Wednesday, March 4, 2009

5 March 1955 "Tupperware, Decorating, and Casseroles"

Tupperware debuted in 1946. I think it is one of those quintessential american 1950s icons. It is also very practical and much used to this day.

Tupperware was developed in 1946 by Earl Silas Tupper(1907-1983) in the USA. He developed plastic containers used in households to contain food and keep it airtight. The formerly patented "burping seal" is a famous aspect of Tupperware, which distinguished it from competitors.
"During the early 1950s, Tupperware's sales and popularity exploded, thanks in large part to influence among women who sold Tupperware, and some of the famous "jubilees" celebrating the success of Tupperware ladies at lavish and outlandishly themed parties. Tupperware was known -- at a time when women came back from working during World War II only to be told to "go back to the kitchen" -- as a method of empowering women, and giving them a toehold in the post-war business world. The tradition of Tupperware's "Jubilee" style events continues to this day, with rallies being held in major cities to recognize and reward top-selling demonstrators, managers and distributorships."

Tupperware spread to Europe in 1960 when Mila Pond hosted a Tupperware party in Weybridge, England, and subsequently around the world.

I have a few vintage pieces in my soft sky blue that I love. It is a hard color to come by. I am always on the lookout for it. If any of you ladies have any in that color that you aren't using, let's make a deal. A gal can never have enough tupperware.

My vintage friend and I would totally do a great job if we were to throw a tupperware party. Maybe I should make it one of my summer things as part of this project. How fun, all we ladies in the yard in sun dresses, hats and gloves, oohing and ahhing over the burp of the tupperware lid! Lemonade, finger sandwiches. Sounds like fun to me!

Now onto Decorating:
I am reading (over and over again I might add) Dorothy Drapers Book, "Decorating is fun". I am not sure who has this book or who has seen it. I luckily found it due to a comment by a very nice person early on in my blogs. I immediately ordered it and have not regretted it.

There are only a few photos (black and white) and some random drawings, done by Draper herself, I believe, which do help illustrate her point. This is not a coffee table book of casual perusing while you sip your tea. The images have to be drummed up in your mind and her almost militant approach to her ideals is rather refreshing. I thought I might give little snippets of advice here and then from the book every so often. I hope you will like it.

In chapter 3 COLOR, she tells us this:

"It is the rock on which your house is built. Without a keen sense of color, without the ability to get real enjoyment and exitement out of lovely colors, we might as well quite right now. I firmly believe that nothing contributes so much to the beauty of this world as color. And, happily enough, I bleieve with equal convition that every man, woman and child alove has within him a true instinct for color"

Well, that sounds promising anyway. I also believe color is so improtant not only in the world but in your home. It is funny how it honestly affects your moods. I love my vintage dishes as they have one of my favorite colors (robins egg blue) throughout them. Once this project started and I began our breakfasts all laid out on a pretty blue linen table cloth with my dishes and everything soothing, what a difference to the start of the day. Honestly, my husband now leaves often more rested and with more time to relax with me in the morning before he is off to work. Before 1955, it was just shamble out of bed when you could, throw some cereal in the first bowl you grapped, eat at the kitchen table amongst, perhaps, yesterdays mail or some random things that always seem to collect up on the kitchen table. There was always a scramble for a lost coat or keys, ets. I cannot tell you how nice it is to pull up to a nicely laid table with lovely dishes and a full hot breakfast and actually talk with my hubby before he leaves for work. Even though it means my getting up earlier and making it all possible, it would be a lie to say I do not enjoy it as much as he does.

This morning, the sun was streaming in the dinning room, the hot coffee tasted so nice and it was actually cheery and warm. I almost felt as if I had hopped, Mary Poppins style, into one of the old photos in my magazines I have often coveted. It isn't just a sham. It is real, or it can be. And it isn't pretense, but really living. It was like the joy you got as a child playing house, but with a feeling of maturity I have never really felt. I know that sounds silly, but I almost feel like an actual grown up now, with my homemaking duties.

It seems my generation, and those after mine, often have that feeling of never quite knowing when to grow up or what it means. Now, I am not saying I know what it means, but it does seem to come along with the responsibility of your dailiy living. Making chocies that affect the happiness and comfort of your home and your future seems very mature. And, surprise surprise, it isn't a bad thing!And, I don't feel I have lost any of my childlike joy of the world. I merely feel more a part of the world, as if I would like to contribute to if I have SOMTHING to contribute to it, even if that is just making a happy home and becoming a memeber of my community. I just wonder how many people who flounder about trying for some vast unrealistic greatness, miss out on the joy of simply living. I feel I may have up until now. This playing house and being a grownup it is almost as if it is some secret to happiness. As if it was some guarded talisman of the older generations. Only, they probably wanted to pass it on, but the generations before us seemed to have mislaid it.
Well, I have gone a little off topic...
So, back to color:

I totally agree with this passage about the harmony of a color theme throughout your house:

"Just as the main theme appears and reappears throughout a symphony, so you can carry one note of color through your whole house to beautiful effect. I don't mean that the color scheme in each room should be just alike-anything but. You just bind the whole thing together by light touches of the same shade.
For instance, if you have red curtains in your living room, you might have white walls in the hall with a red design stenciled on them. Then in your dining room you mihgt place a rug of the same color. In your bedroom you would just strike the note lightly-put a red quilt, folded, on the end of the bed. Just for fun you could even paint the ceallar stairs of the inside of your kitchen closets that same red.
In this way you can create a sort of intelligent 'color continuity' that is very satisfying, and smart to boot."

I, myself, like to even go one step further and really make a 'color story' for the house. As I have been mentioning, I am planning as part of my project to slowly make over the whole of my house and garden. I have been gathering things together that I love, objects and things with the color I love, in my house and taking 'color shots'.

I think this 1950 painting by Edware Hopper "Cape Cod Morning" is in, itself, a great color story. It really tells my combination I am drawn too, the shots of red/pink and yellow and green with a base of soft blues and held in balance with crisp white and shots of black.

My love of red and blue and warm shades of yellow and brown with stark couterpoints of crisp summer sail white and black really are going to tell that story. Each room will have it's own interpretation of that story, but I think it really allows you to address the entire house (even if you are going to spread your decorating over years) as a single project and it really helps to curb any decorating fear you might have. I think just gathering together some things you love and really looking at them pretty much tells you what colors you love and what 'style' you feel comfortable with. I hate the idea of trying to copy a look out of a magazine, I mean be inspired, but make it your own house, right?

I love, too, that she goes on to give examples of color combinations for different rooms and then states, "These are just suggestions-not ironclad formulas." And she openly invites you to break her rules, but really she is giving you a good solid base in which to create your own rules.

I think I will post some 'color story' photos tomorrow to get your opinions.

On my own decorating front, my living/drawing room cum library, is now going to stay just a drawing/living room. I have rethought my houseplan and our large finished room in our basement is going to get the first facelift by being turned into our library and my husbands study. His current study on the first floor will become our dining room, making room for an eventual redo I am planning that will give me a bigger kitchen with a breakfast/morning room. I will include you in all the mayhem that I am certain will follow with all that, as well as the success.

I belive I post this recipe before, but I just made some lovely doughnuts yesterday morning and wanted to post about it. Obviously I do not have any Swifting's, but I think it is just basic shortening. That is what I used, though next time I am going to use lard and I think I am going to get a vintage deep fat fryer for my kitchen. There are many things that could be cooked properly in it, and I think if I don't overdo it we should be able to stay away from hard attacks! They were so yummy and even cold the next day, they were not heavy nor greasy at all! Next time I will make icing and top them with coconut and jimmies (sprinkles for you non New Englanders).

My husband actually prefers them plain. But, of course, I adore them dredged through the sugar until they are almost white!

Sometimes the most simple things recieve the most lauded reviews. I had wanted to try this simple little casserole for some time. I was drawn in by the article, detailing a couple and their social life. This image and recipe just looked very middle class american 1950s. Before this project I had never ever made a casserole in my life. Actually the word drummed up horrid images of marshmallow covered meat and veg or overcooked hamburger and overdone noodles. I am a convert.

As far as having time in your busy schedule, the casserole is a homemakers salvation on busy days. We had an impromptu plan yesterday to go with some friends to have a fun evening of cards at my vintage friends house. I had these ingredients in my house and thought, "I'll throw together that casserole and bring it along for our dinner there" It was so easy to make and it was so good.

My husband took the rest with him to work today and even said again this morning, "That was so good". My vintage friends fiance' even commented twice and I think would love to see it show up on their table. I do highly reccomend it, even if you are like me and think casserole is a four-letter word.
Until tomorrow, then, happy homemaking!

4 March 1955 "Propaganda and My Battle Cry"

STOCK GAINS in the next two years may push the Dow-Jones industrial average as high as 500, nearly a 25% rise, predicts FORTUNE. Barring war and no recession worse than the 1953-54 slump, stock dividends will jump 48% by 1957, and 65% (to a total of $16.5 billion) by 1959. Gross national product will soar an estimated 16% to $440 billion in the next four years. [ today in 2009 the Dow is at 6836.63 while in 2007 it was at 14,000! That is less than half what it was.)

AIRPORT PLAN for New York's International Airport at Idlewild will turn it into the world's most modern terminal, capable of handling 140 airliners at one time. To cost $60 million, the project calls for a 655-acre "Terminal City" with an eleven-block-long arrival building, two adjacent wing buildings, seven individual airline terminal buildings, plus a maze of taxiways and aprons. First buildings will be ready for their first passengers early in 1957.

(The airport was originally known as Idlewild Airport and it was later renamed "Major General Alexander E. Anderson Airport." General Anderson was a Queens resident who had commanded a Federalized National Guard unit in the southern United States and who had died in late 1942. In 1948, the airport was renamed New York International Airport, though the original name remained in common use. The airport was renamed in 1963 in memory of the late President John F. Kennedy. It is colloquially referred to simply as "Kennedy" or "JFK.")

Today I feel like giving my two cents (well a buck fifty's worth really), so hold on:

Sometimes propaganda can be good. It gets its point across.

Sometimes I feel it is bad in a very subtle way:

How has being a housewife become compared to being Hitler. Well, maybe that is a little strong, but this sort of image now gets my dander up. It used to amuse me somewhat and I could think, "Oh, those silly women back then. Slaves to their husbands and their house, haha, not free and alive like we modern women."
Yes, I used to laugh at this sort of thing, but now I am beginning to think that these images are actually anti-housewife propaganda. I may just be touting conspiracy therom, but honestly, is this some subtle coporate propaganda that pokes fun at a housewife? Does this make the idea of staying home and caring for you home similiar to that of a dictator? IF a woman isnt home and caring about her house, then she cannot realize how easily it is to clean with a few items, instead of the vast amount on the market. Why, she can't even stay home at all, as the need to buy and pay for everthing we have to make our not staying home easier after working all day. That means both husband and wife have to work. Now you are at work, so you need to get the housework done quickly, both because your busy and also you don't want to be a 'homemaker' (ck that is so 50's!) So, you buy swiffers and other throw away cleaning products. Who has time to do laundry so you buy too many clothes that you don't need and cheap things (think WalMart and Old Navy) to replace any tears or rips that you don't have the time nor skill to mend and toss those old ones in the junk heap. Now, with your busy schedule and your hatred for the bondage of the kitchen you don't have the time nor inclination to make meals, so prepared foods are your answer, all the while creating more and more garbage for landfills. Who has time to make a PBJ, just buy them pre-packaged and toss away what you don't need. And forget about setting a nice table for everyone to sit around and eat that prepared food, no way! Now the concept of the family meal is completley out of the picture. I know, I know, it does sound extreme, but don't you think there is a grain of truth in it? The removal of the woman from the home leads to more spending. The less time families spend together the more all members can go out and spend more. They need more money to buy all the things they 'need', so they have to make more money and then they have more money and they spend it. It is like a mobius strip of consumerism.

Isn't it funny how one little poster could bring all this up in me? However, that is the main point, really: A picture IS worth a thousand words.

You see an image and it slips into your subconscious and you file it away. "I hate these people, buy this product, this is the best of its kind." It just gets in there. I wonder what way we could use the propaganda to return the lost glory to the homemaker? Maybe a poster of Martha stewart standing in a spotless room with a broom and a mop in her hand and behind her piles of cash and gold and jewels with the caption "She did it, why don't you?" This would give the double draw of celebrity and money which often makes the most mundane thing seem extraordniary. Just a thought. A promise of whiter teeth, use this toothpaste, A happier more fulfilling life, clean and cook.
There is a line in one of my favorite movies "Mr. Blandings Builds a Dream House" where the daughter tells her father that his profession of Advertising is basically a 'parasitic profession'.
Says she, "It makes people buy things they don't want with money they haven't got", taught her by the teacher in her high-priced private school.
The father (played by wonderful Carey Grant) retorts,"Well, that basically parasitic profession pays for your expensive schools and puts the braces on your back teeth!"
It is an interesting and poignant relfection of the coming world. The movie is from 1948 so it is just the beginning of what the 1950s are to become. Thus we begin to walk that line of what we can do to make ourselves feel better, prettier, more comfortable and more popular. We soon learn to swallow propaganda as if it is gulps of oxygen, feeding us through our modern lives.

Even images like this irk me somewhat. First off, it isn't true. Marie Curie? Eleanor Roosevelt? They weren't some bad asses riding in on their motorcylces spitting in the eye of THE MAN. This concept that you have to be a rebel and throw over every current norm is a very modern idea. And why are you only a valid member of society if you DO make history? All the great people we do hear about did have mothers or nannies, people who cared for then, fed them, hugged them. Why is that not valid? Maybe I am being extreme, but I honestly feel these sorts of things make little jabs at wanting to be a homemaker or mother or just happily working and living a quiet life, wrong! It might even confuse things. I think the generations now have this horrible stress to be great: Be a star! Be Paris Hilton or a famous Basketball player etc. Maybe if they televised housework in an exciting way and made million dollar contracts for wives this wouldn't be the case.
What happened to trying to do the best job with what you are doing while you are doing it? I really feel tv and other media just show that you need to be like a few very wealthy spoiled population who always get in the papers! But, who can ever afford or hope to get to their status and if you did, why use your power and money the way they do? They are an annoying minority. There are scads of very wealthy people living normal lives, tipping waiters, being kind to their help, loving their families, but they don't make it in the paper because it isn't shocking or cool. It is funny how we have come to the culture of cool. I don't know, maybe James Dean started it, but things that are important to teenagers, like what is cool or 'in your face', seem to be the gauge we use for what is important in 'grown up' society. When did this exactly happen? I think it has really just been slowly coming on since the 1950s. Now we now seem to disdain things which are reachable goals and quiet happy lives for some 'ideal of celebrity' that many young people aspire to. They need to have the labels and the cars and the image, but it is all hollow and empty. Maybe that is why the teenager working at the local store is so rude, she figures she is gonna be a star or somthing 'better' someday so why should she put up wiht you? And why isn't a homemaker a viable option any longer? Why isn't it talked about in schools as an actual occupation and goal for a person (woman or man)?

It seems to me that the more I get into my project, the more I uncover both the myth and the reality of this small window in modern american history, the more I respect it. I am sure that a large portion of what we think of as "the 1950's" is our interpretation of the propaganda of the time. I am certain that many things we mock may or may not have even been true then. But, and here is the rub, the more I consider it and contemplate it, the more I want it to be true. And not just some truth in the past but an honest and real truth now.

Some day I won't be living in 1955, just as those who really did live it had to let go and move forward: 1956 showed up, then the turbulent 60's. The 1970's with its drugs and rising prices and increasing worries of foreign affairs. The 1980s taught us all to love greed and that it wasn't a bad thing to chase the mighty dollar. The 1990's tried, after the 1980's, to 'Grunge' it's way to a more homespun reality, only to be followed by more pop iconography and materialism at its end fueled by the sham of endless wealth and technology. Then the new millenium rolled in with all its promise of wealth built on sham foundations which have since broken down leaving the world wondering, "what just happened?". We seem to have been on some rollercoaster ride which started off well enough just after WWII and has ended at some odd destination.

Perhaps part of my project was to hide away in some forgotton decade, to turn my back on the real problems of my own time. The thing is, however, that now I don't want to turn away. I want to fix the mistake that we always seem to make as the human animal: The inability to look back in order to go forward. I can never know truly what 1955 was like for those who were there, but I know many of the things I am discovering are things that increasingly becoming important to me. Home, Family, Community, Self-Sustainability. I don't want to let go of these. And considering the technology we now have, we really can build a new world. I want to further those 'old-fashioned' ideals. I want to make the things we now see as silly or wasteful as valid and worthy. I want to wear my homemaking badge with honor! I will stare down any funny looks square in the eye when I am wearing my outfit of hat and white gloves in the heat of July like a soldier in uniform.
I would like to think I can make my only little bit of my world however I like it. And, 1955, I really like you. I know I cannot ever truly understand you nor honestly visit you, but in paying you respect and honor, I might make a better future for myself and hopefully for those around me. I can learn from your mistakes and fix them, but also learn from your success and adapt them to the 21st. century.

Who ever thought an idea for a fun project on a blog could be so life changing?

Who would ever have thought putting on a hat, gloves, petticoat and organizing my house and cooking meals could make me feel more powerful and more proud of being a woman than any modern concept of equality ever could?

I don't think I will ever really leave 1955 entirely. I think, like Dorothy, I may return to the black and white reality of the modern world, but I will hold all OZ has taught me in my heart. I am not quite ready to click my heals just yet.

You know, Dorothy, I am not yet ready to go home.

Maybe we can take this propaganda and put it to our cause: We can do it, we women. We can have the courage to make our homes and, even if we can afford new, sew and mend our own clothes. We can grow our food and make and bake it, we can clean our homes top to bottom with minimal products and plenty of elbow grease. We can hold up and support our families and husbands through clean homes, pretty smiles and the strength of all womankind behind us. WE do it for ourselves as well as for others. Goodbye ME generation hello WE generation.
Yes We Can.
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