Thank you everyone for your comments
    Deisgn Junkie: As soon as I read your comment I ordered both of those Draper books. I'm itching to do the house and I can't wait to see what is ahead in entertaining.
    Gingerella: I agree with the homemaker view today. It is a shame. What was funny is as I read that I suddenly, really for the first time, thought, "Hey, this IS a career" Isn't that silly that it should just hit me then?
    Piroska: wow, thanks for the compliment, I hope my blogs never get to boring, let me know.
    Hairball: Yes, I have resigned myself to the pumps living with my white dresses and sandals until summer. Maybe I will throw a memorial day party in which to wear those shoes! Of, course I won't tell anyone that is the idea, "Oh, these old things," I'll say. "Had them for ages".I also assumed with the spray starch, but I am kind of glad as I really want to use the box of starch and it does look really cute!

  8. This blog is soo up my alley! The banner knocked my wool socks off too:)

  9. I adore your shoes! I have a black pair just like your first ones; I was worried about whether or not they were actually vintage-looking but now I'm glad to see them on someone else!

    PS: The puppy story is like something out of the newest X-Files movie! Makes my skin crawl!

  10. Argo also packages their cornstarch as laundry starch. I buy it at my local grocery store. You might also find it at a craft store. See the Lehman's link to see the package, the last one I bought was blue, not red.

    If you go to Argo's corporate website you will find directions for using baking packaged cornstarch as a laundry starch. It's the last item in the cooking/preparation section of the FAQ.

    You will find that taking the time to starch your cottons will make them less prone to soiling and easier to launder. I starch my husband's white shirts. Liquid is more apt to form into droplets and bead off than soak into the shirt. Marks and ring-around-the-collar are easier to remove because they dirt stays on the surface rather than grinding into the fibers of the garment. His shirts stay cleaner longer and last longer overall because I starch them.

    I also starch my aprons with the same results. Another tidbit--my grandmother, a farmwife of the fifties, had an apron made of oilcloth that she used when washing dishes. If it was good enough for her, it's good enough for me, so I made one, too.

  11. Wow, ames, you save me! I am excited, now I can order that starch and for today, for monday is my wash day, I can try the recipe with the corn starch.
    Oil cloth apron is a grand idea, and I am all over it.

  12. I came by to thank your for visiting my blog and now that I'm here, I don't want to leave! LOL!

    I love this idea of yours! The 50's are my favorite era and it's so fascinating to see that you are living it every day! I've already learned a lot from your posts and the other comments! Wish I had the nerve to go full out vintage! I will be keeping up with your adventures in 1955!

    PS--love the shoes!

  13. Love your blog! I'm looking forward to reading all year. :)

    I guess I'm fitting right in. I have a blue parakeet and his/her name is Sweetie (named by my daughter).

  14. I've been using laundry starch mixed with water in a spray bottle instead of aerosole starch, for years. I just shake and spray on the clothes before ironing. Works really well and there is no pungent smell.

  15. I love the red and white shoes.
    I would wear a white dress with red polka dots
    [ if i had a white dress with red polka dots !!]
    or a pair of red/white shoes.

  16. I'm only 11, but since I love anything between 1920 tto 1979, I decided to spend this summer as a 1950's housewife. It's easy since I Love Lucy is my favorite show anyway and my family is all away Monday thru Friday. Could you put up your schedule?


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