Thursday, June 25, 2009

25 June 1955 “I am back, somewhat. News, products, computers”

Well, everyone, it is so lovely to be back. I am not 100% better yet, but it feels good today to sit in my little sitting room again, my view of the garden, my little dogs curled on the yellow sofa and the soft chirrup of my bird singing away in her little cage.

Well, let’s get back to it then:

Here is the New Yorker for today. I think this cover, with its pattern of leaves over the various gardening figures, would lend itself very well to a fabric or wallpaper, don’t you? If it were done in a solid color it could be a 1955 version of Toile, non?

new yorker june 25 1955

This is from the 15th of this year 1955, but still thought it a good example of how much the 1950’s were about positive change. walter brown

I love this bit I found accompanying the photo:

On June 15, 1955 Walter M. Brown was awarded a Ph.D. from what is now North Carolina Central University. Today he is a professor emeritus and former dean of the School of Education at North Carolina Central University. He holds a B.A. and Ph.D. from North Carolina Central, and an M.A. from New York University (NYU). Dr. Brown is also an accomplished calligrapher. He is a member of the Carolina Lettering Arts Society and the Triangle Calligraphers’ Guild, and has taught calligraphy at NCCU, Durham Technical Community College, the Durham Arts Council, Butner Correctional Institution, the Chapel Hill Museum, and the Duke Institute for Learning In Retirement.

Don’t you love that he taught and was proud of calligraphy? I have to say rather black or white, I would rather see such a person as a role model for my child than a rapper. Education, pride and self-reliance seems to be out of fashion replaced by the desire for things.: fast new cars, ‘bling’ etc.

 newspaper 25 june I just thought this a cute ad from today from a newspaper. I see that “Batman” must have been a continuing series you waited for at the movies. That seems odd in today’s instant gratification world and yet how then the grandparents from the 1900’s must have thought the whole TV entertainment industry strange and fast-paced. “In my day” I am sure they said to their grandchildren, who rolled their eyes, watched howdy doody and played with their plastic toys. Really, this is the first such generation of consuming children. Those who had gone before, now now more. Even the elderly today are really from the beginnings of the consumer culture. That is why, in a way, I feel like we vintage gals need to hold the torch of the past to the cave walls and decipher the hieroglyphs of the past. We should keep pre-consumer skills alive and well. We may be seen as silly romantics today, but one never knows. There may be a time in our future when we have spent it all, money is devalued and a great recession would only allow the masses to try and care for themselves. If that time ever came, we could be those who could teach and help those fumbling in the dark.


When I saw this bit from the Mickey Mouse Club, which would be on now, I first thought, “I can’t imagine any modern child having the patience to even get through this segment”. I also found it rather interesting that they would show a child how to make their own cookies and also assume that a parent would give the responsibility to a child to handle an oven etc. I don’t have children, so I am not sure how it is done today, but I get the feeling that children are much more ‘babied’ or ‘coddled’ today than they were in the past. I know, in the 19th c. certainly, younger children were expected to do ‘adult things’ sooner and read sooner including things like Latin on one end of the scale and home economics and shop on the other.

It seems we have a much longer life expectancy now, but instead of trying to follow the old path of learning as much as possible early on, the babyhood of entertainment and ‘jangling the keys in front of baby’ goes on longer. Or parents spend money and time in things like soccer and dance, which though good athletically, what about education and play being the exercise? Again, I will NOT pass judgment as I have not earned the right, not having any children, only making observations. It does seem, though, given our longer time on this earth in the modern world, we would want to fill up that time with knowledge and achievement rather than time-wasting. But, what do I know?

I did notice another thing about this little clip, the ‘recipe’ was “go to your cupboard and get your ‘Minnie mouse’ cookie mix”. So, here, really, begins the advertising to the children. When you consider the early days of TV, I am sure the greatest audience was the child. It was new and becoming the norm for them to have TV in their lives, so advertise to them. Surely they would tell mother what they ‘wanted’ from the store. My generation in 1955 would have lived most of my life without even the concept of TV, so I would have been a poor audience to advertise to that way. They would have got me in the ladies magazines.

As I mentioned, early on in this experiment, I was already a magazine reader. I quickly found myself indulging as usual with my vintage magazines. As I can see, looking through earlier posts, my ‘desires’ and esthetic began to change merely by being presented with the advertising of the day. It had sat idle for fifty years, but all it took was the spark of the page turning to have me coveting vinyl flooring, ‘new appliances’ etc. Although, I began to see how economical I could now do over such a kitchen, as these items were cheap or no longer loved. It got me thinking again about recycling and advertising.

There are so many things already made. The dump, antique stores, salvage yards, yard sales, attics, basements, etc. They are all full to the brim with things already made and still working.

Case in point, I used to have a coffee pot fetish. My hubby laughed at me for always buying the latest and most gadget-ed thing and I never had only one. Now, everyday I use my percolator. I think it cost me but one dollar at the local church basement sale. My old Kirby does me justice as do my everyday dishes.

I know advertising has been a part of our lives for a while now, but it still amazes me to what degree it affects us. Especially now that the new ‘green’ is in. Producing more products to purchase hardly seems green. It is true in some respect that if you are not the person who is going to simply make their own cleaner from simple things, than perhaps we are saving the environment that way; but, honestly, it is just a lazy excuse. Sure, they may make a brand (at a higher cost I might add) of something that is not as full of chemicals, but how do you think they make it? There is still a factory pumping it out some where, there is still plastic bottles, etc. It is just replacing what we should be doing with an easy answer. I really fear that when it comes right down to it, there will be no easy answer.

I don’t know how long we can go on in this vein of consumption. Perhaps another one hundred years, I don’t honestly know, but I do fear how any new concept of ‘how can we change’ is always repackaged and sold to us in an easy answer, “Just get out your debit/credit card and buy the answer”.

My time of illness sort of allowed me the opportunity to do something I had been considering for this project. Go without my computer. I have to say, though not intentional, it did afford me to see the day more 1955. It was not a good way to try it, for I could not see if I got more done, as I have been exhausted and in bed often, but it did allow me, even more, to enjoy books. I have always been a bibliophile. Yet, these past years have seen me turn to the printed page less and less. Now, in the quiet house in the sick bed of 1955, I turned to books.
I reread E. M. Forrester’s Howard’s End to name but one.

Yet, I am not sure, now, that I need try a week sans computer. I don’t know that it is relevant. Certainly, I am continuing my project, but it is becoming more and more about what I CAN do and what I should NOT do.

My research and my writing, my posting to all of you, I would miss. Indeed, I have missed it. So, I do hope you will forgive if I forgo the experiment of no computer. Certainly, I am in 1955 in a way, but I feel as if I have my little time machine that allows me to hop to and fro to share with you what I have discovered. After all, what sort of ‘time-travel writer’ would I be if you could not read my words?

Until tomorrow, then, Happy Homemaking. I am slowly getting back into the swing of things.


  1. So glad to hear you are getting better. Love the mouse club, memories. I remember my Grandma bought me micky mouse club soup in a can. It was not on the market long. I totally agree with the consumer problem. I see how our grown children wish they could have "stuff". Me, I would love for my next country place as simple as the cottage in the movie "the quiet man". Children are not capable tody not even as young adults. My daughter at 5years knew how to start meals. She did not run the stove but started the table setting and prep work. She enjoyed her freedom to be a big helper and took pride in it.
    I went and got a lovely book from the library called "rose cottage" by Mary Stewart as I was reading today I realised I really miss nice stories and reading. The world is so consumed with noise and meaningless filler. We have consumed so much we want it cheap, now and at the expence of this country. So sad we are so dependent on other countries.
    Today I know many will be beside themselves because a celebrity has died. I can only feel as someone who lost a parent as a child , sadness for this persons children. The world will be a mess. Privacy to bury their loved one nearly impossible. Where has our compassion and sensible behavior gone? It is not too late to learn.

  2. I LOVE indulging in vintage magazines- nothing better on a cold gloomy day just to see what they did back then in the 50's, 60s and 40's.
    I remember Mickey Mouse Club too but it was when I was growing up in the 70's.

  3. I loved the Mickey Mouse Club as well. I am in complete agreement with you about th massive consumption issues we have in the US (and the western world).

    I have noticed something I thought you would find interesting. About a year ago, my hubby and I got rid of our TV. We no longer have satellite or do we have an antenna to receive local stations. All my kids (4 of them) watch on TV is "movies". Programs I have bought and various movies the like and I approve of. Since this had happened, the "I wants" and "Can we gets" have dropped off TREMENDOUSLY! I no longer hear all the time about having to have this toy or that outfit that some star was wearing, etc. My daughter and I especially have been spending more time together, sewing, reading, and I have scouted out "grooming" and "etiquettie (sp?)" videos on youtube to watch with her.

    I have found that my kids are better mannered, as well. They no longer give me "attitude" like some star on TV gives their parent/sibling/friend. My hubby and I consider ditching TV one of the best things we have ever done.

    I am determined to instill in my kids a sense of respect and integrity (along with manners and morals) that seems to be missing now-adays. I am teaching them to say "yes ma'am or sir" to have my sons hold the door for a lady, to have my daughter learn to brush her hair nightly, sit correctly have good posture and all. Funny thing is, I get compliments all the time from people. "your kids are so well behaved, how do you do it?" and I always tell them - get rid of the TV. They learn nothing good and ALOT of bad from it.

  4. Isn't it funny how getting rid of one major element in the 'advertising control', the TV, how much it changes your life. I know even the desire for take out pizza and fast food dissapeared when the TV wasnt' showing it to me. Really, when you think about it, tv, internet etc is all a vehicle to control our atitudes needs and wants, what is so great about the computer, and I am sure what is driving the advertisers mad, is that we have more control on the internet. IT is not just a passive thing. Yet, I see more and more advertising creeping in, but we have the power to shut it down if we choose. I find it interesting that though trying to live in 1955, it seems easier to do so WITH the computer today than say 15 years ago. Now I have access to many things of that time. Really, my computer for me now is like a window in a time machine, as almost anything I now do with it is concerning vintage ideas, movies shows, books articles etc. IT is a great tool and I hope we, the people, can hold onto it in a way that it remains in our control.

  5. There is a tree blocking our satellite dish and we can hardly watch a show uninterrupted. Most of the time we just give up, which is fine with me.

    The Internet has helped us start our own business with our community website. Way back (1998 or so), I checked into publishing my own newsletter. The price to produce it was way out of our league, so I forgot about it and just wrote locally for newspapers. But, the Internet makes it so inexpensive to publish our own words. It's awesome!

    Anyway, I agree about the activities which fill the day of a typical child today. Dance, soccer...not bad things, of course...but wouldn't it be wise to maybe sign kids up for some activities in lost lifeskills? I know they are out there with 4H and the Extension Service etc. I just wish more parents would consider such pursuits worthwhile. And I think the child would have as much fun with it as any other activity (I know I would have as a kid).

    Glad you are feeling better!

    Working hard at the water is back on!

  6. My daughter had taken dance for the last 3 years. However, her instructor uses it not only to teach them dance, but they discuss how to be a "lady". I have friends how have their kids into everything going. Gymnastics, softball, soccer, dance. Between these tasks and their regular schoolwork, it does create some problems. A) The kids hardly see their parents (who both work full time), B) They are exhausted most days, and are unable to perform as well as they should at anything, C) They don't have time for friends and playdates and such. In an effort to make their children "popular" they are doing the exact opposite. It is sad.

    I agree about the computer. I think you should continue to access it for its varied resources. It is great how we can share, though we live many miles apart. I also love how it allows me o find resources to sare with my family I may not otherwise have.

    Oh, and about the Tv. Funny thing. My parents are obsessed with the fact we don't have TV. EVERY time I talk to my mom, she asks if we have it back. They were boh born in 1945, and the cannot imagine life without it. We go over to their house now, and the Tv is going, and I find it annoying, LOL.

    Glad you are feeling better! Take it easy though while you are on the upswing. Don't want to get a backset and wind up sicker than you were in the first place.

  7. Glad you're on the mend and back to posting...

  8. I'm so happy to hear that you're feeling a little more like yourself these days! Can you believe your year is almost halfway done? What would you say are the best things you've learned from 1955? Any surprises? Would you say there are any myths people have about the '50s that have been dispelled for you? Has your husband changed in any way during this project?

    Full of Questions :)

  9. Jitterbug, these are such good questions, I am going to do Monday's blog using your question and answering it. It will be a good marker for my 'half way mark' through this project. I definitely can say that I am a changed person and feels years away from who I was Jan 1 1955 (2009). Great questions.

  10. Hurrah! I'm looking forward to it. :)

  11. Jitterbug- Good questions! I'm glad our 50'sgal is going to devote a whole post to them.

    Funny how you saw the magazine cover as toile-inspired. I did too, if it was of course in a more monochrome pallet. Have you been watching Leave it to Beaver in 1955? I remember the Cleavers having a black and white toile chair in their living room. Seriously, it's funny that I remember it. Must have made quite an impression on me- or I watched too many re-runs as a child.

    I showed my girls the Mickey Mouse clip and they lost interest after less than a minute. With the amount of Disney programming there is to watch now I guess the early days of TV are not exciting for them.

    Regarding your observations of children's over scheduled days- honestly I think your perspective is refreshing, and I don't take it any less seriously than I would from someone who is a parent. As a parent you get so wrapped up in your own little mommy world that it's hard to see anything else. I agree it's sad that so many kids are kept busy whether it be by necessity or their parents' aspirations. But unfortunately our world doesn't allow for the free roaming childhood most of us remember. I know a little girl who must have an activity every day after school because her mother is too unstable to care for her for the length of time between school and bedtime. I knew mothers like this when I was a child but their kids played outside with all of us so there was no need to have scheduled activities.

    I agree the choice of children's activities needs to be more varied. I really like the idea you wrote about people living longer but learning less. "Playtime" has it's place but we must exercise our minds too.

    Glad you're feeling better.


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