Thursday, January 14, 2010

14 January 1956/2010 “Cleaning Then and Now. Recipes. Hairdo”

I thought I would start today’s blog with a follow up question a fellow “Apronite” had. I think the answer would be good to do here on the blog.

Hi again 50s gal;
Just thought too - would you mind writing about the differences you see in the 1950s and now days re cleaning and cooking routines? I mean how different is it in both eras, what do you see as the advantages/disadvantages if any?
I don't want to give you more work so write what ever you think is suitable.
Thanks again!!

The actual amount of cleaning products were not available as they are now. It was, in fact, that the 1950’s post war America was the place where all the new gadgets and products were becoming available. All with the idea to free up the homemaker. But, in time, we can see that they are merely meant to make money for the seller and an unfortunate side affect is our inability to do without them.

woman cleaning I have come to find out that as a woman of my age in 1955, I would have learned to do without in the Depression and the war years, so many of my ‘homemade’ remedies would have been simply a part of my life. Now, as our income increased or my distaste for this or that chore, I may have begun to try the various products, but there were no where near as many as we have today. What is really sad is most of those products are simply the same thing relabeled several times to sell more and almost 90% water. That affect on the environment is immense and that is why I laugh when the come out with ‘green cleaning products’. The most green thing one could do would be to buy a few simple base concentrates and mix them up in a reusable container. I cannot see how simply producing MORE packaging to sell more chemicals good for the environment. But, another aspect of our modern world, which really got its foothold in the 50’s on Madison Avenue, was advertising! There is a need or we make a need, fill it, splash it all over the internet/TV/what have you and then we must buy it.

I remember when I first discovered Pin Sol in concentrate form there on the very bottom of the shelf in the cleaning aisle. I found out that the pine in it is a naturally occurring agent that disinfects. And that the modern version, in lemon, not concentrated in a spray bottle had the pine removed as customers did not like the smell! So , of course, I have the concentrate and one bottle was less than a smaller bottle premixed that would last maybe a month. I simply mix the strength I need for the job at hand in either a bucket or a spray bottle (followers of my blog will remember that I even make my own labels for ‘my’ products) and it’s cheaper, more effective and MUCH MORE GREEN. (on the website I am building a page of Homemade Vintage products from house cleaning to face lotions)

I also recall coming to realize on my own (though it was there in the manuals at the time for me to see) something as simple as: soon as the dishes and cutlery are cleared from the table, immediately soak or scrub any food left before it dries. Simple enough, I am sure, but to a modern girl like me, tossing them in the sink and then ‘getting to them’ was the normal practice.

In the beginning of 1955 I was not lucky enough to have a dishwasher. I did indeed have one in my kitchen, but it got covered over with a little gingham curtain until Valentine’s day when my hubby ‘gave me’ the gift of one. We felt, at such a time, such a new appliance (and yet many did have them by 1955) would have been available to a middle class family such as ours was.

So, before that occurrence, to arrive at the realization of immediately soaking and attacking the food gunk was even more providential. Even now, I will sometimes pile the dirty dishes and think, “Well, I do need to do this or that” and then stop myself and at least have the where with all to set them to soak in hot soapy water. It makes the later chore much easier.

I think that is also one of the main differences, at least for me, that I found to compare 1955 with today:Forethought and Prep work. The modern me was always ‘chasing’ the chores and rushing about last minute to get them done. Today, thanks to 1955, my routine allows me to feel there is more time in the day, because upkeep and forethought makes a lighter load of the housework.

But, where should I have learned such? Exactly, most modern people learn or are exposed to much in the way of running and planning a home/budget/savings. We are thrust out into the world willy-nilly with advanced abilities to use technology but unable to operate a toaster or do our own laundry. Some how the ‘idea’ for modern man was to free him of such burden, to level the playing field with the wealthy. Well, we cannot afford a staff nor to eat out and have dry clean all the time, so we are left to stumble about in our false sense of privilege in dirty homes, piled with far too many cheap items but to satisfy our shopping needs, I mean it is not as if during our FREE time we have to do any cleaning, right?

kirby I think the tools of the trade, too, are probably more well made from the 1950s. I purchased a 1950s Kirby Vacuum cleaner for my project, and it has not left me. (this is not my actual kirby but it looks just like it. This is one now currently for sale on ebay and if anyone is interested here is the link ) It is so solid, my husband calls it the Jet. It certainly can take a beating. AND it does not have throw away bags, instead the dirt collects into a metal receptacle you empty and the interior cloth bag is machine washable! It has an attachment for everything from sharpening knives, to spray painting, to foaming your furniture! This tool has lasted since the actual 1950s. Even a modern plastic DYSON, I defy to be operable in 50 years. Of course, by then, we shall all have new Roomba’s and more time to not clean so there you go.

A reliable broom. A good sturdy cotton mop that can be removed and laundered. Homemade dusters of old towels or cheesecloth with lemon oil (also very cheap and nicer for dusting. No aerosol spray nor bad chemicals and a 5 dollar bottle will probably last your life! You can will it to your daughter!) A nice little metal or wooden caddy or bucket filled with these tools and a stiff brush etc that can be carried about is such an easy way to attack the housework and you can’t get any greener than buying something vintage that has already been made and then taking care of it so it need not be replaced. Plus, older items tend to have more style. I wouldn’t mind my old white enameled bucket and wooden handled mop to be seen in the corner of my kitchen, but the ugly plastic of a Swiffer mop or one of those silly spray versions look so wretched.

There seems to be a reason we are inherently drawn to old things, even old practical things such as cleaning tools and buckets. But, don’t stick flowers in them or hang them on the wall, use them for their intended purpose! Fill them with soapy sudsy water, get a new cotton mop head for that old cute wooden handled mop and get to scrubbing. And PLAN your week out and you won’t be rushing around.

I think that seems to be a major difference between the past and now. PLANNING. It seems no one has any idea at all how to plan anything. Their lives, their finances, anything, it is all willy nilly run about last minute for the modern person. But, if one lesson could be taught on just making a list, looking at your life a week then a month then a year at a time, so much more could be spent in enjoying it. Because the drudgery is put in its place on the list in your day where it belongs and then you will find you live in a clean organized home with free time. Now, don’t waste it watching TV, do something fun: learn to knit, go boating with your child, something!

Well, you know me, I could just go on and on like this forever, but I shall not. My main point is, for what I have discovered for myself, the past was far superior in prep and organized ways of cleaning as compared to today. The tools were fewer, but far superior and therefore can still be got today for less money and more satisfaction. The overall look of items used were prettier and therefore more enjoyable to use and display. I find it funny how many magazines and books there are on this way or that secret to a clean orderly organized life! As if it is some great secret that we must pay to have the privilege to obtain. Silly. First of all, get out of the bookstore, stop throwing your money away on magazines and books and things and get home and get to work. Donate and throw out what you don’t need. Clean and maintain what you do have.  There is no secret only it is hard work, but if organized, can actually be enjoyable or at least satisfying. I don’t want to sound harsh or glib, but I was a very lazy modern person and I wanted to have excuses and secret solutions, but when it came right down to it, I just had to organize my thoughts and life and grow up.  Just planning and most vintage homemaking manuals will give very good lists of what is needed to make a proper cleaning arsenal. I shall, in time, have such a list on the website and if you care to look at it, I will tell you when I upload it. (My I do sound the Pert little Miss, don’t I. Do forgive, but it honestly is true. I still falter and find myself maybe not getting it all done in the day, but having things prioritized makes a more forgiving schedule and makes one feel less ‘rushed about’.)

Now, for some recipes and cooking. I will also be listing these recipes on the website as well.

The other day we had friends from out of town and I decided to make some things from my Cordon Bleu French cookbook. I have this listed on the BOOKS pages of the website and I even have a link for one I found for sale for 5 dollars, so first one to get it wins, I suppose.

Now, I made as a starter salad:

Tomato and Dill Salad

5 skinned tomatoes


2 tbs chopped fresh dill (these little bunches will keep for a few weeks if kept in clean water in a cool place. I have mine on my window sill in my kitchen, which is a very cold spot indeed!)

1 egg yolk


cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp dry mustard

grated rind 1 lemon

1 crushed clove garlic

1/2 cup oil (I used olive)

3tbs cream

1 stiffly beaten egg white

Cut tomatoes in thick slices, sprinkle with a very little sugar, let stand for a few minutes and add chopped dill. Pour over the following dressing:

Put into a bowl 1 egg yolk, salt, cayenne pepper, mustard, chili pepper, grated rind of lemon and garlic. Mix well and add oil slowly. Then min in cream, salt and beaten egg white. Mix lightly with tomatoes and serve.


This is basically a form of mashed potato, but the egg gives it a nice finish.

2 pounds potatoes

2 egg yolks

2tbs butter

salt and pepper

1/2 cup hot milk.

Peel the potatoes and cut in half. Put in a pan of cold water with plenty of sale and bring to a boil. Simmer until soft, strain and return to the pan. Dry well over the fire. Rub through a fine strainer. Beat in thoroughly the egg yolks, butter, salt, pepper, and milk. The mixture should be of a fairly soft consistency.

bananacake I also made a wonderful Banana cake the other day. I had some ripe bananas in my fridge that had been begging to be baked up. I adore the smell and the kitchen was alive with the fragrance of cooking bananas. I mixed in maple syrup and the marriage was intoxicating. I think I might need a slice after writing this, as I have got myself so worked up over it! You can see, it is simply a single layer and rather sloppily iced, but I rather like the decadent look of it and it tastes wonderful.


  1/2 c. butter 
  1 1/2 c. sugar 
  4 tbsp. sour milk

1 tsp. soda 
Pinch of salt 
1 tsp. baking powder 
1 3/4 c. flour 
2 eggs, beaten separately 
1 c. ripe bananas 
1 c. chopped pecans

1/4 cup maple syrup

Cream butter and sugar. Sift flour, salt and baking powder. Add soda to milk. Add bananas and egg yolks to butter and sugar mixture. Add beaten egg whites and 1 cup nuts, rolled in flour. Pour into greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. (Now, I did not whip the egg whites separately, as I forgot, and I noticed no difference in the cake.) I baked this in a spring form pan, that I use for my cheesecake, and then cooked it a little longer. I find a more moist cake from using such a pan. And my hubby raved over the moistness of it!

FROSTING FOR BANANA NUT CAKE: (This was a wonderful frosting and I will use it again. It would also be nice on a carrot cake I think)

   1/2 c. butter 
   1 egg 
   2 tbsp. cream 
   1 tsp. vanilla 
   2 tbsp. corn syrup 
   2 3/4 c. powdered sugar 
  1/4 tsp. salt

In mixing bowl, combine sugar, salt, egg, cream and vanilla. Beat till creamy. Add more milk if too thick. Frost between layers, top and sides.( I used only one layer, though, in my spring form and then frost the top and sides and sprinkle with walnuts.)

my hair I also realize I have not shown my new haircut. Though I have had my hair like this for sometime. It is quite easy to set and care for now that it is shorter. I am afraid the picture is not very flattering, but it is for the hair that I wanted you to see it.

Oh, and I thought I would show my latest cartoon as well.(click on it to read)comic5


  1. Cute, I love this cartoon!

    Your hair looks great, and those earrings are to die for!

  2. That cake looks so yummy! We are so spoiled today with our products. I'd be lost without my Dyson :( We don't have a dishwasher in our apartment though and we cook a lot! It's funny how that recipe calls for "sour milk" -- what a great way to use up an item or do you think it means "sour cream"?
    Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing

  3. I think it means actual soured milk. If you don't have sour milk you can use vinegar with milk for the same chemical reaction. However, I used some 'old' egg nog left from the holidays.

  4. Love your hair 50's Gal, I agree with the fact that a 50's housewife was more organized about her day and never rushing around to do things like her modern counterpart.

    I basically follow the same routine established by my Grandmother (my moms' mother) from the 50's........I know this because I have the same schedule as my mother (and my mother adopted her mother's habits) :)

    Monday's are laundry day, middle of the week grocery shopping is either Wednesday or Thursday, Friday- vacuum/mop days, Saturday- dusting/scrubbing down bathrooms........

    of course there are extra's that I use for fill ins on other days like the dusting and reorganizing of my oldest son's shelves in his room, as I have done today. And everyday I clean the sink and toilets in the bathroom.

    But I find a basic schedule to be very efficient for me and enables me to have more free time on my hands as well, to pursue other interests like reading your blog :)

    Also my Grandmother in the 50's would keep her blinds closed until all the vacuuming was done in her living room, as she would never wish her neighbours to see her do this chore through her front window. She would also diligently hang her laundry to dry every Monday as well.

    How I wish I had a clothesline outside in warm weather, I actually considered getting one when we get rid of the sand box in the backyard (my mom thinks I'm nuts) :)

    But then of course I rescued two old chrome kitchen chairs from a neighbour's trash (they are about 1955 according to my mom)- hubby and I cleaned them up and they look great next to my newer retro 50's chairs in my kitchen :)

    Yeah I'm kind of eccentric that way I guess.....

    Mom in Canada

  5. Oh and the best vacuum I ever owned was one given to me by my mother, a Filter Queen, complete with a bag you could use to put on your head to dry your hair with. My mom bought the vacuum back in the late sixties and I used it up to 2002, when it died on me.

    My mom even had a hair dryer (the kind you see in a hair salon), that was a table model, and I used it to dry my hair in the 80's so my spiral perm wouldn't friz. I grew up using the same products my mom used as a teen, now that was cool indeed :)

    Mom in Canada

  6. My mother, born in 1925, embraced almost every new product on the market. She could not understand why I purchase(d) no paper products save TP. My mother used Spic and Span for many years. My main cleaning products are vinegar, borax, and baking soda. My scouring powder is a 1-1 mixture of borax and baking soda. Borax is also supposed to be a disinfectant. Vinegar is a mild disinfectant as well.

    I buy raw milk once a week. It can start to sour by the end of that week. It is not the same as the rancid taste and smell of the highly processed milk from the stores. I use the leftover milk as I would buttermilk. I make buttermilk pies, buttermilk biscuits, butter milk cakes/coffee cakes, and cheese sauce, for use in meals such as macaroni and cheese. I have also made pot cheese, cream cheese and simple sour cream. I have not explored all of my options, I am sure.

    I would not use processed milk that has soured.

    Your cartoons are cute and accurate. I am enjoying them. Your 1956 gal depicts me quite well. I don't use an easel, nor have a dress form, however. :-)

    No Idle Hands

  7. GREAT post - my favourite thus far this year. Your recipes, cleaning tips, photos, etc. echo your authentic 1955 posts of last year ... well done!

    I adore your new hairdo, very very flattering. And, as usual, your illustration is spot-on!

    Souring milk, in addition to adding 1 tsp. vinegar to 1 cup whole milk, can also be done simply by leaving a glass of milk out on the counter for the night.

    Happy homemaking!

  8. Love the hairdo. No, sour milk meant sour milk. It was a great way to use it up -- in a recipe. I have seen a post on a blog where the woman used processed sour milk in her pancakes and says it is great.

    Back in the 50's, everybody used Pine Sol, or this heavy-duty laundry stuff that came in a bottle called Lestoil (less toil, get it?). Lestoil was great for garage mechanics' clothes. I don't know if they still make it.

    There were no fancy cleansers that would get soap scum off of things, or Lime Away, or anything like that. At least, I didn't know of it.

    Lots of it was plain elbow grease -- scrubbing, like the oven, and stuff.

    Water was not as hard back then where I came from; you did not need such stuff.

    Everything was: All or Tide detergent, Borax, Ajax, Mr. Clean, Lestoil, Pine Sol, Pledge, Polmolive dishwashing liquid and Brillo.

    I don't remember any homemade cleaners (I was born in '53), they were all commercial, but there were fewer of them, that's for sure.

    Appliances were simpler, too. We had an electric iron, but it was a dry iron, not a steam iron. So, you didn't need distilled water. You dampened your clothes, and rolled them up and put them in the refrigerator to stay damp, and then ironed them. Some people starched them. Lots of ladies used commercial BLUING for their whites, along with starch. You can now buy bluing again, in Menards!

    Many of the things the younger ladies think we had in the 50's were really things people had in the 40's -- earlier. I don't remember much homemade stuff (food or cleaning stuff) in the 50's -- we wanted to be MODERN in the 50's. So, commercial stuff was becoming the norm.

    Read my posts about growing up in the 50's here:

    Go to "1950's Housewives" on my sidebar under the labels. There are about 17 posts. Scroll down. They are numbered. I also did a series on the 60's: "1960's Confessions of a Non-Hippie."

  9. I also did a couple of recent posts on my main site:

    They were about planning ahead, like you said, the way people had to do in the 50's, because there were not as many convenience foods, or stores that stayed open 24 hours. You can read about it. I did 2 posts. I always though working wives were to blame for the fact that our kitchens are not as well stocked, but decided that was not the problem. Many wives in the 50's worked, as did my mother-in-law, but there were not so many fast-food restaurants, they were expensive and not convenient to get to, and the stores were not 24/7 stores, so even working women planned ahead, as you have pointed out. Great post!

  10. civilla-A woman at my age in 1955 would have, indeed, been very aware of homemade cleaning solutions as I would have been a warbride. I would have, most likely embraced the new, but also stuck with vinegar and water and naptha etc. As my mother would have made most of her cleaning products as taught by her mother.
    I actually mention the rolling damp clothes in my ADVICE page on the site in answer to a question. However, steam irons were invented in the 50s and I have and still use a lovely pink one, so I would have been freed form such an adventure as the steam solved the problem of needing to keep the damp clothes in the ice box. Concering water softeners, as well, those were becoming common in the 1950s. IN fact in one of my favorite movies "Mr. Blandings Builds a Dream House" there is a scene where they discuss the Zuzz ZUzz water softener they are having installed and that movie was made in 1948.
    I suppose much depended, as well, as what level middle class a wife was and her age at the time. As I said, being older, many 'homemade' things would have remained in my arsenal while a bride of 20 in 1955 would have happily filled her shopping cart with the new, though probably to a tsk tsk from her mother in law with a 'in my day we didn't have..."
    If you don't mind my asking what age would you have been in 1955?

  11. they still make lestoil! i have some that i use on hubby's clothes when he works on the cars.
    nice post. banana cake (or bread, for that matter) sounds pretty good right now.

  12. Oh, I was 2 in 1955. I just remember my mother in the late 50's just having a dry iron, and never making anything homemade, nor did any of her friends. None of them home-canned anything, either. I guess everybody's memories were different. My mother and her friends wanted to be modern. She was born in 1933.

    Also, she was a city girl, not a country girl, so that would make a big difference, and she was not a war bride. A war bride would be more mid to late 40's. My mother also worked.

    City people were used to buying things from bakeries. One of my grandmother's friends taught me how to make a cake from a cake mix with an electric mixer instead of always buying them from the bakery. That was a thrill for me.

    So, yes, I guess it makes a difference if you were a city girl or a country girl; and like you said, if you were middle-class or working-class, or whatever.

    My memories are of the Levittown-type towns on Long Island, although we did not actually live in Levittown itself. That was about 50 miles away. It was very suburban. Most of the people had moved out from N.Y.C. My parents were from N.Y.C. You can google Levittown.

    So, I suppose some of this is regional, as well. We had wonderfully naturally soft water on Long Island, and I didn't know what a water softener was until I moved away.

    I am sorry if I offended. I can only go by my own memories. Other people lived in different parts of the country, or were of a different social class, and apparently did things a little differently.

    Yes, if you were a war bride, having married in the 40's, you would still remember some of that homemade stuff, probably, by 1955. My mother-in-law was more of the war-bride era. I'll have to ask her if she made cleaning supplies, etc., herself and what she did. She DID have her babies (all 4 of them -- the last being born in '53) at home with the doctor present.

    Of course, what we call "the 50's" actually spanned almost 2 decades, the baby-boom years, from 1946 to 1964. I was born in '53.

    Anyway, I didn't realize you were coming from the aspect of an older, war bride living in 1955. Sorry.

  13. Oh, no you did NOT offend in ANY way, I am sorry if that is what I seemed to be soing. NO, I was just putting it in the context of my own research which is hardly as good as being there. Certainly, even at my age in 55 I would have slowly became modern, it would have been natural.
    Please don't think that, I am glad to have your opinion and your first had experience, I merely was curious how different it must have been for someone your age, in fact you could have been my 'daughter' as it were so it is good to see how 'she' would have lived as the time moved on.
    So please continue to share with us. And I am sorry if I made you think I was misunderstood. If we are one thing here, we are polite and are open to others views and ideas with decorum.

  14. Oh, good, I'm glad you were not offended.

    My husband's mother was "older" in the 1950's, having been born in 1915. My husband was born in 1950, when his mother was 35. He says, too, though, that she never made anything from scratch unless it was for a special holiday or something. He remembers her being especially enamored with Wonder Bread in the package. His family, too, bought baked goods at the bakery. The Thanksgiving stuffing came from a bag.

    When his parents had his grandparents over, then his mother would make a few things from scratch, because, of course, the grandparents, both sets, had been born in the 1800's and were adults during the depression, and saw packaged things as wasteful.

    But, my husband never saw his own mother make anything from scratch, not food or cleaning supplies. They were enamored with anything modern. The last thing they wanted to be was old-fashioned.

    My husband remembers his aunts who were young people in the 1920's. They were "into" modern, too, (he used to listen to them talk) but that changed during the 1930's and the depression, and people went back to old-fashioned ways, because they had no money. But, by the end of the war, it was back to modern. Everybody jumped into modern. They were glad for the depression and the war to be over and wanted to put it in the past and move on quickly.

    Very few women nursed their babies in the 40's or 50's. That was for people who lived in the jungle.

    I saw a real shift back to the old ways in the 1960's -- the late 60's -- with the hippies and the back to nature movement. Then, it was natural childbirth and nursing and health foods. Then, in the late 70's, PBS did a series called, "The Dutchess of Duke Street" which was about a woman who was a cook for the kind. That set off the cooking craze and making everything from scratch, and you could buy pasta machines and stuff like that.

    In America, everybody "disses" what their parents' generation did before them. Our parents did, and we did, and now our children do! It's the American way!

  15. Oh, and you would have smoked! Everybody smoked back then, and red-lipstick stained cigarette butts were everywhere.

    Oh, to back up, my husband had a mother and a step-mother, and I'm referring to 2 mothers-in-law in my previous posts.

    My husband's first mother, Lorraine, was born in 1915. She embraced anything modern. She had my husband in 1950 when she was 35. She was one of the first women in her neighborhood to wear slacks. She smoked. She never made anything from scratch, but she did like to sew and made those matching outfits for her daughter and herself. She was from a small town on Long Island, but her family was well-to-do, and she went to the famed Catherine Gibbs Secretarial School in New York City. That is probably why she was so progressive.

    She passed away of diabetes in 1957, at the age of 41 or 42, and several years later, my husband's father married a widow with 4 children, who was born in the 1920's, Gladys.

    Gladys came from a much poorer family and was a penny-pincher, (and too cheap to smoke, thank God) however, I don't remember her making anything from scratch, either, except on special occasions, although she knew how from her mother. She worked full-time as a dental assistant.

    Lots of our mothers began to go out to work in the 50's. My husband's uncle's wife, Gertrude, was a registered nurse, and that was considered a really big deal (I still consider it a big deal!). Aunt Gertrude worked full-time once her children were in school.

    My mother left us when I was 7 (ran off). So, both my father and my husband's father were single dads in the 1950's. Then my grandmother, born in 1901 in Ireland, raised me and my brother (now SHE was slow to become modern). So, my childhood was typical and not-typical, both.

    Thanks for letting me share.

  16. Civillia-very intersting indeed. I have older parents, I was born when they were in their early 40's. Because of that they were indeed a young couple in the 1950s. My three sisters were born 50-51-53. My father was a banker and my mother, of course, a homemaker. In their circle she would not have considered working. She made most meals from scratch, from what I understand. There was much entertaining and also they belonged to a club, had bridge nights all that sort of stuff. By the time I came around, my mother had never done anything but volunteer work (which was considered appropriate). As I was born later and was, in all affect much like an only child, she want back to school and worked in teaching for awhile, mostly to amuse herself, but kept up with her volunteer work. Oddly enough, I was never taught to cook, nor do my laundry, nor any cleaning. By the time I was aroudn, there was someone to watch me sometimes when they went out and later on, I was homeschooled but not by them. I loved my mother very much and wish I had come to love my Vintage life BEFORE she contracted Alzheimers, which she now has. She does not know me at all. ALl her skill and stories are lost forever in some secret place in her mind. But, I have my sisters stories of our mother, coiffuered once a week and always dressed nice. Only slacks when in the garden or on our boat. I still have some of her beautiful silk evening heels, though I couldn't wear them past 7th grade. She was petite, dainty and most of the time, I am told, always put together. She worked hard but so you would not notice it. That sort of thing, smiling in the hostess apron, hair not out of place, but happy. I doubt she made her own cleaning supplies, but I know she did cook and rather well. She could bake wonderfully well, too and was proud of it.
    I suppose, as is true in most times, there is no 'exact' way that anyone lived. It was all a varied mix. But, I do think that in the 1950's those who were 'older' or parents/adults defintiely had a different view of what they SHOULD do and that they had a certain RESPONSIBILITY to the world at large and their childrens future, that I think I see lacking in the following generations.

  17. By the way I LOVE the Duchess of Duke street and own it on DVD. Do you know it was based upon a real woman?!

  18. I think in some ways, subconsciously, my project may have began as a way to connect to that mother I never knew but heard of speak of and now can never know. Sometimes, I have imagined her there beside me, while I sit at my vanity fixing my hair, or in the kitchen in one of her old sheer aprons. Who can say, but I am glad, none the less, to have taken the journey. Rather or not we, as a generation, despise our parents generation I cannot say. As my parents our older, more like my peers grandparents, I do NOT despise their generation but in fact see it as the last vestige of the adults. I don't want to seem disrespectful to your generation, but I view those born in the 50s as the spoiled group that got the sahm and the lovely food, the pampering and care and then felt they needed to 'rebel' but to a point that their own children and the subsequent generations have suffered for it. I feel, as I have said many times, that as the older generations die off, those of my parents, the last of the Adults are slipping away. And that is why I want to hold onto that. I feel there is so much good and knowledge in their generations. That they had a chance to get it right, the modern and the new in a great new world. I hope, that we Apronites, we can revive and restore some of the common sense, intelligence, were with all, dignity, personal pride, and the need to think of others outside our own enjoyment, back. Please don't think I mean to offend, however.

  19. You might want to go to that link. It is an article called "The Suburbanization of America -- The Rise of th e Patio Culture" about the Levittowns of the 50's.

    Speaking of the baby-boom generation, it was the middle and upper-middle class kids who had the sahms and the pampering, and who rebelled. They were college kids. Working class kids rarely got the chance to go to college back then; it was not as easy to borrow money. Among the working class (what I was) it was considered a waste for a girl to go to college.

    Revolutions always start among the middle-classes, the educated well-to-do ones. These well-to-do college-educated ones became the hippies of the 60's, not us working-class kids whose moms had to work, too. It was in the colleges that our generation's middle-class was taught to question "why" about everything. But the liberal professors were of the older generation, don't forget.

    There have been all sorts of negative things under the surface in our country, probably stemming from the early 1900's.

    If some of us were spoiled in the 50's, whose fault was that? I'm not arguing, just trying to make a point: the older generation was the generation that spoiled us. Perhaps they shouldn't have done that. But, our parents didn't want us to scrounge like they had to, so I understand why they spoiled us. It was because they COULD, and it must have felt like a relief. No generation was young as ours was young. The media had a part to play, too, and they were of the older generation -- the movie producers, etc.

    My generation would not have been so wild if the stage had not been set by those who went before.

    These well-to-do educated ones rebelled against what they saw as the conformity of the 50's. They went nuts. Our whole society went nuts during Vietnam. My husband says it was post-traumatic stress after 2 world wars and the Korean war and the assassination of President Kennedy. We lost our innocence with that one. The times became turbulent. It was an interesting era to live through, too, though. I don't know if we will ever recover.

    So, it is not the whole generation of baby-boomers who did this. It was the privileged ones that started it. That was a "class" thing, too.

    Very few of the kids I knew personally, actually almost none, went off to California to be hippies. The kids I went to high school (I was a senior in 1969/1970) with went to work after high school, or married, or were drafted and went to Vietnam. I got married at 17 and my husband was in the Army.

    It was the well-to-do college kids who did all that weird stuff. They had the money to do it. The rest of us had to go to work. Our parents did not have money for lawyers to get us out of jail if we burned our draft cards.

    "Class" plays into much of this. Our country had a bigger middle-class during the 50's. The middle-class is dwindling now.

    My husband and I will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in June this year.

    Very, very interesting discussion. Love it! You have a great site. Overall, I remember the 50's as a great time. Would love to go back.

  20. Very intersting points, and of course class always plays into it, even though we Americans pretend we don't have a real class system.
    I know my parents were very upset when my eldest sister left art school college to marry an undesireable. What is funny, is they were right. He turned out to be a rotter and she suffered her life for it. I don't think there is any ONE thing to blame over all, but I do know that now we have the power, through technology, to take the best bits and make a better life. I do feel, here, we Apronites, though we may be few and far between, seem to feel we have a good balance to look towards. To look to the past for the answers NOT who or what was at fault. TO take the good of that to replace any bad we see today. I have to say, since starting my 1955 project, I have never felt so 'right' or 'motivated' or really felt 'a place' in the world than I do now. So, sometimes places, particularly if they can be self-imposed, can be good.
    It is odd that for we to 'rebel' today, we have to do our hair, not grow it out, put on the hat and gloves, not toss them aside, return to the home and lost skills, rather than blow them to the wind. Odd, indeed, but good none the less.

  21. Yes, it is funny that to rebel today we have to dress up and do our hair, etc. But, I think it is the right thing to do. We can try to go back to the best of those days. You sound like you were about my age.

    Oh, yes, I do know that the Dutchess of Duke Street was a real person. I loved the series myself!

    And, yes, we do have a class system, even though we deny it. It is just not as rigid as that of other countries.

    I have seen on the 'net these English women who actually have their whole houses set up like in the 30's, 40's and 50's. It is very interesting. Maybe you know where to go on the 'net to find them. It would be fun to do that, but I don't have the energy. I mean, their homes and clothing are "period" right down to the last detail.

  22. Oh, here is the link:

    Or, just google "Time Warp Wives". Then click on the site. It is awesome. Pictures of the people and everything. Maybe you already know about it.

    That "Patio Culture" article as informative, too.

  23. Thanks for the cute commercials, nice recipes and picture of your hairdo, 50s gal!! Lovely! I just use the same bottle mixed with half water, half vinegar to clean and it works really well. I use baking soda too for sinks.

    Civilla: I read all your 50's memories, thank you! They are very interesting indeed. I currently live on Long Island and have seen Levittown. Unfortunately, the houses there now cost over half a million dollars, so they are not available for the middle class anymore. In fact, the whole island is for either the rich or the poor these days, sad.

    59s gal, how sad to know that your mom has Alzheimer's. It is such a terrible disease. My parents' neighbor had it and it was so hard on his wife. He finally had to be moved to a hospital like home. I hope someone will find a cure for it one day...

  24. not sure civilia if I was clear, my MUCH older sisters were born in the 50s I was born in the 70's. I do wish, now of course, that I had my vintage interest when I did, for my mother would have been a good source of information, but alas. I actually was more interested in the 19th c. before hand.

  25. In a way, I guess I am very lucky. My mom was born in 52. Her mom was more modern in certain respects and did not sew or do a ton of "housewife" type things. However, my mom was one who sewed and cooked and canned and she still does. My dad built both of their homes from the ground up, by himself.

    I am lucky that I learned many things from them both that many people our age have no clue of today. I was actually ridiculed in an online class when I made reference to sewing and canning. Phooey on them, I can make my food last so much longer than these folks. =)

    I am taking much in as far as scheduling and planning ahead goes. Since starting back to school this quarter, the home has been running much smoother keeping to routines and planning meals ahead.


  26. What interesting posts - here is my contribution:
    My Mother was first generation Italian (b.1923) and her Mother was a homemade-everything-Italian-cook; she cooked, cleaned, canned, made her own sausages, etc. My Mother, on-the-other-hand was solid 1950s middle class: marries to a surgeon, had a cleaning woman in once/week, summers at the shore, 2 children. My Mother saw how hard her Mother always worked in the kitchen, and felt so liberated by the modern (1950s) conviences. She bought sliced bread, pudding and jello mix, cake mix, frozen veg., canned veg., canned soup, frozen OJ, instant potatoes, etc. For her and her friends and her siblings it was all about saving time. As a result to her shortcuts in the kitchen she had more time for her committee work and tennis club, and family.

  27. Very interesting, anon. I feel that we today, in our Apron Revolution and our Vintage Renaissance can sort of try to mix it all. I know my mother, in the 50's, probably used many modern easy things in order for her to do,as well, committees, volunteer, entertain etc. I think we can take some of the homemade and use that to our advantage in saving money, healthier and less dependence on premade (rather 1940s or even earlier) feel the need to be a part of community and be modern without being a slave to our technology (rather 1950s). I think we don't really want to only "DO OVER" a decade but in fact make a better improved decade with taking the bits and pieces from the good past. What I think is so wonderful about the 1950s overall is that they seemed to have a balance of modern/technology/ and yet time to look pretty, entertain, help the community and still have a jolly good time along the way. If we can manage that today, which I think we can by using our technology but keeping it in our place, then we can look good, feel good about it, be healthy, enjoy cooking/baking/sewing the return to old skills and still enjoy friends and family and live an organized life all without it seeming overwhelming, but in fact seeming rather normal, easy going, structured and happy. Not sure if any of that made sense?

  28. Yes, that made sense, 50's gal. They did have more of a balance. We can have that, too. They had to plan ahead, too, because there were few convenience stores or fast food restaurants; grocery stores were not open 24/7, nor on Sundays. Families set aside Friday evening or Saturday morning, or whatever, whenever they got paid, to do a week's or a two-week grocery shopping, so homes were always stocked with food.

  29. Oh, and yes, nationality would account for how some of the things were done. We lived around Italians (one of my grandfathers was Italian) and those people liked to make homemade sauces and sausages, etc. Ethnic groups like that liked some of their old ways, which was nice.

  30. True. I do my marketing once a week for the following week. I plan my meals ahead of time, so that I can stick within my budget. I bring ONLY my alloted cash amount to the grocery store, so there can be no, "Well, maybe I will just get these chips" as there is not enough money on hand. Simply switching to cash is, in itself, quite a project that so easily shows us our spending habits. SO many of us spend what we do not have as the modern world has allowed us to feel it is our right, this of course leads to dept etc.

  31. Yes, Housewife 07, Long Island is for either very rich or very poor (as in minority people for household help) these days. We haven't lived there for years...can't afford to! Yes, the modest little Levittown homes are now almost a million dollars!!! Some of my and my husband's family still live there. They have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to make it. My brother says the middle and lower middle class people are being squeezed out -- all that is wanted there are rich people or illegals to serve them. Not good! I can't believe it when I go back there now for a visit. But, in the 50's, it was a lovely place to raise children, and affordable. People migrated out there from New York City to the suburbs and small towns.

  32. Sorry for my multiple comments, 50's gal! I keep thinking of other things. This is a fascinating subject, and I like seeing the younger ladies wanting the 50's ways. Like you said, there was more of a balance.

    Coming from the New York City area, which was beginning to get expensive even back then, and more "progressive" if you want to call it that, about half of my friends' mothers had large families (the baby-boom) and stayed home, the other half had smaller families (two to four children) and worked, usually full time, once the children were in school.

    Also, because of the baby-boom, classrooms were mega-overcrowded, and there was a teacher shortage. Teachers were BEGGED to come back to the work force and teach school, bringing a lot more housewives/mothers back to work.

    I went to Catholic school with the nuns, and there was usually one nun for forty children in her class. My class always had about 45 or 46 children in it, and one nun!!!

    A lot of school buildings were built then. I started out in a 3-room school house, and there were 3 teachers for the 6 grades -- two grades per teacher. The woman principal, an old lady, taught the 1st and 2nd grades (in one room, lots of kids) in addition to being principal. That was what it was like then. The man teacher had the 5th and 6th grades in one room, and the kids were all terrified of him because he was a man.

  33. Civilla, how sad that people on Long Island have to work so hard in order to make it. I can definitely see that people are stressed here. We live in a tiny (probably about 200 SF!) apartment that we pay $1K for...We only have two total rooms (plus a small storage space outside), no washer and dryer, and a dishwasher we have to put under the sink. I miss my piano dearly as we don't have the space for it .

    My husband has been here for 10 years and me almost 4 years. The housing market is really expensive here! We haven't moved because it would be so much more expensive to rent a bigger place, plus we're saving for our future.

  34. Isn't it funny how we pay through the nose to live particular places.
    Where we live on Cape Cod, it, too, has grown expensive over the years. There has been more of a middle class growth during the realestate boom, but many of these were people wanting to 'get in while they could'. This is also very much a summer resort town frequented a few months a year by the wealthy. I love the Cape and our dear little house and to be close to the ocean, but hubby and I have talked of late of how we could live 'high on the hog' were we to sell up and move out to the middle of no where, such as northern Maine. It is true,there is very little there in way of culture etc, but then we are so busy we have not had as much time to be a part of it. When we lived in Boston, and that was expensive, it somehow seemed worth it as so much was right out the door, you really did not need a car and we in fact only used our car to go to and from the Cape. I wonder, at the end of this year, how we shall feel. I suppose had we children, I would want and need to be near a city, for I feel a child should have both the city and the country, but if we choose to truly remain childless, a remote 100 acres in the northern Maine woods might not be such a bad thing after all. Perhaps I could start a little 1950's colony, selling of an acre here or there to anyone who wanted to live "VIntage" and indeed we could make our own little 'Vintage Village'. Pipe dream, certainly, but when you think of what we, who live in expensive areas, pay for the priveledge which has come to escape us why.

  35. I've been enjoying following this conversation! I'll toot 50sgal's horn for her, Civilla. She was interviewed by Time Warp Wives. Here's her interview...'s Gal

    You know, 50sgal, when I did a search for an avatar picture, your picture from this interview came up as well. That would be a nice avatar picture for your website. I think it's a cute picture of you.

  36. Well, thank you very much PL. Yes, I don't like tooting my own horn, but I was even interviewed by an australian radio program, not sure if you ever heard it. They wanted to do a follow up in December, and I had scheduled it with them and then I became ill and LOST MY VOICE. Oh, well, hardly my thing anyway. Perhaps I should use that picture as my avatar for the forum

  37. Oh, I forgot to mention that I really like that hair style on you, 50sgal. I remember my Mom doing her hair in pin curls all the time. There were also times when she would put curlers in. These days, she has her hair permed because she just doesn't have the arm strength to curl her own hair anymore.


    We now live in the Dakotas, in a rural area. Our town has 250 people and is 25 miles from any other little town in any direction.

    You could move to my town, where there are empty houses (we are losing population) and start a 50's town here!!! There are lots of realtors in the Dakotas, and you can see how cheap houses are here. If you come here with an income, you can do very well. We love the small-town life. Mt. Rushmore is in our state. And the Sturgis bike ralley. The population of our state doubles during the ralley.

    We drive 50 miles one way to a town of 22,000 where MacDonald's and the mall and WalMart are. A different way of life. Not much in the way of jobs, though, and the winters are miserable, like in Northern New England.

    A lot of the ladies here, though, because we live in industrial-strength farm country, know how to can vegetables and everyone has a garden and stuff like that. In a lot of ways, it is like going back in time, and we like that.

    It was a very big adjustment learning to live here, though, but we have been here 13 years and plan to stay.

    Congratulations on being interviewed by Time Warp Wives! Now I know a celebrity!

  39. I would hardly call myself a celebrity and would certainly NEVER hope to be one. But, thank you for the nod, none the less. It does sound good, but I might be a dyed in the wool New Englander and were I to 'rural it' feel far more comfortable in Maine. But, one never knows.

  40. 50s gal,
    I didn't read all the comments so I am not sure if anyone else mentioned the following product. I use Super Pine instead of pinesol. I love it. It is made from the oils from pine trees. It truelly has a pine smell and smells so much more pleasnat than pinesol. It is highly concentrated and lasts a long time. I am sorry to sound like a commercial, but it really is lovely stuff. I buy mine from Lehman's non-electric catalog(or website) On the bottle it says the formula is from 1881, so it truelly is a vintage item. My little girls and I enjoyed the cleaning commercials. Also, thank you for the you tube movies about manners. We watched them and several others that looked good for school. My children were impressed and made several resolves themselves. A common thing to hear in our house now is..."Don't do that..that's something Mr. Bungles would do!"
    Amy F.

  41. Oh, I found the interview! I'll have to go back and read it in depth. What fun!

  42. 50sgal,

    I so agree with you on the multitude of packaging! It about drives a person insane. And, every time you turn around, they have changed it! Has anyone else noticed this? I’ll try to find my regular product, what ever that happens to be, and it’s changed. So, I stand there in the isle looking and looking…very frustrating. Thus, the need to become more and more self-sufficient.

    As I’ve said before on your blog, I had a Kirby for many many years. I loved it! It was built well and helped build my arms up as well. Before me, my mom had it for a number of years. So, I used it at home growing up as well. Before mom got it, another lady had owned it. That old thing just kept going and going and going.

    How many brushes does your have on the roller? I noticed the one eBay had only one. And do you like the throw-away bag? With ours, you had to reach in and pull all the dirt out, which isn’t a huge deal to me. It almost seems like the throw-away bags are going against what is green. Your thoughts?

    You wrote:

    I think that seems to be a major difference between the past and now. PLANNING. It seems no one has any idea at all how to plan anything. Their lives, their finances, anything, it is all willy nilly run about last minute for the modern person.

    I agree wholeheartedly! The willy-nilly-run-about-last-minute is me! I am so tired of it. At work, I am quite organized; running my home is another thing. This year, I am conquering and have set three main goals, which I am writing about on my blog.

    By the way, your hair is adorably cute! It looks so neat, tidy, and put together.

  43. Civilla,

    What different experiences our pasts bring indeed. My mom was born in the 40s and married in the early 60s. So, even though she wasn’t a 50’s housewife, she cooked EVERYTHING from scratch and still does. She did all the laundry and kept (along with us kids) a VERY clean house. She’s pretty amazing that way. Of course her mom, my gramma was extremely thrifty having lived through the depression. They made their own sausage, sauerkraut, bread, noodles, and on and on. Nothing was thrown that could be used again in some other way or made over. So, although my mom took on much more of the modern ways, she carried on the cooking and frugality from Gramma.

    I’m not sure who posted this, but in reference to the dissing, I actually don’t dis my parents or grandparents. I dis the generation after me…the kid generation (that’s a whole other topic).


    You said, “As my parents our older, more like my peers grandparents, I do NOT despise their generation but in fact see it as the last vestige of the adults…I feel, as I have said many times, that as the older generations die off, those of my parents, the last of the Adults are slipping away.”

    So poignantly written. I’m pretty sure that you read my mind while you are doing your posts, as you just take the words right out of my mouth. My mom, dad, and I remark that as soon as my great aunt passes (she’s 91) the last of the great REAL generation will be gone. Aunt Pauline was Gramma’s sister. There were 10 of them, 5 girls and 5 boys. They were all raised during the depression, and boy did those women know how to work! Everything was gardened, canned, butchered, baked, stuffed, raised, and made. For entertainment, they didn’t all sit next to each other staring at the TV and not really being together. They made music. The women sang 5-part harmony, and they cut their own records at home. They visited neighbors. One of the boys invented what we would now call a snowmobile. They laughed and they loved. Gramma said that they didn’t fight; they all got along. She has such fond memories of her childhood, which is saying something since they grew up in the depression.

    There was one sad event. One of her brothers was bleeding internally, so Great Gramma took him in to town to the hospital. He needed an operation, but they wouldn’t treat him because she didn’t have money. She told them that she had the farm and that they could call the courthouse to verify the deed. They wouldn’t take that, and Reinholdt died right there on the operating table. Great Gramma came home and had to tell my gramma. Gramma was the closest to this brother out of all five. She related that story many times and with so much sadness.


    Again a difference in families of the same era…My mom did part of her growing up in the 50s and has a very different story to tell. She was anything but spoiled. Grampa and Gramma were very poor. They rented an old Indian house and were dirt farmers. They didn’t have money for Mom to join anything in school, so she didn’t. She had hand-me-down clothes from the church and flour-sack skirts. She was cold her whole life because they would keep the bedroom door shut to save on heat, and I’m sure the house wasn’t very well insulated. She loved her parents, and she turned out very strong, so this isn’t a sob story but rather a relation to the differences that can exist within the same generation. Mom felt very sequestered and didn’t really have friends because she lived out in the country, and they had the one car was all. It would cost gas to go un-needfully into town. One time, one of their houses burned down while Gramma and Grampa were out in the field. Two little babies burned, a little sister and a little brother. Life was never the same for them after that. Part of why Grampa was so strict, too, in not letting mom do things (besides the poor factor) was because he had already lost two children and didn’t want to lose another.

  44. Zebu-what amazing and also sad stories. The story of your great uncle dying due to the no money for health care. How poignant and true today.
    Since I have begun this project and really began to look and see what was important to the 'adults' that once existed in this country, I am sometimes ashamed at how we have become. You would think our Health, Education, and therefore the CHildren's futures would be the most important thing to us, but it is not. Instead we have a false network 'masquerading' as if it is the voice of 'conservatism' and care for the 'common man' yet is run by one of the top 5 corp in the world that is slowly moving to control all aspects of our world down to the seeds we grow and the water we drink! I am so saddened that the we have been deluded, in this country, into thinking that the 'business' rights that have been touted are for growing and new business, when in fact our country is set up to support and grow the few large coporations at the cost and loss of small business. Oh, I wish we Apronites had the power to help all America see how affordable education, public health care for ALL (not just the elderly for we now do have a public healthcare system, for them) and not a system set up to prepare all the lower and middle class youths to set themselves up into a debt lifestyle through college loans for jobs that are not there and to spend spend from the time they are infants, to be, really, just the 'customers' of the corporation. And government OF the people is slowly fading into gov of the corporation. Lobbyist (which should be illegal in a democracy for how can the common man pay for someone to stand in line all day at the white house and throw money at their cause?). I don't know why I have gone off on this tangient, but I just wish we could get back the very root of freedom and less drive for wealth.

  45. 50sgal,

    Amen, amen, and amen! There MUST be more people who think as we do! Does the little man, in the long run, have no voice? As you say, the world is going and down and being controlled more and more. One day, if it continues as it is, we will become a socialistic and then a communistic society. I am not quite sure how to remedy it without having an actual official voice. But then, I feel that there is much corruption in Government, so would it really matter if one right-thinker were appointed therein?

    I am so glad to have this forum, 50sgal. What a great thing you have done. Not only can we get back to a better, simpler, and happier life by revisiting the past, but we can make a voice, if even among ourselves, for all that is wholesome and pure.

  46. Civilla,

    My brother lives in Sturgis. He has gotten snowed in more than once, and they have had to close the highways. I remember going there, as a family, when I was a kid. There were only 500 bikers at that time during the rally. Now, there are 500,000 that flood this little town of 6500.

  47. Zebu, those are amazing (and sad) stories. I'm amazed at the difference there was back then depending on where you lived, social status, etc.

  48. I did a little fact-finding tour and was amazed at how all of the evils that us baby-boomers of the 50's have been given credit for inventing (I ACTUALLY thought we'd invented them! was I dumb), like birth control pills, mini-skirts, planned-parenthood, psychedelic drugs, religious liberalism and modernism, prayer taken out of the schools, feminism, etc., were actually invented or started by those of the Builder Generation (as well as good stuff like Ozzie and Harriet, good work ethics, etc.) I looked it up on Wikipedia.

    There were liberals back in the Builder Generation day, just like there are liberals today, who planted bad seeds in my generation, just as there were hard-working ordinary people who planted good seeds. Both kids of seeds were planted, and I was surprised to learn this! I was also surprised to learn that anti-war protest was nothing new: there was a lot of it during WWII! Very interesting.

    Anyway, I learn a lot from sites like yours, 50's gal! I reminisce, and I also check around to learn more about the subject.

    Again, I'm amazed at the differences between people of the same era who did things so differently because of the part of the country they lived in, urban or rural.

    This has been a real eye-opener. Anyway, keep up the good work. I love all the pictures from the magazines. I really miss how people used to dress up more. We should, like Zebu said, stand up for what is pure from the different generations.

  49. 4o's/50's fanApril 4, 2010 at 4:20 AM

    I would like to congratulate you 50sgal for this wonderful site. I've been looking for something like this for a very long time as I have a great interest in domesticity and the 40's and 50's era. I particularly enjoy the bit on how to plan your day/week etc. I now live in the UK and have done so for the last 22 years', although I was born in Africa in 1972. Please keep up this site and everyone else who is contributing by commenting. I wish you all well.


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