Friday, February 27, 2009

28 February 1955 "Communism, Cleaning, and Clothing"

The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), was an international organization for collective defense created by the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty or the Manila Pact, which was signed on September 8, 1954. The formal institution of SEATO was established at a meeting of treaty partners in Bangkok in February 1955. It was primarily created to block further communist gains in Southeast Asia. The organization's headquarters were located in Bangkok, Thailand. SEATO was dissolved on June 30, 1977.
Despite being intended to provide a collective, anti-communist shield to Southeast Asia, SEATO was unable to intervene in the conflicts in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam because an intervention required a decision of unanimity, which was never reached; France and the Philippines objected. (again, here we see the turmoil bubbling up that would lead our country into the tangled web that would become Vietnam)

The United States sought, but failed, to make the Vietnam War into a SEATO collective defense problem.

Here is a stamp showing SEATO. This stamp is most likely from 1958 or on as in 1955 a stamp would cost you 3 cents. Interesting cost comparrison. A three cent stamp in 2009 money would be 24 cents. So, we can see the increase in postage has gone up.
(someone also mentioned on the last blog about the cost of housing today being higher tied to the smaller structures of those built in the 1950s. Perhaps it is just that I live in a more expensive area, but my friend bought a 1950s ranch a few towns over from me. It is very small and in the same square footage as when it was built in the late 1950s. Therefore as a model, it is the same size then available. This house cost almost $300,000.00 which in 1955 money would be $38,000.00 While records of the time state such a house in size would be around $3,500.00. I think that demonstrates the inflated real estate market at least in the area of New England that I live.)

Britain announced last week that it can and soon will produce its own hydrogen bombs. The decision was announced in a tough-minded White Paper on Defense.

"Communist military strength continues to grow at an impressive rate . . . The Soviet Union and her Eastern European satellites have some 6,000,000 men under arms. On the German front, the Soviet army could be increased to well over 100 divisions within 30 days."

The fear of Communism was fairly stong then. Yet we think little of it now, I think at least the average American, however one of the growing powers of the world is Communist China. Our country has a growing debt to that country and such places as Walmart and other big chains get their supplies from China both, I think, at the cost of their own peoples freedoms and our own, by allowind the small town America to dissapear.

That is enough news for today, onto the home:

I want to talk about cleaning today. We all have to do it in some form or another. For me it has become a new experience. I obviously cleaned before, but my version of cleaning was the "when it's dirty wipe it up, vacuum it, or attack the dust now that it has formed" sort of cleaning. I was like the person who didn't take vitamins or exercise and just waited to get sick and then took the antibiotics, but with cleaning.

Now, as it should be I suppose, I do what I call 'preventative cleaning'. This is really the revelation I have had with this project. Instead of waiting for the dust bunnies to grow and become a strong army under my beds and sofas, I vaccuum out their little burroughs before they get a chance. I am sure this is not a revelation to most of you out there, but it really was to me. Cleaning was the thing you did when it started to get bad. Then it was annoying and a chore that went on and on and took up an entire day without time for dinner. Now, thanks to my magazines and housekeeping manual, I treat this as part of the job of Homemaker.

It is interesting to me, as much has become with this project, how what I had once percieved as hours of drudgery, actually takes less time when done on a daily up-keep program. It also leaves me more time to do more things I like. When we view the 1950s housewife as either a lie or some superwoman we are doing it with these modern eyes. However, when you really do a small amount of upkeep a day, you really do have time to make that cake from scratch, suspend an entire dinner in jello and still have time to put on "somthing pretty" before hubby gets home. Now, how does this translate to a modern person who may not have a husband or who does not care how they look for their hubby? That is easy: More time to do what you want and still have a clean and happy home. I think that is an amazing discovery. I am sure it seems silly to most of you, as you are all probably better organized then I have been, but really this realization that has been coming on is phenomenal to my life. It is allowing me to really think, "maybe I can do all ( or most) of the things I do want to try to do in my life before the final end."

Now, don't get me wrong,.I am definitely still in the beginning stages of the proficiency in cleaning. I would not go head to head with a seasoned 1955 housewife. Not yet anyway (maybe by December), but I am learning. I am also learning that although this is the decade that really begins the barrage of products for cleaning (as well as packaged foods endless ready made inexpensive clothes etc) we are still the women who went through the war. We were the individuals who had to wash their hands with the soap scum left in the soap dish as that was all that was left. We had to make a dinner with no meat left in our rations and potato flour. Although the aisles in my grocery store are now full to brimming with fun bright products, I am, I believe, still frugal. I think I really would be. Maybe if I were 20 in 1955 it would be different, but I am closer to 40 than 20, so I think my frugality and need to economize would be ingrained in me. This is good, as this is a trait I am trying to slowly adapt to my modern life.

When I started this project I thought I would have to put economy and caring for the environment on the back burner for awhile. That the 1950's were all plastic and waste. Yet, again, I am finding that our perceptions of that past are not always true. Though my magazines are filled with ads for new products, the articles are full of what to do with leftovers and how to economize in cleaning. Most housewives had a limited weekly budget in which to buy food, clothes, fabric for sewing, and cleaning supplies. Although all the new products for cleaning this and that sounded nice, I think many probably stuck with the old standbys.

I have never really thought about cleaning products until this project. I shopped for cleaning products like a person who could not read. "Ah, a picture of a toilet on this bottle, that's for that then. Oh, kitchen counters on the label, ok, in the cart you go. Hey, that has a bathtub sparkling on the back, better get that one, too." And so on until you have a cabinet brimming with all these cleaning products when you really only need a few.
Then I start to think about all the plastic and waste to make all these things and the energy it took to get me to think I needed all these separate things to clean. The consumerism is so ingrained into me and my generation, it never even dawned on me that you could buy one bottle to do it all. But, you can.

These are my two new friends. The first is the supermarket version of Pine-sol. If you follow the link there to Pine-sol you can find some interesting info, such as in 2008 they took out the pine oil to make it have a cleaner lemon scent favored by the country despite its losing its cleaning and disenfecting qualities! Seriously! The original formula is anti-bacterial. A phrase we hear much today and yet they changed the formula in the lemon scent and made it no longer anti-bacterial. Odd.

Anyway, I like the smell. I think it adds a vintage odor to my kitchen and cleaning, as I am sure it was used for many things. You can use this on almost everything. 1/4 cup of this mixed with water is great for floors AND if you keep it wet for 10 mintues while you are mopping, you do not have to rinse! I know if you buy floor cleaner it is mostly water. This is the concentrate and you mix it yourself. When I think of all the money and waste of using a swiffer. All those little pre-soaked pads to toss away and the packaging they come in. When a bucket of water and pinesol and a sponge mop does an even better job AND disenfects the floor to boot! You can also use it in laundry to boost your detergent and it works GREAT for stains of grease and it is the one thing I found the really works for grease on mens collared dress shirts. It does wonders in the bath, too. For more upkeep cleaning I prefer it to comet in the bathroom, as it really cleans AND it disenfects and it doesn't seem as harsh as straight bleach. I even pour it in undiluted into the toilet bowls and let it set for 10 minutes, give it a good scrub and flush. It really sparkles and keeps down hardwater stains. ( I sound like a commercial, I know! These are great revelations to me during the day. And don't think I haven't stood alone in my bathroom, hair in curlers, rubber-gloved for action, gripping my pinesol, saying alout, "Wow, this works great in the bath!" I am my own sitcom somtimes WITH commercials!)
The other product is Lemon oil. That bottle cost $5.00 but honestly I may have it for the rest of my life! I could put it in my will for my heirs, no doubt. According to the recipe in my Homemakers manual, you treat cheesecloth with it and it makes a REUSABLE dustcloth. And you know what, it really does and it works wonders and it smells WONDERFUL. You can also use it full strength on wood furniture. Again, I think of the spray on aresol stuff for dusting or even all the other 'swiffer' products that just get tossed, but you know what. A treated cheesecloth can be washed after awhile and used again! I know it is a strange idea things to clean with that you DON'T throw away.

It is funny to me how we now claim to be trying to become green and I am sure I am not the only person who would have thought of the 1950s as a time of waste. Now we buy 'Green' products, but they are all divided into separate types of cleaners in more bottles to fill up more landfills. We have merely replaced buying the other brands with buying a 'safer' brand but have not done away with the waste and consumerism that lead to our polluting in the first place! It is very subtle how the marketing works. It lets us feel better about ourselves when we pay more for a product that is probably watered down old time cleaner in new packaging. But, is it green? The main ingredient in my knock off pine-sol is pine oil. Now I know that has to be green and is probably harvested from the wood from the processing of lumber and yet the NEW lemon pinesol does away with it. That now wastes a perfectly good byproduct of something we do need, lumber. Also, in concentrate form, which is what Pine-sol is, you have less packaging and less cost to you. I bet even the high-end 'green' cleaners are mostly water and of course packaging!
Now, don't get me wrong. Some of the cute bright fun quality of this decade is wonderful and can make cleaning more fun. This article I found sort of explains that and shows some cute retro inspired items. If you want to spend a pretty penny, why not make a lovely cleaning section in your house. However, what I am finding is it is more fun is to realize that the basic cleaning products Can be made pretty. For example the above image of my 'new discovery' looks more adorable when I affix this label I designed to it. Here you can see it on the bottle. Isn't it adorable? (the colors are truer to the image of just the label) Sure, you are thinking, do I have too much time on my hands. But, no! The time I saved on not lingering in the cleaning aisle over all the choices and the time I have from my daily cleaning ritual afforded it to me. I know, I know, it is a bit extreme, and really not '1955' to design and print out a new label on my computer, but honestly I don't see it any differently than cutting out a cute magazine picture and decorating with shelf paper that a real 1955 housewife may have done. A housewife has a NEED, I tell you, to beautify. We are artists, everyone one of us, and we need to express ourselves. I like a simple vintage cleaning product with a darling handmade label, so sue me.

Now, continuing on with our cleaning theme, I thought I would talk about tablecloths again. As some of you may remember, I used to have a somewhat nervous psychological disorder I like to call "Spillidous", that is the indescribable fear a homemaker feels when watching family and guests eat blueberry pie and other highly stainable items over her nice vintage linens. Its symptoms include feigned interest in a speakers story while being gripped with fear that the forkful of cherry/blueberry cobbler won't make it to the mouth of her guest as he drones on about God knows what, but, for cyring out loud, DON'T SPILL ON MY LINENS! A very serious condition I have since tried to rectify.
The add here for Oilcloth intrigued me, as did all of your comments on plastic tablecloths.
I found this site that has oil cloth made products with vintage inspired oil cloth. This cool site has some oilcloth placemats that I am considering. I think they are a good price. Then I thought, well I could sew my own table cloths and placemats. So this site has some yard goods. I do notice, however, that they call it oilcloth but it is in fact vinyl backed with cotton. The Vermont Contry Store has genuine oil cloth, but it is expensive and the only one I would even consider is the red gingham. I think the others are a bit 80's. So, I may do the yardage of the vinyl to start. I figure for only two yards I can make a nice size table cloth which would be under 20 dollars plus it says they are having a sale until March. However, the other site has a finished product for 20 dollars. Do you think that is alot to pay for somthing of this quality?
What do any of you think? I don't want to break the bank and I know the vinyl isn't really 'period correct', but what is a vintage gal to do? I think the cleaning aspect coupled with the price tells me to go with that, but the authenticity tells me to just buck up and pay a little more for the real thing. And I am having no success finding the real thing except for the Country store and I don't like the design. Oh, well. The dilemmas of the homemaker.

Now to the sewing room: As you know I am beginning to become obsessed with patterns and fabric. It is all very exciting to think that I can choose the design and color and cut of my own clothing. It also helps the pocketbook to make your own compared to the cost of a vintage dress on ebay. They often sell faily high and the cost of reproductions are often much greater than what it would cost to do it myself. This photo of this blue dress inspired the recent trip to the fabric store with my vintage friend and resulted in a new pattern and some fabric. I will post more about these tomorrow. I had also promised to talk more about finding vintage things, such a stocking and things online, but I think I will leave that for tomorrows post, as well.I had promised to talk more about finding vintage things, such a stocking and things online, but I think I will leave this for tomorrows post.
Speaking of clothing, however, sometimes I need to mix modern with vintage to stretch my wardrobe (until I get more sewing done at least)
Here I am wearing a vintage cardigan, but wore one of my husbands tuxedo shirts with pearls and the skirt is actaully from ebay. It is Talbots and I don't think it is old. I think it does look vintage though, do you?
I really will begin to put more photos of different outfits I wear as well as my clothes I am making as they progress. I just need to get into the habit.
Speaking of such photos, yesterday was a lovely warm 50 degrees here in New England, so on the way back from our fabric shopping, my vintage friend and I stopped and snapped these pictures of one another. I tried to make them look like a tinted vintage photo. Nothing like heels and hose at the beach. (My vintage friend is in the pencil skirt and orange sweater.)

And, finally, the radio station in Australia that interviewed me sent me the l final show they broadcast. My only problem is I am trying to figure out how to post audio to my blog. They didn't send me a link but rather the MP3 of the interview. If anyone knows how to do this, chime in with some help. Also, the TimeWarpWives website is going to interview me for their site. That is a written interview, so I won't have to worry about MP3's and such. They do want some photos to go along with it. I will let you know with a link when that is published.
Until tomorrow, then, happy homemaking.
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