Friday, February 27, 2009

28 February 1955 "Communism, Cleaning, and Clothing"

The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), was an international organization for collective defense created by the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty or the Manila Pact, which was signed on September 8, 1954. The formal institution of SEATO was established at a meeting of treaty partners in Bangkok in February 1955. It was primarily created to block further communist gains in Southeast Asia. The organization's headquarters were located in Bangkok, Thailand. SEATO was dissolved on June 30, 1977.
Despite being intended to provide a collective, anti-communist shield to Southeast Asia, SEATO was unable to intervene in the conflicts in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam because an intervention required a decision of unanimity, which was never reached; France and the Philippines objected. (again, here we see the turmoil bubbling up that would lead our country into the tangled web that would become Vietnam)

The United States sought, but failed, to make the Vietnam War into a SEATO collective defense problem.

Here is a stamp showing SEATO. This stamp is most likely from 1958 or on as in 1955 a stamp would cost you 3 cents. Interesting cost comparrison. A three cent stamp in 2009 money would be 24 cents. So, we can see the increase in postage has gone up.
(someone also mentioned on the last blog about the cost of housing today being higher tied to the smaller structures of those built in the 1950s. Perhaps it is just that I live in a more expensive area, but my friend bought a 1950s ranch a few towns over from me. It is very small and in the same square footage as when it was built in the late 1950s. Therefore as a model, it is the same size then available. This house cost almost $300,000.00 which in 1955 money would be $38,000.00 While records of the time state such a house in size would be around $3,500.00. I think that demonstrates the inflated real estate market at least in the area of New England that I live.)

Britain announced last week that it can and soon will produce its own hydrogen bombs. The decision was announced in a tough-minded White Paper on Defense.

"Communist military strength continues to grow at an impressive rate . . . The Soviet Union and her Eastern European satellites have some 6,000,000 men under arms. On the German front, the Soviet army could be increased to well over 100 divisions within 30 days."

The fear of Communism was fairly stong then. Yet we think little of it now, I think at least the average American, however one of the growing powers of the world is Communist China. Our country has a growing debt to that country and such places as Walmart and other big chains get their supplies from China both, I think, at the cost of their own peoples freedoms and our own, by allowind the small town America to dissapear.

That is enough news for today, onto the home:

I want to talk about cleaning today. We all have to do it in some form or another. For me it has become a new experience. I obviously cleaned before, but my version of cleaning was the "when it's dirty wipe it up, vacuum it, or attack the dust now that it has formed" sort of cleaning. I was like the person who didn't take vitamins or exercise and just waited to get sick and then took the antibiotics, but with cleaning.

Now, as it should be I suppose, I do what I call 'preventative cleaning'. This is really the revelation I have had with this project. Instead of waiting for the dust bunnies to grow and become a strong army under my beds and sofas, I vaccuum out their little burroughs before they get a chance. I am sure this is not a revelation to most of you out there, but it really was to me. Cleaning was the thing you did when it started to get bad. Then it was annoying and a chore that went on and on and took up an entire day without time for dinner. Now, thanks to my magazines and housekeeping manual, I treat this as part of the job of Homemaker.

It is interesting to me, as much has become with this project, how what I had once percieved as hours of drudgery, actually takes less time when done on a daily up-keep program. It also leaves me more time to do more things I like. When we view the 1950s housewife as either a lie or some superwoman we are doing it with these modern eyes. However, when you really do a small amount of upkeep a day, you really do have time to make that cake from scratch, suspend an entire dinner in jello and still have time to put on "somthing pretty" before hubby gets home. Now, how does this translate to a modern person who may not have a husband or who does not care how they look for their hubby? That is easy: More time to do what you want and still have a clean and happy home. I think that is an amazing discovery. I am sure it seems silly to most of you, as you are all probably better organized then I have been, but really this realization that has been coming on is phenomenal to my life. It is allowing me to really think, "maybe I can do all ( or most) of the things I do want to try to do in my life before the final end."

Now, don't get me wrong,.I am definitely still in the beginning stages of the proficiency in cleaning. I would not go head to head with a seasoned 1955 housewife. Not yet anyway (maybe by December), but I am learning. I am also learning that although this is the decade that really begins the barrage of products for cleaning (as well as packaged foods endless ready made inexpensive clothes etc) we are still the women who went through the war. We were the individuals who had to wash their hands with the soap scum left in the soap dish as that was all that was left. We had to make a dinner with no meat left in our rations and potato flour. Although the aisles in my grocery store are now full to brimming with fun bright products, I am, I believe, still frugal. I think I really would be. Maybe if I were 20 in 1955 it would be different, but I am closer to 40 than 20, so I think my frugality and need to economize would be ingrained in me. This is good, as this is a trait I am trying to slowly adapt to my modern life.

When I started this project I thought I would have to put economy and caring for the environment on the back burner for awhile. That the 1950's were all plastic and waste. Yet, again, I am finding that our perceptions of that past are not always true. Though my magazines are filled with ads for new products, the articles are full of what to do with leftovers and how to economize in cleaning. Most housewives had a limited weekly budget in which to buy food, clothes, fabric for sewing, and cleaning supplies. Although all the new products for cleaning this and that sounded nice, I think many probably stuck with the old standbys.

I have never really thought about cleaning products until this project. I shopped for cleaning products like a person who could not read. "Ah, a picture of a toilet on this bottle, that's for that then. Oh, kitchen counters on the label, ok, in the cart you go. Hey, that has a bathtub sparkling on the back, better get that one, too." And so on until you have a cabinet brimming with all these cleaning products when you really only need a few.
Then I start to think about all the plastic and waste to make all these things and the energy it took to get me to think I needed all these separate things to clean. The consumerism is so ingrained into me and my generation, it never even dawned on me that you could buy one bottle to do it all. But, you can.

These are my two new friends. The first is the supermarket version of Pine-sol. If you follow the link there to Pine-sol you can find some interesting info, such as in 2008 they took out the pine oil to make it have a cleaner lemon scent favored by the country despite its losing its cleaning and disenfecting qualities! Seriously! The original formula is anti-bacterial. A phrase we hear much today and yet they changed the formula in the lemon scent and made it no longer anti-bacterial. Odd.

Anyway, I like the smell. I think it adds a vintage odor to my kitchen and cleaning, as I am sure it was used for many things. You can use this on almost everything. 1/4 cup of this mixed with water is great for floors AND if you keep it wet for 10 mintues while you are mopping, you do not have to rinse! I know if you buy floor cleaner it is mostly water. This is the concentrate and you mix it yourself. When I think of all the money and waste of using a swiffer. All those little pre-soaked pads to toss away and the packaging they come in. When a bucket of water and pinesol and a sponge mop does an even better job AND disenfects the floor to boot! You can also use it in laundry to boost your detergent and it works GREAT for stains of grease and it is the one thing I found the really works for grease on mens collared dress shirts. It does wonders in the bath, too. For more upkeep cleaning I prefer it to comet in the bathroom, as it really cleans AND it disenfects and it doesn't seem as harsh as straight bleach. I even pour it in undiluted into the toilet bowls and let it set for 10 minutes, give it a good scrub and flush. It really sparkles and keeps down hardwater stains. ( I sound like a commercial, I know! These are great revelations to me during the day. And don't think I haven't stood alone in my bathroom, hair in curlers, rubber-gloved for action, gripping my pinesol, saying alout, "Wow, this works great in the bath!" I am my own sitcom somtimes WITH commercials!)
The other product is Lemon oil. That bottle cost $5.00 but honestly I may have it for the rest of my life! I could put it in my will for my heirs, no doubt. According to the recipe in my Homemakers manual, you treat cheesecloth with it and it makes a REUSABLE dustcloth. And you know what, it really does and it works wonders and it smells WONDERFUL. You can also use it full strength on wood furniture. Again, I think of the spray on aresol stuff for dusting or even all the other 'swiffer' products that just get tossed, but you know what. A treated cheesecloth can be washed after awhile and used again! I know it is a strange idea things to clean with that you DON'T throw away.

It is funny to me how we now claim to be trying to become green and I am sure I am not the only person who would have thought of the 1950s as a time of waste. Now we buy 'Green' products, but they are all divided into separate types of cleaners in more bottles to fill up more landfills. We have merely replaced buying the other brands with buying a 'safer' brand but have not done away with the waste and consumerism that lead to our polluting in the first place! It is very subtle how the marketing works. It lets us feel better about ourselves when we pay more for a product that is probably watered down old time cleaner in new packaging. But, is it green? The main ingredient in my knock off pine-sol is pine oil. Now I know that has to be green and is probably harvested from the wood from the processing of lumber and yet the NEW lemon pinesol does away with it. That now wastes a perfectly good byproduct of something we do need, lumber. Also, in concentrate form, which is what Pine-sol is, you have less packaging and less cost to you. I bet even the high-end 'green' cleaners are mostly water and of course packaging!
Now, don't get me wrong. Some of the cute bright fun quality of this decade is wonderful and can make cleaning more fun. This article I found sort of explains that and shows some cute retro inspired items. If you want to spend a pretty penny, why not make a lovely cleaning section in your house. However, what I am finding is it is more fun is to realize that the basic cleaning products Can be made pretty. For example the above image of my 'new discovery' looks more adorable when I affix this label I designed to it. Here you can see it on the bottle. Isn't it adorable? (the colors are truer to the image of just the label) Sure, you are thinking, do I have too much time on my hands. But, no! The time I saved on not lingering in the cleaning aisle over all the choices and the time I have from my daily cleaning ritual afforded it to me. I know, I know, it is a bit extreme, and really not '1955' to design and print out a new label on my computer, but honestly I don't see it any differently than cutting out a cute magazine picture and decorating with shelf paper that a real 1955 housewife may have done. A housewife has a NEED, I tell you, to beautify. We are artists, everyone one of us, and we need to express ourselves. I like a simple vintage cleaning product with a darling handmade label, so sue me.

Now, continuing on with our cleaning theme, I thought I would talk about tablecloths again. As some of you may remember, I used to have a somewhat nervous psychological disorder I like to call "Spillidous", that is the indescribable fear a homemaker feels when watching family and guests eat blueberry pie and other highly stainable items over her nice vintage linens. Its symptoms include feigned interest in a speakers story while being gripped with fear that the forkful of cherry/blueberry cobbler won't make it to the mouth of her guest as he drones on about God knows what, but, for cyring out loud, DON'T SPILL ON MY LINENS! A very serious condition I have since tried to rectify.
The add here for Oilcloth intrigued me, as did all of your comments on plastic tablecloths.
I found this site that has oil cloth made products with vintage inspired oil cloth. This cool site has some oilcloth placemats that I am considering. I think they are a good price. Then I thought, well I could sew my own table cloths and placemats. So this site has some yard goods. I do notice, however, that they call it oilcloth but it is in fact vinyl backed with cotton. The Vermont Contry Store has genuine oil cloth, but it is expensive and the only one I would even consider is the red gingham. I think the others are a bit 80's. So, I may do the yardage of the vinyl to start. I figure for only two yards I can make a nice size table cloth which would be under 20 dollars plus it says they are having a sale until March. However, the other site has a finished product for 20 dollars. Do you think that is alot to pay for somthing of this quality?
What do any of you think? I don't want to break the bank and I know the vinyl isn't really 'period correct', but what is a vintage gal to do? I think the cleaning aspect coupled with the price tells me to go with that, but the authenticity tells me to just buck up and pay a little more for the real thing. And I am having no success finding the real thing except for the Country store and I don't like the design. Oh, well. The dilemmas of the homemaker.

Now to the sewing room: As you know I am beginning to become obsessed with patterns and fabric. It is all very exciting to think that I can choose the design and color and cut of my own clothing. It also helps the pocketbook to make your own compared to the cost of a vintage dress on ebay. They often sell faily high and the cost of reproductions are often much greater than what it would cost to do it myself. This photo of this blue dress inspired the recent trip to the fabric store with my vintage friend and resulted in a new pattern and some fabric. I will post more about these tomorrow. I had also promised to talk more about finding vintage things, such a stocking and things online, but I think I will leave that for tomorrows post, as well.I had promised to talk more about finding vintage things, such a stocking and things online, but I think I will leave this for tomorrows post.
Speaking of clothing, however, sometimes I need to mix modern with vintage to stretch my wardrobe (until I get more sewing done at least)
Here I am wearing a vintage cardigan, but wore one of my husbands tuxedo shirts with pearls and the skirt is actaully from ebay. It is Talbots and I don't think it is old. I think it does look vintage though, do you?
I really will begin to put more photos of different outfits I wear as well as my clothes I am making as they progress. I just need to get into the habit.
Speaking of such photos, yesterday was a lovely warm 50 degrees here in New England, so on the way back from our fabric shopping, my vintage friend and I stopped and snapped these pictures of one another. I tried to make them look like a tinted vintage photo. Nothing like heels and hose at the beach. (My vintage friend is in the pencil skirt and orange sweater.)

And, finally, the radio station in Australia that interviewed me sent me the l final show they broadcast. My only problem is I am trying to figure out how to post audio to my blog. They didn't send me a link but rather the MP3 of the interview. If anyone knows how to do this, chime in with some help. Also, the TimeWarpWives website is going to interview me for their site. That is a written interview, so I won't have to worry about MP3's and such. They do want some photos to go along with it. I will let you know with a link when that is published.
Until tomorrow, then, happy homemaking.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

26 February 1955 "Movies, Sewing, and the Jean Myth"

Here is a preview I would probably start seeing in theatres, as this movie will come out this summer.
In 1955, 20th Century Fox released this film adaptation directed by Billy Wilder and starring Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell. It was presented in CinemaScope with color by DeLuxe. It's often cited as one of the great comedies of its time, having won critical acclaim and become the biggest US box office hit of the summer of 1955. It contains one of the most iconic images of the 20th century–a scene in which Marilyn Monroe, standing on a subway grate, has her dress blown up above her waist by a passing train. Her line when this happens, "Isn't it delicious?", has since become famous.
Another interesting thing about this film, is it's title :Seven Year Itch. This term was coined for this movie as a psychological condition where in after Seven years of marriage one partner becomes 'itchy' to have an affair. It was not an actual psychological term, but since this film this term has entered popular culture and has even been used by psychologists.

This was first done as a play in 1952 at the Fulton Theatre in New York

I was told the Oscars aired recently. The Oscars in 1955 were not until March, but I think a list of the winners now is still relevant, as any of you who watch them or know of them might find it interesting information now.

Best Picture- Marty
Best Director- Delbert Mann, Marty
Best Actor- Ernest Borgnine, Marty
Best Actor (in a leading role)-Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront.
Best Supporting Actor- Jack Lemmon, Mister Roberts Best
Actress- Anna Magnani, The Rose Tattoo Best Supporting
Actress- Jo Van Fleet, East of Eden

The film that won for 1955 (Marty) is really a good film and I suggest watching it. This preview is nice as well as it shows some good examples of 'average people's daily wardrobe' in the scene of the New York City crowds.

Speaking of clothing, I think the 1950's really are making a comeback in the clothing world. The lines and body conscious look seem to becoming more the norm. Although an Oscar dress is hardly, 'normal daily clothes', this dress Oscar Dress of
Anne Hathaways (one of my friends told me I had to see a picture of it) is very 1950's don't you?
This is a Givenchy of 1955 and I think the top is very close to this dress. Though the skirt is full, the sleek mermaid style of Hathaway's would be as appropriate in 1955 as 2009.

As we are speaking of clothes, I thought I would show the next phase of the dress I am working on. I have decided to trim it in this lovely robin's egg blue bias tape. I like how it picks up the color in the fabric. I have a lot of this color in my wardrobe and I think, since I am now making many of my clothes, to try and have this theme tie through my wardrobe. Just as in interior design you want an element of similiar color in every room to give each part of the whole a cohesion, I think this makes sense in your wardrobe as well. I like this color and think it really works well in all seasons, for example in Autumn with deeper oranges and browns it is lovely as well as with yellows in spring.
While buying the trim for this dress, of course I had to have a quick saunter over to the pattern books. I have seen this pattern before and my vintage friend has used it with much success, so I had to get my own, of course. As you can see by the picture of the dress layout, it could not be simpler. It is literally sewn into one piece with no zipper and then wraps around and ties and buttons. I have seen it on and it is adorable. I think the only draw back to it, is you cannot wear a crinoline with it. I think this would actually make a great set of 'house dresses' for me. I am going to try this pattern before the vintage house dress pattern I recently found on ebay. I bought this lovely turquoise quilting cotton, which has such a nice weight and satiny feel. I am going to make the dress this solid color with the robins egg blue trim.

It was only $4.99 a yard and I had a 50% off coupon. In 1955 that would have been .32 cents a yard or .64 cents at normal price. That seems comparable to todays cotton pricing. I found this image at Hearts Cottage Quilts . Here you can see that the the cost listed in this 1952 Sears catalog for a similiar cotton is .56 cents. Another example that many things today are similiar or cheaper than 1955 in comarrison with the exception of housing. Our housing market is so over-inflated it is ridiculous, but that can be another post.

I thought I would end this post with some interesting images I found in one of my Womans Home Companion magazine from 1953. I think there has been some debate and misconception, thanks to Hollywood, about what a 1950's woman would wear casually or when working. As much as tv and Hollywood wanted to protray the June Cleaver stereotype, the actuality was much different. As you can see, this article on a womans wardrobe was rather enlightening. The jeans and shirt are this womans housecleaning outfit. No pearls and heels and hose here.

Here the same woman is enjoying her yard with her family, who are all sporting jeans.

This shows how a good sturdy rubber soled shoe is the perfect paring with your jeans to clean and work in the yard.

And, even if you are having company for a 'television night' or going shopping, this outfit of slacks is appropriate. Now when I am doing basic marketing or running to the local store, dress slacks are appropriate. If I were to meet for lunch with friends or shop in the city, I believe a dress and hose would be more appropriate. This is going to change my entire view for the dressing of this project.

I am slowly uncovering that mysterious creature: the 1950's woman, and really finding an interesting creature there.

I had mentioned the other day that an Australian morning radio show interviewed me for my project. They are going to send me a link to the finished show and I will post it when I get it.
Also, I had some trouble the other day with blogger and one of my blogs dissapeared. I reslisted it and it is back in numerical order by date. Here it is, if you didn't see it before.

So, until tomorrow, happy homemaking!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

24 February 1955, "I brought old Joe along for Dinner"

I only have time for a quick post, but I didn't want to go another day without one. This section in my cookbook is quite apropos for tonight.

My vintage friend and I were out shopping this afternoon and we spent over an hour in Joanne Fabrics, I think I might be getting addicted to sewing! I got some beautiful simple turquoise blue cotton and of course two new patterns, a darling pink tomato pin cushion for the eventual sewing room and some various notions. More on that later.

My husband, who works in the city (I know, very Mr. Blandings, non?) and he called and told me an old friend is coming home with him for dinner! Now, I had just got home, the house is clean, but I need to tidy, I have to throw the guest room linens in the wash, throw dinner together and a quick dessert! AHHH!

On the decorating front, I just got this book last night and read it almost cover to cover in bed last night. I didn't shut my bedside lamp out until 1 a.m. and now I have to freshen up to look good for our guest!
This is a room Dorothy Draper did, I believe it is an hotel, anyway, I just want to leave you with it, as it really strikes a balance for me between high drama city style and the country house. I think that is somewhat my design esthetic. Obviously this room is a bit grander than our little country house, but I do have a few busts and classical items. I am LOVING that navy wall. I am toying with that in the room I had shown in an earlier blog with the vintage 'early american' fabric.
I am excited about interiors and need to try and pinpoint my excitement in a blog tomorrow.
Now, I have to go make hollandaise sauce, coddle my egg for my Cesar dressing and pop some brownies in the oven. This housewife job is full time, I tell you.
Until tomorrow, then...

Monday, February 23, 2009

REPOST OF :23 February 1955 "France, French Cakes, Radio Interviews, and Pie Blues"

For some reason the other day Blogger was acting up. I had a few people say they had tried to comment on this blog and it didn't work and then I found it had just dissapeared from my blog and then found it now in my edit posts. So, I am going to repost it now. I am working on my blog for today (26 February 1955) but thought I should put this one back at so it is in the mix again. I wonder, did anyone else have any weird issues with Blogger the other day?

Edgar Faure forms French government. Prior to this France had been lead by Pierre Mende's France ( a consistent opponent of French colonialism) from 1950 to 54. France was becoming hopelessly embroiled in major colonial conflicts: the First Indochina War (1946-54 in Present day Vietnam) and the Algerian War of Independence. When French forces were defeated by the Vietnamese Communists at Dien Bien Phu in June 1954, the government of Joseph Laniel resigned, and Mendès France formed a government. Among his ministers was the young François Mitterrand. This government fell today to Faure. Faure was a leader of the more conservative wing of the party, opposing the party's left (that had been under Pierre Mendès-France.)

I never really understood all that had been going on in Vietnam. Even our involvment seemed odd and only relegated to pop culture almost. We can see how the turmoil and war in that area is leading up to, unfortuately, pull us into it. Again, I wonder, had we not gone into Vietnam, would the large divide between the 'youth culture' and the 'established adult culture' have happened? It really lead, on a cultural level, to the 'hippy' ideal of breaking away from the standard. Which, when you think of it, is really funny. The norm they were breaking away from had only just been established by their parents after WWII. The new ideal of the family etc, it is too bad they replaced it with ultimately selfishness and mistrust. I wonder, is our new radical movement of change not burning bras and haveing love ins, but putting on girdles and making a happy home life? One can never tell.

Oh, as an aside a movie I loved ( but cannot watch again this year) was Indochine, a french film about this time period and their french colony. I believe it was made in the 1980s.

This isn't really 1955 specific, but Hairball had a blog which mentioned King cakes and I hadn't any idea what they were. I now see what they are and thought it would be interesting to show the difference between the american King cake and the French version (as they are a Catholic country and their cake is used at similiar time.)The French cake is called gateau des Rois. This is a good example, I think, of the American 'over the top' or overdone aspect. I am not saying it in a negative way only pointing out how many of our countries customs are adapted from the countries in which our forebears originally came with a fun over the top twist! Both versions have a toy hidden inside. (in the U.S. version a baby which is suppose to represent Jesus and in the French version it can be anything from a movie star to cartoon character. They used to be made of porcelin, the figurines, I guess they are rather collectible now.) The French version goes, whomever finds the figurine gets to wear an accompanying crown and be the king of the day and then provide the next cake.

This makes me think of my own Anglo-philed New England Xmas cake, Plum Pudding, where in is hidden a thimble, a coin and a ring. Whomever finds each of these is blessed with creativity, money and a new marriage for the coming year. We, in our family, also use the xmas crackers that have a crown in them, confetti, a fortune and a toy, which we have at xmas eve dinner. I believe this is also an English tradition. I love that our country is such a lovely amalgamation of such much tradition!

In my last post anonymous mentioned how zip codes did not exist in 1950s, which I knew, but didn't think about when trying to date my vintage zipper. I did find out that the idea for zip code was actually invented in 1944 by Robert Moon ( the father of the zip code) when he was the postal inspector.He was responsible for the first three digits of the zip code. But not until July 1 1963 were zip codes mandatory and by 1967 they had invented Mr. Zip to get people to use it. Many were reluctant at first. Interesting stuff, I think. I think they stopped using the image in mid 1980's and I have a faint memory of seeing this image at the post as a child. Do any of you remember him?

I also want to tell everyone that I was approached to do an interview about my project for an Australian morning drive program. I did it last night via phone. I have no idea how it will turn out. I do know that my voice was still a little hoarse from my cold. I don't know if I will ever be able to hear the program. They did give me a link to their radio stations web site I guess I should have paid more attention to the name of the morning show when it was going to be aired etc, but still waiting to hear back. They interviewed me last night, but I think it will be edited and broadcast later. If I can find out specifics I will let everyone know as I was hoping at least one Australian reader could somehow access it for me. I think it was funny that they wanted to interview me.

Now, I had wanted to show you the pic of my chocolate pie I made last night. I had not made it when I posted the recipe. I am going to try again, but had a little bit of a mix up. I followed the recipe and felt rather proud of my self, whisking in a double boiler, then pouring some of the hot mixture onto a beaten egg and then back into the mix. When it was all mixed and ready to be set, I tasted it. EWWW! Salty. My Housewife radar had gone up when I was adding the salt the recipe which called for 1 1/2 Tsp of salt. That seemed a lot! I should have listened to myself, as it was far too salty. So, to rememdy it I added more sugar, alot more until it tasted good and then popped it into the freezer to set. Twenty minutes later, it was still chocolate soup. SO, back to the double boiler, more milk and some cornstarch, hoping that would do it, still nothing. "Ah, ha!" I thought, I have unflavored gelatin in the pantry. (Any self-respecting 1955 housewife would, you know.) That goes in and I stir it and pop it in the freezer, again, to cool.
Still nothing. So, I figure, well I will try just heating it on the stove without the double boiler. I learned the importance of a few things last night.
1. double boiler is imperative when dealing with anything heating milk
2. the chemistry of baking is often an exact science, know what you are doing before you mess with it. I mean I could have turned into a Dr. Jeckyll Mrs. Hyde scenario!
3. Taste as you go when you bake and cook

4. Patience is a viture especially with baking.

After heating it directly on the stove it burned so quickly! It tasted, as Gussie put it, "like a blackened marshmallow at a campfire."
I left it and my shame on the counter over night; unable to even deal with throwing out all that brown goo.
This morning I got up to do my usual routine and you will never guess. Yes, nice and set. I couldn't believe it. Had I just left well enough alone and not tried heating it, but poured it in its soup-like state into the shell, we would have been greeted with a lovely pie this morning. Oh, well. I can't get all straight A's at Home University, now can I?

At least I can still reuse the shell and the delicioius almond flavored whipped cream I made for the top. It is often a crap shoot in that kitchen. I really do feel like a mad scientist about 60% of the time.

I am going to close with this image in one of my cookbooks. Look at this spread! That green blob is actually a ham in a special glaze. I think maybe my pie failure has made me a little loco, or maybe it was tasting its burnt chocolatey insanity, but now I somehow want to make up for it and try at least some of this menu for this saturday. Also, what used to seem weird and ugly to me in these books is starting to look beautiful and interesting. It is funny how tastes can change when subjected to a different visual vernacular. I wonder what I won't be suspending in gelatin by the end of this year?

Until tomorrow, have a great home-making day!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

21 & 22 February 1955 "Servants and Sewing"

21 February 1955: A Coy Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (DCLI), who arrived in Bermuda in 1954, paraded for HRH Princess Margaret in Hamilton.

22 February 1955 :British aircraft carrier Ark Royal sets sail. The new aircraft carrier was part of the new "Audacious class" aircraft carrier and were a class of ship proposed by the British government in the 1930s - 1940s. The Audacious class was originally designed as an expansion of the Implacable class with double storied hangars. However, it was realised that the hangar height would not be sufficient for the new aircraft that were expected to enter service, so the design was considerably enlarged and commissoned now in 1955.

In the New York Tims of 22 February 1955 there is an article on the inadequate car for the sick and aged. It discusses the problems of the 'senile' (which of course we know today to have dimentia or alzheimers). It looks as if most nursing homes and facilities were reluctant to take them. Again, much as today, the middle class seem to be the most affected. The article states:

"Wealthy families can hire companions or nurses and keep the patient at home...If the family is supported by welfare funds, or demostrably unable to pay for the care of teh senile relative public agencies will assume all or part of the burden...The average, self-supporting, middle-income family, however, finds it virtually impossible in New York City to solve the problem of long-term custodial care for a senile relative in a way commensurate with its pride and self-respect...Fees at a nursing home (if they are willing to take the patient) fees will be at least $150 a month for bed, board and nursing care alone. Medical care when needed will be billed separately."

So, for a middle class family that cost would be equivalent to $1, 187.00 today. I do know, however, that here in New England (2009) that cost is around $6000.00 a month. Both of these cost factors whether 1950s or now show what a heavy burden on the middle class. It is unfortunate, as the family may show that they have the money to pay, it wouldn't account for possible children to put through college, or the mere fact of needing their own nest egg. I am not sure why it always seems, since the Great Depression in this country, the heaviest tax burden and cost seems to always fall on the middle class. Very sad and unfortunate.

This was a rather nice Sunday morning as I had Gussie in. While she was working away in the kitchen, I was at the sewing machine. She was humming away in the kitchen, the clang and clatter of the pans mingled with Ruth Brown on the 'radio'. I had my sewing machine whirring and clattering along; fabric and pattern pieces spread out on the Dinning room table. (My sewing room is not even close to being usuable.) The dogs wandered in and out of the two rooms wondering who was most likely to drop a scrap of food. Hubby was slumbering away in bed, his day to sleep in. The sound of my small industry, the song of Ruth Brown, the smell of coffee and sausage all of it seemed rather normal to me. I had to stop and think, "Two months ago this would not really be happening."
Now it seems normal of a Sunday to have a large breakfast set before us by Gussie followed by her turning back into our friend and having a nice conversational breakfast. After breakfast we all help 'Gussie' clear the table and then hubby is off to his study and I to my sitting room.
Now, the cacophony of sounds include the rain, Doris Day and the random high-pitch squeal that the ole' Kirby as Gussie cleans. The Kirby will call out sometimes with a great ear-splitting squeal, as if it is giving out its great YELP to the heavens; calling to any old unloved vacuums to awaken from their slumber. It is funny to hear the normal jet engine noise of the Kirby punctuated by this screech followed by Gussies, "Oh my goodness, this thing is loud!"
Our relationship with Gussie as a servant is an interesting aspect I would love to study more. Gussie and I joke around and help each other out. Now, it is true that Gussie is actually my friend (so we are comfortable with one another)but I think had I a real Gussie in 1955 she would most likely have been with us since my marriage. She would have probably been released during the war time for war work ( I am including a funny article about this from my 1944 magazine) However, I am certain she would have returned with the wars end. I think the laughter we have while she is cooking up breakfast and I try on my half finished dress to get her approval would have happened. Also, as a middle class woman I would have helped her with meals and cleaning. She would not have been a servant in the upper class since of the world. I would not ring bells for her to come and 'wait on me'. A sort of commaraderie between the maid and the housewife would have been the norm I think. It is too bad this no longer exists, as my friend has stated that she wished what she did with and for us was her actual job, as she likes it. I am certain there would be people out there who would have been happy to live in and help out a wife and in a sense be a part of their family. A relationship one would not normally have with their boss and it would result in a friendly excahange. I think as with all things of the past, most people want to deem it bad. As if it no longer exists it must be a bad thing. When, really, I think there must have been many happy 'Gussies' who enjoyed their family, and got much satisfaction (as do I) from a clean kitchen and a nice meal. She would have recieved gifts on birthdays and chirstmas, and been, all around, another memeber of the family. This relationship between the middle class and their 'servant' would be an interesting project in and of itself.

It appears that the middle class servant was often the 'boss' of the house, yeilding a power over the family members in an almost reversal of boss/employee position. Probably not unlike a bossy great aunt or some similiar relative. She is responsible for the cleanliness and running of the house WITH the housewife and won't stand for any nonsense from the husband or the children. I love the little 'song' the husband sings in this story from my 1944 House Beautiful about their Maid, Gertie:

Gertie's gone to war,
And that's the final straw.
She ran the joint,
And here's the point-
Her word's no longer law!

Now, onto my sewing: Contrary to what I think some of my readers think, I have not really been much of a seamstress before. I have made a dress here and there in the past but with no regularity or feverent need as I do now. I have never had an official class to learn how to sew nor had I anyone (including my mother) to show me how to do it. At university in my early twenties I found my vintage machine I now have and managed a few things here and there, but it has been some time since I have really sewn. So, now I am slowly learning to address the patterns and their strange language much the way I am becoming increasingly familiar with the language of the cook book.This was one of the exciting bits, as with the cooking/baking, that I was looking forward to accomplish from this years project.
I think a woman of my class in the 1950s would have sewn. I am sure I would, as I do now, have had 'store bought' things here and there. I have my new fur coat. I would most likely have a few nice suits and some evening clothes I would buy on a shopping trip to the city, but to get a stylish wardrobe while not being wealthy, sewing would have been rather necessary. So, I am trying to become acquainted with it. Here I am again, faced with cram sessions on things of which a true 1955 housewife would most likely have had experience. I mean if not learning from a relative I would have had Home Ec in high school and most likely University level as well.

So, I think I will start documenting my progress more to share with all of you. Here is the pattern I am using now to make a dress. I am starting with the red number as its sleevless scooped neck top seems the simplest for me to get a handle on. I think if it turns out well, it can be a very good all around base pattern for me to add to here and there as my skill increases.

Here is the fabric I am using. It is not vintage (as I have ordered some vintage fabric but do not want to cut it up until I get better at my sewing). I think it has a pretty vintage feel, however. It is a simple cotton.

Here is how far I am as of this morning. ( Gussie took the pic for me and believe you me you would be glad I cut off my head in the pic, curlers no makeup does not make for a fun vintage photo!) You can see the top is not finished. I have not lined it but am going to instead pipe the neck and sleeves with bias tape. The bottom is also not yet hemmed. I am also holding it on myself as the zipper is not installed yet. These things will happen today.
I am using a vintage zipper, however. My vintage friend gave me this one! Don't you love the images on the back of the women. I am not sure exactly the date of this zipper but you can see from the clothing on the women on the back it looks at least late 1950's. I am going to attempt to make many of my future clothes ( as my skill increases) with vintage fabric and notions, so even if they are not actually vintage per se, they at least are made as vintage as possible.

Today's Sunday bake is going to be a pie. I think this one sounds rather yummy. I will post a pic and let you know how it turned.

I like that this pie breaks the class barrior as it "the choice of males whether they work in the office or the out of doors". A very diplomatic and delicious pie. And if you do not want to make your own crust I am certain this would be lovely in a premade frozen crust. Or, better yet, why not make your own crust in bulk and freeze a few for that busy day when hubby calls and an important client is to come to dinner, or unexpected guests drop by!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

20 February 1955 "My Walden"

My illness has lead me to spend my 'busy time' during the day, when I would have been ironing or baking or cleaning in reading. I, by chance, picked up Walden (Henry David Thoreau) and suddenly felt akin to him.

" I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."

He, in the middle of the 19th century is faced with the ever and vastly changing modern world. Trains, Science, and Industrialization is changing the face of the world. He chooses to, in the words of Robert Frost, to take the 'road less travelled'.
I, on some level, have left that bustling modern world behind; only my Walden is the Home. The lapping shores of the pond is the rhythmic music of the laundry. The streams and valleys to traverse and contemplate in fields, are my rooms in my home. The dinning room, laid out quiet and waiting, the flowers set in their moment of peak bloom upon the freshly ironed linen, the plates solitary and quite awaiting the voices of guests. These are my birdsong. My open field. My quiet yet turbulent nature.
Am I living a modern Walden? Has the domesticity of the home become as fleeting and likely to disapear as the beauty and quiet of nature in the fastly changing industrial revolution of Thoroueas time? Walden was published almost exactly 100 years before my experiment (1854). What will be the Walden of 2055?

"This small lake was of most value as a neighbor in the intervals of a gentle rain-storm in August, when, both air and water being perfectly still, but the sky overcast, mid-afternoon had all the serenity of evening, and the wood thrush sang around, and was heard from shore to shore."

Though I have a small man made pond in my yard and I live walking distance to a salt marsh and but 2 miles from the seashore, my neighbor is not these waters, though they have often called and consoled me. My POND is my home. My neighbor, when there has been none, has become my house. Which, for my loving it, has started to become my Home.
I have felt a return embrace from my home. I have listened, quiet as the washer spins or the water whistles in the kettle, to its song. There has been a hush when I am alone and the house is quiet, save the movements of my dogs upon the little sofa in my sitting room, or the crick cracking of seeds from my parakeet. When I have stopped, sweated from the fury of the clean, in the midst of my kitchen, the heart of my home, I have seen it's glisten on the countertop, the shine of its floor as the calm of the water. The smile back from this neighbor, this friend, this child and parent rolled into one, this building: This HOME, has sated me.
Others may and will scoff at such a statement. They might say that the folded ironed linen is the shackles which bind me. That the broom and dust pan, the signs of my submission, but I say to that: these are not shackles but the bird song and fresh smell of Thoreua's nature. They are not a prison but a new kind of freedom of the home. The freedom Thoreau had in leaving his society, stepping outside of his present day norm of the vastly changing modern world into the open air is no different from my own. His separation from his now was not bondage but freedom. He made a choice to return to the 'old ways'.
I am sorry if I am waxing so poetic this post, but these days of contemplation have really got me to find a new level in my housewifery. I was not able to blindly dash through the house in some great struggle, "the war against the dust and the grease", which I had here-to-fore considered it. I was wrong. I am not in battle with my house, I am in sync with it! Having chopped at the forest and hacked at the ground I have stopped and listened to it. The quiet. The organic movement of it. There is dirt and animals and smells and sounds in this house. It has lived for my being in it and on its own. I am no longer attacking it daily with my sword of broom and vacuum, forcing it to wear the clothes I pick for it that day, but stopping and listening. It is funny how so often just stopping and doing nothing, the mere cessation of an act, often brings such clarity such realizations.
My illness and subsequent 'giving in' to what I had percieved as the enemey: my house and it's encroaching dirt, I have become to see as my ally. It has embraced me. When I allowed my eye to wander from the dust bunnies under the sofa and the crumbs on the kitchen floor to the window sill where the sun lay warm and dappled. The unpainted fence in the front was no longer taunting me for its not having been yet painted, but its beauty of weathered wood and the dance it was making with the dry crips brown embrace of the Clematis and Hydrangea. It held me and my dogs in a quiet embrace on the sofa as I read. It gave me the entertainment of the snow falling through its glass eyes and protected me from the wind and rain that followed, holding me in its bed and warmth of covers.
I urge any of you homemakers to take this advice: Just stop for a moment. Put down that broom, set aside that rag, turn off that tv and listen. Find a spot in your house and listen to it. Let go of the dust bunnies and the impending meals and piling laundry and listen. Can you hear that? It is the sound of your closest friend. The pal that is alwasy with you. Yes, sometimes it is a naughty child, hiding dust in all its crevices and that sock that you were sure had a mate in the laundry, but its rebellion is your voice too. You help to make and shape it, much as a mother does a child, and we love a child even when it is naughty. Even if your dwelling is not your own and if it is a one room flat, it is your home. It can be your home. The outter layer of your thoughts, hopes and dreams. Only, don't pin too much on it. Give it a break. The pair of you can rest and listen together. There is plenty of time to brush and spit polish it to be ready in its sunday best, but leave it off for now and sit and listen to your 'neighbor' your silent friend, your Home.

"Direct your eye right inward, and you'll find
A thousand regions in your mind
Yet undiscovered. Travel them, and be
Expert in home-cosmography."

In Walden there is a quote I think most pertinent to those who made up that time of the post war ear. We may yearn for it, wax nostalgic or hate and dispise it, whatever opinion we have of those in the mid twentieth century, we have to acknowledge that they took nothing and made something. They saw hope when hope had been lost. Their world, their youth and childhood, had been bleak, their families had been touched by death in so many ways. Wants and needs became like companions to them, as they were so often with them. This quote sums them up for me and also is the best advice for anyone living anywhere in ANY time:

"However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names."

And though the 1950s is so often painted as a time of conformity, you have to realize at the time it was not conformity. It was a break from the past. The ideas, the art, the architecture, even civil rights were all born out of this time. They had to work at it each day to change and make a new world. It was not perfect, but is anything of real beauty ever perfect? Is not the failings what we learn from and make a better way?

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

I think these famous words of Rober Frost are fitting here. I am sorry if this post contains no photos nor recipes nor specific facts, but I think these realizations are as true to 1955 as to 2009 and 2055.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference"

I am not sure where this road is leading me, but I am glad that I have taken it. I am glad to be honored to meet those of you who I have along the way and I hope to meet more. Thank you for coming along on my journey.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

17 February 1955 "Tv, Sewing Machines, Patterns, Etiquette, and Chocolate Chippers"

I thought the news for today could be an example of my 1955 tv viewing. Luckily these things are available in their entireity sometimes. It makes the viewing much more realistic and genuine.

This show from 1955 is in its entirety and you can see how commercials were more about sponsering the whole show. The total price of that singer sewing machine they advertise is equivalent to about $1100.00 today and the down payment of $15.00 makes it about a $100.00 payment. But when you consider all you will do with it for your family and home ,this machine is as important as your icebox or Kirby (or Hoover)! I think the story is really sweet and not to give away the end, what a darling conclusion, I think this story today would end very differenlty. Let me know what you think of it.

This lady looks like she was surprised while busy as a bee in her little sewing room. I have a similar version
of that lamp that I just bought at our local tag sale except mine also has a telescoping magnafying glass. I have not begun the project of kitting out my new sewing room. I cannot wait to be rid of this cold, as I am chomping at the bit to get to my projects and to get on top of my household chores again.
As I said, $1,100.00 is a lot for a sewing machine, but when it is such an integral part of the homemakers life, you can see why. Not only yourself and your families wardrobe would recieve the diligence of your creativity and your Singer, but your decor as well. This is a great layout of how best to make a slip cover for a chair. I am glad they use a wing chair in the example, as I have quite a few of these I would like to recover. I think it ingenious the use of the zipper at the back to hold in taut.
If anyone is interested in trying this pattern let me know and I can post the details that go with the chart I pictured.
Don't you love the pride on her face in the last photo. My experienced eye can also make out how well her girdle is helping her to achieve her lovely figure.
Actually, that chair and the striped fabric, if it were in pink and white, would look a treat in my fantasy sewing room. It is the one room I am going to be frilly and pink.

While we are on the subject of sewing and patterns I need to say that I love
my 1955 version of the mail order catalog: ebay. I was looking at Sewretro's blog today and she had this pattern and had made the dress, only her pattern number was torn off and didn't know what year/number it was. One of her commentors knew the pattern number and posted it. I saw it, went to ebay, typed in the number and there it was just waiting for me! It was only 4.99 plus shipping. This is gonna be perfect as I really need a good easy servicable pattern for a day dress. This will be nice for cleaning in and can go over my pajamas in the morning instead of my robe for breakfast with hubby. It is from 1953 so it fits in there as well. Thanks sewretro and thanks ebay, This little devil is on its way! By the end of this year, I may have to just go into 1956 as my closets will be full of nothing but vintage. Ahhh, what a loverly thought, eh ladies?

As I have been ill, which I am sure you are all sick of hearing (pun intended!) I thought I would muster up enough energy to make a good all-around yummy cookie. I was really craving a comfort food today and this fit the bill. Also,
tonight is a Gussie night, as my cleaning has been falling behind, so I thought a plate of these and some coffee would be a welcome treat for her after she sees the present state of the kitchen. Perhaps after cleaning up the mess it took to make these little lovelies, the dishpan hands won't seem as bad with these melting in her mouth.
I used to make my chocolate chip cookies with butter, but this vintage recipe from my much used cookbook, uses shortening, so I figured I should too. Here is my secret to making these extra wonderful. Follow the above recipe but add to it 1/4 tsp. of Almond extract and instead of the nuts had 1/2 cup of coconut. Then, after spooning them onto the cookie sheet with a teaspoon, press coconut into the top of each. This will get toasted to perfection as the cookie bakes. Put them in a 375 degree oven for ONLY 10 minutes. I know they will look doughy, but when you take them out they continue to cook, but will remain soft for days. These are sure to please anyone's sweet tooth. I may make a batch of these as my 'bring along treat' when our new neighbors eventually move into their new house. A nice casserole to be heated and a batch of these cookies, if they aren't my friends or at least good neighbors after that, then maybe I won't want to know them!
I think I will finish today with some etiquette from my 1955 "Home Makers Guide". This section starts off with a good little quote from Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe known as Lady Mendl was an American interior decorator, nominal author of the influential 1913 book "The House in Good Taste,"and a prominent figure in New York, Paris, and London society. During her married life, the press usually referred to her as Lady Mendl. She would have been known of in 1955 still.
"Be pretty if you can, witty if you must, but be agreeable, if it kills you!"
Here are some tips. These are only a few and I will list more in later blogs when the mood hits or if anyone requests more.
A man always walks on the outside whether he is with one or two women.
Keep your hands to yourseld. Do not poke or hudge, or fondle publicly.
Don't "put on" just because you are at a party. Be "yourself" at all times. This eliminates the crooked little finger when drinking tea or coffee.
Well, these are todays sage words of advice, now go out there and homemake!
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