Saturday, September 4, 2010

4 September 1956 “Nostalgia: Ethereal or Tangible?”

happyfamily Since starting my project I have really come to wonder at the nostalgia of things. The look of vintage appliances and canisters on a kitchen counter. The feel of either a vintage fabric or a vintage cut dress and the swish of the petticoat. The sounds: The heavy click and bang of the manual typewriter, the jet-engine roar of my vintage Kirby vacuum, the pure crescendo of the old telephone’s ring. Why is it that these elements of the past, these visual and audible, even tactile, messengers from the past touch us so deeply?
One could say the joy of one’s past, but many of us, myself included, were not there for the original use of these items. I never saw the real 1950’s or 60’s for that matter. Other’s might say we simply are donning our rose-colored glasses to view a time in a prettier nostalgic light. But, I am not sure.
The more I find others out in the world through this blog and the site who have a true affinity for all things vintage, I am beginning to wonder if there is some tangible quality to these items. And, if it is simply dreaming up a time that was or maybe even wasn’t but is imagined, that touches us, then there is a validity to it. That tells me, if one wants happiness, contentment, or simply a simpler truer life, then perhaps vintage and nostalgia are better than Prozac and psychiatry.
Take the telephone which we just recently discussed. Many recalled or expressed current joy in their sound, the weight of them and the permanency in their position in the house. There was also a certain freedom FROM the item, as you used it on your phone bench in the front hall or kitchen and when you were not at home or in the laundry room where  you couldn’t hear it, you were not bothered by it. One can always argue (Well what about emergency) but I have noticed that these past two decades, fear seems to be the driving force behind consumerism. What if? Well, what if? Do we really want to structure our life and home around future possible catastrophe? Is that a good quality of life? And, now that you have had cell phones, as an example, how many times has it served you in an emergency. And, had you not had it, how would you have addressed the emergency otherwise?
I think these past items and the aspect of taking on a past time is merely our psyche trying to get free of the oppression and fear driven cycle of life we current reside in. If I happen to even drive by the mall, with the parking lot jammed, I wonder, how much fear is driving these people? Fear of not looking cool or not wearing the latest or not buying the latest thing. The fear of not ‘having my coffee, I HAVE TO have my double soy latte in the morning or I am impossible” and so on.
We might look back at a time such as the 1950’s and think, “No computers, no cell phones, no cable, no malls, less cars, less options for careers, no cheap products available 24/7 at stores whenever we want them, how did they live?” And when we consider that, does there not seem to be, even a slight twinge,  of envy in that? How much fuller would our days be if we were NOT connected 24/7? If we only were able to talk to people if we happened to be home and near the phone when it rang. Or if we wrote or received a letter. Yet the slower easier pace of life made days more valued and enjoyed.
planetravel This is how we once taveled on planes. Compare that to today. Many people may say we have more fear and terror, but why is that? It wasn’t just born out of thin air, possibly it could be the way we or other countrys who now take on such a consumer driven life, that we actually have a rather poor diplomatic relations with other countries. How far have we hurt our world and our safety simply by being countries who want it now cheap and at any cost?
Also, the increased cheapness of things is always paraded out to us like it is the GOOD thing happening to us. It is so cheap to have cell phones now, food is so cheap, clothes are so cheap. Yet this driving force of wanting to pay next to nothing for something so we can have more things is a very new concept really. Of course a 1950’s homemaker would hunt for and want bargains, but they did not wake every day thinking, “Well I DESERVE that low price” they would not march into the grocery store and say, “I will give you 10 cents a pound for that instead of the 12 you have listed” and yet, in many ways, this is how we currently live.
There is little wonder then that today no small business can survive as it once did. And unfortunately with the disappearing small business, so to goes the middle class. And the happy content middle class is that last vestige of a truly happy and content vintage life. Those people who are willing to work hard but for that hard work have affordable houses to buy and realistic quality to the products they buy. womanwithmixer When they bought a mixer it cost them hundreds in today's dollars, but they knew it would last. I know it would last, because the mixer in my kitchen now was from the 1950’s and it is still going strong. How long do you think that ‘bargain priced’ 25 dollar mixer at Wal-Mart will last?
50sgrocerystore And the small business I do see today are almost all catered to ‘things’. Gift or cutesy or items we honestly don’t need. The grocery, the butcher, the milkman, the farmer, the tailor, the doctor even, all of these items used to be supplied by individuals more so than large corporations. So, now if the ONLY type of small business that can survive is the gift or novelty store, no wonder when the economy falls (largely in part of the greed of the larger corporations mistakes) the first to get hit are these small business. Because, when you need to tighten your belt you will cut out that sort of item and then head to the big box store where you can buy your food really cheaply. So, the system really is set up to be self-protective at the expense of the small business and the middle class. The sad thing, really, is that WE are the reason it continues. WE are the people saying, “Sure, I’ll head on down to Wal-Mart and save and don’t care how cheaply the product it made or where it comes from” and yet wonder after our small downtowns and good friendly neighborly customer service with people we know.
Well, this rant was really meant for me to discern what tangible quality vintage items and nostalgia have. And I think when it comes right down to it we all now, collectively, that we are not living right. We feel the emptiness and shallow existence that we currently are a part of, but haven’t any idea how to free ourselves. So, that piece of the past that represents a world we wish we could have allows us to use as a touchstone. A small connection to a time we either consciously or subconsciously covet.
I want to find ways to make our desire to have this life, to try and get it back, more realistic. That it can be an actual process we could try and go through to achieve. I think if I do try and go ahead with a book that would be it’s main point. To celebrate what I have learned from 1955, but also really to be a primer for those of us that would like to take back the past and start building a new future. It seems so daunting in the face of the vastness of the corporation and so many people blindly following a life driven by fear, but maybe we really can live in a bubble inside that world. I know I do presently. And, much like in the bath, if enough small bubbles bounce and come into contact with one another, a larger bubble is often formed. I don’t know if there is a real way for all of us to get back a Vintage life, but I am surely willing to try. In fact, every day I try and most times succeed.
Well, I hope this post isn’t too much nonsensical rambling. I honestly feel that the memorable past can be a gateway to a better life. Does anyone want to come along with me?
Until tomorrow, Happy Homemaking.


  1. This was not nonsensical rambling; this was great. I think there was a substance to life then that we don't have now (I was born in '53).

    Those old "lead" telephones -- their weight lent a sense of substance to them. I still cannot get used to the lightweight portable phone I have, or even worse, my kids' cell phones. You feel like you are not really on the phone (and they cut out all the time with the move of a head or from entering a concrete building) and like you have to shout. No feeling of substance.

    Most of the people I hear talking on their cell phones are just telling their husband that they're going to pick up milk and bread on their way home from work. Nothing really important. Being SEEN talking on your cell phone (especially if it is a cool one) seems to be the important thing -- my kids are that way.

    The only time we have used it for emergency purposes is for finding each other in a shopping mall when we are out with my sister-in-law who would happen to be visiting. She and my children have cell phones. My husband and I don't, because, believe it or not, we don't get cell phone service in our little village in the middle of nowhere. No sense buying one.

    They do help in keeping up with our college-age kids, since kids today travel farther and wider than they did in the past, and crime is up.

    You are certainly right about the fear factor. That's usually what gets me or my husband buying stuff like this.

  2. Your posts are never nonsensical, and always make me rethink my daily activities.

    I DO have a cell phone, but use it mostly for emergencies. I might get 4 calls a week. I never text. No bells & whistles, just a simple phone.

    Since joining you here, I've become much more aware of looking for quality bargains, rather than just buying low prices.

    You've definitely opened my eyes

  3. TWUS-It must be so hard for parents today with teenage children. If one wanted a vintage life, it could be hard to get the teens on board. Isn't funny, though, how much fear can drive us?
    Spinakersu-How kind of you to say so, though my eyes are always opening just a bit more each day, so I shouldn't want anyone ever to think that I think that I know it all or have all the answers, far from it. But, isn't it lovely to share what we each discover with another. It does make for a better community, digital or real, don't you think? If we could all just see the need for a good bargain without the 'lowest price possible' than a few brave souls could start venturing forward in small business that actually provide the essentials and one might, in this manner, really build up a new community with old ideals.

  4. With CNN and Fox, etc., constantly giving a blow-by-blow account of every evil that is happening in the world simultaneously, you are in constant terror. Years ago, those things happening across the world (unless it was WWII stuff) had a little column in the back of the newspaper. Now we all feel like Chicken Little: the sky is falling!

  5. great post-Ive been thinking along these lines myself(born in 1958)

  6. Great post.
    Sadly we still want to keep up with the Joneses in these trying times. You have to be really comfortable with who you are to not care if you live differently than the rest. Not many people are that brave or that sure of themselves. Consumerism is driven by fear, as was pointed out, and it takes on many forms. The best one being if you do not have the latest whatever, you do not rate or count. Very sad indeed.

  7. op 10 Nostalgia Blogs: are on the Top Ten List

    I worked very hard as the guest editor to come up with the Ten Best Blogs About Nostalgia

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    My next assignment is the Top 10 Vintage Sewing Blogs....I welcome your suggestions. Write to me at

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    Kitsch n Stuff

  8. Fantastic post, totally agree with everything...down with consumerism, up with the simple life!

  9. You should talk to my husband about this topic. He firmly believes that mobile phones ( cell phones) just encourage people to be totally disorganised, leaving everything to the last moment and avoiding committing to any social function in case a better offer comes along.

    I love the idea of the bubbles of vintage goodness gradually coming together to make a bigger and bigger bubble.

    For the life me I can't understand why it is so important to adults to brand themselves by the things they buy so they can demonstrate to the rest of society which group they belong to.
    I can understand this drive in adolescence, I mean that is a time of working out who you are, how and where you fit in and so on but that struggle should lead to an adulthood where we feel free to be ourselves.
    I know it takes time to get to this level of maturity but some people seem to never get there. It seems to be a universal human need to assess people and place them in the appropriate box, to judge people I guess, by what we see and this then makes us feel more secure.
    People who work outside of the system, who don't seem to care whether they are conspicuously consuming the correct things to show they are successful, seem to make others, who are following the 'rules' feel uncomfortable.

    I guess we have to stop judging people so much, teach our children not to judge ( harder than you think) then we wouldn't feel so judged ourselves and perhaps our need to consume at all costs so that others will think we are doing well will just disappear. And we will all discover all kinds of other things to do with our time and our money - imagine that!

  10. What a great post; I love your blog! I totally understand what you are saying. The past couple of years, I have felt myself leaning more towards the 40's and 50's. I was born in 1945, so maybe that's why, but when I think of those growing up years, I think of sunshine which to me seems to represent happiness and a slower pace of life.
    I got carried away with a lot of the consumerism of the past few years myself, but now am trying to turn things around. I am in the process of getting rid of all the excess, and focusing on the things that really matter.
    Thanks for your blog. It is like a ray of sunshine.

  11. Terrific post! Your rants are my favorite - they always encourage me that I'm on the right track embracing a more vintage way of life despite what the rest of the world is saying. Thank you and keep it up!

  12. Dear 50s gal,
    I've followed your blog for some time now. And it's very educational, very well done and just fun to read. Thank you. But you never talk about religion in 1950s. I believe it was a big part in American culture back then, more than it is now. That might attribute to very low morals now. People are not neither afraid, nor ashamed of anything anymore.
    And just to mention going to church on Sunday as a whole family, and wearing a hat, gloves and your better Sunday outfit... But maybe you've talked about that in your older posts, and I missed that. Mary Ann. Cleveland.

  13. I agree with Jenny's husband: having the mobile phones, etc., just encourage us to put things off and be disorganized, leaving things to the last moment and avoiding social commitment. So true.

    Another thing about having cell phones, talking about using them for emergencies, is that they encourage us to take more chances.

    Normally, when there is a blizzard and the interstate is closed, people stay home -- or they used to. Nowadays, people think, "Well, I can venture out anyway, in spite of the travel advisories, because, after all, I have my cell phone (and my 4-wheel drive vehicle) in case anything happens!"

    So, they drive around the gate on the interstate and ignore the travel warnings, and then the National Guard has to go out and rescue them! At least, that's what happens around here.

    We were advised against getting a 4-wheel drive vehicle when we moved here to snow country, "You'll just get stuck farther out...because you end up taking more chances!"

    We've done fine with our regular car.

  14. anon-I have tried to steer clear of religion, because I do not want to feel that this blog is ONLY for those who are Christian. I think that many of the things that were good about the past most likely were strongly lead by a more religious based society. But, I also feel today that the 'new-vintage' society I would like to see would be one in which we may act in a way that Christianity likes us to, be kind, not judgmental, consider community, be moral in those aspects, care of dress etc. Yet, I would not one who is not a Christian or say a different religion to not feel that this path of being a 'better person' is in any way elitist. I feel the more we compartmentalize ourselves it only feeds into the modern aspect of 'marketing' and were I to go into religion in that time, I would need to do so on a very broad basis. For then, even as now, many religions amongst themselves would certainly feel they had the 'right' reasons. An New England Episcopalian and a Southern Baptist would be so far apart in their beliefs and general attitudes to make it seem as if they were from different planets, yet the overall aspect of self worth, consideration, kindness, thinking of others and community before oneself and really relishing the home and family is certainly in both of their general beliefs. So, I am not sure if this is making any sense, but I just feel sometimes that I must, for my part, keep specific religious aspects out of my posts. Certainly, as I said, the Christian drive in morals was very evident in the 1950's. I only wish that today, rather Christian or not (and I sometimes wonder if in the Christian community of today) if we could revive those traits without our worrying about what side of religion we might be. I hope this makes sense.

  15. And in a way I don't like that idea of anything, including one's religion, to feel as if it is being marketed and worn on a t-shirt, if that makes any sense? It is a personal thing and I feel a good individual in that religion doesn't need to 'wear it on their shirt' in a sense, for if they follow a basis of being good and kind and considering others and the world at large, than their own beliefs may stay with them. It is like the loud music in the car situation, I would want to know someone is doing something for themselves and not so 'others can see' does that make any sense? I also hope none of this sounds offensive, which is another reason I try to steer clear of the subject because I am proud of the fact that our comments here are often kind and considerate and that we act like ladies and gentleman and any religious discussion could certainly turn sour. That is not what I would like nor do I think it would benefit our 'cause' nor the general feeling of the blog.

  16. Dear Donna,

    Once again you have hit the nail on the head and brought the truth to light. I can not tell you when the last time I entered a wall mart. There are too many mom and pop stores here to take advantage of. Walmart, and lets be fair, kmart, big lots or any large store falls in this area. My farming neighbors need my support and although I may pay more for some items I save twice as much not picking up those items I really do not need. I remember when going to Walmart was a hundred dollar trip every time and looking in the basket I had nothing. I felt very depressed when I left and shopping should leave you with the feeling of accomplishment of a task well done.

    Although I remember most of what you talk about and lived with it, I still long for my past life. My girl friend said the same thing recently how she longed for the safety and simplicity of her life as a young person. She does not carry her cell phone that is never turned on, but keeps it in her car in the event she breaks down. She has no email and only recently bought a lap top that her grandchildren use as she has not learned to use it. She runs a company and has no computer in her office or for her workers. She does very well and no one is in a panic. Fear does run our lives. I felt that fear recently when I realised my cell was at home and I was on the road. I hated the feeling. how many more things are effected by my fears that I do not realise? you have given much food for thought. After all PBS reconstructed time periods for several families for several months with out these modern gifts and they did not die.

    By the way girls, ebay has several of these lovely old phones in various colors cheaply right now, try one!

  17. I replied to the 6th of september before this one for some reason but what i said in that reply applies to this as well.Definitely not nonsensical ramblings.Inspiring words from a wise woman i say:)
    Again, thankyou!

  18. Christianity itself, by and large, has also sold its soul. A lot of the problems of today's society can be directly tied to religion (and in the 1950's that meant Christianity) being removed from public life. The United States *is* a Christian nation, no matter what revisionist historians would have us believe. The Pilgrims came here so they could practice their faith without a king telling them what they could and could not believe and what they could and could not read in church.

    The beginning of the end started when the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to pray in government schools. That's when things started going to hell in a hand-basket. That's when the emphasis on community and helping others began to disappear. Before that ruling, reading the Bible every day in class was normal. Now, if you take a Bible into a public school or pray out loud over your lunch in the cafeteria you can get expelled. But if you're Muslim, in many schools you're allowed to leave class without permission and go to a special room set up just for you so you can pray five times a day. But a Christian can't even say thanks over his lunch! There is something very wrong with that picture.

    Many "Christians" today have no idea what being a Christian really means. They have no concept of how we're supposed to live, no concept of absolute truth and right and wrong. The lack of absolute truth is another thing that's largely responsible for where we find ourselves today. The world is a much less scary place when you have absolute truth to hold onto and the knowledge that in the end, good will triumph over evil.

    One cannot have a cohesive society without morals. Our society no longer has morals and that's why we're falling apart. When one has morals and isn't afraid to stick to them, falling into the trap of consumerism is much harder to do. Consumerism teaches us to find out joy in stuff. But job cannot be found in stuff. It can only be found in living one's life the way we were meant to live it. With morals! There is more to life than just living on this earth.

  19. I think what is also sad is the moral base of the past, though the country is Christian, was there for all religions. Even Jewish or Atheists still had the 'societal morality' to which they subscribe. I wish that would return, because there are so many forms of Christianity today, I am sure there is even unrest and disagreement among themselves about attitude.
    I and my husband are descended from those pilgrims. Our familial religious base is definitely more 'old school' to use that term and what our Christianity base, which was the ruling base for much of the country's history, was definitely North Eastern Centric, that is to say a particular vernacular of Christianity and its practices would seem different to say a Southern Baptist or a Pentecostal. Yet, among those various 'forms' of Christianity, there would still be a 'social morality'. If that makes any sense and honestly we should ,as a country, be accepting of all religions and to do so means to have 'social morality' that is respect and kindness towards others DESPITE their own personal religious choices. Today everything is a contest or an argument. Everyone is ready to draw the line in the sand and come out fighting. Just what people's bumper stickers say today would be unheard of just on the 'social morality' basis of the 'old days'. I wonder, though, now that Pandora is out of her box, if she can ever be coaxed back in.


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