Friday, May 8, 2009

8 May 1955 “Harpo and Lucy, Music and Dance, a quiet Revolution”

This great classis episode of I LOVE LUCY will premiere tonight. Harpo recalled,

“When I walked on the set to go to work there was Lucy imitating me. Tousled and ringlet-red hair streamed from under a battered stovepipe hat. It was the most perfect imitation I’ve ever seen. I rushed over to Lucy, grabbed her hair and asked, “Where did you get such a perfect wig? You could have heard her scream way down in Palm Springs. It seems it was Lucy’s own hair. I had forgotten she didn’t need any help in duplicating my wig.”

This is a great bit and I wonder if it would be deemed to ‘slow’ for today’s TV viewers as this much silent entertainment might not bode well with the action required modern attention spans.

joe bolton Joe Bolton in 1955  appeared as "Officer Joe" and hosted The Clubhouse Gang, and showed the Little Rascals  on WPIX (New York’s 5th television station that is still on the air) It lost the rights to Little Rascals and in September of 1958 would switch to hosting The Three Stooges Funhouse. Over 1 million watch the little rascals comedies over this station. [I have vague memories of Sunday mornings in pajamas and dressing gown holding my little puppy and watching the little rascals and that was the late 70’s early 80’s.]

Daddy long legs with Leslie Carone and Fred Astaire opened on the 5th of this month.

I love this movie. I have not watched it in years, so this weekend we are ‘going to the movies’ to see this one together.  I was also thinking how then there were song writers and singers. Some were great writers others singers, so if there were a ‘popular’ song, it might be sung by any of the great singers of the time. Now, for some reason, perhaps with all the silly ‘ownership’ laws the big record companies are concerned about, you have an ‘artist’ who writes and sings their own songs. It isn’t bad, but I wonder how many great singers out there would be good at that, just singing, and not worrying about creating lyrics. It is as if that basic level of entertaining is sort of lost and anyone in the popular music scene is meant to have written the songs or even if they are written by others we refer to is as ‘Brittany Spears song’, though she did not write it. Just an interesting observation.


While looking at “Your Hit Parade” clips, I found this.

At first glance, with my slowly changing views and esthetics since 1955, I thought, “what a great tune and how sweet”  Then, as my modern mind set slipped in, I thought, “How silly, look how poorly they dance.  Wouldn’t they get made fun of today, those male dancers?” It sort of made me sad. Have we become so jaded that people just having fun and doing not a perfect job but their best is something to be ridiculed? I could be wrong, of course, as there is some show on where celebrities dance or something, but it is a competition and they have to be celebrities. This has a simple entertainment value that feels very, “every man” to me.   When did just having a good try at your best go out of style? It is an odd double standard, where we expect reality tv to be about normal people trying to do outrageous things or horrid people being skanky to get the notice of other wretched people. Yet, the general public is not really given an outlet to just go out and have fun and be silly dancing and listening to music where you can talk. Perhaps, it is just my own experiences, but it always seemed when we went out to places with music you couldn’t hear to talk and there really was no ‘supper club or barn dance’ venue of old. Perhaps, people and youths would not hate small town living if fun and entertainment were somehow shared by all age groups and not every age being separately defined. I think really the concept of ‘teenager fun’ is just beginning in the 1950’s, certainly there were the ‘bobby soxers’ of the 1940’s but it seemed the youth would be entertained with the adults and strive to be more like them. Now, it seems, fun has to be equated with ‘teen fun’ or else you are an old fuddy duddy. And, of course, even younger children are expected to be cool which means not having innocent fun or being with adults, but in fact ‘teen fun’ which now seems to be sex, drugs and rock and roll. I am not an old fuddy duddy but honestly, there could be so many things that young people could genuinely enjoy, but are not really shown. The more I live in 1955 the more I am beginning to resent the late 1960’s and the hippy culture. They seemed to be the pampered children of the 50’s who got the wonderful mothers in nice clothes, homemade food, milk and cookies and then could ‘rebel’ for themselves for fun at that moment leaving the world for their children and grandchildren to fix.

I think since actual 'dancing’ has gone out of style, and long before my time, it has sort of left out an activity for my age group in smaller towns to enjoy.  Couples once could go out dancing and sort of know and expect what to do, now dancing is all about being young and sexy with no specific steps. I cannot be the only person in her 30’s who wished there were clubs that were supper clubs with a live band you could actually dance swing or waltz etc instead of noisy bass thumping meat factories! Maybe I am just getting old, although even in my 20’s I loathed such places! Although, I know there are places in some cities that offer this, it is rare and not just a normal part of any town, the local club with dancing and supper. I need to find out if there are any swing bands around.

I received some ‘new’ 1943-1950 House Beautiful magazines the other day. They are very good reading. I like giving myself some more pre-1955 reading, to really place myself into 1955. Some of these are obviously from the time of WWII and they have great ads and articles. 1940s hotpoint ad This ad talks about how we will all profit form war time production and that the acceleration in technology due to the war will result in our life being easy and better AFTER the war. These magazines are filled with ‘after the war’ talk and it obviously must have been really the norm of conversation. I was really surprised to see that this ad, which is from a 1943 edition, already showing the dishwasher. It lets me know I most certainly would have one now in 1955 and yet makes me wonder how I hear form our overseas readers that some countries didn’t see dishwashers as the norm until as late as the 1980s! We Americans had so much, after the war. The USA really was poised to grow after WWII. We lost much in people, but our own country was not physically destroyed like Europe and when we came back home we could sort of leave all the ‘bad things’ behind. They could be literally ‘visually forgot’.

It must have been such a strange time to have come from 1930’s Depression where you had very little to the rationing of the 1940’s to suddenly the endless product and ease of the 1950’s. When I see it this way, I can see when we, as Americans, really began to veer away from what I believe we once were. Though today we are taught to believe that America is all about allowing big business to grow unchecked, really that only allows good for a few key people in control of the companies.  And we all pay for it not only with our wallets but with our loss of self in that we are so defined by what we own and buy now, we really have sort of lost our identity. We need to be defined by what games we play or car we drive or what label our clothes or handbags reveal. Where is the American who went out west with disease and will power and built up towns from the dirt? The American’s who left oppression to come and forge a new land out of the wilderness. Did they really do all that so their descendents could sit wasting away in front of TVs overeating, overspending, and becoming rude thoughtless zombies? I know that sounds harsh, but really, I sort of see that happening to us. I want us, we, to have our pride of self preservation. I don’t want a world so lazy and dependent upon manufacturing that we have to buy pre-made PBJ sandwiches or we can’t clean our kitchen with a sponge hot water and our hands, or grow our own food or support our local farmer. Why CAN’T we buy a good pair of shoes and then pay the local cobbler to resole them to make them last? I know, I know, I always seem to come back to this and I honestly don’t know how. It just seems I start to see the things I am learning and hoping to learn and compare them to the 2008 me and think, ‘My God, what a lazy useless slob and corporate shill I was!’

I was thinking how much this time does in a way mirror that time in the mid to late fifties in that suddenly we are really inundated with things. I think being my age now in 1955 and if I were lucky enough to have seen my husband through WWII, after all the sheen of consumerism had worn off I think I would begin to think, “well, my how much less we did with only 10 years ago!” I think being my age then, I would have accepted the influx of things like dishwashers and washers and dryers and then really thought, “wow, how things have changed”. And, maybe I would have sort of took stock, as it were, and decided not to go overboard, just out of the lessons my own life had brought me to up to 1955. Were I 21 in 1955 and starting out a new marriage, I can see how I may start to become the group that will grow and raise the kids that will rebel in the 1960s.

I think, in a way, the movement of the late 60s was trying to get away from that consumerism, but really they threw away a lot of the natural mechanisms that help you cope with a world that is not about consumerism. To them, it had become this plastic world, but to their parents it had been to make the Eden that would never see World Wars again. But, by rebelling against that they also did away with the concepts of family and community in a way that can work for all, not just for young people.  When they thumbed their nose at the house in the suburbs and the family working together and not always expressing how they felt at that moment, they said goodbye to some of the basic good inherent in humans, I think. That ability to pretend to be okay so that your child may be happy at that moment is a good thing, it isn’t always about ME ME ME, but maybe because those 1950s parents DID make it about their kids, they of course didn’t want to ‘grow up’.Why would they?They got to have the smiling stay at home mothers in pretty clothes homemade food, cookies and milk and then when it was their turn to do for their children they said, “No, that’s not how it should be” and off they went. The 1950s are now often seen as the ‘bad time’ that the 60’s some how liberated us from. It isn’t odd, then that their children and grandchildren made the me me 1980s. They had no homemade food and smiling mothers they had the ME ME parents so they wanted structure and wanted that missing element, the home and family. But, now it was distorted and got all mixed up with the ME and the wanting a nice home and then you have the over consumption, get more money greed that has lead us to now. Certainly, I am not saying it would not have all happened if people just accepted their place as adults and grew up, but on some level, it is partly the problem. Where are all the adults? Where has all the responsibility gone?

I have, of late, really started to see that there are many women out there who feel as I do. That really a new ‘revolution’ is upon us. The quiet women’s revolution of ‘returning home’. The 60’s threw out consumerism and everything else, the baby with the bathwater. I say we set aside the new consumerism, pick up our aprons and make a better world with what we have using the skills of our own hands as our ancestors once did. Now, we have the advance of technology, lets be happy for it but let’s use it as a tool and not be USED by it.  Who needs the ease of McDonalds food and the throw away prices and quality of Wal-Mart, when we have our brains and talent? Why settle for what we can buy when we can make and grow and sew what we really desire and have more control over the style, quality and quantity. I don’t think it is good, anymore, to have a product be cheaper if that means there has to be millions of them, some not sold, and then being so cheap, merely tossed away into our landfills. When something is more dear, cost more, we learn to either take care of it or do without.

What is good about this sort of revolution, is it is a quiet one. We can all quietly pick up our aprons and turn our back on the evil ease offered by our present world. “No, thank you,” we can say, with nice manners and pressed dresses “I would rather not buy that five dollar t-shirt at old navy ” and make our own sturdy cotton dress that we can cherish and iron and care for instead of wear once and throw away. “No, thank you” to another plastic handbag sewn by the little hands of a Chinese girl,” this will do fine” as we buy a well made one from the 1950s at our local store, saving it from garbage, and giving money to a local citizen of our community.

Everyone always worries”Well, if we don’t keep buying the economy will fail” well, you know what, we haven’t stopped buying yet and it already failed. It had nothing to do with our buying things so much as mismanagement with the money made from our buying. We built an economy on a wish. Our current economy is all speculation, one has only to look at the real estate market to see that. If we take our money from the big chain store and give it to our neighbor who runs a thrift shop that is helping our local economy, that is good. Global thinking is good, but leave that to our government. They send the delegates to other countries, let us small citizens focus on our own towns and cities. But, I don’t want to get off point. Back to the revolution:
I really see that there are many of us who would like to go ‘back home’ as it were. Let us try. Let us look at our finances and what we buy. Let’s really evaluate the words ‘NEED’ and ‘WANT’. We think we have to be a two income household, but why? Really ask yourselves, why? There isn’t enough money, you might say. Well, what do you spend your money on. I know it sounds simple, but really we just don’t combine thinking with spending. The modern world has made money a magic thing we don’t even have to touch, we just use our credit and debit cards, no cash. But, it is real. There are consequences for what we do.

In my own family, my hubby and I have recently made a decision that brings us almost half of what he used to bring in. He has just found a job locally (only 20 minutes away) that has health care and some possible advancement, but with much less pay right now. However, we really don’t NEED two cars now and I am going to sell one. I can drive him to work to have the car on the days I need marketing and errands done, when I don’t then I can either walk or stay home and get my job and things done here. It seems an alien idea at first, but once you start thinking about it and then adding it all up. The cost of gas for two cars, insurance, repairs, inspections etc. It all adds up. I can now take my skills and really put them to the test, as our budget shall be much tighter and I don’t think the answer is for me to go and get some job to bring in more money and pay more gas and more car fees and buy work clothes. Then, I cannot cook all the time, so I will start getting ‘prepared meals’ etc. It is a slippery slope. SO, let us, we vintage women, try and see if we cannot start our quiet little “Apron Revolution” and see where we end up. We may not change the world, but we might find new power and self worth in ourselves and that WILL change our own little piece of the world.

Now, I will close with some little tidbits from my 1945 House Beautiful magazines.

Here is a great article on houseplants. I remember jitterbug had wondered what would be appropriate plants for the 1940s.houseplants imagehouse plants

Here is a photo showing an organized ‘cleaning closet’.organizing closets

Next time I will show some of my latest clothes and talk about sewing. One of my readers sent me a homemade dress form pattern and told me of a funny tale that happened to her in trying to make her own. Now, the sunny garden beckons to me. And, I have dinner to plan.

Happy Homemaking.

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