Friday, April 10, 2009

10 April 1955 “Polio, Beauty, Storage, Kitchen Design, and ‘To be your own Marketing Sorcerer’”

Ruth Ellis shoots jilting lover David Blakely. [this is all the info I could find on this story, no images or newspaper articles, anyone know or remember this happening?]
Dr Jonas Salk successfully tests Polio vaccine
polio girl In some ways, the fear of polio was as terrifying as the disease itself. When the epidemic in the United States peaked in 1952, polio had struck nearly 58,000 people—mainly children and young adults. The most critically ill were confined to a mechanical ventilator known as an iron lung, robbed of their ability to breathe on their own. Others escaped on crutches, crippled but not paralyzed. Panic was pandemic. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the terror that polio caused at the time.
 polio boy shot In April 1955, when the results of an unprecedented nationwide clinical trial were announced and the vaccine was approved for widespread public use, Newsweek reported: “It was a summit moment in history. None before it in the field of medicine ever received such dramatic affirmation, instant public comprehension, and official blessing.”
[A discovery such as this must have seemed like a miracle. Seeing some of the images of the children afflicted with it really tugs at your heart strings. It does make me wonder why today we have not problem spending billions to pay interest to Chinese loans and bail out banks, but free healthcare for all Americans seems such an alien idea. The advancement in science and the benefits from it should be encouraged and allowed for all. And that is my 2 cents on the subject.]
I thought this was an interesting article on beauty.under chin care1 under chin care 2
I have no idea if it works, but I have just started some of it. I know my hubby gave me a quizzical look the other night when, sat before my vanity and he propped in bed with his book, he was startled by the sound of hand slapping skin. He turned to find me, cold cream on face, slapping myself under the chin. I turned and smiled, “You don’t think beauty just happens do you?” I said. It was a very 1950’s moment. Now, I am sure there isn’t one iota of proof that will look ‘younger’ with this regime, but you will feel good. It forces you to sit down and take time for yourself. You feel relaxed and it feels GOOD to massage your neck and throat. Posture is certainly important, so that bit is true. But, give it a try and don’t be surprised if you feel a little bit ‘Hollywood starlet’ before your vanity doing these things.
I have  been noticing many articles showing up on storage in my 50’s magazines. I wonder, and I could be wrong here, is this starting a new trend to coincide with the new consumerism? We now have enough things that we need space for them to live as well as ourselves? Flash forward to 2009 when a business like the container store exists solely to provide us with more options and things in which to store the stuff we have bought.Container1  I used to like the idea of this, and one of my main goals, my tenet of my new life, IS organization, but I am finding that a lot of what I need to store is now really becoming things to donate or pass forward. Fifty years earlier, in 1905, the middle class certainly were beginning their  buying sprees of the mass produced items that were fabricated to ‘look’ like nicer objects. There is a great bit about it in Edith Wharton’s book “The Decoration of Houses”( Which I have read before and am now looking at again. It came out in 1897 so it is an antique even in my day) talking of the cheap and shoddy bits of bric a brac coming out and how not to be lured into overbuying mass produced junk ( I am paraphrasing here, as I am not sure Edith Wharton would have put it quite that way!). They were beginning the consumerism ideal and the market was responding by mass producing the Victorian ‘suites’ of furniture we now see for sale in antique shops. They were not well made by their days standards and that concept of the matching suite was really born out of that time. That is really when the middle class began to stop trying to ape their upper class and their own form of design was sprung. Yet, their consumption was hardly stored. The Victorian (and in America even the Edwardian era was still heavily Victorian as it took awhile for trends to reach our shores) style of decorating was all about mass consumption and display. IF there was a spare inch of mantle then place another bibelot on it. Heck, why leave the mantle bare? Throw a heavily decorated cloth on it with tassels and how about three layers of draperies? What you did not have, however, was endless inexpensive clothes. Machine made clothes were starting to be more available, but the average family probably had one or a few pairs of ‘good Sunday clothes’ depending upon which rung of the middle class they lived on, and everyday clothes were most likely very few. The labor involved in cleaning and keeping things, though servants where still affordable, really didn’t allow for to much to store.  The only bit on storage I could find in my 1908 household discoveries book by Mrs. Curtis  was the store room for canned goods. While my 1951 edition of the “Woman’s Home Companion Household Book” has an entire section in the index for Storage  with quite a few entries including Hobbies and Collections. Now, there are books and magazines on JUST storing our stuff. When you are in the midst of it, and believe me I was (and still am, actually) it seems normal. But, when you really think about the amount of energy going into producing plastic bins to store things we won’t see in a closet, it is odd behavior. If the world were to be hit “Vesuvius style” and we were all suddenly frozen in this moment, what, I wonder, would the modern archaeologist think of these piles and piles of containers filled with items? I bet they would extrapolate that they were religious artifacts. Something our society held dear, to have them so carefully contained. Just a thought. So, here we really see the first moment of something you collect yet do not display occurring in the 1950s. The move towards pack-ratting, has it begun?
Even kitchen lay out and storage was changing in the 1950’s the closed cabinets and ‘built in’ storage was all the rage. wood-cabinets-20 R While,  fifty years earlier, a kitchen was in essence a work room with open tables and shelves, clean but really a ‘let’s get to it’ sort of place. 1950 kitchen   The idea of the kitchen being really a decorated room in the house which needed storage for multiple sets of dishes, decoration, and storage etc. The more the conveniences of the modern world increased and there were more prepared meals and machines to make it easier, suddenly we needed more space to put it all in. Certainly a kitchen in a large 1900 house could have been bigger than a 1950’s version, so perhaps the storage started out of necessity and with the disappearance of the servant, the wife needed to be in there enough to merit it being a ‘part’ of the living of the house. Yet, it is interesting to note that they really began selling the idea of built-in custom looking cabinets over free standing items. It would be hard for a DIY project to make a bank of matching well hung cabinets, while to simply place a table here and a chopping block there is not that hard. It is these subtle plays of one’s desires in the magazines that leads to one “NEEDING” the new kitchen. “Well, how will I store all my gadgets?” How, indeed.
hoosier2 The Hoosier cabinet was really the first idea of the idealized storage in kitchens, but it’s premise was everything in one cabinet. Somehow this ballooned into the entire kitchen being the ‘Hoosier cabinet’ in a way, by the 1950s. Why buy one free standing cabinet when you can have banks of built ins?
hooseir cabinet Here is a page from my 1908 manual that shows a Hoosier cabinet and has some interesting information, you can click it to read it.
homemade kitchen counter This page from my 1908 homemakers handbook shows a handmade counter to aide in dishes and less steps in the kitchen. This looks really nice to me (sort of the original old fashioned pre 1950 idea I had for my kitchen).
The power of marketing has become very self-evidenced in the changing of my own esthetic. I have always loved 19th. c.  and earlier style. My kitchen plan for this house when we first moved back was to make it very 19th c. I bought an old copper lined wooden sink. A 1910 gas range (still not installed) and I had plans of open cabinets and shelves and individual pieces of furniture. I had been carrying the idea and image around for awhile. But, just in the past three months, I have already changed my plan for the kitchen into a 1950’s dream of built ins, metal cabinets, cheery breakfast room, vinyl/tiled floor etc. I now really like that look. I have come to respond to it, but it was not really there before the project. So, is my personal style, are any of the things we think we like that we count as part of our personality, really ours? I have done a 360 in my design idea. Am I still me? I have been morphing into a new person, really, with this project, but my personal style ( see that word ‘personal’ in there) has changed somewhat. That  really shows me the power of advertising. Here are old magazines, really dead in a way, but I have rolled back the stone on the Egyptian tomb and the curse has come out upon me and now I am doing the bidding of the magazine. Must decorate 1950s!(Insert Zombie style voice there accompanied by my outstretched arms and slow marching movements)
I do know that having my home a certain way makes me feel good. Perhaps, security in an uncertain world? Perhaps it gives one a feeling to combat their own mortality, “I am making something that will live on” (though it most likely will not). The very core of esthetic has been flayed open before me and I am left, again, wondering what is it all really mean? How is it all tied into me as a human on planet earth? It doesn’t frighten me, nor scare me, but I do find it fascinating. Should I, then, follow my current trend in my kitchen. And, if so, were I to do “my year 1905” next year, will I feel as if I need to change it? Or, should I only allow myself to maintain the 1950s for a period of time so as NOT to change my esthetic? To hold myself into a sort of “Design Limbo”, as it were. To see the power of it and then to yield it like a great marketing sorcerer. I mean, I know the stuff works, right? So, why not use it on myself? Design my home to fit into my esthetic from the 1950s (though my love of antiques still holds and there will be room for pieces from earlier centuries) but then only allow myself to read and study design and magazines from that moment. It could seem almost like I am depriving myself of something, but honestly, if I were never to read another design magazine or book for the rest of my life except for those from the past and up to 1959, how bad is that really? Certainly I could not go and waste my time at Borders looking at new magazines or buy more things that will pile up in the landfills.
So, you can see how what might have sounded crazy at one point actually seems to have a sort of ecological and smart logic to it. Why let myself succumb to new trends? Why add to the stuff I already have once I achieve the look and finish I wanted? That is the trick of modern marketing, you HAVE to have it and then something new comes out and forget that old stuff, that is so last year! But, what if I don’t let any other trends come into contact with me? What if I only shop for house things at antique shops and yard sales while holding my 1950’s esthetic aloft like a great wand to conjure up my 1950s dream home? Will I then NOT want to change things around? I hope so, for if that is the case look at all the time I can spend in my community and in writing, which I am really coming to find an important part of my day. I could spend more time on learning to grow more of my own food and maybe more of my own animals (goats give milk, right?).
So, could there be a movement that really would be a green movement that says, Pick a time and live it. Be in the modern world, but don’t be CONTROLLED by it. IF you love 1970’s design (even if you don’t spend a year only reading their magazines and you may be surprised how quickly you will be drooling over shag carpeting and avocado green appliances!)Then only allow that era to influence your need to buy. Then you will have to buy old things, which means making less, which means consuming less, of course that would mean less production, but then maybe more effort could go back to farming and local grocery stores and less giant stores with ill made particle board furniture that will break in one year. It is an interesting concept, one in which I am definitely going to keep following to see where it leads.
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