Monday, April 13, 2009

13 & 14 April 1955 “Baseball, Diets, Grandma’s Life, and the ‘modern girl’ strikes again!”

elston howard 14 April 1955 : Elston Howard becomes the 1st black to wear the Yankee uniform. Howard became the first African American to play for the Yankees, and got a hit in his first at bat; the team had been relatively late to sign black players, but finally acquired Vic Power and Howard. Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play on the leagues for the Brooklyn Dodgers in April 15, 1947.

diet adThis ad from from 1954 Good Housekeeping shows the diet plans are beginning to show up. Though, I don’t feel the images in the magazines, even fashion magazines, are as dangerous about how they expect a woman to look as the modern versions.

I had hoped to have images of our vintage Easter dinner, but we did not celebrate it as planned as a few people had got colds. And, being in the midst of my dining room redo, I was fine with that, as it allowed me to stick with my building/design plans and not have to worry about preparing a large meal. So, it has been moved to this Saturday and hopefully it will also be the first time we can use the new dining room. I know it will not be done, completely, but hopefully enough to have the table in there and etc. I will include before and after shots for that.

I collect old magazines and periodicals. Before 1955, I was rather obsessed, you might say, with Edwardian and early WWI era publications/decorating/fiction/social history etc. I was thumbing through my 1899 Ladies Home Journal over the weekendgold dust ad 1899Here is an ad for a washing powder. I wonder if it is still around.1899 ralston adHere is an ad for Ralston breakfast food.1899 kitchen adAnd another view of the 1900 idea of a ‘new kitchen’ as exhibited by this form of the Hoosier cabinet.

Looking through these magazines I realized my fictional mother (I being my age now in 1955) would have been young, possibly only 4 or 5 when this magazine was out, but my fictional grandmother would have read it. I imagined, perhaps, that I had the magazine in 1955 for the same reason I would now, in that I am interested in the history of women’s social role. However, I am not sure that I would have such a concept in 1955. I may have looked at it with a passing laugh and thought, ‘Oh, thank God, I don’t have to wear that corset.” or “Look, they are only just talking of heating your home” as I sat in my heated and insulated kitchen, listening to my dishwasher hum and my laundry machines work away in the cellar. This really hit me. Here I would be, in 1955, very much aware of how far we have come. It would be apparent every time my Grandmother would visit. And, what would she think of it all? Of course, it isn’t as if she were just teleported from 1899 to 1955, she was there as the inventions and social changes happened, but none-the-less it must have been amazing to view. Then, I think about 10 years ago from 2009. In 1999 the internet existed, surely, but not on the level it does today. Cell phones (mobiles) were around as well, but not everyone had one or used them all the time. I remember there were still things said like, “Oh, I hate when people have cell phones and talk on them in public”, now I hear complaints if the person is talking loudly, but the phone in the hand or those wretched blue tooth ear sets (which I cannot believe are good for you) are common place. And yet, for the most part we just sort of go along, collecting up new technology, without really thinking about it. It is just part of our daily lives, certainly.

However, it does make me, all the more, want to continue to study and look back all the time. I cannot help but judge my current day and life through the eyeglass of the past. I wonder, shall I ever NOT do this? I don’t know, really, come 31 December 1955, what I will do? Will I stay in my current role? Will I go to 1945? or why not 1935? Or, being content with my current lot, live in a sort of amalgamation of 1955/2010?

I was reading another person’s vintage blog and they were discussing hair washing and etc from now to the past. Someone mentioned Saturday was hair washing and setting day for the week. I had to laugh, as it was Saturday that I was reading it and my hair was freshly washed and set and tied up. I worked on my chores all day, hair tied up and set. This is just normal for me now. Will this continue so? I like the routine of it. I guess, what I really have come to love about 1955 is the routine. I used to say and think that I hated routine. That mundane continuity was the bane of my existence, but actually it is a very happy and safe feeling. Perhaps, it is that I am closer to 40 than 30 and thus such feelings should just come along naturally, but I am not sure. I think the chaos of my house plans, the tearing up and redoing, has always been something I have done in the past, but now as it happens WITHIN the order of my 1955 day, it seems as if I get more done and don’t honestly feel more tired or more overwhelmed and if anything feel less so.

For example, yesterday was a lovely sunny Sunday, and having been indoors all day Saturday working on painting and trim in the dining room, the outdoors called. Hubby and I went out and spent the day working in the yard. He brandished the chainsaw and we felled a few more trees and trimmed up brush for the woodpile and had a lovely burn. Yet, I had got up at 8:30 (my Sunday wake up time) and we had had a full breakfast of homemade pancakes, bacon, oj, coffee, tea the normal. I worked through out the day, but still, instinctively, came in and whipped up lunch. Then, at the end of the day as we sat relishing in our great burn, the fire dying softly and the cool air slipping in and telling us, yes it is still only April, I thought, “Oh, I need to make dinner and a dessert for today.” Rather than feeling overwhelmed, I just stood up went in the kitchen and threw together dinner. We had lamb chops and homemade French fried potatoes ( I am getting really good at those) and veg. I also made a chocolate bread pudding. By the end of the day, we had worked in the yard, had dinner and dessert and the kitchen was clean. I know in 2008 we would have ordered pizza or Chinese and accomplished less. I know I would have complained of being tired in 2008 and yes, I was tired, but I didn’t really have time to dwell on it, because there was dinner to make and dessert and wood to stack.

I find myself less self-obsessed now. I think more about what needs to be done for the day, or how I feel compared to 2008, but sometimes even that slips away and it could be 1955. Really, it is almost a sort of timelessness. I think having the luxury of being home helps with that. When I am out marketing usually the modern world becomes more apparent, but then again, when I am at our little local village shop, where canned goods are stacked on wooden shelves, it might be 1955, except for the flat screen TV over the newsstand. What is funny, is now my hubby sort of recognizes the difference. This morning we were sat down to breakfast and I hit my coffee cup and spilled onto the tablecloth. It was a slow motion moment and I saw the coffee fly up into the air and splat, down it came, onto my clean table cloth. Without thinking I swore. It sounded odd coming out of my mouth. I have not, really, tried not to swear. I have not made it a point in any way, but it just sort of happened. I think, the more I am working on my daily schedule and learning the less I get angry, somehow. After I said it, I looked at my husband, who was, strangely, also surprised. “Looks like the modern woman is back” he said, without missing a beat and we both laughed. “Thank goodness it’s laundry day,” I said.

As I said, I have never said, “okay, not as much swearing, it’s not 1955” And, honestly, I don’t know if it is or isn’t 1955 to swear in your home. All I know is I swear A LOT less than I did in 2008. It was just an odd moment.

I had another 2009 moment earlier in the week. Gussie was helping me move my antique corner cabinet into the new dining room so it could be built in and such. (it is an old built in piece from an old house. I think it will look lovely when done, but you will be the judge of that when I have my picture book of the beginning to end process) Anyway, she suggested just caring it outside and then through the side yard into the side door that leads into the new dining room. I thought it would be easier to bring it into the hall. The first floor bathroom is off this hall, so we tried to bring it into that room and the turn it into the sharp turn of the door to the dining room. It wouldn’t work and it got stuck. So, I figure, I will take the door off the bathroom. Simple, just hammer the pegs up through the hinges and it comes off, no such luck as they were painted shut, so we figure, we shall move the cabinet out of the bathroom then, suddenly, the shelves in the top, which I thought were permanently fixed, came unfixed and pushed open the glass doors which have little knobs on the front making it too large to get out of the bathroom door. SO, Gussie had to wedge her hands in there and move them around, careful not to break the antique glass panes in the door, which took some time and resulted in her scratched hands. Now, we get that out of there and I am determined to try to get the door off again. THIS is the part where I became 2009 girl. I was hot, frustrated, angry and I had a hammer. I tried carefully to hammer the pegs out to no avail. Then, 2009 girl came in. I lashed out with the hammer, banging senselessly on the door. There are some doors in this house that will be replaced, but this door is actually a nice solid wood colonial style paneled door, but it received the brunt of my anger and hammer. My anger and impatience won out and left me more frustrated, more angry, a really banged up door and still the thing just hung there, mocking me. Now, the reason I felt this to be my 2009 self was the impatience and childishness of the moment. I have not been trying to consciously (up until now) to really change my personal attitude in this project, but I have just been noticing that I get angry less, have more patience and feel a little happier of late. I am not sure if it just comes along with the quite determination of mastering household tasks and needing to be calm while using grease and ovens and, you know, grown up stuff. After I was sat down there in my bath, Gussie quietly trying not to stir my anger, the corner cabinet wedged in the hall and I on the floor of the bathroom, with a hammer and a banged up door, I really had to thing. “Hmmm, how am I not like a two year old child right now?” I want something and I want IT NOW! IF I don’t get it, I lash out. You don’t have to have your own children to know that that is how a child acts. I thought two things, 1.) Thank God I do not currently have a child. What a display I would have shown to him. and 2.)Wow, I haven’t felt that way in awhile and I really hate it. I don’t want to be a spoiled brat. It gets me nothing. There is no mother off in the distance that will come and get me what I want and make it all better.
That is when I realized how the 1955 part of me that is growing will really need to be the mother to that 2009 brat. Sometimes I am going to have to sit her down and explain to her that life is not about fast result and always getting what we want. Sometimes it is better to hold our anger and not let it all out. It really got me thinking a lot about modern psychology. How that whole concept of ME and expressing your feelings and let it all out really has hurt us on a social level. It is fine if you need to not keep things bottled up, certainly, but there is an extreme where one feels that their emotions and their needs are greater than any other thing and I don’t think that is always true. The old videos that show you how to behave at dinner and around strangers which we now view as repression, is really just common courtesy and if you have to pretend a little bit that you feel okay around others or that you are happy, you might just end up convincing yourself that you really are and then , you know what, you will be. I am certainly not saying that if something bad is happening you need to ignore it or pretend your world around you, but merely ‘think of others’. Such a simple thing and I wonder how often we modern people actually do. Holding doors. Offering seats on buses. Saying ‘excuse me, please and thank you’ such simple things but think of how little we may encounter them in public. Again, another level of the modern world is opening up to me and revealing itself, all because I got mad at a door for being in the way of my cabinet!
Well, when hubby got home he helped me move it around the outside as Gussie had suggested. It took all of five minutes and couldn’t have been easier. If I had just had the patience and thought it through, I would have saved us our grief and the door its hammer marks. How like that angry hammering is our modern world. We want it and we want it NOW. The internet isn’t fast enough. We have to wait in line at the store. The person in front of us isn’t driving fast enough. The next show or movie we want to see isn’t out fast enough. We are all in such a hurry to rush about and for what? It is really still amazing to me how much this project has forced me to peel back the layers of my own personality. To really open myself up and look at all my bad traits and habits, but strange that the maturity my 1955 self has doesn’t feel mad or ashamed at having them exposed, instead realizes that personal growth and learning are part of being an adult. I hope I can end this year with the 2009 brat growing into a nice young well mannered lady ready for the world. Perhaps I will have a ceremonial merging of the two selves at the year’s end. She can be a brat, that 2009 girl, but her heart is in the right place and I think she really wants to learn. I think I can do it.

hatsI thought I’d end with this view of some pretty spring hats. I just think they are so crisp and darling. I love the small hats of the 1950’s as they are so easy to wear and look so smart. The model at the bottom in the white gloves has the hair I want exactly. Now, to only find someone who can replicate it for me.


  1. The thought about what's gonna happen when you come to the end of 1955 is interesting.
    I've got some of the same thoughts as I've been staying in England; living in an English family, attending an English school and having English friends for 8 months. I haven't seen any family or friends from my life back in Norway since I came here (though we do stay in touch on the phone or internet) and in two months I'm going back to my old life. But by living here I've changed and learned so much (about myself, the importance of being honest and communicate with others, being polite and welcoming to other people, be impulsive and enjoy life and so much more) and things will never really be the same when I go back as I have a different attitude than before.
    I think that's how it's gonna be for you too, even though you choose to go back and live in 2010 - or whatever other year you choose, you will still bring some 1950's knowledge and attitude with you and hopefully you'll be able to balance everything...

    But about your 2009 brat inside you: don't you think ladies in the 50s would have some childish and agressive moments too? Or maybe they wouldn't because they were tought to hide their feelings more?

  2. Donna, I love your blog and would love to read other vintage blogs. Do you think you can link to the one you were reading? Thanks!

  3. I'm enjoying looking through your blog, and have a couple of reactions:

    * I think you're right that people are being conditioned for instant gratification (or, rather, that our culture now feeds our evolutionary tendency to instant gratification in sometimes very unhealthy ways).
    * That said, my grandmother was the first to admit that she was a champion sulker, and was known to react very badly to being thwarted. Her tendency was to sulk and behave like a martyr, so that everyone in the house was tense until someone got her to laugh - at which point she accepted how ridiculous she was being. She used to tell stories of friends of hers who threw crockery when frustrated, but mainly it was all about the sulking and the yelling.
    * There is a great deal to be said for "acting as if" you're happy and calm - *IF* it's adaptive and healthy for you to do so. If it slides into compliance with norms while ignoring your own actual needs, it's desperately unhealthy. But CBT (done properly) is all about identifying your needs, your unrealistic and realistic goals, and "acting as if" you've achieved them, which is really helpful, particularly for short-term problems.
    * I remember being stunned to discover that American households had dishwashers in the 1970s, never mind the 1950s. I had never heard of one until the late 1980s, when we got one - they certainly weren't standard in the UK. My mother remembers the icebox, which was small, and the washing machine, which looks hopelessly clunky and hard work these days, but was a hell of an improvement on the dolly system used by my grandmother until the early 50s.

  4. I know, I see how spoiled we Americans really were. There are endless ads for dishwashers in even my 1951 issues of women's magazines and even by 1955 most magazines have the atitude that you most like, like a tv, have one. I think as a childless wife firmly in the middle class, I feel I would most likely have had one by 1955, as I am older (especially in 1950's terms) and would probably also have a deep freeze (freezer) but I do not want one of those due to the space and waste. I would have still been part of the 'canning' generation, which was being replaced by the 'freezing' generation of the 1950s young housewife, who chose to put things in her freezer rather than can and into cellar. Another moment, really, into the 'easier is better' mindset even though you have to buy the freezer, maintian, pay the electricity and really frozen food doesn't last as long as canned. It is very interesting. I have heard from others in Europe that what was normal here in 1955 was not until as late as the 1980s. There is one lovely reader from Denmark who doesn't recall dishwashers until 1980s! So, no surprise that we are really the spoiled country, though I think that reign seems to be coming to an end. I agree that the tantrum may not be just a modern aspect, but I do feel a distinct difference between what I am calling my 1955 self and my modern self. I think I really just want personal growth towards a more mature atitude and am finding it was not that hard and was all my responsibility. The responsibility really feels to be more 1955 to me, just compared to most modern people I know. There is an almost celebration in not knowing how to do things or what one wants. Many days and hours are spent discussing it, while in my 1955 reality, I just find that if you just get on with it and start doing 'somthing' you soon find yourself looking to do more and talking about what you 'could do' less. Living more now in the real world seems more 1950s now to me than the surreal virtual world of the present, if that makes any sense!

  5. I would agree with you about politeness and consideration for others; we would all do well change our standards of acceptable behaviour. In my family there was the tendancy to sulk as mentioned by another reader. My paternal grandmother,who put off marriage to my grandfather through the depression and therefore was fair bit older than other mothers of my Dad's and Mum's generation (born during WW II), gave my Mum a very hard time about wanting and getting a dishwasher in 1970. My mother in law (who got married in 1955) kept telling me how lucky I was to have an automatic washer to wash my diapers in 1990. Most people I know now cannot imagine life with out these conveniences; even many people on social assistance seem to have tv's and other things that only recently were luxury items. Along with that seems to go a sense of entitlement that I feel is cripling our society. My Mum has also reminded me that many women in the 50's were on valium and anmphetamines just to maintain a societal standard and while reducing diets were being introduced, many women took speed (amphetamines) to slim down and get through their day. You will certainly change and bring forward all that you will have learned this year. Maybe the personal responsibility you gain will inspire others. Living happily by exampple seems to be an highly effective vehicle for change.

  6. I live in Holland and I still don't have a dish washer:) Don't want one, either, they use a lot of electricity and water, which are quite expensive over here.

  7. (I too, anonymous from Holland, don't have a dishwasher. I love washing and drying up by hand; most of the time.)

    Thanks for the great and thoughtful post. Routines, I have been finding over the years make for a gentle, peaceful home and life. They truly do give a 'happy and safe feeling', which would make one generally 'feel less angry while working on the daily schedule and learning.' It's all good.. fulfilling and rewarding. Thanks for the insights which seem deep and wise..very encouraging. From Linda

  8. You are very wise, anonymous, though they do say, here at least, that is takes less water to use the dishwasher than to do it by hand, but I wonder if that is actually just a marketing ploy with no facts behind. We shall see where I am at the end of the year. The kitchen will be one of the later rooms to recieve the 'vintage re-do' so we shall see where we are at that point. IF you want to know the decadence of my 2008 self, I kept the second dishwasher (as we are making over a house that had two kitchens) and had intentions of installing that as well, so I could have two! Times they are a changing!

  9. Mail-order diet plans date back at least to the 'teens, at least that's the earliest advertisement that I've seen. Of course, the ad that I just looked at is showing a happy and svelte woman who brags about her new weight of 165 lbs.

    (and my 1922 Modern Priscilla -- new to me, anyway -- has an article on how to use that newfangled invention, the dishwasher. The 1922 model looks like a barrel on wheels and I think you have to agitate it yourself!)

  10. It really is incredible how wide you've opened my eyes, too! And the beauty of living is the need and want to learn and become who we're meant to be. I think we all just lost our way or our teachers disappeared along the road somewhere. This project has transformed you, not only from a "brat" learning proper etiquette, but into a teacher for those of us who just weren't paying attention, or didn't want to see what the world has become or what it was doing to us. I have seen that "brat" before, but, you know, even that day in the bathroom was subdued. (That door was *really* stuck! I even gave up on it!) Your calmness and centering have come a really long way and, though I know that you're not even trying to change your demeanor; that it is coming around naturally as a result of your project, I am extremely proud of how far you have come in this clarity of spirit.
    As for technology, mainly cell phones, even children have them. They even take them to school! *shakes head* I didn't even want one when I was in high school!

  11. I thought that the water usuage was less with a dishwasher too. I suppose an energy audit site would have empirical evidence, unbiased by manufacturers of appliances, that could help with that decision at the end of your year. I think that this year will allow you to make a truly informed decision about what in modern life you want to save and what from all that you have learned is worth keeping. "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water" could be a filter for what we do in 2009 just as it has and should be used for what our mothers and grandmothers have done. I think that some conveniences allow me do more of what really makes a difference environmentally, economically, family wise and for my own well-being. So a dishwasher allows me to spend a little more time in the vegetable garden, hanging out the laundry or cooking for the family. If your second dishwasher is relatively efficient and in good working order and is unlikely to be used by someone else and you would actually use it regularily,I would not feel too decadent. Really it is asking the questions that takes precedence which I think is a lot of what this year is for you.

  12. Thanks for the comment on my blog. We really love the pattern. I will post some details about the border soon. It is very mid-century!

  13. Just a quick comment-

    First, Good for you for seeing your faults and trying to become a better (and mature) person.

    Second, Your Gussie sounds like a very kind and understanding (and fun!) friend. You are lucky to have each other.

    Third- for Jenifir- I read that about 50's housewives taking a pill to wake up and another to go to sleep. There's a book called The Fifties, or something similar that is very different from the idealized info about the period. You'll have to wait until next "year", 50'sGal but it may be an even more interesting read after this experience.



  14. My mother-in-law grew in the 1950s and later married and became a typical housewife, in the end of the 1950s. She never took any pills to go to bed or to wake up. Those were probably the habits of the decadent rich:)

    As for the energy and water use of dishwashers, if you have a water meter at home, it's easy to control. Just use the dishwasher one day and look how much water you used, and then do the next day without and you can compare.

    Also, you can wash your dishes in running water, which will use more, or in the old-fashioned way, in a basin with soapy water, and then rinse in another one (how old people are still doing it).

    I didn't mean to say that dishwashers are evil or something:) I just don't want one, that's all. My concerns aren't that much about environment, but more about my own wallet. Electricity is expensive, and I've been doing anything possible to try and reduce our bills.

    Anon from Holland

  15. I agree Anon about electricity usage and I did not think you were saying anything bad about dishwashers. What I love is that we, mostly women, can have debates and different opinions here, but still, at the end of the day, are civil and couteous and then we share recipes and homemaking tips, ah, if only women ran the countries, I do wonder how different it would be. I KNOW there would be many summits and talks and most likely NOT war, as we would all discuss, talk each other's ears off then settle down with some coffee/tea and cookies/biscuits. I am going to look into how much energy my dishwasher does use. We have electric heat here and the house is not huge, but big enough that in winter we would shut the heat off in much of the house and really only use a few rooms which we would heat when we needed it. We also did not heat our bedroom or our kitchen and last winter (the coldest we have had in some time) I would come down and see my breath! So, in a way, that could have been my time in the 1930's before I started my 1955 project! I am off to start today's blog.

  16. I think to live in a sort of amalgamation of 1955/2010 will be a great idea! I don’t think you want to live forever in the past, but to pick the best from both eras and make up your own presents seems like a great idea. That’s what I’ve done, and I will continue to live this way.

    Routines sounds SO boring, but they work so great for us! I have routines (or rituals which sounds better) for almost any task – AND I also wash my hair on Saturdays, this way it looks great if I’m going out of having guests. :)

    “I was hot, frustrated, angry and I had a hammer.” – Sounds like a really bad combination! ;) I’ve always told son to “do as mummy says, NOT as she does!” But I truly love your honesty! I just think it is temper, and I am sure women in 1955 had temper too.


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