Tuesday, August 11, 2009

11 August 1955 “The 1955 I-Pod, Atomic Power, Child Care, Baking Failures, and that Blasted Girdle”

tr 55 radio

“The TR-55, released in 1955, was Sony's first transistor radio, and the first to be made in Japan. The use of transistors rather than vacuum tubes allowed the device to be much smaller than earlier radios, and allowed them to be the first truly portable radio from Japan.”

Tokyo Telecommunications, later to become Sony, began the production of this little radio today in 1955. Although, this year it would only be sold in Japan, and Americans were not thinking of Japan as producing anything but cheap products (in the 50’s made in Japan was similiar to our made in China. Even the original Barbie Dolls that would come out in 1959 were produced there). By 1958 under the name Sony, Transistor radios were being sold. The idea of a radio needing a cord was becoming old fashioned and you could take your battery powered radio with you anywhere.

Again, we find another movement happening this year that leads to the way we live currently. This bit I found online sums it up for the transistor to today:

The TR-55 served as the template for almost all the portable gadgets we use today. Everything from the iPod to the Game Boy can trace its basic handheld design to the TR-55’s form factor. More importantly, use of the transistor became widespread in all electronics allowing for the development of LCD TVs, smartphones and netbooks.”

plane crash 55 El Al Flight 402, a pressurized four-engine propliner plane,  was an international passenger flight from Vienna, Austria to Tel Aviv, Israel via Istanbul, Turkey, on July 27, 1955, which strayed into Bulgarian airspace and was shot down by two Bulgarian MiG-15 jet fighters and crashed near Petrich, Bulgaria. All 7 crew and 51 passengers on board the airliner were killed. This must have been such a fright as plane travel was still fairly new.

Speaking of planes, I love this August 1955 issue of Mechanics illustrated.mechanic mag 55 It purports the ‘atomic planes are closer than you think’. I like the concept that we are thinking about alternate power sources at this time, however, luckily this was not ever realized. Speaking of atomic energy, however, in July of this year the town of Arco, Idaho was the  first town ever completely lit/powered by atomic power. Unfortunately, on 3 January 1961 it became another first, when the reactor that powered the town had a meltdown, causing three deaths. It was the world’s first (and the us’s only) fatal reactor accident. Here we again see the innocence of our world as we play with the powers achieved so quickly in WWII. It is an example of our innocence fading, I believe. I know it is a romantic and unrealistic notion to want that innocence back, but one can understand the current generations ennui and bitter sarcasm to living when one considers what we have been through thus far. But, oh, how I wish we could be innocent enough to be the young girls waiting for doors to be held, hopes of making families and sipping lemonade on porches, the aging happily among our growing families raising and sharing life with our grandkids. Yet, we have obese shut ins playing computer/video games 12 hours a day, day-care, spending, cynicism towards family life and community, distrust, and an increasing aging population left to rot away in nursing homes. Can we turn it around? Are there enough of us who want to do so? How can we do it?

On a lighter note,

This Aug 55 cover of Elle with Bridgette Bardot is lovely.bridgette bardot 55 Her shoes, the beginning of the pointed toe and thinner heel that we associate the 1950s, really only are beginning  now and will reach their zenith in the early 1960s. Her dress and petticoat are so fresh and lovely.

I have had readers ask me in the past about vintage child care/rearing. I found this interesting article in a magazine the other day and thought I would share the first half of it with you here.childcare1childcare_2 If you like it I will scan and post the second half. If you click on the image it should appear large enough to read. There is quite a bit on childcare and here I am more than half way I think this project must just naturally grow into something bigger.  

diet_foods I thought this interesting, that specific Diet foods are showing up. Where once there would have been mention of how to watch your weight with suggestions, or not an issue of weight during the Depression, we can see the beginning of the plenty becoming an issue of ‘too much of a good thing’. Are any of you old enough to have tried any of these diet foods and if so, how were they? I am sure they must have had saccharine.

As you know, I have been extra busy this month. In addition to my usual growing chore list, I have had to add the moving of my household for Sept first. So, as an example, this Monday was, as usual, laundry day. So, in addition to those usual chores of sorting laundry, doing laundry, folding and sorting for ironing on tuesday, I had to add scheduling my move. That entailed my going about and making a list in my little homemakers journal of various items that I want to move, when I will move them and what needs to be donated or sold or given away. This leaves not much time to do my blogging. That is why I am hopeful that you will be patient with my shorter posts this month.

The point of this is that I had a great funny story to share with you and have not really had time to tell you. So, here it is now:

A few weeks ago my hubby asked me to make some baked goods for his work as two co-workers were going to be leaving. I am fast becoming known as the ‘good baker’ at his place of work. It is a source of pride for him and me. I also find it very 1955 that he should come to me and request some of my baked goods for such an event. I, of course, accepted his offer.

Now, we have been blessed this summer with unseasonable cooler weather. Here on Cape Cod we often do not get a spring per se. It is often cooler winter weather and then almost over night one walks outside and the leaves are out, the birds singing and it is warm. This year we had cool and rainy weather well into July. For me, it was a dream, as I do not like hot muggy weather. It was also divine providence for my project as I have not had too much worry about being overheated in my girdle and slips/petticoat gloves etc. Now, of course, that weather has left us, as if a dream we had it is now replaced with damp muggy August weather.

So, the day in question, the day before I was to have the cakes ready for my hubby, the heat returned. It was soo hot and I had to do extra marketing for the items for my cakes. It was very hot and I felt it best to put off the baking until that night. Now, in hindsight I see that was a mistake. On some level I felt it was a bit of modern me just putting it off, but as I thought of it further I realized that surely such a decision could be normal for a 1955 homemaker. The heat mixed with the oven etc, best wait until it cools off.

But, it did not cool off. In fact, in seemed to get hotter, but I donned my apron and my smile, put my hair up Rosy the Riveter style and was off. I had planned two types of cakes and cupcakes. That mean two variations of frosting. One was to be a fresh lemon frosting with fresh squeezed lemon juice and fresh lemon zest. That went off without a hitch and into the ice box to keep cool.

Then, things began to go downhill. As the oven continued to increase the sweltering heat in my kitchen and the sweet icky gooey mess of various batters and frostings on my fingers drove me mad with the taste of sugar in my mouth, I had a very uncomfortable feeling. Down, amongst my skirt and apron and slip I felt rather itchy and overheated. It was the first time I had hated my girdle.

I have since found by talking with someone of the area and the age that Cape Cod, being a summer seaside town, was often more casual. Certainly, this does not mean the level at which we are today, but it was not heard of to see housewives in pedal pushers and white keds or sandals in the grocery store and one could go girdle-less in a breezy cotton summer dress and sandals. This is a style I have since adopted, but had not as of yet. The cool weather and my determination had not allowed me to try that.

So, there I stood, the day waning (it was close on midnight at this moment) and I was hot, itchy, coated in sugared frosting, one set of cakes cooling the other cake turned, for convenience, into cupcakes.

The main cake was to be my standby chocolate fudge cake ( I have shared this recipe in past posts) and it was to be two layered and decorated with writing and frosting trim. Fine, I had done it be without a hitch. But, the heat and moisture in the air was beginning to make everything melt. The frosting I have made before became wetter than usual. I figured, “I will just add more confectioners sugar, as that always stiffens it”. Then moving to the pantry, hot girdle sweated and frosted, I reached for my jar of confectioners sugar, lifting it to my eyes. NO! It was empty. I had none left. I quickly unscrewed the cap, scraping madly like a wild monkey at an impossible coconut, to no avail.

I wandered slowly back into the kitchen. The heat of the stove hit me like a wave. Every dish and bowl seemed to be dirty and thrown about the place. What was I to do? What I felt like doing was crying. I took a breath and a glass of ice water and thought, “Oh, well, it will be fine as it is.” And I began icing my cake.

The first layer went on and I slathered on the frosting. It seemed rather runny, but there was little I could do so I forged ahead. Then the second layer and the icing continued. It seemed to be working. For whatever reason it was holding together and I figured, “I am going to pull this off”. I smoothed out the chocolate frosting and began piping on the white trim and the lettering. Then, I moved to finishing my cupcakes and getting the set and put into their tin vintage plate carriers.

Then, my hubby walked in and said, “Oh, no, what happened?”

What could he mean, I thought. My back was turned on the cake, I was busy reclaiming my strength and feeling I had overcome the obstacle of the baked goods and the hot night. I turned to see what he saw: the piping and lettering on my cake had turned to mush and began sliding down the side of the cake as the top layer took on a life of its own and decided to take a trip south. What a mess!

I burst into tears. My hubby didn’t know what to do and he felt bad. I felt I had let him down. He said, “Don’t worry I will go and buy a cake” and he went off, at midnight, to our local grocery store to by some horrible store-made confection. He would have to show up tomorrow after bragging about my baked goods with some hideous over sweet treat in a plastic dome with a barcode and price tag on it!

I was mortified. I felt such a failure. Thank goodness I had the sense to ask him to also pick up some confectioners sugar for me.

That night, in bed, I ruminated on the days events. Where had I gone wrong? What planning could have been better or what mistakes recovered? I didn’t know and wasn’t sure but I didn’t want to be beat, so I set my own alarm on my bed side table for 5 am. I wasn’t going to give up without a fight.

The next morning the alarm woke me with a start. In the early moments of waking I had forgot the horror of the night before. I wiped my eyes and checked the time, Oh, yes, now I remembered. I slipped quietly downstairs like a child on Christmas morning, only instead of bright tinsel and gleaming packages I was met with filthy bowls and pans oozing with gelatinous chocolate batter and the oversweet smell of my previous nights failure.

Well, here went nothing. It was not much cooler, but it was a bit. I opened the new bag of sugar hubby bought, grabbed the bowl of frosting and began adding and whipping. I scraped with all I could muster to save that cake and luckily I had baked an extra layer just in case, so with that fresh unused layer and what I could salvage from the rest, I managed to form a cake-like object with writing and decoration. I felt I had, in the end, done my job. And, in a way, I felt I could feel the proud stares of past homemakers smiling down on me. “Way to go, sister”, they seemed to say, “You did what you had to do.”

In the end, the baked goods were a success and I felt bad for the previous nights emotions. Yet, it is moments like these that I feel the most akin to my predecessors. It is at these times that I really feel a connection with that part of women’s history and our task in the kitchens. Like any artist, there must be the process. There will not always be success and sometimes we have to scrap the paintings. But, sometimes, as that night, there is a salvation of sorts. And, like in some paintings of old, when they have held up special lighting to discover another painting underneath the artist had gone over, most likely in frustration, if there had been such a light held to my cake you would find it built on the failings and frustrations of that hot July night in my version of 1955.

So, lesson learned and I thought I would close with this ad that I came across today and had to laugh. girdlerash

Boy, do I know what they are talking about there!

Until, later, Happy Homemaking.


  1. My Mum was a young housewife in 1955 ( she was born in 1931) and I recently asked her about girdles. She said that although her mother ( who became a wife and mother in 1915) always wore a girdle, my own mother never did. My Auntie confirms this. They did wear step ins and stockings whenever they went out shopping or visiting etc and I remember Mum wearing a pantie girdle in the 1970s but she never wore a traditional girdle.
    She also says that until the 1960s she never owned a pair of trousers of any description, and I do remember her in the early sixties wearing stretch trousers.

  2. My goodness! I had no idea what you had gone through, that night. You poor woman! Yet, how strong of you to get up early and work through it; fixing the mess and moving on. Your baked yummies are always delightful! I do love that the rash powder is called "Ammens." Can I get an Ammens?

  3. You said: "A few weeks ago my hubby asked me to make some baked goods for his work as two co-workers were going to be leaving. I am fast becoming known as the ‘good baker’ at his place of work. It is a source of pride for him and me. I also find it very 1955 that he should come to me and request some of my baked goods for such an event. I, of course, accepted his offer."

    I laughed out loud at this, because it's exactly what's been going on in my house lately. :) It definitely feels nice to know that others are appreciating my hard work, and that perhaps they will come to see the value again in true, homemaking arts. :) Good job salvaging it!

  4. That's the spirit 50s gal! You did us womenfolk proud. What an inspiration. (Maybe we can do... anything. The skies the limit for us aproned ladies.) Getting up early to see if you could make amends.(not ammens):) It doesn't matter if you weren't successful in your cake repairs but oh what a delight that your were! Thanks for all your writings. From, Linda

  5. P.S. What did you do with the inferior store bought cake?

  6. That a girl! Great you pulled it off so glad you did not give up. I remember my Mother powdering herself before rollling on that rubber girdle. What a job.

    Once I went to school and for show and tell I did a wiggle dance in front of the class. When asked what I was doing, I said it was my mother putting on her girdle!

    Little did I know years later I would be wearing one myself as a teenager.
    At least I did not wear the stiff boned type my Grandma always wore.

  7. jenny-I now have only one pair of jeans (dungarees) and the are for housework and gardening. Though, I often clean house in my cooler cotton housedress. As summer has finally hit, it is the more comfortable option.
    Brook-it is a proud feeling, isnt' it to be so called upon. I am finding a lot of parallels between being an artist/painter and being a homemaker. A lot of creativity and 'repairs' are needed, but if you pull them off well, no one ever knows.
    linda-I was relieved that I had fixed it, but upset at my outburst. I am finding the need to be less 'dramatic' this year and am finding what we used to view as 'cold unfeeling' staidness of the 1950s was merely maturity and self control. I now find myself happier trying to 'reel in ' my emotions, not that I am bottling them up, but that I will stop and evalute the moment before I give in. I think this is a very vintage approach and one in which I will continue to work on. Of course, we can't help, even in 1955, having a womanly meltdown, but now it happens less and less.
    Oh, and the cake was going to be popped into the freezer and I was going to try and make something with it later, but in the end hubby and gussie ate it. I tried one piece and though I would have enjoyed it pre 1955, as it was a 'snickers cheese cake' I found it too sweet and too fluffy. I see now that modern storebought desserts use an overabundance of sugar (though it is most likely corn syrup) and lighter textures. This has changed many peoples pallete for desserts. WHen I first made my first all from scratch cake I was surprised how dense it was and the chocolate not as full on. Yet, it was good and the subtleties were divine. Now I see that the modern world of over the top in your face way too much of everthing that keeps us all numb and mindless even is in our desserts! If anyone has not made a homemade cake get a recipe from the 50s or earlier and make it for your family and see how different it is to modern dessert. Fun experiment you can eat!
    Jeanne-I love the wiggle dance story and I know what you mean. My main girdle is an open bottom affair and it though it was bought new at a store that still makes them the same way, it has a definite rubbery quality inside. I miss her, though, as she has been put away with this heat as I have turned to cotton house dresses and bare legs for the summer months. But, come cool weather I can't wait to slip her on and make up some new wool pencil skirts and wear them with sweathers and gloves and hats again! I have worn a victorian corset before and believe you me the girdle is NOTHING compared to that boned and laced up affair. My girdle is quite movable and I really can do alot in it and up until summer even have cleaned in it.

  8. Hi, I just started reading your blog and am so impressed with what you are doing. I grew up in the sixties, but had two much older sisters who were ages sixteen and seventeen in 1955. I remember my mother making a birthday cake for one of the sisters and discovering that her oven had quit working. Undaunted, she baked the cakes on the stove burners and then scraped off the scorched bottom part and continued with frosting, hiding the uneven bottoms. I think women back then were so much more adept at "making do". Sounds like you did a great job! And now I am going to go back and start reading your blog from the beginning. Oh--and if you want to read a really good book about 50's fashions, I recommend "Wife Dressing" by Anne Fogarty. Fondly, Judy

  9. My goodness, what an experience! Naturally there might be tears after working so hard only to be sabotaged by the weather. Almost certainly there must have been a homemaker in 1955 having a similar experience, and now you share this bond with her. Then next morning you got up and carried on; you truly deserve to feel good about that. You have wonderful insight into many details about that time. Also, a cool cotton skirt and sleeveless blouse are entirely correct for 1955 homemaking. Hope your weather will behave itself and won't make your move more difficult. My best wishes and admiration.....Dianne

  10. Oh my goodness...been there, done that! I have 4 kids (as I have said) and guess who gets to make snacks and treats for school and Eagle's Clug (their church group)??? I have on more than one occasion turned a batch ot cupcakes into "now I'm doing brownies" or thrown an entire mess into the garbage, cleaned up, and started over from the beginning (normally at 3 am). *sigh* It is wonderful to be needed and called upon, but there are times you do just need to sit down and cry about it. The wonderful thing is that now you look back and can laugh about it. That means you needed the cry and moved forward, putting it all in proper perspective.

    I do not have a traditional girdle, but I do have a girdle type thing, and I have been trying to wear it more often. I wore it last wed. to church, and it was HOT. By the time I got home I was about to attack it with scissors. Thankfully, I restrained and threw it into the laundry with a few choice muttered words.

    Side note: I envy you that you can do laundry once a week. I have laundry every day, and I am not sure why. Yes, I have my kids, but my cousin had 6 kids and she only does it once a week as well. The only thing I can think of is my washer/dryer are older, and therefore take longer. Her's are top of the line new. I don't know. All I do know is I HATE laundry. It is a never ending deamon in my world.

    Keep up the good work and best of luck in moving. Most importantly cut yourself some slack and keep your sense of humor. Nothing is as terrible in hindsight.


  11. I'm glad the treats worked out. On very hot days I bake earlier in the day and frost after the kitchen has cooled off. But I've certaintly had my share of mishaps.

    Lorie if I focus a day on only laundry I can get it done in one day but I tend to get sidetracked by my children's needs and the rest of the housework. Your cousin must have a great system and kids who are more independent than mine. Ask her her secret and let me know!


  12. I'm love'n your blog... My favorite it the 1955 iPod. That's awesome!!! Swing by my blog. It's a retro one too!

  13. Good for you 50's Gal! Can't we all relate to midnight baking? Oh my! That time of night everything seems so much more difficult.

    Once in the wee hours, I was on the countdown for Christmas sugar cookies, putting red sugars on the Santas and green sugars on the Christmas trees. I actually thought...I wish they made sugar in white for the snowmen! DUH!!

    I agree--our foresisters are cheering on your behalf. Way to go!

    Working hard at www.sccworlds.com

  14. i have had baking mishaps too...mainly in transport. have you any stories of cakes sliding off the seat or over on the car floor only to look like a ruined sandcastle at your party arrival??? oy, that's the worst, with no chance for redemption!!! i feel for you, so frustrating!
    still hoping for a seamless move for you all. xo

  15. I just got to read the parenting article. It was nice and not preachy the way current parenting advice is presented. I'd love to read the rest.


  16. I agree with you "S"...modern parenting is always presented in a preachy, condescending format. They have this underlying attitude of "you are rotten parents, listen to us, we're perfct". Which is why I don't read any of it. I have found my best parenting advice comes from....me. I listen to my own gut instinct. I make mistakes, but who doesn't.

    I just remembered one of my personal favorite oops with baking. I decided to make a cake, and I got everything out, flour, sugar so on. I measured and mixed. The batter looked WEIRD. I couldn't figure it out, so I took a small taste. GAG! Someone (I think my hubby - though he wont admitit) had put SALT into my SUGAR cannister. Holy moses, it was nasty.

  17. You might want to try wearing a lighter weight girdle during these hot summer months such as the Rago R1357 or this one I bought from Secrets In Lace: http://www.secretsinlace.com/product/38/Girdles. The latter is really more of a "girdlette", sort of a cross between a girdle and a garter belt, but it does provide a modicum of support and is lighter and more breathable than a heavier, satin-paneled girdle.

  18. My mother had a radio like that in red. :)

    “There is quite a bit on childcare and here I am more than half way I think this project must just naturally grow into something bigger. “ – are you pregnant???????? :) :) :)

    Loved your cake/girdle story – loved you didn’t give up!

    I haven't baked in the middle of the night, but I have baked wedding cake for 90+ people:
    Four hearts in total for my very good friend, Karin. I love to bake, but this was quite a project.

    Have a lovely weekend, dear! :)

  19. this is off topic (again), but i don't know where to put stuff i just find...anyway, my dear hub has a vintage saw and was looking for an owner's manual for it.
    this site, called "old woodworking" has manuals and instructions for tons of old tools. i thought it was just fun to look at the cover pictures, some of which show the wives working with the men!! loved that! so, for anyone who has such things, i am passing along the info. have a great weekend,all. xo

  20. Hi everyone, sorry again, but I have been a busy little beaver getting ready for the big move come Sept 1! First off, no I am not pregnant, my goodness, that would be ONE more thing piled on my plate. But, I have been really thinking and planning to make a site to hone all I have begun to learn and study as a place for we all to meet and converse and share ideas etc. I mention it now, as Kelly said she is not sure where to put such 'information as this' Well, I hope, and I didn't want to say anything as I am really new to all of it and it is hard to work on it when I am in 1955, but a site where we could share recipes and patterns ideas stories etc. I am really excited. Let me know what any of you think, as it is going to take alot of time and effort, but I really feel it is the next right step for me and it definitely makes me feel as if I am making a move towards 'community', our community. So, let me know what you think and I will try to post again. Today I have to make a few trips to and from the 'new' house, prepare for our final tag sale tomorrow, I just baked molasses cookies for hubby for work (it seems people are leaving like crazy there!)and I might push my laundry day (usually monday) to today so that on monday Gussie and I can do some more preliminary moving.

  21. Oh, and on top of all that to those of you who wrote me letters, I apologize infinitely to all of you, but once I am settled, I will return your letters. And just think, we have to all prepare for the coming christmas card lists. I will have to get addresses to 'share the love'. I am sure there is some etiquette we will need to follow in sending them.

  22. By return your letters I mean I shall write back to you, I realize that sounded odd. Do bear with me, all, I am piling up the plate with my 'to-doing'. Thank goodness for 1955 scheduling or I think I could never get it all done. Once I am settled, I shall feel the days are longer, but I will certainly fill up the time fast enough.

  23. Mama said for girdle chaffing, use a good coat of Desitin. I don't know about the girdle part, but it sure worked for my kids' diaper rash. Also, if you want to meet some honest to goodness housewives who enjoy the fine art of homemaking and child care, move to Alabama. We'd love to have ya'll.

  24. Forest lady_ I would love to but I am afraid I am a New Englander at heart and would melt in the heat. This past week it has been mid 80s adn humid and has been complete misery I cannot wait for our fall sunny weather of 60's and the fresh ripe smell of rottin leaves and apples and warm cinnamon donuts and cider!

  25. It's better to do laundry every day anyway. If you leave it all week you're going to have several loads to wash and press and fold. Better to do a load as soon as the basket gets full. The number of loads really depends on your family and how dirty they get (I did a full load of just my sons clothes the other day after mud, painting, and popsicle incidents!) and what your standards are. Someone who washes towels after every use and changes sheets every couple of days is going to have a lot more loads than someone who uses towels for a week and sheets for two weeks.

  26. Hi Donna,

    You've mentioned a network-place for all of us to share before, and I've recommended ning.com, since it is free and very easy to administer. I think you should wait with that great idea until the end of your year 1955, then you can work on it 2010, but thereby take the best from 1955. I would LOVE to be a member, I will miss your blog very much and hopes this year never ends.

    Have a lovely Sunday, dear. :)


  27. Well, I may incorporate ning.com as part of it and I am still going to continue with this year. As far as plans for next year, I believe I may remain in the 1950's but with more access to today as well. I think now, rather I want to or not, I will have to always live in some fashion or other betwixt 1950 and 1959. We shall see. The end of the year won't mean the end of my research and learning in fact it may become more all encompasing (if that is possible, right?)

  28. Now I can look forward to next year! :)
    I also think that if you first have got the taste for vintage living, then you'll never get back. As I say: live in the present, but take the best from the past.


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