Sunday, August 22, 2010

22 August 1956 “Who are the People in Your Neighborhood”

I thought it would be fun on this fine Sunday morning, here in 1956, to share with you the types of uniforms and people I would meet during my days.

postman The homemaker and the postman.

milkman The milkman.hoodmilkman The milkman around my New England Area. HERE is an interesting article about Hood and New England in milk delivery heyday.

gasstationattendant The gas station attendant.gasattendent Yes, ladies, that is a bow tie and long sleeve shirt. I am sure his wife pressed those trousers for him, as well.

cashierThe supermarket checker. She dons a lovely dress-like uniform over her clothing. The young baggers would also be in a bow tie and a hat especially when they show up at the door with a delivery in a wooden box for me.

 54butchersThe Butchers.  Though they wouldn’t greet customers in these dirty aprons, I love that even while working the men have ties and the ladies skirts. I think, because it is so normal to me now, that I really don’t think it odd for people to wear what is now considered ‘formal’ attire to do basic chores. I clean in my dresses all the time and not just my house dresses. I even garden in a skirt more often than my dungarees. I guess I just don’t understand how it is any more difficult to put on a pair of nice cotton trousers as opposed to jeans for men (hubby feels the same way). In fact when we are doing yard work hubby has ‘work pants’ that would be considered ‘dress up’ today, I am sure. Just heavy duty cotton. I guess when you become accustomed to something it seems normal. But, when I see photos of us or sometimes just realize these moments, it does make my life feel better or more special. Sometimes the simplest things such as what you wear really can affect your life and your over all outlook. It seems we are always chasing the special time and perfect image while we, ourselves, may be rather tatty in old jeans and T’s. I think the ‘special’ times should be our every day.

50sdoctor1 Uniforms were just part of the day in the 1950’s. Your Doctor might have this button up full top their version of scrubs, I believe 50sdoctor2 or tie under a more jacket type uniform. nurses1 Nurses, as well, had uniforms with darling little hats. I have to say, for me, I like the look of this rather than the garish over colored and odd imaged smocks and scrubs I see nurses wear today, but that’s just me.nurse nurses2 Certainly one could say comfort, but how did these people, for their entire career, work in these clothes? Simple, the idea of comfort and ‘relaxing’ was meant to be at home or on holiday. You were ready, professional and looked a certain ‘part’ in your line of work and your slouchy pajamas and comfortable shoes were for home with family. Even then, pajamas and robes and dressing gowns were more a ‘home uniform’ than today. I am sure many people simply sleep in their under things.

Now, I am not saying there is some moralistic or ‘being a better person’ associated with ‘dressing the part’, only it seems, to me at least, to make one’s life feel more important or real. There is a certain personal dignity and feeling of worth and joy in dressing the part. We are such a covetous generation, watching shows about wealthy people and drooling over nice clothes and objects, yet we can, very realistically, have these things as part of our daily life. And not break the bank in so doing. A few nice things for your various occasions and tasks is better than a closet full of 25 pair of jeans that, technically, all look the same.

It isn’t for nothing that so many of us enjoy looking at old photos. Or feel something special when watching vintage TV shows. Because we see in them something we want to possess and take on into our own lives. And, I am telling you, clothes, outfits, uniforms of life, they honestly make a difference. They can make your day feel more special. Many people love the show Mad Men mostly for the clothes and interiors. Well, you know what, we can have those things. As there really is not set ‘fashion’ for the day anymore (except jeans and t-shirts) why not make your wardrobe what you would like it to be. If you love Doris Day movies, then why not live one as best you can. You might find yourself happy over things you would think silly and caring less about things you cannot control.

casual clothes Even this image, which shows two ladies in casual clothes in the late 40s, can show the style of simplicity. The woman on the left is in trousers, a halter top and saddle shoes. But look how ‘put together’ she looks even in this ‘gad about’ outfit. And I am sure she would not wear this to the movies or out to dinner. For that, she would dress up because it feels good and you are worth it.

I just think if we look at our lives more seriously they can actually be more fun. Because, to allow ourselves the ‘right’ to dress up for occasions and work gives our life that missing element we modern people seem to lack en masse: Style. The amount of time we take to watch tv, play on the computer or text could easily be shared with a few minutes to get ready, do our hair, put on that slip and dress. Hey, why not even pop a hat on every now and then?

I didn’t mean for this post to be a ‘lecture on dressing’ far from it. I just wanted to share some fun photos of what I would encounter in my 1956 life from people in my day from grocers to doctors to the gals outside the grocery store. Fun and inspirational, I think.

So, when we see an old family photo such as this family photo (thanks to jewelsfiles) We realize, even something is casual as an at home birthday for just the immediate family still was an occasion to look our best. The mother and daughters are in lovely dresses though it is just a family affair.

I think there is a lot to be said for our appearance. We spend so much more today on clothing and yet look so much less put together.

Well, enjoy the fun images on this Sunday morning here in 1956.

Until tomorrow, then, Happy Homemaking.


  1. "We spend so much more today on clothing and yet look so much less put together." very true!

  2. Another excellent blog! Great ideas, opinions, and pics! Growing up we had a milkman, Fuller Brush man, and an Avon lady who brought everything over for my Mom to see. She bought her vacuum cleaner from a door to door salesman. Growing up, all this just seemed a normal part of household life. Where I live now [we've been here 22 years now] we have the same mail lady since we moved in. She knows everyone and she really is part of the neighborhood. It's so nice! Everything you wrote about clothing - perfect!!

  3. I remember, and long for the old milkman!

    I've noticed here that even on my casual days, I stand out because I still dress in an appropriate manner. It's been interesting to me though, to notice that when people need someone to complete a project, I am always the one they choose, so maybe on some level, they feel more respectful toward me. I've also noticed that when poorly dressed, people tend to have poor posture as well, which as hey age, will only become more pronounced.

  4. fullhouse-I forgot to mention the fuller brush man and the avon lady, so many more, I am sure.
    Su-I wish we could get milk at the door. It is true, that when you look nice always or appropriately dressed, then you do gleam more respect. I get more doors held open, more hello's and quick conversations. Most people usually smile if they notice me, when I am dressed to 'go out'. It is a nice feeling. I think the only sneers or giggles I ever get (which is rare) is from teens or pseudo-hip youths in T's, jeans and basically the 'uniform' of the youth. I mostly laugh to myself because, from my perspective, and to be rather blunt, they look sometimes like they have been sleeping in a dumpster and not brushed their hair in days. It's all perspective I suppose. I do think, for a vintage life, or even just a better richer life, wardrobes do matter.
    I have far less clothes than before 55 and usualy feel more put together. Just as my ice box always looks empty to 'modern people' but I make every meal! Before 55 it seemed that contraption was always filled to the brim and yet we never made anything. Odd, isn't it.

  5. Oh, I loved those nurses' uniforms!!!! (I bought a vintage Barbie nurse's outfit for my old Barbie doll from e-bay -- that's as close as I'll get to owning one, of course, I'm not a nurse). I really dislike the scrubs of today. Of course, I don't have to wear those stiff old-fashioned things.

    Yes, I believe relaxing was something you did at home, not at work.

    I grew up wearing girdles and stockings and dresses in high school, but I don't remember feeling uncomfortable -- I was used to it. Now that we don't do it any more, seems we can't do it. Now it feel uncomfortable, we're no longer used to it. We've let too much slip, and now there seems to be no going back.

    Uniforms like you have shown from the nurses to the other workers, also carried with them a sense of authority. We have lost that, too.

    Shirts and ties, and skirts and blouses for the women, who worked jobs like butchering, showed dignity for the working man and woman. We've lost that, too.

    I think you take more pride in yourself and pride in your behavior when you are dressed nicely -- it all comes down to morale.

  6. Oh, go to today's post on my blog and see the dress I just made from a vintage early 60's pattern and cloth, and the vintage hat that I bought, too. Total cost for all -- $9.

  7. TWUS-Good Job! Don't you love seersucker? And you look so put together for under 10 dollars and you did it yourself! Doesn't it feel good to have so much control over your own wardrobe to even make the outfit? Congratulations, it's the livin end.

  8. Thanks! Yes, it does make you feel empowered -- in control. Now that I have some practice under my belt (I have not done this in 25 years), I'll make some more. The thrift store that I go to is great (Fritz's Furniture Outlet, Bristol, S.D.) really rocks and has loads of vintage stuff at very reasonable prices. The patterns are only $1 -- most of them unused. The hat I bought was unworn -- $5. Glad you like it!

  9. Hi Donna, I really enjoyed this post.Having spent some time in hospital accompanying sick children over the past few years I must say specific uniforms for specific jobs would make the hospital experience much easier. With everyone wearing basically the same thing and few having the basic good manners to introduce themselves properly it was difficult to know who you were dealing with at times. We can get our milk, bread and newspaper delivered but we prefer unhomogenised milk and so we have to go to the shop to buy it.

    As well as the people you have mentioned who delivered to houses in times gone by, we also had the dry cleaning man who picked up and dropped off, the baker delivered bread,and the butcher delivered and you just rang your order through. Also Doctors routinely made house calls. Most of these services are still available (though not the dry cleaning) but you have to search for them, they are not the norm.

  10. Hi Donna! I am blessed with still having a milk man, although I can only get a delivery once a week.

    As for nurses uniforms, I know what you mean. Both my parents were nurses. My Dad went to nursing school on the GI Bill after WWII. He wore, up until he died in 1968, a very nice, stiffly starched white uniform. Mom had pants stretchers that I remember well. The uniform was made out of "duck" material, very heavy. After they were washed, they were dipped in starch solution and placed on these stretchers and hung up until they were dry. On top of looking great, Mom said that the heavy starch helped keep the blood, etc., from setting and staining the uniform. Mom didn't get her nursing degree until the late 80's, but she still had a hat and wore a real uniform, not scrubs.... How fast our standards have slipped!

  11. Doctors making house calls is no longer a common practice because of Medicare. They decided they wouldn't pay for doctors to make house calls. Since the feds did it and Medicare regs govern ALL of health care, house calls went the way of the dinosaur.

    My dad, a doctor, wore a suit and tie to his office every day until he hurt his back.

  12. jenny-I wish we had these options more in the USA, but alas, at least not where I live. I know what you mean about the confussion and then you feel as if people become angry if you ask them if they are the doctor or nurse, but honestly, how do you know? Even an orderly might look the same.
    catherine-that is such a great story. I remember when I frist tried and learned of starch last year. I had always thought, most likely from old bugs bunny cartoons, that starch was just to make things stiff, But, of course found out that it was and is an excellent stain repellent.
    Rachel-that is wonderful that you doctor father continued to where his suit and tie. Your mother must have been proud to send him off to his practice looking so dapper, very Doris Day/James Garner.

  13. I agree about uniforms in healthcare being necessary. My doctor wears a skirt, nice dress pants, and a top with a lab coat over it. Her nurses wear scrubs and her receptionist wears skirts and tops or dresses but no lab coat. Walking into the office you know exactly who everyone is, even your first time.

    I've noticed in the local groceries who employ butchers, where I'd consider buying meat, the butchers are dressed similarly to those in the picture. At the chain stores, where I do not buy meat, they wear the "butcher" coat over jeans, sweatshirts, etc. Maybe it's just coincidence but the meat at the local shops looks and tastes better.

    We used to have milk delivered from a dairy but it was put into a cooler in the middle of the night so I have no idea what the delivery person wore. In this situation I don't really think it matters so much. We have pharmacy delivery and the driver dresses casually but not sloppily. He also wears a name tag.

    I'm not offended by casual clothing but sloppy is something else. There's a difference from tight muffin top inducing jeans, hole-y t-shirts, lingerie intentionally showing, uncombed hair and questionable hygiene to clean well fitting jeans worn with a cute top, nice flats.

    It's crazy the "I could care less" look, if we can call it a "look", is in. I'm so glad shape wear is available again. Gives me some hope that at least some of us care about how we look.


  14. sarah-it's true about shapewear, aren't spanx a sort of girdle? It just goes to show that women want to look nice and do appreciate well made and fit clothes. Looking pretty and feminine does not mean you are not a feminist. I think that is becoming a new lesson, thank goodness. Women have always loved fashion and it is important to us, so we should embrace it and just keep it all in perspective. I think it's a shame for the young girls who could be dressing fun for themselves with frills an such rather than 'for the boys' which seems to be the trend today. Our chain grocery store stop n shop has delivery but for me it's not the same as the small grocers,so I have to go to them. Maybe if we live in the city again one day, that will change.

  15. I remember doctors making house calls. Our doctor would come in the afternoons if we called him, after he had spent all morning at the hospital. Evenings were for office visits. He kept a small pharmacy right in his office.

    I think these days, people need more specialized things like blood tests, or sonograms, and they are better serviced right there at the clinic. In the old days, you went to the hospital for the more complicated things that can be done right in the clinic now.

    I do remember one house call that our doctor made to our house because my brother, then 3 years old, was sick: He needed a shot, but like all children, he was terrified of "getting a needle." His solution? He scooted under the bed and refused to come out. My grandmother, an old woman, and the doctor, an old man, were unable to get down on their hands and knees an drag him out. The doctor had to leave without treating my brother, after spending a considerable amount of time trying to get him to come out from under the bed. My father had to take my brother to the doctor's office later that evening after he came home from work, and was quite annoyed.

    So, I can kind-of see why doctors had to stop making house calls. It wasted a lot of time driving from house to house, and then when they encountered situations like the one with my brother, well, you can see what a time-waster that was! The doctors did get to know their patients quite well, however.

    I did live in England, and they sent pediatric nurses to our homes to check on the mother and baby, and the nurses ran a well-baby clinic monthly in our community center. That was nice.

  16. Love those pics 50's Gal, especially the pick of the cashier lady :) (yeah I am that gal hard at work) :)

    Mom in Canada

  17. Hi, I found your blog about a month ago and this is my first time commenting.

    I was in the hospital a few months ago and noticed that all the nurses wore the same uniform, not the patterns and prints. It was a dark chocolate brown scrub top and teal green scrub pants (not the most flattering). I mentioned this to my nurse, a lovely funny lady named Elly. She said that every unit has their own colors from pediatrics to cardiac care. She said they didn't get to choose their colors and she would much rather be wearing the uniform she wore when she first got out of nursing school in the 60s.

    Her favorite part and the part she misses most of the uniform was the hat. Elly told me each school had their own hat and she chose her nursing school because of the hat they got to wear! She loved her hat and described it as the "flying nun" hat which would accidentally hit others if she turned too quick!

    So this hospital is trying to go to more of a uniform but I still find it very casual. I too wish that people would go back to being proud of their appearance. Ever since starting to read your blog I have paid more attention to others and myself. I wear dresses exclusively in summer but now I am putting on make up and making sure my hair is done. I am a housewife and need to have my uniform on for my career as well! This will be my first time trying to wear dresses coming up in fall and winter. I am reading through your past blogs to hopefully get some advice! Sorry for kind of going off track!

  18. minnie22m-How wonderful and also sad, that your nurse did enjoy her hat and uniform. I know I would LOVE that aspect of it, because it would feel, much like the diploma on the wall, something hard won and proud. Many volunteer nurses during the war were proudly (rightly so) of their uniforms. It gives one a feeling of pride and purpose.
    I am so glad that you are wearing more dresses and taking more time for your appearance. We homemakers should have our uniforms and also, isn't it just fun to dress up! Even when I get an obvious stare or giggle, I just think, "you know what, I love the way I look when I look in the mirror and the way it feels to just live in my dresses and accoutrement and life is really short, so why not live each moment to the fullest!


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