Friday, May 29, 2009

31 –29 May 1955 “Memorial Day, Music, Economy, and Rental Blues”

I know Memorial Day is over, but I have had some busy days of late, but still wanted to discuss it a little:


 stock car races The advertisement at left for the stock car races on May 30, 1955 at the Cowley County Fairgrounds at Winfield, Kansas, was published on page 5 of the Winfield Daily Courier of Friday, May 27, 1955.

Here are some images from 1955 Memorial Day parades:

memorial day parade 1 memorial day parade 2

I really thought about the war and that generation a lot over the holiday weekend. It is almost eerie to think that here in 1955 it would be only 10 years earlier on June 6, 1944 the beaches of Normandy were advanced upon by American and allied troops.

This photo of American troops unloading on the beaches in Normandy would be the last thing they would see alive.

normandy It really makes you think and feel for this generation. I cannot imagine worrying about my dear hubby in a situation like this or a father or brother. I don’t want to seem to pick on the baby boomers, but the more I learn of the WWII generation, the more I get angry at their selfish self-centered ways and myself want to say to them, “get a haircut and a job”! I know it sounds harsh, but I can really feel for the feeling of loss and sadness they must have felt to see their world taking many turns for the worse after all they sacrificed for freedom. Though, I suppose their sacrifice was so that we could have the right to do such things, only it does make one want to revere their past in a way in how we live now. When I think of how much the ‘hippy generation’ is still seen as the cool ones and that their fashion and attitudes are still considered des rigueur for the ‘cool set’. It burns my buttons.

Here are some American Soldiers viewing a German tank with a dead German soldier on it. How does one experience this and then manage to come home, marry, go to work 9-5, make a home, raise a family and get on with the business of living? The strength and selflessness of such acts are amazing to me and yet really forgot today. Now, people make fun of those families of the 1950s wanting to make a perfect happy little place for their family and view them as monsters as their spoiled children turn into rebellious teens who don’t care. I really think we need to salute and recall this generation and to really channel their strength. I almost feel a sort of responsibility to still make at least my part of my little world something they would have been proud to make.german tank dday

This Memorial Day I really do Honor them.



may new yorker Here is the New Yorker cover from today, 28 May 1955. I think the color and confident simplicity of line is very mid-century America. A great image of the importance of the day, family. And very telling of the baby boomers. Enraptured and attentive parents waiting patiently for their ‘star child’ to ‘express herself’. Very telling, indeed.

paris match may Here is the cover of Paris Match for today 1955. Audrey Hepburn, such a lady.  Her father was a British Businessman (who was later a Nazi sympathizer and abandoned his family) and her mother had been a Baroness. Hepburn spoke French, Italian, English, Dutch, and Spanish. By the mid-1950s, Hepburn was not only one of the biggest motion picture stars in Hollywood, but also a major fashion influence. Her gamine and elfin appearance and widely recognized sense of chic were both admired and imitated. In 1955, she was awarded the Golden Globe for World Film Favorite – Female. There is a funny story that Hepburn was sent to a then young and upcoming fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy to decide on her wardrobe for Sabrina. “When told that "Miss Hepburn" was coming to see him, Givenchy famously expected to see Katharine. He was disappointed and told her that he didn't have much time for her, but Audrey asked for just a few minutes to pick out a few pieces for Sabrina. Shortly after, Givenchy and Hepburn developed a lasting friendship, and she was often a muse for many of his designs. They formed a lifelong friendship and partnership.”

She also was beginning to change the face of what was to become the ‘new’ figure for women. At this point, Grace Kelly was very ladylike, yet her figure was fuller, then you had the bombshells like Marilyn and Jane Mansfield. Hepburn’s thin boyish ballerina frame will segway the ‘ideal’ of the woman’s body into the 60’s Twiggy. Lovely to look at, but very hard to achieve for most women. I think I once read an article that her form was a mixture of her having been basically starved during WWII and her dancers training. We may have given up the corset and by the 60’s the girdle, but we only lead ourselves to our present state, the unrealistic female form. At least with a girdle or a corset, a gal has a chance to create the ‘look’ of her day. Today, it seems, only starvation and plastic surgery, and expensive trainers can create the ideal female form. Something to think about.

jackie gleason Here is the tv guide cover for this past week featuring Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows. Though I no longer watch tv, I think it still pertinent to mention it’s goings on, as it is really beginning to shape the American persona. I imagine we would have a television, but probably only watch occasionally and possibly for the popular ‘tv nights’ when mid century friends would have a get together to watch a show and serve drinks and food. 

Speaking of tv, when I saw this Martha Ray clip from 1955, I could see the inspiration for Gilda Radner’s  SNL little girl skit.

I would remember Martha Raye from the 1940s when I was younger such as in this 1940s Abbot and Costello movie .

I love how she is really physically funny and yet a great singer!

I was thinking the other day how much like my vintage 1950’s counterpart, I am really drawn to the music of the 1940s. I certainly love the 1950’s music as well, but considering my age, I would have been going to more dances and such in the 1940s and therefore for that music would have a special place in my heart and indeed it does, for both the 1955 me as well as the ‘modern me’. I love this song, and this is a great rendition. I also love the Ella Fitzgerald version.

This version by Dorothy Dandridge in the early 1940s is almost racy by 1955 standards.


Now, the economy. This has been uppermost in my mind in this past week. I found this interesting. It is from April 15 of 2009 but found it interesting to this project. I came across it by chance and did read it, though it is from today, but as it referenced 1955, I felt it was pertinent:

“The US economy has begun to deflate for the first time in more than half a century as a slump in demand pushes energy and food costs lower.

The consumer price index fell at an annual rate of 0.4% in March, the first decline since August 1955, figures from the US labor department showed today. It was bigger than the 0.1% drop expected by economists.”

Now, you know I am not a big fan of Wal-Mart, and what I read in this article made them even less likable. Despite what the president and the chief economical people are saying about this becoming a deflation rather than an inflation of pricing (mainly because we are wising up and NOT buying every little thing, thus keeping the demand low so that cost has to subsequently lower). The head of Wal-Mart went on the Today show and said that we are in for some ‘shaky times’ and other glib buzz words to scare us into rushing out and buying while it is still cheap. Which, of course, is the opposite of the truth. The more we are not dependent upon big stores and really the need to buy and consume, items will become less expensive as demand goes down. I read that this economy is actually a boon to Wal-Mart and is enabling them to beat out places such as Target which would ultimately leave them at the top. Again, I don’t want to be a broken record, but nothing is free. We may pay less for something at Wal-Mart, but we will pay for it in other ways in the end.

I thought a quick definition of deflation is pertinent here:

In economics, deflation is a decrease in the general price level of goods and services. Deflation occurs when the annual inflation rate falls below zero percent, resulting in an increase in the real value of money — a negative inflation rate.

It is rather frightening, as well, as it was deflation, among other things, which did lead to the Great Depression. However, we have the benefit of a time machine, in that we can look back, see what lead up to it and make sure we do not repeat history. We seem to always have such a short term memory for such things as important as economy. I found it interesting that people were suddenly surprised that gas prices were rising again. Hello! We were down to 1.60 a gallon and now up to about 2.40 around here, but last summer it was almost 4.00! Do people honestly NOT remember and did they think because it happened once that was it!

Now, the economy has been uppermost in my mind as well, as I mentioned some of our income comes from a property we rent out here on Cape. Currently my tenant just decided she no longer wanted to pay rent and I was suddenly without that money. I was lucky that she at least packed up and left, as with our states tenant laws, she could have really stayed a few more month without paying before any legal eviction proceedings could happen. I understand these laws are to protect families from slum lords, but when you are just an individual who has to rent out some property, you often are left with no rights. The house we are currently living in, we used to rent out. Before our moving back to it, the tenants on one side of the house (we have since turned it back into a single house) had smashed cantaloupe size holes in the wall of every room, ripped carpeting up exposing floors and ruined fencing and broke a toilet. We were lucky to have them leave, but all the expense of the repair came out of our pockets. But, I digress.

Back to my own current fears. First off, happily so, my hubby was able to find a job locally and therefore quit the commute to Boston five times a week. This saves on gas, need for two cars, and more time together but resulted in a pay cut. Then, that very month it happened, our tenant decided to stop paying. Wrapped up in all the money woes of this situation is the still fresh sadness I had discussed in a post concerning my Mother’s Alzheimer's and Father’s stroke. Here is the story.

The property that I need to rent out is a great old house that my hubby and I bought back when we were first married. It is a great little true Half cape built in 1718. It is post and beam with all the original floors, etc. We have lived in it ourselves off and on over the years and also used it as a rental property. A few years back we had worked it out that My Mother (with Alzheimer's) and my Father would move in. My oldest sister would live in the little barn that we have converted on the property as well. Thus, it was nice to have family there again. We had some wonderful holidays. Great Christmases etc. I had even built, by my own hands, a little studio to use for painting when I visited (the space I was intending to use as my vintage club meetings).

Then suddenly my sister, who was their main caretaker, decided to move out of state. This was not meet with much happiness by any of us and the result was a tumultuous time last summer leaving me alone with the property to handle and rent out. I thought I was done with it.

Now, two days ago, I thought I had found the perfect person to rent the little barn that my sister had stayed in. The man was kind and for the past month I was going out of my way to fix it up for him. I even paid to have a new heater installed etc. I spent the Holiday weekend cleaning out and preparing the place for him. So, when I went there the other day with the lease, happy that I could rent that out and then find some nice family for the main house, he suddenly tells me he cannot take it.

So, there I am, again, alone in the house. I literally stood in the center of the house, it being emptied by the tenant who had just left. Of course, she damaged the door and the fence on her way out and left a giant 1970s tv that I have to some how drag down the narrow antique stairs. But, none of this was upper most in my mind. What was, however, was the rush of sadness. I was again, here alone in the empty house that had held my happy laughing family.

I sat down on the bare floor and just sort of took it all in. It was very much like those movies where someone recalls a past and you see the sort of ghostly images super-imposed along the various parts of the house. There we sat and laughed with mum. We fought over there and then laughed about it later. There was the Christmas tree and all our smiling faces. There we sat for countless dinners, laughing and really believing we were all in this together forever.

Then, of course, it all stopped.

It was just me again, alone, in the empty house. No renters to pay the mortgage and taxes. No one to talk about the sadness of my quickly vacant family. Back to square one emotionally and financially. How did it happen?

This has left me, these past days, wondering what a 1955 wife would do. I think I would try to find a means of income without giving up my job of homemaker. Certainly, the social pressure would be there even more for me to stay home if I had children, but I have none. And, yet, I still feel I would be clever enough to work it all out.

This has brought another element into my project. The fluctuation of finances, but still trying to maintain my vintage attitude definitely adds more challenge. But I honestly feel with what I have learned and discovered so far this year, almost half way through this project, that I can get my finances and stress through this. I will emulate my war time me, and get up brush myself off, set aside the sadness and emotions of it for now, and get on with living. It is so easy to go to the empty house and feel bad for myself and have honest grief, but it does no good after the initial realization that is is, indeed over. I have accepted this, now I need to move on. Perhaps it being mixed up into the economy of my life will force me to take charge more.

I am going to work hard to find the right sort of tenants and perhaps even, at some point, take advantage of my little studio there somehow. I am going to do some research, although I have not much spare time to do it, to approach this as best as a 1955 homemaker can.

Due to this business, I have not had much time to take many photos, but I do have some more of the next stages of my veg garden. I took Sunday off from all that has been going on and hubby and I worked out in the yard. He chopped wood while I put up the next phase of my fence. I addressed the front of the veg garden. Here are some photos.

Here you can see I have put in the posts that will hold up the cross sections.veg fence front 1

This is the beginning of those cross sections. You can see some of my mint from the previous year that had taken over, but I am trying to be careful to preserve what I can as I am them replanting it around the perimeter to be a part of my ‘tea garden’.veg fence front 2

Here are more sections.veg fence front 3

The cross panels have gone inveg fence front 4

Here is an angle shot towards the road. I still need to paint these and to plant more.veg fence front 5

I did find an hour the other day to plant up my second of two raised beds in my veg garden. The three teepees in the back tied together with bamboo have all my cukes planted, both english eating cukes as well as pickeling. The two green topiary forms will hold green and yellow beens. The center green teepee is my spaghetti squash. You can see that I have not had time to mulch this raised bed as of yet.

teepees in gardenHere is a side angle of the teepees, but I did have time to mulch the front bed and to mulch around the front bed and the main walkway and throw down some slate pavers. I have not decided upon the design of the gate yet.teepees in garden2 This will also be the view from the future pergola built in bench I am designing and building that will eventually be covered in grapes. Again, the importance of a comfy seat with a view of the ‘room’ where I can dream up new gardens and watch this one grow. A great spot for coffee and a short break in the morning before I begin our breakfast. snowpea closeupThis is a close up of one of my snowpeas which has begun to blossom. This means yummy peas in a week or so, so I have that to look forward to.

So, I am again thankful for all my 1955 homemaking skills and time management, as I really feel they are helping me to still run the house fairly well, get my dinners on and still have the bulk of the day being away at the other house trying to get it rented and deciding the best future for that property.

Until later, then, happy homemaking. And, I really will do some thinking upon the ‘extra income opportunities’ available for a stay at home homemaker in the 1950s. Do any of you have any stories or memories of homemakers in the 1950s have extra ‘jobs’ they did for ‘pin money’?

rosy rivetor Well, I am a strong 1955 woman, I can solve problems, organize my day, grow and cook my own food and help my family through the rough times. Onward, Apron Revolution!


  1. I'm glad you're coping! I hope you can get through this, I know a lot of women in the 1950's that sold their crafts or got a part time job as a childcarer (babysitter) etc.

    The garden is looking amazing! I can't wait until you start on the inside, you're very motivated even in the face of the past week that you've had.

  2. I'm sending good thoughts your way. I hope things get easier soon. Your garden looks wonderful. I love the fence you built.

    As far as making a little extra money you are very artistic. Have you considered ways you might be able to use those skills? Perhaps your sketches might be able to be used in ways to earn a little extra. Maybe you could do some art for a local business such as for a flyer, window display or advertisement. Just a thought. Use the skills you have.

    Also you are a great writer. Would a local paper pay you to write a column for the summer while some of their staff are on holidays? Perhaps they would be willing to pay you for 8 or 10 columns over the summer. You could write about cooking, household hints or gardening or write some sort of fiction perhaps about the 1950's or about local history in your area.

    Just a couple of ideas from the top of my head.

    Michelle in Canada

  3. Thank you for the wonderful ideas, I am sure I will begin to formulate a plan of sorts. I am happy to have my homemaking skills, however, as I am much better at scrimping and making do now. I need to give myself a crash course in 1940's WWII rationing! Thanks for the advice so far.

  4. glad to see things are taking shape! great attitude! :)
    if you have any extra veggies from your garden, i am sure you could make some $$ from them and your herbs at the farmers market. you could even divide some of your perennials/herbs and sell the starts. not huge cash, but enough for something....

  5. Yes, given your artistic skill I'm surprised you're not selling sketches of the Cape in tourist shops. I know someone with a shop in PTown who might be interested (no guarentees, obviously, but shoot me an email if you're intereted and I'll contact her).

    We're a one income household too and Spouse makes his pin money doing what he does best, which is computing. It can be rough going in the city with him getting a bit here and there for helping someone with a web site or setting up an Ubuntu desktop (he's an open source guy), but we manage. I've actually suggested he read your blog for suggestions on being a proper "househusband." He does do a lot of work, but none of it housekeping! Lazy sod! :)

    But seriously, think about trying to make a bit from your skills. Spouse has actually gotten funding recently for one of his projects, so if he can manage getting money for stuff he already does, why can't you? At least until you can get some decent tenants. Your quick bunny sketches would fetch a price (they were fab) so I know if you really worked at something with the intent to have it out in public you would do quite well.

  6. Hey, you guys are going to love this! Everyone needs more money, check out a no strings attached website where you can search and add money making ideas and read comments from others who have made a boat load of money or lost their shirt. If any of you have a money making idea you would like to share it, you can add it for free with the link provided

  7. Love what you are doing with the vegetable garden. You now have many skills which the average person nowadays does not have and these are very marketable. As a stay at home Mom in the 70s & 80s on a very limited budget I was able to use my sewing skills to earn extra income to pay for the (then) luxuries like music and dance lessons for the children. I also remember using rationing coupons for sugar and butter in England in 1954. I don't remember ever going hungry and I never developed a sweet tooth. It is amazing what one can happily live without. Unfortunately our economic system is geared to ever greater consumption and the advertising in all media tells us we are less than fulfilled if we do not have the latest. Not that I am against modern technology, just that as a society we have not learned to say no to all the commercial bling, and so we willingly enslave ourselves.

  8. I'm sorry for all the difficulty you’re going through right now. I'm curious to see how you will work things out. Are you going to try pinching pennies first before looking for a way to make extra money? I love the ideas you've been given. One idea that popped into my mind is the restaurants and smaller stores that have artists paint pictures on their windows.

    When you mentioned what the guy from Wal-mart said, I couldn't help but think, "Yeah right, we? You mean you are having shaky times." This is a great time to take our economy from being run by big businesses and have tons of Mom and Pop business pop up everywhere and start spending our money with them. If the government/big business wants us to spend money to help "stimulate" our economy, I think this would be the better way to do that, but do you think they would agree? :)

    Your garden is looking lovely!

  9. Wow, so many wonderful ideas all of you! Well, first and foremost I have often considered trying to make money with my art. I have even sold a few paintings here and there in the past, but never have tried to actually 'do it' nor to try to get into a gallery. I think my first step will be to, of course, 'pinch pennies'. I will economize and take a bit here and there off food budget, gas budget, etc. There is always a way to cut around things we seem to 'need'. However, having to face the demons of that particular property both emotionally and financially is good for me. It is true, I am still rather stressed (still have not found the right person to rent yet)but it is forcing me to deal with more of those things. I need to accept and move on, which I thought I had, on the sadness from my family this past year. I need to address the building I made for a studio and in fact address that part of my life. I am again faced with my 'art' as a means to earn, so it forces me to look at it in a more realistic light. Though, I think I can find some good tenants in time, it will force me to start making 'art' more a part of my day/week. I am becoming the scheduling queen, so certainly I can fit that in there as well. I am also thinking of 'staging' the little cottage on the property and rent that out as a summer rental. It is less stress overall than a year round tenant, but more work in housekeeping.However, I am getting rather good at that, so it would be a solution of the 'you do what you have to do' variety.
    Thank you so much for your ideas and concern. I also recieved quite a few letters yesterday and will write back to all of you this week. Thank you.

  10. thought of something else...what about your sewing? would any of the shops near you want to sell handmade aprons or some such thing like that? i know i would! just another thing to put in the hopper....xo

  11. We are off to have a little picnic this sunny Sunday. Thank you again for all of you advice. I feel more charged than ever to work with my homemaking skills and my budget to work out this problem. Thank goodness for 1955! I am working on a blog and post this evening. I am going to try and get back to more regular posting this week. Better organization and planning and budgeting is in my future. Have a wonderful sunday and thank you all again.

  12. 50s Gal, what you could do is to cut all expenses. We have had money problems before and we came on top of it by practising strict economy. Look at your budget and try to figure out which areas you can save on. We went for about a year without buying new clothes, unless strictly necessary. No going out, no buying books/magazines/stuff. I had a strict food budget, paying only cash in the shops. I also saved a lot on gas, light and water. You could consider setting the heater lower. I did everything to reduce power bills, and I still check our electricity consumption every day. You just need to sit down and make a budget. Write down your family income, deduce all necessary expences (insurances, mortgage) and just look at other areas of expense, if you could reduce some of them.

    Anony from Western Europe

  13. “I sat down on the bare floor and just sort of took it all in. It was very much like those movies where someone recalls a past and you see the sort of ghostly images super-imposed along the various parts of the house. There we sat and laughed with mum. We fought over there and then laughed about it later. There was the Christmas tree and all our smiling faces. There we sat for countless dinners, laughing and really believing we were all in this together forever.“

    You gave me tears in my eyes, friend! I wish you lots of good luck in finding some nice new tenants – who behave and don’t ruin anything and don’t just escape without paying.

    That fence is darling! Cukes is that cucumber? I haven’t planted cucumbers in my green house yet, it has been too cold in Denmark, if cucumbers get “cold feet” (below 15 C at night) they die. The first year we moved in our house I didn’t know that, so I planted cucumbers and they died and I planted some new and so on – quite expensive. ;)

    We have worked hard in our garden during our extra Holiday this past weekend, but I think I will write about it in a real letter and insert some photos. We have finished SO many nice projects, so look forward.

    I know some Danish homemakers in the fifties and way up to the beginning of the eighties sewed for earning extra money or “pin money”. In Denmark you could sew rags for operations, they were two layered and had to have a special thread inside which could be seen in an x-ray, I know this is still being done today. You can also sew menstrual pads and small lovely bags for The Keeper (which I was the first to introduce in Denmark), see here: And I think there are several other homemaker “jobs” like these. In Denmark most women in the country sell their fruit and vegetables at small booth at the street. They also preserve and make jam and pickles in the Autumn, which are also sold in the same both. Some women even have bees and sell the honey production.


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