Tuesday, August 11, 2009

11 August 1955 “The 1955 I-Pod, Atomic Power, Child Care, Baking Failures, and that Blasted Girdle”

tr 55 radio

“The TR-55, released in 1955, was Sony's first transistor radio, and the first to be made in Japan. The use of transistors rather than vacuum tubes allowed the device to be much smaller than earlier radios, and allowed them to be the first truly portable radio from Japan.”

Tokyo Telecommunications, later to become Sony, began the production of this little radio today in 1955. Although, this year it would only be sold in Japan, and Americans were not thinking of Japan as producing anything but cheap products (in the 50’s made in Japan was similiar to our made in China. Even the original Barbie Dolls that would come out in 1959 were produced there). By 1958 under the name Sony, Transistor radios were being sold. The idea of a radio needing a cord was becoming old fashioned and you could take your battery powered radio with you anywhere.

Again, we find another movement happening this year that leads to the way we live currently. This bit I found online sums it up for the transistor to today:

The TR-55 served as the template for almost all the portable gadgets we use today. Everything from the iPod to the Game Boy can trace its basic handheld design to the TR-55’s form factor. More importantly, use of the transistor became widespread in all electronics allowing for the development of LCD TVs, smartphones and netbooks.”

plane crash 55 El Al Flight 402, a pressurized four-engine propliner plane,  was an international passenger flight from Vienna, Austria to Tel Aviv, Israel via Istanbul, Turkey, on July 27, 1955, which strayed into Bulgarian airspace and was shot down by two Bulgarian MiG-15 jet fighters and crashed near Petrich, Bulgaria. All 7 crew and 51 passengers on board the airliner were killed. This must have been such a fright as plane travel was still fairly new.

Speaking of planes, I love this August 1955 issue of Mechanics illustrated.mechanic mag 55 It purports the ‘atomic planes are closer than you think’. I like the concept that we are thinking about alternate power sources at this time, however, luckily this was not ever realized. Speaking of atomic energy, however, in July of this year the town of Arco, Idaho was the  first town ever completely lit/powered by atomic power. Unfortunately, on 3 January 1961 it became another first, when the reactor that powered the town had a meltdown, causing three deaths. It was the world’s first (and the us’s only) fatal reactor accident. Here we again see the innocence of our world as we play with the powers achieved so quickly in WWII. It is an example of our innocence fading, I believe. I know it is a romantic and unrealistic notion to want that innocence back, but one can understand the current generations ennui and bitter sarcasm to living when one considers what we have been through thus far. But, oh, how I wish we could be innocent enough to be the young girls waiting for doors to be held, hopes of making families and sipping lemonade on porches, the aging happily among our growing families raising and sharing life with our grandkids. Yet, we have obese shut ins playing computer/video games 12 hours a day, day-care, spending, cynicism towards family life and community, distrust, and an increasing aging population left to rot away in nursing homes. Can we turn it around? Are there enough of us who want to do so? How can we do it?

On a lighter note,

This Aug 55 cover of Elle with Bridgette Bardot is lovely.bridgette bardot 55 Her shoes, the beginning of the pointed toe and thinner heel that we associate the 1950s, really only are beginning  now and will reach their zenith in the early 1960s. Her dress and petticoat are so fresh and lovely.

I have had readers ask me in the past about vintage child care/rearing. I found this interesting article in a magazine the other day and thought I would share the first half of it with you here.childcare1childcare_2 If you like it I will scan and post the second half. If you click on the image it should appear large enough to read. There is quite a bit on childcare and here I am more than half way I think this project must just naturally grow into something bigger.  

diet_foods I thought this interesting, that specific Diet foods are showing up. Where once there would have been mention of how to watch your weight with suggestions, or not an issue of weight during the Depression, we can see the beginning of the plenty becoming an issue of ‘too much of a good thing’. Are any of you old enough to have tried any of these diet foods and if so, how were they? I am sure they must have had saccharine.

As you know, I have been extra busy this month. In addition to my usual growing chore list, I have had to add the moving of my household for Sept first. So, as an example, this Monday was, as usual, laundry day. So, in addition to those usual chores of sorting laundry, doing laundry, folding and sorting for ironing on tuesday, I had to add scheduling my move. That entailed my going about and making a list in my little homemakers journal of various items that I want to move, when I will move them and what needs to be donated or sold or given away. This leaves not much time to do my blogging. That is why I am hopeful that you will be patient with my shorter posts this month.

The point of this is that I had a great funny story to share with you and have not really had time to tell you. So, here it is now:

A few weeks ago my hubby asked me to make some baked goods for his work as two co-workers were going to be leaving. I am fast becoming known as the ‘good baker’ at his place of work. It is a source of pride for him and me. I also find it very 1955 that he should come to me and request some of my baked goods for such an event. I, of course, accepted his offer.

Now, we have been blessed this summer with unseasonable cooler weather. Here on Cape Cod we often do not get a spring per se. It is often cooler winter weather and then almost over night one walks outside and the leaves are out, the birds singing and it is warm. This year we had cool and rainy weather well into July. For me, it was a dream, as I do not like hot muggy weather. It was also divine providence for my project as I have not had too much worry about being overheated in my girdle and slips/petticoat gloves etc. Now, of course, that weather has left us, as if a dream we had it is now replaced with damp muggy August weather.

So, the day in question, the day before I was to have the cakes ready for my hubby, the heat returned. It was soo hot and I had to do extra marketing for the items for my cakes. It was very hot and I felt it best to put off the baking until that night. Now, in hindsight I see that was a mistake. On some level I felt it was a bit of modern me just putting it off, but as I thought of it further I realized that surely such a decision could be normal for a 1955 homemaker. The heat mixed with the oven etc, best wait until it cools off.

But, it did not cool off. In fact, in seemed to get hotter, but I donned my apron and my smile, put my hair up Rosy the Riveter style and was off. I had planned two types of cakes and cupcakes. That mean two variations of frosting. One was to be a fresh lemon frosting with fresh squeezed lemon juice and fresh lemon zest. That went off without a hitch and into the ice box to keep cool.

Then, things began to go downhill. As the oven continued to increase the sweltering heat in my kitchen and the sweet icky gooey mess of various batters and frostings on my fingers drove me mad with the taste of sugar in my mouth, I had a very uncomfortable feeling. Down, amongst my skirt and apron and slip I felt rather itchy and overheated. It was the first time I had hated my girdle.

I have since found by talking with someone of the area and the age that Cape Cod, being a summer seaside town, was often more casual. Certainly, this does not mean the level at which we are today, but it was not heard of to see housewives in pedal pushers and white keds or sandals in the grocery store and one could go girdle-less in a breezy cotton summer dress and sandals. This is a style I have since adopted, but had not as of yet. The cool weather and my determination had not allowed me to try that.

So, there I stood, the day waning (it was close on midnight at this moment) and I was hot, itchy, coated in sugared frosting, one set of cakes cooling the other cake turned, for convenience, into cupcakes.

The main cake was to be my standby chocolate fudge cake ( I have shared this recipe in past posts) and it was to be two layered and decorated with writing and frosting trim. Fine, I had done it be without a hitch. But, the heat and moisture in the air was beginning to make everything melt. The frosting I have made before became wetter than usual. I figured, “I will just add more confectioners sugar, as that always stiffens it”. Then moving to the pantry, hot girdle sweated and frosted, I reached for my jar of confectioners sugar, lifting it to my eyes. NO! It was empty. I had none left. I quickly unscrewed the cap, scraping madly like a wild monkey at an impossible coconut, to no avail.

I wandered slowly back into the kitchen. The heat of the stove hit me like a wave. Every dish and bowl seemed to be dirty and thrown about the place. What was I to do? What I felt like doing was crying. I took a breath and a glass of ice water and thought, “Oh, well, it will be fine as it is.” And I began icing my cake.

The first layer went on and I slathered on the frosting. It seemed rather runny, but there was little I could do so I forged ahead. Then the second layer and the icing continued. It seemed to be working. For whatever reason it was holding together and I figured, “I am going to pull this off”. I smoothed out the chocolate frosting and began piping on the white trim and the lettering. Then, I moved to finishing my cupcakes and getting the set and put into their tin vintage plate carriers.

Then, my hubby walked in and said, “Oh, no, what happened?”

What could he mean, I thought. My back was turned on the cake, I was busy reclaiming my strength and feeling I had overcome the obstacle of the baked goods and the hot night. I turned to see what he saw: the piping and lettering on my cake had turned to mush and began sliding down the side of the cake as the top layer took on a life of its own and decided to take a trip south. What a mess!

I burst into tears. My hubby didn’t know what to do and he felt bad. I felt I had let him down. He said, “Don’t worry I will go and buy a cake” and he went off, at midnight, to our local grocery store to by some horrible store-made confection. He would have to show up tomorrow after bragging about my baked goods with some hideous over sweet treat in a plastic dome with a barcode and price tag on it!

I was mortified. I felt such a failure. Thank goodness I had the sense to ask him to also pick up some confectioners sugar for me.

That night, in bed, I ruminated on the days events. Where had I gone wrong? What planning could have been better or what mistakes recovered? I didn’t know and wasn’t sure but I didn’t want to be beat, so I set my own alarm on my bed side table for 5 am. I wasn’t going to give up without a fight.

The next morning the alarm woke me with a start. In the early moments of waking I had forgot the horror of the night before. I wiped my eyes and checked the time, Oh, yes, now I remembered. I slipped quietly downstairs like a child on Christmas morning, only instead of bright tinsel and gleaming packages I was met with filthy bowls and pans oozing with gelatinous chocolate batter and the oversweet smell of my previous nights failure.

Well, here went nothing. It was not much cooler, but it was a bit. I opened the new bag of sugar hubby bought, grabbed the bowl of frosting and began adding and whipping. I scraped with all I could muster to save that cake and luckily I had baked an extra layer just in case, so with that fresh unused layer and what I could salvage from the rest, I managed to form a cake-like object with writing and decoration. I felt I had, in the end, done my job. And, in a way, I felt I could feel the proud stares of past homemakers smiling down on me. “Way to go, sister”, they seemed to say, “You did what you had to do.”

In the end, the baked goods were a success and I felt bad for the previous nights emotions. Yet, it is moments like these that I feel the most akin to my predecessors. It is at these times that I really feel a connection with that part of women’s history and our task in the kitchens. Like any artist, there must be the process. There will not always be success and sometimes we have to scrap the paintings. But, sometimes, as that night, there is a salvation of sorts. And, like in some paintings of old, when they have held up special lighting to discover another painting underneath the artist had gone over, most likely in frustration, if there had been such a light held to my cake you would find it built on the failings and frustrations of that hot July night in my version of 1955.

So, lesson learned and I thought I would close with this ad that I came across today and had to laugh. girdlerash

Boy, do I know what they are talking about there!

Until, later, Happy Homemaking.

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