Monday, February 9, 2009

9 February 1955 "Unions, Clean Houses, and Feathers"

Today, 9 February 1955, the AFL and CIO merged after a long estrangement.
The AFL (American Federation of Labor) was founded in Columbus, Ohio in 1886 by Samuel Gompers as a reorganization of its predecessor, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions.The AFL represented a conservative "pure and simple unionism" that stressed foremost the concern with working conditions, pay and control over jobs, relegating political goals to a minor role.
The CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) "proposed by John L. Lewis in 1932, was a federation of unions that organized workers in industrial unions in the United States and Canada from 1935 to 1955. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 required union leaders to swear that they were not Communists. Many CIO leaders refused to obey that requirement, later found unconstitutional.
The CIO supported Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal Coalition, and was open to African Americans. Both federations grew rapidly during the Great Depression. The rivalry for dominance was bitter and sometimes violent. The CIO (Committee for Industrial Organization) was founded on November 9, 1935."

I understood that we had unions, but until discovering this I had no idea that the afl-cio once were separate unions. I also find it quite interesting that The Taft-Harley act, which I had mentioned in an earlier blog about McCarthyism, even affected labor unions. Many stars, including Lucille Ball I belive, were considered Communist and a threat during that period. By now (1955) this had ended and Sen. McCarthy was found to be untrustworthy and had been forced to resign. (Funny how no matter what decade we are in, the politicians seem to not be trustworthy. Good intentions don't always lead to good people, it seems.)

Here is some news from 1955 concerning a labor strike. (if the youtube video did not show up, here is the link to it

This is an odd paste job I did, but this article was somewhat scattered about the magazine. It is an article on cleaning from my 1944 House Beautiful entitled :"Don't Clean just where it shows!"
It advises:
"Promise yourself this spring to clean all the forgotten places around the house. Here are some reminders. Cross just one or two jobs off daily and in a month's time the job will be done"

We are still in the war when this article came out. The Post-War wife (though there are numerous ads for the post-war home) has not yet, actually come to pass. I know, of course, that we wanted clean homes, but at this point in time most of the men were at war. I think, on some level, articles like these were to help the morale of our women at home who maybe were not working in factories or their entire day was not filled with war work. Busy hands stop idle minds, I would think was the mindset. It probably was a boon to go about your day trying to forget about the reality of the present moment in hopes of making that perfect home for when, "Johnny came marching home." You really can see the beginning of the 1950's ideal of the homemaker forming here, I think.
With that said, there are some good tips here. It might seem a bit obsessive, but really I find (as I am sure the 1940s wartime wife found) the more you do the more you can handle and then you add on some more and before you know it, it is second nature. Let me know if any of you try any of these things or do them now as a matter of course? I am not so sure about the bedspring cleaning, as I am not even sure if our bed has springs?

According to the article, I am not sure if I am yet up to snuff as a housekeeper.
"Bureau drawers reflect your brand of housekeeping, too. Try lining them with oilcloth (as we discussed in the comments of the last blog!) that can be kept dust free with a damp cloth"

With many of us using the longer lasting more energy effecient light bulbs nowadyas this advice seems as sound now as it did then"

"You dust lampshade as a matter of course, but lighting experst tell us that dirty bulbs steal precious light, too. So remove the bulbs form teh sockets seveeral times a year and wash them in soap and water. Between washings, do dust them."

This one is pertinent to today , for me:
"Slipcovers may look ari-tight, but don't be misled. When you remove them, be sure to brush or vacuum those deep crevices in upholstered furniture where dust and moths like to congregate."
Today I had a little mishap with my slipcovers which u will read about next, but a quick question: In my housekeeping books and magazines there seems to be so much mention of moths and fear of moths getting at your clothes. I even have an attachement for my old Kirby and some old chemicals (which I am sure are highly toxic) specifically to fumigate for moths. Does anyone have trouble with moth anymore? I have never had a moth attack my clothing. Have any of you ever had to worry about or prevent for moths? I am really curious about this.

Now, my little laundry mishap concerning my sofa's slipcovers. Here is a warning to any of you: if you are planning on washing the covers on your downfilled sofa cushions, be prepared to 'pluck your washer and damp clothes like a chicken'.
I found this out today. Having begun vacuuming the upholstery, so proud of myself, I thought, "these covers need a good sound washing." I mean, I was only trying to be thorough and maybe it is the sunny day that got me thinking of spring cleaning.
I carefully removed the down filled cushions and placed each of them ever so gently in garbage bags to keep the feather mess down (note to self, see when plastic garbage bags were actually invented, anyone know?) I then zipped up the covers to hopefully keep any stray feathers from escaping. Proud as a peacock for my ingenuity towards the precaution of the feathers, I went down to the laundry room and softly dropped them into the machine.
Having been so sure of myself, without paying any attention to the inside of the machine after taking out the washed slipcovers, I threw my next load of clothing in, thinking nothing of it.
I was rather surprised, to say the least, when I took out the subsequent load of clothing to find it tar and feathered! Well, okay, there was no tar, but you'd be surprised how damp wrung clothes act as a great adhesive to the feathers the cushions had left behind. Let me say, there were some harsh words being uttered in the laundry room this morning. I am sure the dogs even cowered in their corners, for the language mummy was using.
So, with the air let out of my balloon of cleaning pride, I sat with damp clothes upon my lap plucking away. A feather here and a feather there. I tell you, I felt a special place in my heart for all our old relatives who had to pluck their own birds and for the sad little kitchen maid, bent over a bucket in the basement, plucking away as a matter of course for her day.
Well, being a housewife is never dull, at least not when you wander so blindly into it as I seem to do.
Until tomorrow, then, have a great day!


  1. Oh dear, my oven is definitely saying cruel things about me!!! That's a fascinating article, reminds me of Kim & Aggie a bit.

    Mel xxx

  2. I had a HUGE moth problem about five years ago. They comped down on my favourite sweater, which I'm only now getting around to trying to darn. We used to attack the moths and larvae with the vacuum.

  3. oh no...not only is my oven saying cruel things about me... but my guilty conscience is pricking me about the state of my mops

  4. Well, I dust (not wash in water) my light bulbs only every once in a great while, but not on any consistent/regular basis; I do dust my lamp shades though. I don't have slip covers to wash, but I do vacuum the couches. By the way, speaking of vacuuming, the Kirby vacuum that you posted a picture of a while ago is the same exact vacuum my Mom had when I was little...exactly the same, even the same color.

  5. I once had a red wool coat and I pulled it out of the closet and discovered a place right there on the front lapel where a moth had started to eat my coat. Grrr!

    My oven says "Those wacky Hairballs sure do like their bacon." It's true. Every Saturday Mr. Hairball bakes a pound of bacon in the oven.

    I have a little down throw that got damaged in our last big move. I carefully sewed up the holes and popped it into the washer. I came back to retrieve it, and discovered that my sewing skills leave something to be desired. The squares that had holes in them had easily lost half their feathers! LOL

    Sometimes when I do stuff like that, I think I must be starring in my own sitcom about a goofy housewife! :)

  6. Oh dear, that article makes me feel like a total grot! I hardly ever dust my lampshades, and certainly not the actual bulbs, and I can't remember the last time I really scrubbed out my oven or vacuumed the sofa. I find it hard enough to keep the place looking vaguely clean in between working, but I'd love to have a sparklingly clean house. One day...

  7. I know how all of you feel, as after reading that article I have decided to buckle down even more. OF course, for those of you who work, I don't know that you have to worry about your lightbulbs dust, but it does seem everytime I add another thing to my daily list I think, 'Right, how can I possibly do ONE more thing in my day" and then I find that I can. I think we, modern people, are COLLASAL time wasters. Now, with that said, if you don't care about the state of your house and there appears to be little social stigma attached to it anymore, fine, sit and relax, I used to, but now I am doing more each day and kind of find I like it, sick huh? I am glad I am not the only person who has tar and feathered their laundry! I still got feathers out by the THIRD load in my dryer!

  8. We had a moth infestation last year, in a summer cottage when someone left a window open and they came in. They ate up a wool blanket, and even after washing and drying, the eggs were still in it.

    I didn't know what to do, the house is FULL of wool blankets. I had read that dry-cleaning will kill them, but that is such a high chemical activity I held off.

    We ended up just thowing that blanket out. I had a cedar closet that I never had used, which is now full of wool.

  9. Hi 50sGal
    Regarding your question on my blog.
    The books I own are from the UK (I'm an English blogger) and I've found them from second hand bookshops and Ebay. The best resource is, I link to it from my blog.

    The 1950s title I have is called "Married Life and Motherhood" and was compiled by the editor of "The Lady's Companion". It's very early 1950s. The rest of my books are from the 1920s/30s and have similar titles. I bet a good trawl through Abe would result in some good American marriage books.

    However, if you get stuck I would be happy to photocopy/scan any relevant pages from my books and send them over to you.

    Happy hunting!

  10. I found a few American titles for you.

    Successful Marriage - Morris Fishbein
    The Marriage Guide - Samuel and Esther B Kling

    They're both being sold on abe for under $5.


  11. You know, I was thinking about what cleaning "crime" is easiest to commit, and for me, I'd have to say it's forgetting to clean the top of the fridge. I'm surprised that article didn't mention that, as that seems to be a common "crime". I really have to make an effort not to forget to do that.

    The dusting job I hate the most is dusting under the bed. It seems like dust collects under there so quickly. So, to remedy this, we are looking for a captain’s bed. We'll still have storage under the bed via the draws and doors, but have the bed solidly on the floor so that no dust can get under there. Finding a good price for one will determine how long until we get it. My husband broke our current bed when he belly jumped on it trying to catch the cat before it got under the bed. Thankfully, I had a couple of boxes under the bed, which angled the bed just enough that the cat didn't get squashed when it came crashing to the ground. Since our bed broke, the mattress has just been on the floor and I have found it to be wonderfully nice as I haven't had to dust under it since, hence, my desire for a captain's bed.

  12. I have just discoverd your blof; and what a fantastic idea! Living as if you are in the 1950s! Apart from the computer I guess... ...
    I am organising a retro give away on my blog today; you might be interested!!!

    Mademoiselle M.

  13. PL is so right about the top of the fridge.

    We moved halfway across the USA last May, so I had to pack up everything we owned for the move. I climbed up to get the stuff out from the cabinets over the fridge, and my eyes bugged out at the dirt. I think I could have grown some corn up there! Ugh.

  14. I am aghast at the recommendation to wash light bulbs in water! The last time I checked, electrical things and water don't really mix!

    What am I missing in this equation???

  15. Well, I think you are meant to unscrew the lightbulbs, wash them DRY them and then replace them Dr. you silly.
    I agree with the top of the icebox. Though my vintage ice box is MUCH shorter than my current modern version, so I don't think I will forget once it is restored and installed just by it's height and mine (I am fairly tall)
    Thanks Dulce I am going to check those out today, so everyone, I didn't blog yesterday.
    Off to finish breakfast and then BLOG!

  16. Such a funny but tedious mishap with the slip covers. Sounds like something I'd do.

  17. Yes, I understand that you unscrew them from the light fixture! :) But the picture and language imply that you submerse them in water, not wipe them with a damp cloth. If the light bulb is submersed, I don't think it is too wise to then screw it into an electrical source.

    On the other hand, our light bulbs don't last long enough for them to be dusted let alone wiped off with a damp cloth (and I live in the heart of Los Angeles where you'd think the electrical supply would be steady instead of surging and waning all day long! Thank goodness for power strips or I'd have to keep buying appliances and computers!).

  18. I hope Dr julie, you didn't think I was being mean, just being silly. Now, however, with the new energy effecient bulbs (at least we have them in MA maybe they aren't in CA not sure) they last forever and use less energy, so they are around a lot longer and we do have to think of them as part of the furniture almost, only with all those spirals they'd be a bugger to clean!
    Now, i have to edit and post todays blog and get to work, my ironing got put off until today cuz I have been a bit under the weather!

  19. Before box springs there were "coil springs" which were open, not covered by a a wood frame and cloth like a box spring is. (I wish I could draw you a picture, but maybe google image would help?) They definitely got dusty, especially in houses with slapdash housekeepers like my mom was. I'm 54 and I remember these from my early childhood, which would have been 50s/early 60s. And light bulbs, remember, there were a lot more fluorescent bulbs in use then, it was a new cool thing. They didn't usually have covers, so they got dirty and did need to be at least wiped down more frequently than we would think of doing it now. Incandescent bulbs were less standardized and lamps often had 2 or 3 bulbs per lamp, which got dustier too (more intricate shades). Moths were a problem: clothing and blankets were more likely to be wool, cotton or silk, as synthetics were expensive and not that great. Houses were not heated as evenly (even with unlimited oil) so you needed lots of wool blankets in the winter that had to be stored in the summer. Also, window screens were clumsier, still made of wood, for the most part so it was easier for moths to get in the house. Funny, hadn't ever thought about it, but I remember moths flying around the house in the summer evenings as a frequent thing in those days, and it rarely happens now as our screens are so much better. And I think plastic garbage bags really got going in the early 70s but I could be wrong. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

  20. I never realized what a crummy home maker I was being. Today is my cleaning day (I work so most chores get pushed into one day) and I had formally been proud of the job I was doing. And not only do I not do the things suggested in the article, I don't do most of the things they mentioned as a matter of course. Yikes! I confess, i don't dust things that are hidden!


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