Thursday, January 22, 2009

22 & 23 January 1955 "Tragedy, New Government, Permanents, Ridicule, and Coffee Cake"

Here is the New Yorker Cover for 22 january 1955 and it feels about right in both 55 and 09, depending on where u live. Snow and mailboxes, that about says it. This same cover in 2009 might show snow piled up outside and someone huddled in front of their computer.

22 January: Norwegian government of Einar Gerhardsen forms

23 January, 1955: In the UK an express train travelling from York to Bristol derails and overturns at Sutton Coldfield station killing 14 and injuring many more.

Some lighter news:

In this article on hair from january 1955 it states that "the Italian Boy cut is out." (If you click on the pic it should open up large enough to read the whole article). It looks like my hair length now or maybe a little shorter will actually be more appropriate for the coming year. It is too bad, as I was hoping for summer time to get a good short cut that was easier to curl. I think as a fun project, though, I am actully considering perming the ends of my hair (as it recommends in the article). If it doesn't work out the permed ends were going to be cut off anyway. I always associate perms with the 1980s and have only had one perm in my life, and it was horrible and took for ever to grow out. However, it does seem to have true vintage hair you need a perm to help hold the curly styles required of the day. I think that is why sometimes when I have watched movies set in the 1950's the hair never seemed quite right. It seemed to bouncy and frizzy, and this was probably because they were just setting modern freshly cleaned hair not permed unwashed hair with setting lotion. I know that my hair holds a curl fairly well, but halfway through the day when I use the hot rollers on my 'hair washing day' it has gone all limp. I have also discovered that modern pump hairspray is a no go for vintage hair. It has to be areosal or it gets to damp and flat.

I am going to ask my vintage friend to help me with my 'Toni" as I do not want to make the curls uneven or not done properly. Here is a great article about women getting together to do each others permanents.

Speaking of trying to have accurate hair and clothes, I had my first negative reaction to my appearance the other day. It was in the mall, which is a place I try never to go. I had to walk thru it to get to the book store where I was meeting a friend. I was on an escalator going up, possibly primping and making sure my hat was properlly adjusted, when I heard snickering: a couple of teens. They were whispering, looking at my outfit, and smirking. It felt odd. My first response was to run my tongue discreetly along my teeth, one never knows when parsley or some such is waiting there to turn your smile into a toothless grin. No, and of course I was not smiling at them. I casually turned to make sure I wasn't streaming toilet paper along my heel, a recurring fear of mine when visiting public restrooms (another place, like the mall, that I try NOT to visit unless necesarry) Then it dawned on me: it was my outfit. It was an odd feeling. I have come to feel quite normal in what I wear now. This day I was wearing a vintage hat with a veil on, gloves and handbag, vintage swing coat, full skirt (with crinolin) seamed stockings and heels. I would think at the most I would just look like an old lady, but maybe that is what threw them. I mean I am not young in my book, but I guess 30's seemed to young to be 'all made up'. I then thought, "You know if I was wearing what I had on earlier when I was cleaning they would probably not have given me a second look." This, of course, was my dunagarees rolled up, flats, gingham collared shirt, hair pulled up in ponytail and no makeup (except for my lipstick, I alwasy put that on and as a wife of the 40's I think I would still have that thought of the 'red badge of courage' as it was called during the war. Women were encouraged to at least wear thier lipstick, I suppose it was for morale or to make any men returning home to see some femininity. But, I digress...). I would not, however, in my 1955 life go out into a public place to eat or shop dressed that way. Perhaps a quick run down to the store for a quart of milk, but even then in my middle class respectability you would never know who you would run into.
Now, being human, my next response was to look at what they were wearing. Probably some modicum of childhood playground politics swirled about the recesses of my brain, urging me to find somthing laughable about their outfits. It is not a pretty attitude, I know, but it was there, none the less. Here is what I found: To my current sense of style and what seems normal from what I see on 'tv' and in magazines, they looked like homeless people or vagrants. I am not saying this to heal my own hurt pride(ok maybe I am a little) but when I studied what they were wearing I could see how people must have reacted to the first hippies. The girls hair was basically a mess by 1955 standards. Long and cut in layers but disheveled and tossled all over. She had on jeans way too tight for her heavy thighs and grungy black tennis shoes. Her jacket was basically a hooded sweatshirt with skull design.Whatever could that mean? Was she in some sort of mourning? Had a relative died and if so, what a light hearted way she wore her sombre weeds. The boy was wearing pants 3 sizes too large, which were all but falling off. "You could see his underpants sticking out", said my shocked 55 fevered brain. His boots looked like workman boots or perhaps those belonging to a lumberjack and his pants puddled about them, as if he had come to own them cheaply and therefore did not care about the inconvienance or safety issue of wearing such large troussers. His hair stuck out at odd angles and was crayola red in parts." Had he been in a fight? Was it dried blood? Was there a Kool-aid accident at home that he had got caught in the middle of?" I let my 55 sensibilites wander and take hold of what I saw. His hooded sweatshirt must have been his father's or, like the large troussers, been found at such a bargain he did not need to care for fit. It was far too large for his small frame. His facial hair reminded me of my victorian grandparents portraits at home. It was all an odd affair and I found I needed to address my compact over my coffee while I waited for my friend, lest I should look anything like that unfortunate pair I had encountered on the escalator.
You get the picture. Obviously I used a little poetic license here and am well aware of this rather normal teenage couples standard mall outfits. However, you can see how through my eyes they should look thus? It is odd to place yourself so out of your time and then to jarringly pop back in. I mean at home of course I use the computer (though sparingly and only for research for this project) I am only using vintage items, seeing vintage tv and movies and magazines. My friends have been very good about what they wear when we are together. I end up in a very insular little 1955 world and because of that, day to day modern things have taken on a new reality to me.
Another example of this happened yesterday. I was busy cleaning away and in the downstairs bathroom there were bits of little soap segments left from the last bar of soap. I was picking them up to throw them out and replace them with a new bar. At that moment I thought, "you know during the war I would have saved these". It was an odd moment, not only because I was not alive during the 'war', but here I was in 2009, pretending it is 1955 and thinking within that timeframe of the 1940s where I would have had to ration. A time I had never been. Through my research I always try to put my perspective of what is now available in 1955 to what it would have been 10 years earlier. It was an interesting moment, because much like that wife in 55, I knew I could go and buy endless bars of soap relatively cheap and yet, here I was throwing out good bits that would have once been very important to me. It is these momentst when I really can see this experiment as an amalgamation of history and art. It sometimes has a performance art quality about it. There are moments too, like this, when I think, are we going to return to pre 50's ideals of plenty as we try to conserve and deal with the ongoing recession. I mean should I have saved the soap. It was still good, wasn't it. Why should I throw out somthing that is still viable? I know during the depression they would save up soap bits and put them in a bit of old unmendable stocking, then you could still use it in the stocking for washing and such. Sometimes my time machine goes in and out of decades so fast it makes my head spin!
I was also thinking of what Jitterbug had commented on my last blog that what I am now doing seems interesting due to the newness of it all. I totally agree. This is all new and exciting, but I guess could become drudgery. However, what I noticed is I am making a good attempt to still have social time and also my marketing time has been fun. I take breaks to go to local charity shops and anitque stores to buy up things for my increasing collection of vintage items. This is an exciting part of my day that might only be equal to a 1955 wives shopping to buy things for her home. This also brings to mind rather it is 55 or 09 someones social and financial situation. I am by no means rich, but I do have the luxery of being home and to have some time and a little money to buy a vintage thing here and there and overall this makes for a nice quitely fulfilling life thus far. Will it become tedious or more worklike? And yet, my housework, though somtimes enjoyable, does seem like work. Even my cooking and baking I take with the seriousness of a career now, which I think is how it would have been viewed.
I forget somtimes how much I do take my role as a career. For example, last night we were meeting up with friends for a birthday party at a restaurant. This gave me the whole day without a dinner prepared by me at the end of it. So, I sort of mismanaged my time and I thought, "Oh, I can tear about the dinning room and move this furniture and start this project" I ended up just being able to get thru half of my projects and get the house back to some semblance of neatness before taking time to set my hair and get ready. I had a maid night with 'Gussie' as I knew this party was coming on. She did all the floors for me and the front hall stairs and folded away some towels that didnt quite make it in Mondays wash, and pressed my skirt for me. Anyway, the whole point of this story is this left me no time to make a dessert for hubbys lunch for today (this weeks cake didn't make it to Friday for some reason). So, this morning I gasped," Oh heaven's to betsy, darling, I haven't a dessert for your lunch. Just let me whip something up fast". He laughed at me and then I stopped and realized. I was being very serious, as I needed a sweet for his packed lunch. Then I had to remember that a month ago I maybe would have made his lunch but most likely he would have just ordered in or picked somthing up in the city, and my baking was few and far between.
He said, "Don't worry about it. I am not going to die if I don't have a home made dessert in my lunch" (he's a sweetie by the way) And I think had it actually been 1955 this would have happened. As, hopefully, I would have married a sweet man then and he would have been less concerned about the outcome of my accomplisments in the kitchen if I happened to forget to make dessert. I did, however, throw together a coffee cake and it was done just before he left, so it went, warm and yummy, into his lunch. It is funny how the skills I am picking up make a simple thing like a homemade coffee cake really simple. Compared to my normal full on cakes it WAS easy. You take melted butter and brown sugar and flower and crumble it, reserving some for the top. Then just beat an egg with a cup of milk and throw that into the mixture, whip it up, pop it into a greased and floured 8" pan, sprinkle the reserve half cup on top and into the oven it goes for 30 min. That is fast baking for me nowadays.
I really do see this all as a career possiblity as well as a learning challenge, an art piece, an involved history paper and a great opportunity. I think when the end of the year arrives I will have learned alot about myself and the time and our country in general and how we have come to where we are now. I cannot honestly say rather or not I will go into 1956. I mean, when I started this I figured just normal modern life to return at the end, but I am not sure from where I am looking now. Many things will most likely stick around. I think alot of the fashions will hold on. We may never have regular tv again, which we are both fine with. It will be interesting to see.
Oh, as an aside, someone commented on my last blog why don't I write out my blogs and have someone else put them on the computer for me. If any early readers remember, I had originally planned to do this, but you had encouraged me not to bother. I would like to know how many of you think I should not have access to the computer? I do use it for research for the time and news as well, it would be hard to find out as much news unless I had an endless supply of papers, but I suppose local libraries have them on microfiche. So, let me know, should I not use the computer at all? Just curious what any of you think about it?
Until tomorrow, then. Have a great day!


  1. Hello there,
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Your blog and project is just wonderful. I'd love to do something like this but with my 4am work starts there is just no way I wouldn't end up resenting it which would be a real shame.

    I think not using a computer would be a shame. I know other women who live a similar lifestyle and they use their blog as a pure research tool. There is no way you would 'in real life' be able to come across the wealth of knowledge about the decade you wish to live in as you would online.

    Good luck, looking foward to hearing more from you.

  2. I think using the computer is only practical and makes sense. I mean, if you were being 100% authentic in this project, you wouldn't be able to use your modern washer and drier, your modern refrigerator, your DVD player or CD's, your modern car, either....

    To blog about the things you ARE being authentic about, and your thought processes and insights, is something that is more suited for the computer. It's easier to let your thoughts roam freely and capture that, versus planning out what you want to say and then typing it up. It would seem more stilted, I think. Hopefully that makes sense.

  3. I agree that you should continue with the computer usage. If you started do the longhand writing and editing and using the library to do your research, it would take much, much more time. In essence, what now takes (i'm assuming) a couple of hours a day or less could easily start taking the time equivalent of a part time job depending on how close the library and other research facilities are and the time involved in your more involved grooming for going into public, which would (in my opinion) be more problematic in your trying to live as an average 50s housewife. i mean, many of them probably were able to devote an hour or two per day (especially if childless or with older children) to personal hobbies or volunter work, but not a ton of time.

  4. I was directed to your blog via Little Jenny Wren's and I'm finding your project fascinating. I love reading about your daily goings on, research, and your insights about it all.

    Personally, I would continue the computer usage. It sounds like you're using it for research and blogging regarding this project, which would make your online time quite reasonable. I agree, that it would make your research and blogging for more tedious and time consuming to do it through the library and writing the blog post out. If indeed you could find the research you're looking for. In this case, the internet has far more available.

  5. If you don't use your computer, would you still do your blog? I think this is fascinating and that your fresh-from-oven approach so to speak are great. I often wonder what it would be like to have a lot less of electronic input and entertainment input into our lives. It would be a lot less noisy I think. It's a wonderful project.

  6. I love your blog, so would hate to see NOT using the computer mean a slowdown on the posts. That said, it might be interesting for you to plan on spending, say, a month during your project with no computer. You could plan ahead by researching the news, etc. for that month. Take notes, save pix, print stuff out. Have it handy for access during the "lights out" period. You could hand write your posts during that time period and maybe have your husband post them for you. It might be very interesting to see what it feels like to be without the internet in your home. How it changed your frame of mind and perspective on things --- for a limited period of time, of course! We couldn't bear to miss even a day's news!!!

    It's understandable how easy the coffee cake seems in comparison to the cakes you've been making. Everything's relative, isn't it?

    Have you settled on a name for the parakeet?

  7. I was hoping to get more names so I could do a survey of the top 3-5 names and the winner would be her name. Right now her name fluctuates between pretty princess ( I know, it sounds sickly sweet, but it just comes out) and pretty girl. "Gussie" today said we should name her Robin. SO, if anyone wants to suggest names we could do a survey. Also, I just might try a month without computer. I think it would be best in maybe spring when I will be so hectic with spring cleaning and planting up the yard. It will mean more work for hubby, but perhaps he can proof my articles and correct grammer, somthing I don't do as it takes up precious time I often don't have.
    Linda it is a lot less noisy with no tv and only music when I use the 'radio' or records (which I am accumulating and beginning a love affair with their sound).

  8. Firstly on the teenagers: If they weren't brave enough to say anything to you don't worry. Take comfort in knowing that you are better dressed than 99% of the population and continue campaigning for style.
    On the computer: To keep up your project it is imperative to keep connected to like minded people. Just as a 1955 housewife would have had close friends to gossips with, share tips with and talk about the latest fashion; you need to have this group around you too. It will enable the experience to be all the more real for you.

  9. just started folowing your blog and find it interesting! I have worked as an historical reenactor and now supervise reenacting so I can really relate to what you are doing? can I do it, no but I love living the 50's through your eyes. I have a teen boy and I now realize that he dresses better than the boy at the mall!

  10. I think you should use the computer, both to help yourself do research, and to help us know how you're doing--because it's so fascinating!!!

  11. I had to laugh when I read about the teenagers you ran into at the mall. I've had this happen as well and the best thing to do is to just ignore them completely, with perhaps a disapproving stare thrown in for good measure.

    I live near a public high school and some of the horrendous outfits these kids show up in, especially the girls, are just appalling to my decidedly retro sensibilities. I always wonder what kind of mother would let her daughter get away with wearing such clothing around the house to do chores, much less to school.

    I do think one of the most terrible things to happen in the 1960's was when parents and school principals gave up fighting and did away with school dress codes. It really makes me wish I had magical powers and could twitch my nose, Samantha Stephens style, and poof, all the boys would in dress slacks and collared shirts and all the girls in modest length skirts and dresses.

  12. Your soap story reminds me of when I was visiting my mother one day. We were talking and I responded to something she said with, "In the war you were expected to take your own packaging when you went grocery shopping ..." and I rambled on a little about this before realising both my mother and my sister were looking at me with odd expressions on their faces. "Not that I was there of course," I added, trailing off into silence.


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