Sunday, March 15, 2009

16 March 1955 "Bombs, Peace, and Grandmothers Life"

President Eisenhower declares that the United States would use atomic weapons against military targets in the even of war. "Now in any combat where these things can be used on strictly military purposes, I see no reason why they shouldn't be used just exactly as you would use a bullet or anything else."


Prime Minister Winston Churchill tells the House of Commons that he is working for a big power meeting to ease world tensions. That meeting should now include West Germany, France and the big three. "O still believe that vast and fearsome as the human scene has become, personal contacts of the right people in the right place at the right time might yet have a potent and valuable part to play in the cause of peace which is in all our hearts."
So, today I had planned on having my blog up sooner than this. However, as I had mentioned in previous blogs, there is a new house going one door down. Today, they came to connect their electricity, so they shut off the power for the street for a good hour or so. Thus, in the middle of wash day, and blogging time, I was left powerless. It certainly made me think of my ancestors. And, had I been really my age in 1955 my grandmother could have lived without power. Not only would I not be blogging (no computers in the 1950s) but I would be spending a lot of time hand washing (no electric washers in 1900)


That brings me to this great find! The book of Household Discoveries. It was printed in 1908 (this is the frontice piece) and belonged to some member of my family. Who that was, I do not know. Could have been for a homemaker of the past or for her servant or for the pair of them. It is SO interesting. I feel as if the knowledge in here would be the stories I would hear from my grandmother as she visited me here (in 1955 of course). I would be using my electric washer and dryer and she could regail me with stories of the 'old days'.

There are pages and pages on 'wash day'. To give an example of how one would have to just 'make do' until wash day due to its being so involved, here is a tidbit:
"To dry-clean White Goods.-Small mud stains and a clen white skirt may be concealed until ready for the laundry by pipe clay or painting over with white water-color paint.
Or if a clean white skirt or shirt wasit is spattered or spotted by mud or soot, let it dry, scrape off with a penknife, and rub over the stain with white crayon or school chalk.
Rub with a clean white cloth until the spot disappears."

Better to coneal the stain, it seems, as the act of washing was perhaps rather involved and you certainly did not have a closet full of clothes.

It looks like dry-cleaning in grandmothers time was also a 'do it yourself' job.

"To dry-clean shirt waists-Put 4 quarts of corn meal into a 24-pound flour sack or a pillow slip. Put the waist into this, and rub or knead gently so that the meal will come in contact with all parts of the fabric. Leave it there for a day or two, then shake and dust thoroughly, and press with a hot iron."

I wonder if this actually worked? It would save on your modern dry cleaning bill, I suppose.


So, this would be my grandmother or her servant.
While I enjoyed this luxery. I have to say, as well, that I would love that set of waher and dryer as that is one of my favorite colors. I am sure these are still around and working fine. It would be interesting to see if I could come by an old set like this. I love how you step on the floor and the dryer opens, even my 'modern' dryer does not have that option.

So, there will be more from this book in the future. It could be called :"My Grandmothers Corner" or "The Good Ole Days". Anyway, I am certain as a 1955 woman I would know of many of these things. My own mother would remember some of these things as a child or my grandmother telling them to me.
Again, I like the idea that a 1955 homemaker didn't just land on earth one day:magically be-pearled and be-petticoated in her electric kitchen. She had a history as told by her mother and grandmother and her own childhood in the 1930's would also be ever present in her mind as she went about her day. Opening the 'icebox' and remembering when there really was a block of 'ice' in there (although many middle class families in the 1930s had electric iceboxes, many did not). Or when she sat down with her family to watch Father Knows Best, recall huddling in front of the Radio to listen to 'Little Orphan Annie' or her grandparents regailing over the 'wireless'. If I am going to look back, I am going to keep looking back. As a woman in 1955, I would have this whole segment of American history from the late 1800's to the present day through my families memories as well as my education.

We often think of the good ole days as those that were more natural or green. And, quite often, they were. Yet, this bit about cleaning wood floors from 1908 sounds like a chemical explosion waiting to happen:

"To clean wood floors.-Detergents recommended for cleaning kitchen floors and other coarse and unpainted wookwork are caustic potash and soda lyes, soft soap, sand, lime, chloride of lim, ammonia, kerosene, gasoline, and various mixtures of these."



What a comparison to my fictional grandmothers time and my own fictional 1955 time. Does ease of living breed complacency, boredom and unrest? With more time do we simply fill it with pointless spending and then work to pay the bill? I am not saying I want to trade places with the woman on the floor. Nor, do I want to turn back the clock on womens rights, but it does beg the question, is more and easier always = better life quality? And if we find the answer different for each of us, then living in the modern world we can make the choice of which is better for us personally? Obviously, though, without walking for a moment in our ancestors shoes, how will we know? We cannot see the future, but in living the past for just a moment, is not our present a sort of crystal ball? Can we not look forward while stepping back and think, "Ah, yes, isn't that lovely, aren't we lucky we have this, or Oh, I never realized this or how much I enjoy that."

Those things which seem second nature or normal or just 'the American way', we may find are indeed only modern interpretations of the world. Better to know what and why we think and do what we do. Then, like a futuristic time-travelor, we can speed back to our present with the knowledge of the past. And knowledge is the key to any answer, really.

What is amazing to me, is look how close we actually are to this 'future prediction'. That floor cleaning robot on the lower left could be a roomba. This kitchen looks like it could be duplicated easily from IKEA. And could not that homemaker be any of us sitting at our table with our computer? Eerie, isn't it? It is amazing how far we have come in 100 years. I only hope we can keep and raise up the level of respect and reality there is in being a homemaker. Let us celebrate our past womanhood and revere her life in our own homemaking today. Don't worry if we are trying to 'recreate Leave it to Beaver', but look at what they were trying to portray and take the good in it. The knowledge of the home and the ability to ask why and to manage money, spend wisely, and sustain yourself as much as you can without the aid of 'instant meals, closests of cheap throw away clothes, and mindless spending.'
We can do it.
Happy Homemaking!

15 comments:

  1. you may not have been blogging but you certainly would have needed time to write letters to other people... and you probably would have needed electricity to see what you were writing so that you didn't miss the daily post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Because of your blog, and some other blogs about 1950's living, I'm starting to first of all give my house a spring clean, and clear out stuff.

    Second I'm going to make myself a housekeeping schedule, because I live alone and it needs to be done.

    And third, I'm going to make my own clothes more.

    Could you take a picture of your "work" clothes it would be quite nice to see.

    Thanks!

    Angel

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Ah, yes, isn't that lovely, aren't we lucky we have this, or Oh, I never realized this or how much I enjoy that."

    Every day when I switch on electricity and water runs out of the tap (both warm and cold) and I press the button on the toilet and, flush, away it goes - I praise it! Really, I do!

    Because I remember living all Summer at our small cottages at the Isle of Moen (southern Danish island), see it here: http://www.samati.dk/pan/pan_uk.htm
    And there was no electricity, no sewerage systems, no water in the house and no modern toilet. We had kerosine lamps, a woodburning stove with a huge kettle on, so we had hot water for washing our bodies before we went to bed. We had an old-fashioned water pump outside the house, and an old loo in a small house which we shared with my grandparents (my house was my grandparents). My dad digged the content of the loo into my grandpa's vegetable garden and the vegetables grew large and lovely! :) My mother had a gas cooker with two stands, and no fridge. We had a "meat safe" on the shadow side of the house. I remember she hated the small "meat safe" cabinet.

    I still remember when all the big excavators came and dig the sewerage system we have today, what a party!

    This sounds as if I lived in the dark ages, but I think it is a good thing having tried it, since you are much more grateful for all the modern appliances you have today.

    Have a lovely day, dear! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. How did you come across that book of discoveries? Is there someone in your family that can tell you who it belonged to? That is sooo neat that you have it now.

    Crazy! That modern kitchen picture does look like something out of IKEA. IKEA creeps me out though. I've only been one time and I hated how I felt like I was being herded through their one way path that takes you through the whole store in order to get out. We were half way through the store and I was ready to go, but realized that the only way out was to go forward through the rest of the store. That really irritated me. What a way to force people to look through your entire store, making sure that not one temptation is missed. I haven't been back.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh, holy one, I mean, Sanne ;). I went to visit with my sister once when they were living in a trailer on their property, with no electricity and no plumbing. They were living in the trailer while building their house on the property (which ended up not happening). I was more difficult than camping. I really do not like using outhouses, especially at night. I would make sure not to drink anything after dinner so that I would not need to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night. It was really rough for them, and they were more than happy to finally leave even though they ended up not getting their house built after all. It really taught their kids how to be self sufficient, but none of them ever want to do anything like that again.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sanne-you are so lucky in your little summer house! Hubby and I have been looking at land in Maine for the past five years trying to find an affordable little lot that is just the 'right spot'.
    For awhile we used his grandfathers little rustic place in NH when we went skiing. It had not been used since my hubby was a child and the house had been shut down and left all those years. When we returned we found the old tv with the built in PONG game still set to my hubbys last game (even when he visited there as a child in the early 80's that game was already dated) so we had a blast clearing it up etc. There was no running water.
    We had our friends along with us and we spend two days melting snow on the stove to scrub and clean, putting right dishes and making things look neat and tidy (perhaps then were beginning the rumblings of my desire to homemake!)
    Sadly, my husbands family had a strange falling out with his grandfather, and now all of our work of two years of ski visits and fun have ended and the house has returned to its dormancy. I think of it, every so often, alone and cold. Perhaps the squirrels have found their way in again, I know we left some cherished books there, waiting on the bed side tables as if we were returning and we never did.
    So, we have also looked there in NH for a place to make a little 'get away' for us. Then, with the fall of our economy, any little extra money we had for such a luxery was really lost in the market.
    Now, I am back to dreaming on it again. But, one day. I just want a little plot in the woods, maybe a stream I could divert into a little pond, and a place to build a cottage. I don't care if it starts out wiht only gas lights, no electricity, and a composting toilet, it can be our little escape to 1909 from 2009, (or 1955 really).
    Some day.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I completely agree with this thought,

    " Can we not look forward while stepping back and think, "Ah, yes, isn't that lovely, aren't we lucky we have this, or Oh, I never realized this or how much I enjoy that."

    In January, my washing machine stopped agitating. For six weeks I washed all of the household laundry for a family of 5- clothes, sheets, towels, tablecloths- by hand in our laundry sink in our laundry room. The first week my arms and hands ached from the hard work. I quickly adapted to the work but the time factor was another thing all together. We learned a lot about management of resources. There we no more wet towels on the floor; they were hung up to dry in the bedroom. We also revisited what "dirty" actually meant. We didn't wear smelly or obviously stained clothing, but a shirt wasn't dirty if you had worn it for three seconds before it was removed in favor of a different outfit that day. I also realized that you can come to enjoy just about any task. I really liked the smell of our laundry soap and the work was really good for my disposition. However, I was really glad when we got our new washer. "aren't we lucky to have this?" Let me be the first to reply with a resounding ,"YES!"

    Michele

    ReplyDelete
  8. I was reading a recently-acquired 20's "Modern Priscilla" and the Housekeeping Hints column recommended washing very soiled clothes with gasoline in the water.

    Eek!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I find comfort in unexpected powerless evenings. The days allow us to make do and appreciate what we have all the more. Technology does make many things easier, but I also find myself falling into a sedentary, "faceless over the internet" existence. If we could get back to community barn dances and walks in the park on Sundays, those nights in recalling the day would be all the more enjoyable, even without the computer.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh, what a nice, and sad, story about your grandfather's little cottage. Couldn't you buy it in any way? It sounds as if it would be quite cheap by now and a great project for a homemaker like you. You could have the birds and the squirrels help you just like in the fairytales! :)

    I adore my little cottage, since I can feel my grandparents being there, it is such a lovely feeling. I don't know if you read the story about it, but my dad gave it to me - my greatest gift ever. I'm very lucky, and I cannot wait to go there the coming Easter holiday! :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Well, we unfortunately were never given the opportunity to buy the property from my husbands grandfather. We will own it one day due to his will, but there could not really be happy memories other than those that we made there. His grandfather is often referred to as 'the evil grandfather' to give you an idea of our relationship with him and to the family. Hopefully we can find our own place one day and fill it with happiness and sunshihine.
    I did read about your lovely cottage and what a sweet story. Unfortunately that is not always the way with our family. We have a very New England American old family, where sometimes love and understanding is not always foremost, but rather tradition and who is in the 'contorlling' seat for that generation. This may sound more harsh than it is, but we are a puritan based region of this country and, at least in our own family, this often plays itself out in a way that is more about things than about love.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "We have a very New England American old family, where sometimes love and understanding is not always foremost, but rather tradition and who is in the 'controlling' seat for that generation. This may sound more harsh than it is, but we are a puritan based region of this country and, at least in our own family, this often plays itself out in a way that is more about things than about love."

    Families can be very difficult. People who don't know all the details think me heartless because I've learned the hard way that if I choose to have any sort of relationship with certain family members, I must maintain extremely strict boundaries with them.

    I believe strongly in making your own "family" out of those relatives and friends who love and respect you, and leave those who must make trouble to deal with the problems of their own making.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I, too, have begun to learn this lesson of making ones own family out of those closest to you both friends and family. It seems to be the most productive as well as emotionally benefitial. I am learning family can be much stronger than just blood.

    ReplyDelete
  14. A fabulous gift idea that any mom & grandma links of london sale would be glad to accept is a mother's ring. There are countless styles to pick from london links charms and every one permits each of a mother's children's birthstone to be placed in the ring so mom & grandma can remember her children wherever she goes.Jewelry links london bracelet that is personalized or engraved makes great jewelry gifts for mom. You can have a particular word or meaningful expression engraved inside a ring, necklace or bracelet links of london earrings to demonstrate to your mother the depths of your feelings.Stylish watches are an additional idea for great jewelry gifts for mom. Your mother sweetie bracelet needs a stylish watch to go with her favorite outfit and perhaps even a few to go with her entire wardrobe.Another example of mom's & grandma's jewelry that makes a great gift is mother's earrings.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Because of the fact christian louboutin beige pumps that Microsoft suffered from the negative impact of white christian louboutin sandals the red ring of death on their gaming console, they extended the warranty of their Xbox 360. Because cheap christian louboutin uk of the fact christian louboutin on sale uk that the red ring of death has become a very common christian louboutin boots uk problem, you will see that there are quite a lot of repair guides about it that you can readily access online.However, you need to christian louboutin studded shoes remember that prevention is better than repair. In order to avoid experiencing the red ring of death on your Xbox 360 gaming console is to constantly keep it cool christian louboutin nude shoes and well-ventilated. You need to remember that overheating cause damage on the hardware which causes the red ring of death. Avoid louboutin shoes discount shoes uk placing your Xbox 360 on display cabinets. Instead, place it on a well-ventilated spot or you can also purchase a small fan and keep it pointed on your Xbox 360 while you are playing.You might to buy louboutin shoes in uk want to try playing with your Xbox 360 on an air conditioned room. This will help in preventing overheating and hardware damage. Proper ventilation is the key to preventing nude christian louboutin shoes the red ring of death.

    ReplyDelete

 Search The Apron Revolution