Sunday, January 25, 2009

25 January "Tragedy, Atomic Time, War, Hats, Food, Movies, and Realizations"

25 January 1955: The Remon-Eisenhower Treaty was signed today between the United States and Panama. Among other things the treaty granted the United States, with no cost or 'trick', the military base held in Rio Hato, and the Rio Hato beach as well, for a period of 15 years.( The base was given back on 22 August 1970, after the government of General Torrijos refused to renew US use.)
25 January 1955: In early 1955 Jill Kinmont, who was the reigning national champion in the slalom and a top prospect for a medal at the 1956 Winter Olympics, had a bad fall. While competing in the downhill at the Snow Cup in Alta, Utah, she suffered a near-fatal accident which resulted in paralysis from the neck down. It ironically occurred the same week that Kinmont, weeks shy of her 19th birthday, was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. (She was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1967. She was also the subject of two movies: The Other Side of the Mountain in 1975, and The Other Side of the Mountain Part II 1977.) [I find it refreshing to see a woman on a cover of a magazine doing a high-profile sport. I think we can see that, though hardly a job open to any woman, this avenue of acceptance in an olympic profile sport must have made some girls feel empowered.]

Columbia U scientists, led by Louis Essen, develop an atomic clock accurate to within one second in 300 years. What are atomic clocks? They are radio controlled clocks that tune into the radio signal emitted by the U.S. AtomicClock located in Fort Collins, Colorado. They reset themselves multiple times every day to the exact hour, minute, and second and automatically change themselves for Daylight Savings Time. Now, international time is defined by atomic, not solar seconds. (Louis continued to work on his atomic clock and by 1964 he had managed to increase the accuracy of the atomic clock from one second in 300 years to one second every 2000 years! )

25 January 1955: Russia ends state of war with Germany.

Here is a poster for US troops in Germany after the war. I am sorry that it is so graphic. There are some interesting facts about the US soldiers in Germany after WWII. For example, "Between 1950 and 1955 the Allied High Commission for Germany prohibited "proceedings to establish paternity or liability for maintenance of children." Even after the lifting of the ban West German courts had little power over American soldiers.
The children of black American soldiers, commonly called "Negermischlinge" ("Negro half-breeds"), were particularly disadvantaged, since even in the cases where the soldier was willing to take responsibility he was prohibited from doing so by the U.S. Army which until 1948 prohibited interracial marriages.
In the earliest stages of the occupation, U.S. soldiers were not allowed to pay maintenance for a child they admitted having fathered, since to do so was considered as "aiding the enemy". Marriages between white U.S. soldiers and Austrian women were not permitted until January 1946, and with German women until December 1946.
(Despite the grants of general sovereignty to both German states in 1955, full and unrestricted sovereignty under international law was not enjoyed by any German government until after the reunification of Germany in October 1990.)

Now, on a lighter note:

Yesterday, Saturday, was our vintage hang out day. Three of my vintage friends and I headed to the shops (antique shops and a great weekend 'junk' sale). We had great fun.

It was the polar opposite of my encounter with the teens in the mall previously in the week. We all wore our vintage hats, shoes, coats, gloves etc. I wore my 'new' swing coat over my full crinolined black and white skirt. I love the way the full skirts fit over dresses when wearing a full crinolin. My friend and I were in one of the booths, trying on hats and oohing and ahhing over a 1950's tv, when an older gentleman came up to us and said, "Excuse me girls ( I love being called 'girl' it makes me feel so young) I just have to say that you look so wonderful. I am not just saying that, but I mean it from my heart", he went on, clamping his aged hand to his chest, "It makes me feel good to see you so nicely turned out". How wonderful! He seriously made me feel so good. It only increased my determination in the project.

We then proceeded to have THREE more compliments while at this 'junk' sale. The older man, who made the first comment, would see us again as we would pass by on another circuit of the sale, lest we have missed some hidden gem in a cardboard box somewhere, and you could see his face light up.

Next, we headed to our favorite antique store which has an entire back corner set up like a vintage clothing shop: shoes, hats and gloves, handbags, luggage, mink stoles etc. We have made the trip a few times, so when the proprietor sees us enter she gets a big smile on her face. This time, particularly, as we were all wearing pieces we had bought last time.
"I love to see people actually wear the vintage things," said she, smiling and coming to show us some new things she had got in. There were some nice things. We all got hats. My friend found three.
I found this lovely little gem. It is a nice soft silk and I love the ribbon and jewel work. I was so excited when the proprietress pulled this little number out. I think I may have even shrieked a bit, though in a dignified manner. It is so loverly and fits like a glove. It is a little sheer, or I would have a picture of me wearing it. I was quite excited as the color looks nice with a peignor I had won earlier in the week on ebay. There is a beautiful mink stole that is tres' 50's chic and I am determined to get it for the coming April opera sojourn.
It is nice to have a shop like this where one is surronded by vintage things and can really feel that you are in a different time. What a difference to that wretched mall. Hopefully our patronage on saturdays will encourage her to get more things and help her to stay open during these economic hard times.

Next we headed to our favorite diner. After we were all settled into our booth one of the waitresses came up to us and complimented us on our outfits and asked if we knew of the website Daddyos, which we said we did indeed. (Here is their website I personaly find them a little pricey and I really like to buy vintage or to handmake things, but they do have a nice website.) She seemed quite excited as if she was glad to know there were other people who were attracted to that era and style of dress.

This is a shot my friend took standing towards the mirror next to our booth (we seriously have a favorite booth). You can see how all the wonderful steel/aluminum/chorme on the ceilings and around the windows.

Here is a sample menu from a diner in 55 (though it is not from our diner, I think it is from a diner in Virgina or somewhere) but I was glad to see that the prices at our diner are still comparable by todays money. The breakfast on this menu for .90 cents would be equivalent to about $7.06 and actually you can get a similiar breakfast at our diner for less than that! Interesting. Of course food was probably still going down in price from the rationing and such that had happened during the war.

Later, when we stopped for coffe, a woman in her 50's came up to us and said, " I have to ask, our you with an organization or something?"
"No," we replied. "We just love to dress vintage"
"Well, you look lovely. I remember my mother wearing those darling hats, she is in her 90's, and she would get such a kick out of you"

It made us all agree that we wish we did belong to such an organization, whatever said organization would be, and that we wonder if we could start one. Who knows. Maybe another project for the back burner of this project year?

Then it was home to quickly stash away our new finds and to get ready for the evening. One of my friends had to get home to make her bread pudding to bring over for the nights meal. I had planned on making my 'Sunday Cake' a day early for the nights festivities, but had spent to long at the shops and had a huge meal to prepare before me.

Thank God for Gussie! We have decided that every other Saturday night is a definite Gussie night, as it is the night for vintage dinner at my house. While she began some of the cleaning of the dinning room and setting the table, I started on the meal. I had Gussie also help do things like shred the Romaine lettuce for the cesar salad, slice the bread for my homemade croutons. She made the lovely little 'bishop hats' as she calls them on the plates with my new set of linen napkins. She even served before turning into a guest. Also, when we needed or forgot things and needed dessert brought in, "poof" Gussie reappeared to do so. It made hostess duties much nicer.

Here is the table just before we sat down.

I did a pork roast with an orange-honey glaze. A white sauce for the asparagus tips/babycorn/mushroom bake. My shinning glory, for myself at least, was the homemade cesar salad. I did it all from scratch. The croutons made fresh from french bread and the dressing, which is so yummy, was fun. I will never buy cesar dressing again, as this was too good to forget. It gave me the opportunity to 'coddle' an egg for the first time. You boil it for 45 seconds before adding it to the other ingredients in the salad oil. Everyone raved about it, even one friend who doesn't really like salad dressings. One of my main reasons in choosing the cesar salad was it was prepared by Lucy in the movie we were to watch that night after dinner: The Long Long Trailer.
This is a great movie. We all laughed through it and it made me realize what a comic genius Lucy was. There are many episodes of tv shows I will occasionaly watch from this era and the humor seems quite dated, but she just had a sort of timelessness to her humor. I highly recommend it to anyone. Also, the dresses Lucy and her friends wear in the movie during the packing the trailor scene are to die for!

As I was writing this blog I thought maybe the contrast between that wretched poster to U.S. soldiers in Germany showing the atrocities of the war and then the fun I had with my friends shopping and eating wasn't respectful. Then I realized, this is a very 1950's moment. Here we have been faced with the horror of war. Many of us would have lost men (brothers, fathers, husbands, sons) to the war. The men who did return would carry with them the horrors of the war and both physical and emotional scars. But, the country and its people had to brush themselves off and say, "we have to go on. We have to make a better world." They had to still go shopping and laugh with friends in diners.
Despite the racism and unfair treatment of women in the 1950s, the more I study the context of the time in which these people lived, the more I can sympathize even empathize with them. I am becoming almost protective of this generation, not to make excuses, but to say, look at the world they did create for their children and grandchildren. It was done with hope and love. The prejudice was based on centuries of atitudes and also the fear of what 'outsiders' had done to their homes and men and way of life in the ravages of two world wars. And yet, the 1950's really was an accelerated movement to our modern times. It laid a groundwork for the equality we are still working for. It set the tone for the rights women wanted to face. Here they had a freedom never really felt before WWII and then said, " I will return to the home". For some it was wonderful, but for those who found it stifeling, had they not allowed themselves, as a whole, to feel the need to go into that role, I don't think the movement to the freedom women now have would have come about as quickly. It was a trial by fire and if it did not suit them, it allowed, if not them, at least their daughters to come into a world where birth control was available in 1960 and increased roles in the workplace and government were forming.
I do think it is sad that the career of housewife/mother had to be left on the wayside. It really is one of the most important roles a person can take on. To have the abilites and patience to make a home and create a life for others as well as to recieve the joy they get themselves out of such an act, takes courage and hard work. I think a lot of the atitiudes of 'youths' today is really from an unstructered homelife and I think we have all let commercialism and a skewered sense of 'liberation' make our economy such that it is not possible for us to have one parent at home or, even if no children, one spouse. I think it is a sad state of our human condition that many people are looking to change or wanting to find a way to change it.
I have just recieved my 1947 copy of "America's Housekeeping Book", which jitterbug had inspired me to get. The first sentence in chapter 2 states, "Housekeeping is a real job". That has really hit home with me. It has a seriousness about it. It is there in black and white, printed up in a book. The statement has a solidity to it, a sort of pride of purpose. Who knows it if will become my life long career, but it certiainly has taken on a pride of place in my concept of what Life really is. My values are quickly changing and here I am not even a month into my project.
Now, I am off to bake my sunday cake.
I hope everyone had a great Sunday.
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