Saturday, July 4, 2009

29 June- July 4th 1955 “Half Way There”

telegram This telegram is from 29 June 1955 and speaks of Maine and Boats, two of my passions. I love the “Want a boy” ad in the corner. I don’t know if telegrams still exist, but they certainly seemed magic at their inception; sending messages over wires. Here are some WAC’s during WWII doing just that.

telegraph women

june 19 1905 This is a photo from June 29 1905, which would have been fifty years earlier to my 1955 day. Look how much has changed in dress in that short period of time. Really, when you think of it, 1955 to today ( a little over 50 years) certainly shows a change in styles and overall formality, but nothing to match this change. Imagine what it was for the young girl of 1905 to be the grandmother of 1955? How odd and independent would seem her granddaughters and how novel the idea of the ‘teenager’ must have seemed. Certainly, they went through time gradually with everyone else, but what they had to recall from their day must have seemed almost stone age to the youth of 1955.

marilyn 4th Here is a magazine cover from today in 1955 featuring Marilyn. Darling bathing costume, don’t you think?

4th july Here is a photo from a 4th of July 1955 picnic I found on someone’s Flikr site. I hope they won’t mind, but it is paying homage to the photo. I thought it was a nice representation of casual summer wear.

Yesterday, the 3rd, we celebrated our 4th of July as we usually do, on a Sailboat watching the Wianno Yacht Club fireworks. They set them off from a barge anchored in the harbor and we pull up in boats and have cocktails, food and watch the festivities. It was nice. I wore cuffed dungarees, red boat shoes a blue and white boat neck shirt and a red and white scarf in my hair. Casual and patriotic. We enjoyed it and the rain actually let up for the day.

Over the past few days I have sat down to write. My lax behavior in posting had nothing to do with being ill nor not having the time to do it. I have been merely digesting. Contemplating and evaluating have been my constant companion these past few days. Here I am: half way there.

In one of my previous posts Hairball asked me the following question.

“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?”

This was very fitting at the time, as I have been doing much thinking of ‘what has come and what will come’. I have sort of hit a spot in my life and this project where I am turning more introspective. I have almost been away from the computer these past few days. Almost retreating from it, not necessarily intentionally, but in some sort of ‘time traveling’ healing pattern. I am almost like an animal wounded, which needs to go off and lick its wound alone. Though, my only attack has been self-inflicted.

Perhaps, that analogy is misleading, for I have not been sad nor disappointed, only contemplative. Wondering where I am now, in my life, with the project and who I am or would like to become. I feel almost chrysalis like and am turning and turning in my cocoon waiting for the right moment to break free. 

I think I will merely start by answering the questions. The first part of the question, “What would you say are the best things you’ve learned from 1955?” Wow. I honestly don’t know where to begin with that.

When I started this project it was to be an interesting past-time idea. I love history and felt living it would be exciting and fun. I was new to blogging and wanted to see what that was about. Here I am, only six months down the road and quite honestly I feel as if I have lived lifetimes since.
When I think of the December 2008 me and the current 1955 me, I am amazed. It is as if I am an old woman looking back at the silliness of youth and not with a fondness but with a gasp to my ‘inconceivable behavior’. Really, I have grown so much these past six months.

I think part of this project had a little of the hiding in the closet for me. This past year has been hard on me emotionally as my mother with Alzheimer's and my fathers failing health. The sudden sort of break up of my family left me somewhat shell-shock and retreating into a past that was not my own, though not intentionally done with that in mind, my have been my psyches way of dealing with it. Whatever reason, I did it and here I am.

Any Surprises? I actually think the main surprise to me was other peoples reactions to my project. First, there were those who would literally approach me and thank me for looking nice. I had touched them so that the barrier between stranger disappeared and for a moment we touched. Could there be something there, in the clothes and looking nice, from that past that better fostered neighborly behavior? If we were all so decked out it wouldn’t seem to stick out as much, but would it still put a smile on our faces and make us more approachable. And that is it, as well, perhaps in my garb, my tidy clothes and hair, my smile and appearance is more approachable. I look good for myself and it means more to others. It makes all those 50’s films for school children and teens about looking good and respecting yourself and others, which we now laugh at and think “how quaint”, to have more than a kernel of truth to them.

The biggest surprise to me, was the result of one of my friendships. You may have noticed early on in this project, ‘Vintage Friend’ played a major role. Somewhere along the way, I lost her. I don’t know what it was that did it.  I know we were close and she shared a lot of my passion for my project and then it was just gone. I think it is true with people that sometimes we are there for each other when the time is right and we need one another and then perhaps they are gone. We each served whatever purpose there was for our friendship and it was all it was to be. Realizing that and knowing that I am not responsible for others feelings towards me yet feeling that being proud in myself and what I do is the opposite of the selfish attitude of ‘I come first’ in the modern world. It is a very slight difference and it took this project to show it to me. If one stands alone for what they feel is right for themselves and others around them and that alienates them from others who have been around, you still have to follow what you feel is the right path. The real friends will follow along or lead you on their path as well. There is no bitterness, at least on my part. Sometimes people grow in different directions. It could have happened rather I did the project or not, I don’t honestly know. Yet, it did happen during the project and so it does feel to be a part of the chrysalis transformation I have been feeling, so I thought to include it here.

I could be very wrong in this next idea that has been kicking around in my head, but I have come to think that perhaps these moments in time, these decades we are drawn to, somehow just “got it right”. It certainly could be looking through rose-colored spectacles, but there does seem to be this frame of time that just aligned everything in sync in a way that many people respond to today. That time (the 1920s-the mid 1950s) where human kindness, individuality, passion, restraint, fun, seriousness, maturity, frivolity, technology seems to have come into a sort of syncopation. Not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but in a way that people continually respond to these times. Even in the 1980s there was a nostalgia for the 1950s by those who were not there. There seems to be, in these past decades from the 20s-the mid 50’s, a certain element that makes one want to just say, “Stop the clock, we have got it right!” I know there has come much change in the realms of freedoms for women and minorities since then, but they really began then. I think if somehow we froze the other elements of those decades, the natural progression of fairness would have continued, but in a more honest vein. Somehow now our PC ideals have us want to celebrate diversity and yet ignore those very distinct features that make us different. I am not really explaining myself well, perhaps, but somehow I feel that during that time the level of technology and consumption seems to have finally hit the even mark with human condition and kindness and after that it sort of became eschewed more towards change and shock value for itself. The level of communication and machine was really at a pace that we could have said ‘stop’ for personal consumption and let the rest go on for overall health and medicine. I am not sure if I am explaining myself here properly.

Even the level to which computes have come seems to demonstrate what I am thinking. What I now use my computer for I most likely would not need to continue to get newer computers. I can view video and blog. Yet, they will continue to make websites and pages require more ability from the computer so that we are forced, if we wish to continue to participate, to buy a new one every few years. My question is, when will ‘they’ (the consuming world) push us too far? When will we one day wake up and say, “Well, I don’t want to buy another cell phone with more gadgets because my 6 month old version is obsolete. I don’t want to buy another computer because  this one is not fast enough to load web pages. I just won’t do it” When and if would that ever happen? I don’t know. And even for myself, I don’t know.

The more I am confronted with the modern world the more I feel as if my generations have been duped. Somewhere in the middle 60’s Madison avenue came along and sold out all of our futures through advertising. We were asked to exchange human skill and personal pride for ease and money and pizzazz. And, we did it. Now, we all live in our shiny little packages not questioning the very act of giving over large portions of our free time to the advertising machines to allow ourselves to be plugged in and sold to. We must buy the new fashion or the new idea or the new car. We have to have attitude and it’s all about ‘me’ etc. I feel like we just about had it right and then BAM, we sold out.

So now, moving forward with the next six months of this project, I am left asking myself, “Now what?” Do I continue to feel I am peeling back the layers of what our present society is whilst within this project and then just set it aside on January 1 2010? Could I? Wouldn’t it be easy to just turn on the TV, go to old navy and Wal-Mart, buy my meals prepared, just put on the jeans and old t-shirt? Yes, it would be easy, but can I do it? I think I could and that scares me. I don’t want to. But, I know, if I were to do it in a matter of months perhaps it wouldn’t matter any more. Why bother. I can’t be bothered, just get up, get by and go along with the flow.

But, and this is the most important lesson learned, that is not the life I want. I don’t want to put my hands at my side and blindly walk through the present with mindless ease to my grave. I don’t want that. If there is toil and frustration in making my own food and growing it and mending my old socks and making my own clothes and walking instead of driving and thinking and reading instead of just passively watching, I don’t care. I want it! Because the joy and laughter and accomplishment that will come with those continual trial and errors of actually living, really participating in my own life, will be more sweet than a life time of bland passive ease.

“Has your husband changed at all during this project?” As I have stated before, I am lucky in my husband. He is a darling gentle person who goes along with the flow. He loves me and supports many of my crazy schemes. What I have noticed in the past six months is that he seems more apart of the deal of our marriage in that he is fine with being the ‘bread winner’ and happy that I take care of the home and bill paying. It is really a very logical separation of chores for living. He is more aware of people at work who are two income houses and wonders that they probably spend more due to both parties working. I think he values what my ‘job’ entails and feels valued for what his does for us as well. Perhaps, in a way, he might feel more secure to focus only on his work at work, as he knows when he comes home he will not have to wonder what to eat or if his clothes are clean or the house etc. It, somehow, leaves us more time to share when he is off work, as things run more smoothly. I don’t think he grudges me my time home, nor I his not having to worry about food, chores, clean laundry and bills. The equal division of these necessities of life makes for a better marriage and stronger friendship, at least in my case.

I am not sure where the road will lead with this time travel I have undertaken. I know I am not sorry for the trip. We shall see what we shall see.

I feel bad that I have not posted these past days, but I have been really using my ‘free time’ to just digest what I want the next six months to be and to mean to me and my family.

Now, to make up for that, let me see what I can give for our frugal Friday and Gardening Saturday that I have missed.

My two frugal tips today are both for the food budget. Many people love waffles and think they are too hard to make at home. They might even buy those horrible frozen things that you pop in the toaster or wait until the go out to order one at a restaurant. Waffles are easy to make and cost effective.

Waffle irons, too, are basically unchanged since the 1930s. My waffle iron is from the 30’s and was purchased for under a few dollars and they are easy to find at yard sales, junk shops etc.

This is my favorite waffle recipe and sometimes I even cut it in half, as I did this morning, for hubby and I.

waffles wafffle w blueberries

The trick to good crisp yet fluffy waffles is to make sure and beat the egg whites stiff. This might seem like a lot to do for breakfast, but it is really fast. I take all the dry ingredients and the egg yolk, oil and milk and just throw it in my pitcher/bowl with a spout. I don’t even sift. I then just whip that up. Then the egg whites are so easy to stiffen with a few seconds of your mixer and then fold them in. Just plop them on top of the other mixture and take your spatula and literally ‘fold’ them over with the spatula. These are wonderful and crisp and really fast and they do freeze well, so why buy them pre-frozen when you can make a bigger batch, eat some fresh and put the rest in the freezer for later.

My second tip is, believe it or not, home-made potato chips. I tried these last night. Potatoes are very inexpensive and two full size potatoes make enough chips for two to share for lunch. I have an old grater that has the long thin slicer on it and the other day I looked at while grating cheese and thought, “Huh, I bet that would slice a thin potato” and it did. I just heated the oil sliced and the crisped up in under 40 seconds, then pop on a paper towel or napkin to soak up the oil and sprinkle a little salt or any flavoring you like! Fresh and made to order and much cheaper than a bag of chips! When you start to think more about what you use and then wonder if you could make it yourself and then cost compare it, you would be surprised what you can make and how much you can save in so doing.

I thought this article on propagating your own houseplants very informative and also cost effective. And what better hostess/shower/hen’s party/house warming gift then a plant you propagated from one of your own?

plant prop 1 plant prop 2

Until Monday, then, have a great holiday (American's) weekend and a great holiday for all else as well. Happy Homemaking!


  1. I love this post and I understand what you are trying to say. You explained yourself perfectly. It's an excellent observation. I've been wondering why everything is so disposable now. Everything has to be upgraded like you said at great expense like cell phones, flat screen tv's, computers, ipods, wardrobes, etc. It's just a really silly cycle when basic items will do just fine. This was very thought provoking and thanks for posting. Now off to watch the grooming video.

  2. Sorry for the double comment here but I just watched the video. How great! Some similarities that I saw with my home were, the closet is the same size in my bedroom, I've got to share our only bathroom with my husband and the kitchen is the same size. Whenever I want more space I think "'a family of 4 used to live in this small house with no problem, why can't we?" and I feel all better.

  3. Well thought out answers. Frightening thought, though; thinking you could fall prey to the seductive glamour of the advertising world again. Thanks to your insights, I've learned to finally think for myself!

  4. great post. i understood it perfectly. and i agree. xo

  5. kelly I forgot to say on a previous blog would you post your 'recipe' for laundry soap using fels naptha? Thank you much appreciated by all. Now i can make my own laundry soap and potato chips! as long as I don't confuse the two!

  6. Great post, 50sgal! And good to see that you're still around (just busy, I know!)

    I loved the video! I thought it was very interesting that there was an "educational collaborator" who was the head of the homemaking education department at a state university. I'm not even sure if that position is still around.

    Also, thank you for the waffle recipe! The one on the back of my Jiffy mix, while good, just doesn't quite cut it.

    I've been meaning to ask you too, what do you keep your grease in? And do you just keep bacon grease or do you keep grease from other things as well?

    Sorry for the long reply!

  7. Jenn-I want to eventually get a nice vintage grease holder (they came in cute designs and shapes like cookie jars) but now I keep my bacon fat in an old tea tin and my liquid grase (that which does not congeal)in an old coffee tin. I find now my response to storage is becoming more, what do I have on hand or what have I empties, and less, "Oh lets go on ebay and buy something!"

  8. 50's gal~here is the link to the laundry soap recipe. my friend had retyped it, but it came originally from here, she said, so i will send you straight to the source. there are also fabric softener ideas. :)
    i am liking it pretty well, and using a regular bar of fels naptha to pretreat stains. i also have some "modern" stain spray still, and i use that on the tough ones. but on stains like blood and grass, you can also pour hydrogen peroxide on them and that works too.
    hope it works for you. xo

  9. As Benjamin Franklin wrote "The golden age never was the present age."
    I think that pretty much sums it all up

  10. True Weenie elise, and yet, it is odd how that little moment in time, so many people seem to keep being drawn back to, I wonder...

  11. Hey, 50's Gal. Thanks for sharing your insights. It's all so interesting.

    I'm sorry this year has been so difficult with your parents. I'm sure encasing yourself in this 1955 cocoon is comforting.

    Regarding the vanishing act of your vintage friend- well, first, I like how you're thinking about it. It may very well have nothing to do with you but communicating with you now takes more effort and your friend just can't right now. Friendships can ebb and flow. Perhaps this friendship will come together again, perhaps not. You may have grown past this friend's capacity for now.

    I absolutely LOVED LOVED LOVED the grooming video. Especially the part about Sue using clear nail polish "as to not draw attention to her short and stubby hands." I too have short and stubby hands and watching the video inspired me to put on a clear coat of nail polish as I watched the rest of the video. The kitchen is divine! I almost bought a vintage kitchen table like the one at "Don and Sue's" home but it needed more TLC than I could give it. Our cabinets, circa 1990, are falling apart so when (and if) we get new ones I'd like to reconfigure the kitchen layout to look more circa 1940.

    Thanks for the waffle recipe. I've had my eyes peeled for one at estate sales but haven't found one yet. At least when I do I'll have the perfect recipe.


  12. Well, this was another well-thought-out and reflective post. I always enjoy your insight and your encouragement.

    The video was wonderful to watch—thank you.

    I too agree that the time and labor that it takes to actually cook and clean, wash and iron makes for a healthier happier self—something that seems lacking in today’s society.

    I feel sad that your vintage friend went away. I am sorry about that and impressed that you have kept up your project regardless of what others do or think.

    I have—through an online post—begun the process of having a vintage group. I’m so excited! There are two gals that I have been emailing, and we plan to meet in about two weeks for our first vintage tea. I am looking forward to doing more things and adding to our group, doing re-enactments or whatever else may come down the road!

    I am curious—you had mentioned before that you are interested in the 1800’s. Did you ever do a project on that era like you are now—dress the part, etc.?


    I have been using the Duggar’s laundry soap recipe since about February and like it. My daughter and I get together, make a big batch, and split it. We also use the Fels Naptha for a stain remover, and I love it! The best part, other than the price, is knowing that you made it with your own hands. She and I are always trying to be more self-sufficient, and this is one great way to do it.

  13. zebu-i have the same feeling about the laundry soap!! also, friends who use it say that the people in their families w/sensitive skin/eczema have been greatly improved w/its use. THAT makes me feel better too, that it is truly better for you. :)

  14. I can't wait to make this! Is it true that 10 gallons only costs 2 dollars? That is an amazing savings.
    I do still see my vintage friend time to time, only it is not as it once was. People change and things move forward, it is part of life's cylce. Coping with that and realizing such changes as growth has also been a lesson that has come out of my project. Maturity is hard work but one feels as you gain a foothold on its steep ledge, you find scaling it becomes easier and you don't want to lose a foothold back into childish ways.

  15. That video is absolutely fantastic! So right in keeping with the 1946 grooming routine I've been trying to adopt. One of the things I love about the '40s is how matter of fact they were when it came to beauty. They don't dance around Sue's short, stubby fingers. Just lay it out there and recommend a technique to offset the fingers. Here in 2009, the going attitude seems to be that you should anguish about it for a lifetime, find someone or something to blame, spend several years in therapy, medicate, and perhaps have your fingers surgically corrected. All so you can look just like the hand models with long, willowy fingers!

    I'm glad that this experiment has helped you learn a little something about yourself, 50sgal. (I just typed 60sgal by accident. Is that a sign?) One of the surprising things that your experiment has brought to light for me is the idea that young people in that day truly aspired to become grown-ups. To take responsibility for their homes, their communities, etc. in a way which could bring deep satisfaction. These days, young people are just running away from being grown-ups and trying to keep young and carefree forever - which can keep us from finding that same sense of satisfaction. A truly profound thought. Thank you for shedding some light on that.

  16. Jitterbug-I have really seen that as one of the main points shown to me in this project, that no one wants to grow up. There are so many 'older people' who still don't seem grown up when I compare them to the 'old days'. Even the atitudes of people in their 50's at stores with thier rudeness to sales staff and way of dressing in torn jeans and scrunchies in their hair. There is not even a sense of trying to encourage an adult mindset and goal set. We are all terminal babies and we are so many generations removed from those last few adults that we seem to be stumbling, toddler-like, into the future, following the bright jangling objects and waiting for someone to give us or bottle and change us, for we can't take care of ourselves and nothing is our responsibility. The very idea of accountability seems to be completely gone from the world around us, at least that is the way it has come to seem to me. I wonder if we will ever change. I wonder, can we be the generation that rebels against the old rebels back towards responsiblity?
    60s, I wonder, I have lately been reading alot of 40s things but then started going through my old early 1900 books and mags. I have thought of 50 years earlier, my year 1905, now that would be a challenge!

  17. I use the homemade powdered laundry soap recipe at Soaps Gone Buy. Because my water is so hard, I use double the amount of Borax and washing soda in their recipe.

    I also use distilled white vinegar instead of fabric softener.

  18. I have been reading your blog all morning and thoroughly enjoying it.

    I have to comment tho' on one thing I see happening again and again with your year - it is kind of cute actually.

    I am a SAHM and have been for many, many years [we have six children, but only two left at home] and as you are in your 30's [I think you said] I find it so endearing that you get a kick out stretching a pot roast for more than one meal or the lightbulb moment [as in this post] that you can freeze waffles that you have made yourself. Wow! Good for you.

    Honestly, I am not being snarky, but SAHMs have been doing this for years, on one household income and it is very endearing to see you discover it for yourself.

    We all thought it was common sense. :D


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