Sunday, October 31, 2010

31 October 1956 “Question & Answer Sunday”

I get this question often and in many different forms, so I thought today we could address it: (don’t mind my paraphrasing of the question)
budgetgirl “How should I plan my meals, marketing, and budget?”
Let’s start with the budget for our meal planning.americashousekeepingbook In America’s Housekeeping Book we are told that 25-30% of our income is what should be allotted for food. It also warns against a ‘cookie-cutter’ form of lists and points out, rather smartly, that budget’s and meal planning must certainly be catered to the specific needs of the family.
Now, if we did take that percentage as a starting point and you shop weekly, as I do, then simply break down your household income into the weekly amount. So, if you earn X amount of dollars in one week, 25% of that should go to your food. If you find you spend less than that, great. I find I spend around 12-15% on my food, but I do have two other aspects to my shopping budget. Now if you shop bi-weekly, than you would figure your income that way and go forward with that calculation.
Next, with that dollar amount in mind. We could use this budget aid to now break that down.  budgetingSo, if you were spending $50 dollars on your weekly food budget, say, then you would spend $10 dollars each on the five listed items. This is a good starter list, as it allows you to break your food shopping into sections. I find, however, that I usually spend a higher percentage than 1/5 of my budget on our protein:meat/fish/beans. But, you could adjust yours accordingly.
Now, many people plan their meal for the week down to the day such as MON:Roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans and so on. For myself, I do not plant this specifically, because budget is first for me, then nutrition, then the selection. So, when I approach the market on a Friday morning, I have my list, but it is often a general list. It will include the reminder that I am shopping for 7 days (including the dinner for that Monday) On that list will first be any things that need resupplying such as flour/sugar/baking supplies. I call this my Pantry List.
There will be a separate part of my shopping list for household items such as light bulbs, toothpaste, Toilet Paper. This is called the Household List.  Incidentally, I have a separate monthly budget for non-edible shopping such as those things. I consider, if you I cannot eat it, it goes into that monthly category. The food (Including the baking supplies as I make many things from these) are included in my food budget though they are listed on the two lists Food and Pantry, if that makes sense. So, basically my shopping list is divided into those three sections on one piece of paper.
Now, for the nutrition aspect of meal planning.basic7The Basic Seven in my earlier Betty Crocker book is much more nutrion based, I feel, than the 4 food groups in my later 50’s version of Better Homes and Gardens
 basic7two You will notice here that even on the ‘adequate’ meals Raw Vegetables are still included. I think there is a misconception today that 1950’s food was all Jell-O molds and fried and mayonnaise. I seem to find that all of my cookbooks, household manuals, and vintage magazines are filled with raw vegetables and including fruit with breakfast.
I know when I started my project I thought the same thing. Packaged food, mayonnaise covered items, and everything suspended in gelatin. The irony being, of course, that the main diets of the average person in 1950’s were much healthier than today’s average diet. We may know more about nutrition today, but most families are not following those guidelines, as prepared food now makes up the majority of what families eat, including what children get at public schools. Combine that with the higher demand on daily exercise in the 1950’s and you have, overall, a healthier way to eat. And, to me, I think it is a more approachable menu plan than what might be suggested for busy family today, who them just decide to fall back on the instant food. Therefore, if one wants to move away from pre-packaged, but the daunting tasks of modern food trends seem, well daunting, a 1950’s food cycle might be a good skeleton to build the meat of your family food and grocery budget upon.
I do not plan each day out with specific meals, as I said, as I like to buy sale items. So, if I know I need protein for 7 lunches, dinners, and breakfasts, I buy what looks good and is on sale that week. I also enjoy cooking, so not knowing my weeks meals before the store is not bad for me. Then, however, it is easy enough to plan that week’s meal after one gets home with the groceries. I can decide what veg with what meat prepared what way. I can try out new recipes, or use good ole’ standbys based on what I was able to fit into my budget.
If one does not care to cook and cares more about pre-planning, than the budget would come second and you could try to cut back on this or that once you get to the store to fill your pre-planned menu for the week.
Another helpful tool we modern shoppers have that our 1950’s counterpoints did not have, is the calculator. It was simply not there and yet today even our phones are equipped with these simple little devices. Tally your food as you put it in your cart. Keep a running tab, so you know you are staying in budget. You can also simply ‘round up’ in this matter. Chops 5.49, call it 6 as you put it in the cart, then you are sure to cover tax. It won’t be as exact but you will be more on budget than you think. I used to just fill it up and see what happened at the checkout. As if it was some game. That seems to be a sign of a very bad shopper and money manager. But, that was how I shopped. As if the total was a Christmas gift, “Oh, $150 this time, what d’ya know! Surprise!”
So, I hope these little tips are helpful. We can at least now share our own tips and ideas or more questions about shopping, meal planning and budgeting the food. Let’s hear it gals and gentleman, how do you shop and plan for those meals?
And if you would like to ask me a question to be answered on Sunday, simply Email me at and if you want your blog/site mentioned with a link, let me know that in the post and include it, of course, and I shall do so. Otherwise, I merely answer a question or combine similar questions into one post. Thanks.
Happy Homemaking

Friday, October 29, 2010

29 October 1956 “Halloween Treats, Recipes and Memories”

halloweenkids Halloween is in the air.
Here’s a great Louis Armstrong Halloween song.
I thought I would share some recipes from the Betty Crocker Cookbook for boys and girls. There is still time, I believe, to use them before this Halloween.
bettycrockercookbookThis is the original 1957 version and you can buy a nice reprint in the shop  HERE. They start at around $11.   bettycrockercookbookkids This is the version I shared with you. It is also available in the store HERE and starts at $8, these are not reprints but originals, I believe. I don’t think I earn any pennies from this last one, but it is a good book, so I put it in there for you.
These books are great as they are meant to be used BY children to cook. It is amazing when you think of the level of cooking, including cakes, that they have for children. Such a wonderful gift to give to a child, the ability to cook and bake.
Here is the Halloween Party menu with recipes from that book.halloweenparty halloweenparty2 Don’t you love the jack-o-lantern cake? It is so clever and meant to be doable by a child. Though I think mother’s help might be needed for the very young. The candy corn teeth are wonderful.halloweenparty3 I may have to try this myself!
kidscookbook1  kidscookbook2
50scostume I think this is such a great costume. It is almost surreal. I like that children used to go as random things, scary, fun so on. Though some may have coveted the new ‘store bought’ costumes, as did this girl here (Read her Blurb on the site where I found this photo), her actual home-made costume, which includes a hulu hooped bottom, is almost Mardi Gras quality.
storeboughtcostume Here is an example of the coveted 50’s store-bought costume. And these: storeboughtcostume2
I have to say, many of  children that trick or treat in our downtown, here in Sandwich, actually have some really wonderful home-made costumes. Though, many cape children are subjected to the mall for Halloween, although they probably love it. I noticed more ‘store-bought’ costumes on those children, not sure why.
I also recall the decorations I had as a child were actually those left over from my parents 50’s start with children. As my older siblings were actually born in the early 1950’s, I grew up with many vintage items. It seemed my Halloween decorations were always a bit different than my friends.
I recall getting down the decorations box from the attic in early October labeled, “Halloween”. There was always a subsequent smell associated with these, a sort of musty-moth ball mingled with a scent, undescribable, that sent elation through me. Every year when I was young, I would go through all the old costumes (and I mean all the costumes that my brothers and sisters had had for many years) try them on, parading around. I would play this game every year, sorting through trying to see what I might want to be, only to decide something new that my mother would have to make. It was a sort of unspoken rule that we had with our Halloween.
And, of course, this was followed by decorating. All the old paper and crepe paper decorations would be carefully lifted out. I remember black cats with metal joints, so they moved.halloweencat  A  full sized witch that did they same, pumpkins and there was  a happy little child dressed as a hobo. And there were the various vintage noise makers (of which I still have a few and see they sell for a mint on ebay) that were fun to clang and rattle and blow upon.halloween-noisemaker
Part of the fun I recall from my own real Halloweens in the late 70’s was getting to run about in the dark. Of course you would have a parent with you, but you would be in a group of fellow costumed compatriots and you always outnumbered the adults. There you were, getting to run about the streets at night arrayed in your finery. Your vision would be partially skewered due to whatever contraption you were wearing that year. There always seemed to be the sound of your own breath pumping with the rhythm of your heartbeat. Running on the pavement, the crunch of leaves and the squeals of your companions was often muffled by papier mache’ or ill-placed sheets. We would rate the decorations on various houses, complain if we received pennies, apples or ‘pal’ gum (it wouldn’t last all day). And we would revel in homemade treats: Popcorn balls, candied apples, rice crispy treats died green or orange laden with candy corn or red hots, an occasional cupcake with a plastic pic you could secret away later. The night was crisp and cool and we were out after dark.   Allowed to wear whatever we wanted and let loose upon the world of grownups where they were required to give us treats or face the consequences. I don’t recall ever administering any tricks, other than the occasional grab and run you might try when some childless candy giver would offer up a bowl and a “Take what you like”. Of course, if mother saw you, you had to give some back, but parents were often busy gabbing away on Halloween, so it was a kid free for all.
I also remember the count, stash, and trade that followed a good haul. You would  be slumped on the floor, your booty dumped before you from your pillow case, plastic jack-o-lantern, or bag, ready to deal. Like a Moroccan trader on Market day, you were ready to deal : “Okay, I have two bit-o-honey’s for a mini snickers” “That popcorn ball is worth more than that”.
And, of course, there were your favorites that weren’t even on the trading table. And the requisite ‘bad candy’ that no one even wanted for free, the little orange and black taffy’s that always seemed to come out by the millions at Halloween.halloweencandy I don’t know if they make these any longer, but they seemed to be produced in the millions when I was a kid. No one knew where they came from, they just appeared at the end of October and were strewn everywhere. There always seemed to be some in the kitchen ‘candy drawer’ and you’d find them hidden in pockets of jackets or bottoms of school cubbies. They were the kind of candy a parent might try to placate you with and you would rather just give up on the candy hunt and go out and play.
Well, have a happy Halloween and Happy Homemaking.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

28 October 1956 “Boots Mystery Solved, October Dress Challenge, and a ‘New’ Christmas Album”

ladieswinterboots I thought I would start with this mystery finally solved. It turns out these style boots WERE hollow-heeled and worn over your shoes. Rachel was kind enough to find this post on Living Vintage HERE where in she bought two pair of these style boots only to find vintage shoes INSIDE! What a wonderful find.
I bought some lovely grey wool suiting the other day for my October Challenge dress. I am going to use this pattern, which I believe I shared with you before, as well as my ‘new’ hat pattern.octdresspatternsIf the dress turns out well, I may use the top of the pattern (which has buttons) as a jacket pattern. Then I will make a sheath out of this fabric as well to go with the jacket.  This will really give me good fall/winter mix to my wardrobe.
Though the buttons I purchased are not ‘vintage’ they  do look it.buttons7They look quite lovely with the dark grey suiting. I will, of course, share the final result with you. I am going to start on it today.
I know it is a bit early to talk of Christmas (I do love it though, it is one of my favorite holidays) but I just received this album.perrycomo56 It actually came out in 1956 so that is extra exciting for me. Here is one of the songs from the album (though sung in 1958 in the video).
Happy Homemaking.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

27 October 1956 “Grey Skies are Gonna Clear Up”

First off, thank you for the lovely ‘cheer up’ comments. It was rather silly of me to post an ‘I’m blue’ post, but I am glad I did. Because it was an almost experiment within the day for me. You see, I was feeling rather blah and blue and not really for any one particular thing. However, the result by the end of the day certainly has shown me that I have made a positive change in my life.
Let me explain: Yesterday I felt rather down, and this made me focus on things, such as my ideas on how to move out of this year into the next, in an odd light. I sat down, and moped a bit. The old me, the pre-1955 me, would have moments like this fairly often and my answer was usually, “I need some shop thereapy, I deserve it”. This would be followed by a mad rush to get ready hop in the car or go out the door (when living in the city) and the adrenalin would kick in. There would be some wasteful shopping for things I didn’t need with money I really didn’t have, followed by the requisite stop at a coffee house for a 5 dollar coffee, a 3 dollar muffin and a moment of ‘rest’. Yet, once home, this was always followed by a new type of sadness and realization that I had just spent more money and wasted more time.
Another pre-1955 option for me was to pop on the Tele or pop in a video. This movie or show will make me feel better. And, off I would go into a dream world for two hours, only then finding myself not having done anything for the day and then feeling bad about that.
Now, one would think living in a ‘dream world’ of make-believe 1950’s could be bad on the psyche,  but quite honestly, all it has done has taught me to be a better person. I feel better in that I deal with my emotions on an entirely different level and often, at the end of my day, look back and feel proud of my accomplishments.
So, yesterday I felt a little blue and made my post. But, I still had to make an apple pie to take for dinner at my MIL. Normally I would have done that the day before or early that morning, but feeling blue. I therefore had to throw myself into it. I went into the kitchen and prepared to make my traditional crust. I sometimes use the easy make in the pan crust I have shared with you before, but for a good old fashioned pie, I make my traditional lard crust. It was an odd sensation. I really take most of my vintage life in stride now, but having been rather blue and than needing to push myself through it, I felt a change. I was happy and actually beaming when I was done. The act of getting my lard and butter from the freezer (keeping it cold is one of the tricks to a flaky crust), measuring, mixing, rolling out, paring apples and so on. I was lost in what I was doing, enjoying it and really forgetting about myself for a moment.
That little lesson learned was so priceless to me at that moment. That shinning pie (I forgot my camera at my MIL but I used her camera and will get a picture for you later)full of apples and ready for the oven, it made me feel good. Here I had made something to be enjoyed by others with my own hands. There  was an artistry to it and a great feeling of accomplishment. And it gave back to me again when we ate it after our dinner of Beef Borgenionne by MIL prepared for us. It was flaky and wonderful and I felt proud of that pie.
keepcalmposter It really just drove home what I have been continually discovering here on my journey. That to not overly focus on ones ‘emotions of the moment’ but to get on with it really makes a difference. I am kept in mind of the UK WWII poster Keep calm and carry on, and really what sound advice. I don’t mean to ignore your emotional state, but when one begins to wallow in them, as I once did, really there is no solution to it, only a revisit of the sadness.
We modern people are given so many opportunities to really wallow in our sadness or blues. It is easy to feel bad for a moment, a normal human reaction and then to immediately go to that place where we say, “Oh, I will just play on the computer, pop on the TV, pop in that video, grab that magazine until I feel better” and sometimes it might help. But, for me at least, Action seems to be the best cure for melancholy. To go about and do things, things which we all know we must do, honestly does help to ‘clear those blues away’.
When I think of my state of mind pre 1955, I am sometimes amazed at how often I was depressed. And, I don't want it to sound phony or seem disingenuous when I say, since starting my project I am less depressed. Because it honestly is true. Sure, I feel blue or have blah days, but usually my dealing with them is to continue on through it and then I find the result of a simple task or chore is actually enjoyed MORE because it has both alleviated the blues AND made me feel all the more proud of having done it. As the song says, “We gotta accentuate the positive”
This is the lesson that I am now trying to apply to my over all lifestyle as I move out of 1956. I am certainly not going to give up the majority of my 1950’s life. I don’t think I nor my husband would want to. It has become such a part of who we really are now, that it would be like unplugging ourselves somehow. I find it interesting that the changes from the modern to the past, though sometimes trying or harder than expected, always seemed to somehow result in a happier symmetry for the pair of us.
Now, as the new year approaches part of my project will surely be, how will I bring in more ‘modern things’ into my life and then how they evolve into our vintage life. I think the aspect of still following along the year with the history of 1957 will be important, though, as I have begun to feel I want to really learn each year through a year. However, with that, I have been learning, as this year is ending, to do more modern things with a website and so on. I have even found that with a thing like Facebook, my approach to it now is much better than it would have been pre 1955. The old me would have spent hours on there updating things, searching about for others and so on. How I approach it now is simply log on, cut and paste my latest post, look who has joined up, maybe give a thumbs up to someone and I am off. Yet, I feel these things, these digital moments are very much a part of the modern world. But, I have learned to not be owned by them.
In fact, my computer use couldn’t be more like office work. I am never spending hours playing games on it, nor endlessly searching for clothes or things to buy, nor even chatting or ‘i-m-ing’ or what have you. In a way, my project has allowed me to face modern technology with a more detached and, I feel, healthier approach. For me at least, it is healthier.
This is the same with TV. I don’t think we will be re-installing modern tv into our lives. Hubby and I are too accustomed to the quiet of the house where one is more inclined to read books, listen to a radio program, write/type, play the piano or simply visit. When friends come to our house, we sit and play cards, laugh and visit. It can be very vintage in that. When we go to others house, if they have the TV on, then I simply adapt to it.
However, with the computer, one could easily use it as a TV. As I said, I recently watched part of a show a fellow Apronite was kind enough to share with us. It is a UK show about a food critic and a comic who spend a week in a time period through food. I thought I would enjoy it more, but found that I really could not. It wasn’t that the actors were necessarily bad, but the way modern TV is edited, so short choppy , I find it hard to follow. I realized this has changed about me in the past two years. Modern TV and media seems to be almost what one would use for a toddler with little attention: Bright colors, loud noise, funny sounds. For someone who, other than the computer and honestly it is a glorified typewriter and set of encyclopedias to me, it is almost annoying. So, TV, I am afraid, may need to stay in the modern out of reach world for me. I am curious about Mad Men, a show I watched before 1955, but now I understand they are even further into the 1960’s so not sure I want to watch it. It might make me sad and then I will have to bake TWO apple pies.
So, again, thank you all. I am glad to have said I was sad, only so I can share how I dealt with it now compared to the ‘old me’. My continual use of this blog and the site will always be vintage inspired. And in fact my forays into the modern world are almost primarily to make it better and more accessible to more people. Because, I honestly feel as if I have discovered the elixir vital, if you will, that drink of life that is secreted away from all. To really look back and then look forward from that vantage point honestly does help you to get a better perspective on your present.
As for next year, it might be fun to do a month of 1940’s say, with clothes and food and so on. As to the 1930’s as well, to better flesh out the life I would have lead in the 1950’s having come from those places. But, the technology and the ability to use it as a tool and not be used by it will also continue to become a process a lesson and part of my project. What better way to share one’s happiness with others than by using the technology available to one at the time.
Thank you for coming along with my on this odd journey. And I hope you continue to do so, as I feel we have so much to learn and share together. 50swomanatcomputer I think this will be as ‘modern’ as I get.
Happy Homemaking.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

26 October 1956 “Contemplative”

sadwoman I am feeling rather blue today. Not sure why exactly. Usually, when I do, I rather throw myself into my work and soon enough I am full of pluck and vinegar. Today, however, no such luck.

Perhaps it is the contemplation of the end of a second year of the 1950’s. I am left wondering, should I return full time to modern life. And, then of course, not sure what that would entail. I don’t think I can change my style of dress, but with my site I have been thinking more about things such as Facebook and so on. Hardly something I am wonderfully thrilled about, but none the less, there it is.

I think, perhaps, I will simply sulk today and have a bit of  a good brood. Then, I have to make an apple pie as we are off to MIL for dinner and I am to bring a dessert. I have some lard in the freezer ‘firming up’. And hopefully my hands dirty and the feel of the cold marble followed by the warm smell of baking apples and warm cinnamon will have me right as rain in no time.

I do apologize for such a sad little post, but then again, one does feel sad sometimes.

Happy Homemaking.

Monday, October 25, 2010

25 October 1956 “Ladies Winter Boots, Early American Wallpaper, and Vintage Kitchen Clock”

ladieswinterboots As winter approaches again, I am always left wondering what did ladies in the 1950’s wear as boots? You often don’t find images of ladies boots. Last year I was able to find images of sort of rubber golashes one would wear over your shoes and then also high heeled boots.
This image, which I was happy to come across in an add for heating, shows a closer view. I think we can assume these boots are, as I suspected, meant to be worn over your indoor shoes. They look solid and warm, but allow you to wear them over heels and then when you get where you are going (office, home, visiting) you slip them off and have lovely dry shoes underneath. Obviously out marketing and such, or going to the movies, you would leave them on. Yet, if you were popping over to a friends, you could pop them off to dry by the door while your dry clean shoes would not mar your friends carpets.
Very smart and it would allow for the need for less boots, one nice pair for heels, and also only worn outside, not as a ‘fashion statement’ all day indoors. I would love to find such a pair, but my feed are often too large for actual vintage shoes. If anyone knows of such a place to get these today, please let me know.
EAwallpaper1 I have talked of my growing love for the “Early American” or ‘Colonial’ look becoming popular in post war era decorating. This ad, for wallpaper has a great example. If you want to see the whole ad go to the Vintage Advertising Page of the site and click on the thumbnail. You can see the use of reds and greens and blues but also little vignettes of ‘colonial’ times, very stylized and made quaint. I would love such a paper in my kitchen when I finally redo it. And it’s stain retardant properties make it ideal for a kitchen setting.
I have also started a Flickr group called Early American Decorative Collective and it is there that I will collect up all my EA images and hope others will contribute as well. It can be found HERE.
kitchenclockad I also found this ad from a 1953 Better Homes which now helps me date my Kitchen clock. Here it is in my kitchen.kitchenclockYou can see, at least I think so, that it’s modern styling works fine with more Early American items such as my tole lamp and matchstick holder. The Green Fire King  juicer/measure cup was a gift from my MIL. The Tomato slicer also works. I always keep its vintage paper on when I am not using it to protect the metal. I love moments like that, when you can finally connect the exact time and place.
Happy Homemaking.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

24 October 1956 “Question and Answer Day: A Revisit”

I am sorry this post is so late today, but I had a friend who wanted me to go spend the day with her. We went to town and lunch. We stopped at a tag sale and I found a wonderful old ledger like I have been wanting for sometime. It is VERY old (more like 1850 than 1950) but mostly blank and I am excited to use it. I also purchased some lovely little Christmas gifts.
Now, I have reserved Sundays as a day to post my answer to various questions my lovely readers have asked me. I don’t always have time to get back with all who write and I feel bad. Or sometimes a question will be good and I want to use it as a post, but then don’t get to it. So, that will be the new format.
If any of you would like to ask a question for me to address on Sundays, simply go to the contact page of the webiste or just simply email me at If you don’t give me your blog/site address and tell me to use that and your name, I will post your question as anonymous. If you wish it included, tell me and I shall do so.
So, today, however, I am  merely going to repost a post of mine from last 30 october 1955. It was part of a series of answers I gave to a follower who had ‘interviewed’ me for a Thesis paper/research paper. I figured it would still be relevant to the Q. & A.
If you want to see the original post to see the comments go HERE.

  • How completely have you changed your lifestyle to accommodate the 1950’s way of life.
I changed as much was/is possible and still functional. Obviously, the use of my computer was important in order to document my project. I have found, however, that computer (though once used for entertainment) now serves as a combination typewriter/reference library.
My dress is completely vintage. I wear girdle and stockings  (no panty hose) and mainly dresses and skirts. I have one pair of dungarees (blue jeans) that I wear for work around the yard or sometimes house work. These are high waisted and I can’t believe how much MORE comfortable they are than the modern ‘low rise’ jeans.  Hats and gloves, pocket books, and hankies, all  of these are of the period and many authentic when possible. Although,  my wardrobe of handmade dresses is growing, using vintage repro patterns. I am to the point where I am trying to take a very basic bodice pattern that fits me and then I ‘make up’ the rest of the pattern. If I see a ‘style’ I like in a movie or vintage Vogue, I want to be able to copy in a way that it feels ‘inspired’ by it. I think a sewing homemaker would have most likely ventured into her own pattern making. In fact, I am sure in High School and College level Home Economics, she would have learned pattern making.
  • Where did you source your 1950’s clothing and d├ęcor from?
A mixture of local antique/thrift stores and church sales. I also found many things on ebay (my vintage cone bra for example).
  • Has your husband joined in with the 1950’s theme?
As I said, my husband is very easy going and never wonders at what I might do next. He takes it all in stride. He is rather 1950’s in many ways, already, such as his manner of dress. He owns one pair of jeans which he rarely wears. He wears mostly ‘dress slacks’ and even cotton pants for working in the yard. He wears ties, sweater vests etc and has a very 1950’s haircut. He does not wear tennis shoes except to go running, so really he blends right in. He is also a pipe smoker and collects and uses antique typewriters, so it was rather a nice fit. We seem to find ourselves very ‘at home’ in the 1955 role of breadwinner husband and homemaker wife both in clothing and attitudes.
I think our attitudes as two educated middle class people, we are very similar to our counterparts. Though I love vintage clothes and can get rather excited about talking about petticoats and things, we have very real political discussions concerning the period, much the way I think our 1955 counterparts would have.
  • What is your knowledge on Dior’s ‘New Look’ that came out in 1947, following WWII?
belle epoch Considering Dior grew up in a fairly wealthy household and had memories of his mother and female family in the luxury of the Belle Epoch, his New Look (so dubbed by the then editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Carmel Snowharpers who exclaimed, “It’s such a new look”) seems to be his response to what he fondly recalled and what was needed after the war. The New look1 new look2 new look3
I think fashion will always look back before it looks forward. Any true innovation of fashion always has some nod to the past. roman-statues-2regency In the Regency Period, for example, the look of the classical Greek and Roman statues were copied into the Empire waist.  Napoleon, feeling akin to the Roman Emperors, affected such changes himself.
The idea of copying a previous time period you are fascinated with is not an new idea at all. Even the colors, sleeves and necklines of the 1870’s Victorian period were a direct nod to the French era of Marie Antoinette. 1870s dress 1872 worth gown marie antoinette And so Dior, after the war, wanted to give back to the world some of the beauty and femininity of the world that had been lost in the war. A world he most likely could remember in the tactile sense of youth; the rustle of the petticoat, the sway of full fabric from a small sashed waist. And I really do think that the New Look was a way to bring back some of the good that was lost after the world changed in an almost innocent way. We could leave the ideals of privilege and class in the past, but let there be beauty and femininity again. In a very simple manner he gave back a sense of luxury and innocence that had been lost.
With the restriction of fabric during the war, the look of the 1930s (which was returning to a longer skirt) certainly directed the look. There was only so much fabric.  A new silhouette was really needed in the fashion world. The hard military shoulders and knee length skirts of the war couldn’t be further away from the New Look, with its yards of full skirt, soft sloped shoulders and nipped in  waist.
What I find interesting is at this time and really only until the late 1960’s, what the fashion houses dictated as fashion would affect most people. Even if you were not wealthy, if the ‘fashion’ was a full skirt to mid calf that meant the wealthy in New York would wear a Dior original, but also the young wife in Idaho also would follow suit. That was why there was such an outrage against it by those who wanted the freedom and sensuality of the shorter skirt. When, in reality, they could have simply just worn what they liked. And THAT is the big difference in our two worlds. Today, a woman wears what she likes. And to that, I am happy. Yet, I do wish there was a return to the idea of a ‘style’ that could be set and then copied by those in their own way. Somehow it almost seems as if that allows more originality. Because, it seems when we are given the option to wear anything, we always revert back to jeans and T’s. That is fine if you choose that and it doesn’t choose you, yet I hear from women all the time how they WISH they could wear vintage, or have the nerve to wear hats. It is odd that given MORE freedom we somehow feel more restricted, odd isn’t it.
Now, I am not saying I want to put holds on anyone’s freedoms, but what I am saying, ladies, is that for those of you who long and pine for the days of beauty in clothes, you have the choice our grandmothers DID NOT! So, watch some old movies or read old vogue, look at Edith Head designs and get to sewing! The world around you can be changed. You might be the woman brave enough to wear that veiled 1950’s hat and gloves to the store, party or church and other women will think, “Oh, my, how adorable”. We always do. No matter how removed we can pretend to be from fashion as women, let’s face it, fashion has existed BECAUSE of us. Again, another powerful part of our woman’s history. We WORE the corsets and bustles and farthingales. Men may have manufactured them, but WE gave them life! Embrace it! Sometimes I feel that we as women are so powerful, but we feel the need to hide or suppress it. If it takes nerve to wear a full on 1950s outfit down to the girdle or even an 1850’s, then we can do it! You might affect the style in your own town and honestly wouldn’t you rather be thought of as having your own style than not thought of at all?
Well, I got off topic a little, I am sorry, that bit was more for my post, back to Dior and the New Look.
I have often wondered if Dior was also influenced by a very small trend that occurred right after WWI started. Many fashions then were needed to become practical. . The idea that women would suddenly need, en masse, to take over male roles of work was beyond comprehension up to this point, though we often forget that there was always a class of woman who worked hard physical labor, servants. Their role certainly became easier as fashion became less complicated, but then they slowly were done away with as the century progressed. But, fashion was for the wealthy and then the copiers of fashion, the middle class.  That is why I think the “War Crinoline” look became popular that spring of 1915. We had not yet realized what the new roles for women would entail. The fashions had become rather mannish and stark and this was a response to a need for the feminine form. When you see the fashion plates, you can easily see the new look. Particularly in this image, the navy dress and the pink dress with an overlay could probably have simply had a tight belt at the waist and been worn in 1949 as Dior’s New Look.
1915warcrinolintrend_thumb1 In the spring of 1915, however, fashion changed radically with the introduction of an outline known at the time as the 'war crinoline.' Hemlines crept upward and the skirt was now very full and bell-shaped, with wide collars and sloping shoulders.
So, this odd year of overtly feminized form of course was quickly replaced with the more practical war clothes of WWI.
So, having both grown up with ladies of high society in lush exuberant gowns and having living in Paris during the stark years of the war as well as the severe silhouette of Chanel in the 1920’s, this was really a groundbreaking look. Yet, and I am sure he was aware of it, it was highly influenced by the past. And, even the ‘war crinoline’ of 1915 is merely a reinterpretation of the 1840s-1860s Victorian period of full skirts culminating in wasp waist full skirt and sloped shoulders.
I think, much as I have found with my own project, we can and should look to the past for inspiration and ideas. In a way, those who have already lived have had to make mistakes and it is silly for us not to learn from them. Dior saw a need in both Fashion and probably in his own heart, after the devastation of the war, to a return of gentler more comforting times. The era where ladies had small waists, milled about in full gowns and sat daintily sipping tea under large hats, and thus the NEW LOOK was born. That, anyway, is how I see it.
  • What do you think of this style of clothing, with the 8-inch waist and 25 meters of material in one skirt alone?
For myself, I adore Dior’s look. I am tall and can carry a full skirt mid-calf fairly well. I do recall there being a backlash from women at the New Look because they had to cover their legs after the freedoms of the War and certainly for a shorter frame it might not be as complimentary.
Since I am living in 1955, the New Look is not so new any more. My skirts, for the most part, are very full. I actually prefer a full skirt with petticoat over the pencil skirt, though I do wear those as well. My full skirts tend to run a little closer to the knee, as would be happening now in 1955, and by 1962 you would still have that silhouette but the skirt would be just at the knee, also very flattering. Compared to the later 1960’s short straight A-ling dresses, I think the New Look is a woman’s best friend. There are many ways to hide ‘flaws’ in the New Look, while the mini dresses of the 1960’s bared all.
There is something supremely feminine in the New Look. The fall of the skirt, the way it moves and the sound of the petticoat and crinoline. Even my housedresses that I clean in are full skirted, though often worn without my petticoat, they are a joy to clean in, as I can move about freely, are very comfortable in the summer (when my girdle was only worn ‘out in public’ as I was told my ladies of the time that was correct).
What I can say to any of you who have not worn the New Look, you must try it at least once. There is something etheral about walking into a room feeling the movement of your skirt and the way it falls as you sit. It gives a lovely look, and I have to say, in it’s suit form, is very smart. I love the looks of other time periods, say the 1920’s, but if you are fuller figured, the New Look is for you!
  • What do you think this meant for women? Did you find this a form of oppression and push for conformity for women, or did you find this luxurious and ‘housewife’ ideal appropriate?
I think any intentional form of ‘oppression’ through clothes upon women is rather a modern ideal. Perhaps, other than Poiret’s hobble skirt of the teens, which literally restricted movement of the legs, fashion on women was never ‘inflicted’ in my opinion.
There were certainly those who may have suffered with the corset, probably Victorian servants in upper class households for example, but for the majority of it’s existence it was no more oppressive than a modern bra. In fact, I don’t believe it was until later Victorian (1870s-1900) that the ‘tight lacing’ of the wasp waist was really a infliction on your body.  A corset of say the Regency Period or even Victorian around 1840 was more about holding a shape to conform to the fashion. Now, I am not saying I want us to have to wear corsets or girdles, but I am saying that in the past society lived in a more patterned way. Really, any woman could have stopped wearing her corset, she was not literally being ‘forced’ into it everyday. But the moral fiber and laws of society themselves required you, if you wanted to participate, to follow those rules. Do I think those rules were set only by men, no. This is something that I think really needs further study. I am sure, for every one woman who despised her corset, there were ten ladies reveling in it. This concept that men, until the 1960’s, held us in an iron clawed grip is, to me, a farse. We have more freedoms now and I am glad for it, but we have always had the potential for those, but we chose, collectively, to focus on other aspects of our society. Women, by nature, are nurturers biologically. You have only to look at other mammals to know that. So, we tend to be the ones who quietly allow there to be serenity, to make a comfortable home to live in. What we need to realize now is that equality is not about FORGETTING or throwing away anything we think, as modern women, is servitude: such as homemaking skills! We really do a disservice to our own history in so doing.
I think there were definitely women who had tasted the freedom of the workforce during the war and did not want to go back. Certainly they would prefer a different look and actually the office look at the time was more streamlines, with fitted jackets and pencil skirts, but for the women who did want to return home, it must have been a luxury. As I said, there were many women who actually protested the New Look, but it had nothing to do with ‘men’s oppression’ and in fact most men, had they had the choice, would have not wanted it either, because really the look of the war showed much more leg! And that is another thing I have noticed about modern times. Men obviously like to see women. The new look was more about how we felt as women in being pretty. It covered us up more, but we didn’t care as we were pleasing ourselves not the men. Today, fashion seems to be akin to strippers and lingerie models. Somehow the ideal has become to be as sexy for men as possible. Now, that seems more degrading to me than getting to wear pretty dresses with frou frou and fun, which many women DO enjoy rather men do or not.
So, I can only really speculate what was really felt by the common homemaker. For me, coming from a world of jeans and very few dresses being seen except for ‘nice dinners out and parties’ it was like the joy of a little girl getting to play in her dress up box or her mother’s closet. I would think that must have been true for some women, especially war brides as I would have been. If you are lucky enough to have your husband return home, the thought of making that home, raising children, decorating, going out and looking beautiful meant a great deal to them. Even in my experiment I cannot ever fully know how it must have felt to go from your world exploding around you and the constant fear of death to the reality that you could dress up and be pretty and have parties in your new home with new things and color everywhere! It must have seemed, for many, a magical time.
  • What are your thoughts on women’s role during this era?
I think one of the main elements of my project was to see, was the primary role of women of the time as homemaker (and mother, though I do not have children) a good or bad one?  Though certainly after the war, women were expected to give up their jobs to the men and become wives, many did not or they continued working while being married.
I think what I have found is that one of the main roles of women throughout recorded history has been that of Homemaker in one way or another. It is only after this year that I am beginning to see what a treasure and important aspect this is to Women’s History. Rather we feel, by modern standards, that it was ‘enforced’ upon women, I am afraid that we are now too quick to judge. I have found that the attitude “Oh, Just a Housewife” slaps the face of all our fore sisters in the face. Our role of nurturer, nester, and all that has become homemaking is riddled with skill and accomplishment. I think now that women have CHOICES that Homemaker should still be a valid one. I also feel much of Homemaking skills should be taught to both boys and girls at a young age, as to care for oneself, to be self-sufficient in this way is important. Rather you have a husband making the income or you are single, such skills as cooking/baking, mending clothes, being budget wise, familiar with the working of appliances, making clothes etc, all these are important elements.
So, though we see the 1950’s primarily as a time that woman was a Homemaker or a nurse or schoolteacher, the children of these women were open to more careers. There were also women doctors and engineers etc. I do feel, however, that the role of woman in this era as a Homemaker should be taken more seriously. I feel that role and all it entailed could even help today in our economy and planetary crisis. The green movement could be greatly improved by following the rules of the old homemakers household, where things were reused, repaired and garbage was considered reusable, before becoming garbage. Even the ability to make more things from simple stock ingredients reduces the amount of garbage we make with packaging. I always laugh, particularly now, at bottled water. If we were to time travel to 1955 and tell them that you would have to pay for water in a bottle, I am sure they would have laughed at us. But, we aren’t laughing, we are buying it by the truckloads and many other pre-packaged things and clothing and cheap furniture and the list goes on. I think much of what we make fun of as the role of the homemaker may prove to be a solution for all if we want to seriously restrict our garbage, but unfortunately, our consumer culture does not want that, because then we will buy less, but that also means more savings for us. We really will begin to see the Homemaker’s skills as a remedy for the ills of our current economy and nation.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

23 October 1956 “Covetous of the Fitted Sheets, A New Comic, and an Easy Bread Recipe”

fittedsheet1 I have talked about fitted sheets before and yes they were available here in the 1950’s. But, I found this ad the other day in a 1954 magazine and I was instantly covetous! I want this style fitted sheet. Does anyone know if they still make them this way? To have the top and bottom sheet joined would be a treat for we homemakers making beds every day. Particularly if one had a large family. I also love the smart blue and white room, don’t you?
comicoftheday2I think the latest vintage comic I put on the site has an interesting observation: It is funny, yes, but telling. A home in 1950’s with six people might very well only have one bathroom, not so today. Children sharing rooms even into their teens and a family sharing one bathroom was normal. The opportunity for new home ownership was a wonderful result of post war American, but it was also a realistic goal a young family could afford. I also like the style of the drawing as well, don’t you?
whitebread5 I think I have shared this recipe before, but I will do so again. It is very easy. It is a traditional bread in the sense that you have to let it rise, knead again and rise a second time, but honestly a no fail recipe. I can’t recall where I got it originally, but it now sits in my hand on a little index card in my recipe file. It is much used.
Easy White Bread
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
Mix yeast and warm water in bowl until dissolved. Add the salt, sugar, butter, and milk and stir to mix.
Next I start one cup of flour at a time, as you may not need 3 cups or may need more, it depends on your humidity, elevation all that. You will know, however, as you want the dough to ‘chase the spoon around the bowl’ as they say. So you can pick it up and it is not too sticky.
Knead in flour and put in a bowl you lightly coated in butter. Turn it once (so it has a nice buttery sheen), place a towel dampened in warm water over it and place in a warm oven. I always turn my oven on warm as I am mixing it up and then turn it off when I put this into rise. It seems to make it a good environment for the rising. Let set one hour.
Next take it out (it will be like a science experiment the first time to see it so large-it is fun!) and re-knead a few times and shape into a cute little loaf shape and pop it into a buttered bread tin. Cover again with the towel, re-dampened warm and let set for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 F.
Now, it is risen, so place it in the oven and bake about 40 minutes. You will know when it is down as it will have a nice brown top. And a bread is done when you can tap it lightly on top and hear an almost hollow thud.
This bread is SO easy. It just seems involved because of the time in between, but you can still do other things when this is going on. You will love this bread for toast, French toast, sandwiches. It cut’s a treat and stores well. And, if you make two or three loaves at once, will last a good sized family the week.
whitebread6 And look how lovely it rises and it is so wonderful warm from the oven with butter.
I also recently found out about the bleaching of white bread. My hubby read an article and shared it with me. I was shocked to find out that the way we bleach bread in this country is not even allowed in Europe and elsewhere. It literally involves bleach and, of course, is then in the flour. Actual bleached flour, as was often used, is done so by exposure to light. I have statistics and things, but I shall save that for another day’s post. Suffice it to say that I felt anger and frustration at our so called FDA (Food and Drug Administration) which seems to be more a voice for quick production and money for the few, than an actual federally funded institution that cares about the safety and health of our food. I now buy unbleached white flour. It tastes the same, is only a bit more yellow than bleached, and works the same as bleached flour. What makes me angry is I, who make most things from scratch, can simply make that choice to switch to better flour. Yet, all those of you out there who do rely more on store bought due to busy schedules and time cannot. Most things are made with bleached flour which literally is bleach. Think about a product we use with gloves when cleaning, needs warning labels on cleaning products, but is okay in our food apparently. It is actually illegal to bleach that way in other countries, which is scary enough for me. So, just a little bit of warning to any of you. Or if any of you know more about it, please share with us.
*Site news-new recipe of the week on main page, new vintage cartoon, and new video (the New Eames chair). I realized yesterday the design flaw in that all the new items appear on every page not only the Home Page. This would mean me changing ALL the pages every week. So, new changes just on Home today. Yesterday’s site day resulted in my working on the new menu link. In so doing I feel I may have mapped out and scheduled (you know I love making lists!) a main structure for myself for the coming year. The new menu (not yet uploaded) is almost a goal for me to flush out through the year. Like a great research and testing challenge for the year! It was almost cathartic, as if I was mapping out my knowledge for the coming year. I also think starting next week I will blog m-f and have Saturday be my site day and then Sunday answering reader question. Thank you all again.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

22 October 1956 “First Day of Site Day”

womanwithmachine For those of you who have not visited the new site, you may not know my new blogging schedule. I now plan on my usual daily blogging M-TH and then Friday is going to be given over to Site maintenance. At this stage of the game that actually means still messing about with the layout and a bit of new content.

My hope is to get the site laid out to run smoothly enough that each Friday will find me going meticulously through all my old posts and inserting all the relevant information into the appropriate sections of the site. This will result, hopefully, in a well organized place to find any and all info that I have collected on Vintage life and History.

Today my big task is to reorganize the organization of the site. My simply buttons and links now are going to have a major re-haul as I try to learn how to make a more sophisticated and better to use file structure. Hopefully I can get that up by the end of the day (it is my plan). This will almost complete the skeleton of the site and allow me to begin filling in the meat, as it were.

For those of you who read me daily, again thank you for your kind words of encouragement and for putting up with my posts while I am ‘under construction’, I am afraid the editing is even below my normal sub-par level. But I hope you get the ‘gist’ of my posts during this time.

I will update here in the comments or a new post later today when I have uploaded whatever ‘site work’ I have accomplished today.

The remainder of my blog schedule will be Sat, normal blogging and Sundays, answer of reader questions. If you have or want to ask anything of me to have answered on Sundays either go to the Contact button on the site or simply click HERE to do so. I only use your name/blog link if you ask me to, if you merely ask a question, I will assume you are anon and will simply post the question and answer. If you would like your name/blog/web address included, then simply tell me to do so and of course include it in the email.

So far today I have been trying out a new header and logo I designed, which will show up now on some of the pages. I also need to point out that I have solved the SEARCH WINDOW issues and you will find on the pages with the new logo that the search window now works. It is in the upper right corner and searches my site and blog. Let me know how that works out for you.

Have a great day and as always, Happy Homemaking!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

21 October 1956 “Cooking Pork Chops and Investing in the 1950’s”

Even though I am now going to be answering reader questions on Sundays, I thought there were two good comments on last post. So, for today’s post, I want to include them.
The first is from an Apronite who hails from Canada:
I have an off topic question, do you have an easy recipe for blade pork chops or butt pork chops.<<
I often cook them as my grandmother did in the 50`s with great results and the help of lipton onion soup mix :) They always turn out tender, but I would like another simple way to do them.......I never fry my food, and bake everything in the oven when I cook, as my mom did.
mamie1 Well, first off, pork chops are very 1950’s. In fact the current president (Dwight Eisenhower) wife, Mamie was known to say, “Ike runs the country, and I turn the pork chops”.
I cook my chops both on the stove and in the oven. Usually when I bake my chops I either stuff them or at least have a stuffing of sorts over them in a covered pan to hold their moisture.
Let’s look at the pork chop. This image from my 55 Fannie Farmer cookbook shows us where the chop comes from.porkdiagram (click to view full size) Many people think of pork chops as being equivalent to the consistency of shoe leather. This stems largely from the fact that we were told for many years, including the 1950’s, too overcook it due to possible disease. As you can see in the diagram they say “All pork cuts require long cooking”. That is actually not true. I have a friend who recently did a ServeSafe class for her job. We now realize that pork should be tender and can be pink and doesn’t need to reach an internal temperature of any greater than 145 F. Sometimes to be safe, I might go as high as 160 F, but once you taste the sweet juicy flavor of a pink chop you will never go back.
Here is the instructions from that same Fannie Farmer book for chops: porkchoprecipes1
Here are two pork chop recipes from my General Foods Cookbook. porkchoprecipes2
I often cook my chops on the stove top. My way is very easy. This is easier, I think, if you use a cast iron pan, as the heat is retained. I simply season my chops on both sides with salt, pepper, (sometimes pepper corns), Coriander, and bit of sugar. Get your pan to a medium to hot heat range. Once the pan is hot, I add my fat. I often use bacon fat, which I save from my breakfasts. I suggest you use a fat that smokes at higher temps, such as bacon fat or olive oil. In the 50’s it would have been bacon fat, but today grape seed oil, peanut oil, those also don’t smoke until a higher temperature. While unrefined canola oil and sunflower and safflower smoke at around 250 F. I have a list of oils and the temperature at which they heat up on the COOKING page. If you go there, scroll down you will see it. (Simply click on it and it should enlarge. I finally found what I was doing wrong to not allow pop ups to work).
Now, pop the chops in the pan, don’t let them touch. I only give it maybe 2-5 minutes per side. You want it to look lovely and brown, then flip it and use the same amount of time and then put a lit on, turn off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. A cast iron pan will hold the heat and continue to cook when it is off the flame. If it is stainless steel, just turn the flame very low and cover for about 5 minutes. That is honestly as long as it can take. It is very simple and so juicy.
A meat thermometer is really good to have to test your meats. I use mine for roasts and birds all the time, but for something thin like a steak or a chop, I just use my finger. There is an old finger test to help you learn what raw to over cooked meat feels like. If you touch the fleshy bit of your hand below your thumb, with your hand relaxed, it is what raw meat feels like. Now, touch your thumb and your pinky and touch the same spot, that is Well done, and as you go through your fingers to thumb until you reach your index (that being rare feeling) you can learn to touch the doneness of food. The more ‘in there’ you are with your food the better, I have found.
I literally barely boiled water before 1955 and now find myself rather comfortable in the kitchen. The act of being a part of the food, touching and tasting and seasoning as you go, is really an integral part to being a homemaker, I feel. I often associate the kitchen with the art studio and one finds, in art as well, that the more in touch with the creation, often the better the result. This seems to be the same with food.
I have used the above baked recipes for my chops, only I really reduce the cooking time. If the chop is stuffed, it should bake a bit longer, but again, we must think of pork more like beef and less like chicken. Don’t over cook it.
Sometimes I will make a quick stuffing from leftover cornbread crumbs or bread crumbs and wrap the meat around it and toothpick it and pop it in the oven, covered and seasoned in a bit of water for about 20 minutes. I like to take the top off for the last five to crisp up the stuffing, as we like it that way.
Not sure if that helps. And please, others share your pork chop secrets with us!
The second comment I thought we could address today comes from hotpinksky35 who wrote:
One thing I've noticed about finance in the 50's is that as far as investing goes their seemed to be much more emphasis on savings bonds and life insurance in the mainstream media. Not much on mutual funds (and I know they had them back then) Maybe it was a product of the times. The rates on bonds couldn't have been high. Maybe they just had whole life insurance back then which is touted more as a financial investment than term life insurance is. Did they have term life insurance back then? With moms not working as much, maybe there was a greater perceived need for life insurance.

Is the lack of emphasis on mutual funds, stocks, currencies etc back then really a reflection of the growth of the financial services industry over the past 50 years especially with the growth of 401k plans? Personally after Enron and Goldman Sachs etc fiascos I've come to the conclusion that much of the financial services industry the mutual fund companies brokerage houses magazines Jim Cramer tv networks are all a bunch of hooey... They are selling most of the public a bill of goods and most don't take the time to learn about investing. I think you can make more money investing in stocks in the long term than you can keeping it in a savings account. But I think the financial services industry is trying to convince the public they can all become overnight millionaries by doing some $4 trades on etrade. Blah dont get me started.

I think with regards to investing we were better off in the 50s with defined pension plans savings bonds and life insurance. Most people don't know enough about investing to really grow their accounts in their 401K the way they should. I didn't until recently. I have taken the initiative to learn and my returns have improved significantly. Most people aren't going to take the time to learn the way I have.
womenwithpurses In 1952 only  6.5 million Americans owned common stock (about 4.2% of the U.S. population). Many people were still aware of and frightened by the market crash in 1929. So, many people in the 1950’s on average, shied away from stocks.It actually took until 1954 before the Dow Jones Industrial Average exceeded the peak in 1929.
It was more complicated and expensive to invest in the 1950’s as well. One didn’t merely go onto an e-comerce/investment site and buy up some shares. This, however, had many advantaged to today’s investing. I think many of us today merely see it as another item to purchase. And, as we are a purchasing people, if you make it easy, we will come!
A very interesting item I discovered today while researching this idea, was the Glass-Steagall Act which was passed in 1933. This act made it illegal for commercial banks to collaborating with full-service brokerage firms or participate in investment banking activities. In 1933, the country was in the depths of a Depression caused by the financial crisis of the stock markets. The very concept of trading and the ‘get rich quick’ mania, that many people still assume was just a part of the ‘American Dream’ was actually born out of such trading in the 1920’s. It’s result, we now see. So, the act was made.
Now, what I find very interesting and what I am always pointing out here is that we don’t seem to want to look to our past. We, as a people, have a very short term memory and it seems to get shorter all the time. We, ourselves, recently suffered a very bad financial problem owing very much to stocks and investments and brokerage and banking. And, it will be interesting for you to know that the Glass-Steagall act was dismantled in 1999! It then became possible for commercial banks and brokerage firms to intermingle and what we once considered ‘good solid banks’ really just became another leveraging money making risk institution. If you want to read more about the Glass-Seagull act go HERE.
The cost to individual to invest, then was higher. Fixed commissions were the norm, meaning what one had to pay their broker to handle the transaction between your choice, money and final stock, was rather set in stone. No competitive online pricing nor no brokerage fee deals. The technology of the day, as well, made such instant transactions non existent. Overseas investing, at this point, was almost not there. One could say, however, that the time it took and the limited information and the need of a trained professional made one less likely to part with their money.
And actually, mutual funds were not available until the very late 50’s and into the 60’s as we know them today. And certainly not something the average middle class American would even know about.  In fact what was to become Mutual Funds were only an idea in a Princeton grads thesis paper in the early 50’s. He went on to form and manage the now largest fund, Vanguard 500.
By the end of the 1960s, there were approximately 270 funds with $48 billion in assets. The first retail index fund, First Index Investment Trust, was formed in 1976 and headed by John Bogle, who conceptualized many of the key tenets of the industry in his 1951 senior thesis at Princeton University. It is now called the Vanguard 500 Index Fund and is one of the world's largest mutual funds, with more than $100 billion in assets.
So, it seems that the beginning of the 1950’s still saw very conservative attitudes toward investing. But, as the decade comes to a close we see a change. In 1954, the NYSE announced its monthly investment plan program, which allowed investors to invest as little as $40 per month.  This was really the precursor to the mutual fund concept and was used later by them. $40 dollars in today’s money would be roughly $280.00 something middle and lower middle class families may have had trouble finding. Particularly our Terre Haute family who saves a small weekly allotment.
This great little film does a good job explaining the late 1950’s new idea of investing. It will not come out until next year, 1957.(As an aside, this video and all others I will include in my posts can now also be found on my youtube channel. I have a page on the site specifically for that HERE.)
I think when you consider the ticker tape and the need to literally push paper and make calls to buy stocks, and therefore the time between your desire to own a share and your actually buying it, make stock ownership rather a turtle’s pace endeavor compared to  today’s instant digital world.
I also think we can see again how since that time we have been fed the very concept of the product. The idea of buying and we as consumers is vastly different from the 1950’s. It was beginning then, surely, but today it is easy to spend and most people have no idea what they spend even in one day, let alone a year.
Before 1955, I had little idea of money spent. I knew roughly what we hand and when to pay bills and all that. Yet, it was nothing for me to go out, almost daily, and buy here and there with my Debit card (another new invention created to make us mindless spenders). And, I cannot say how much the credit and debit card hurts the small business. I was once a business owner and the amount of fees I paid for every transaction was criminal. When you buy something from a small business and pay with debit/credit the owner has to take his profit from what is left after his/her cost of the product and then the percentage that goes to the credit/debit company. Another example of the commercial bank acting differently. And, another reason to use cash especially when supporting local business. Large concerns such as Wal-Mart and their ilk pay almost nothing and in some cases literally nothing to process these fees. So, the increased use and advertising for the convenience of them only drives another nail into small business and the middle class way of life.
And, really, that is what it comes down to with investing: convenience and ease. We are always sold on how much ‘better’ it is to have things “FAST AND NOW”. If a thing is done quicker and we get things faster that is better, we are told. Yet, what happens when we make haste? That is right, Waste. The old adage holds true. There is little time to think about what we are spending, how we should be saving, or where our money is even going when we can go online click a button and magically buy things. Hop down town with the gals, coffee, drinks, no problem plastic solves it. When really many of us have little idea what we are spending our money on. And, this in my opinion, is how the modern armchair investor works. It’s easy and ‘lower cost’ so why not do it? Yet, many people lost not only their nest egg, but in some cases as in 401K they felt safely invested for their retirement literally gone.
I heard a story of a man who was a driver for an electric company. When that company was bought out by Enron his 401K retirement plan was shifted to Enron stocks. He didn’t know as he merely paid out each week to his retirement. When Enron fell, the locked out small investors while the top few percent took millions out. This fellow had 300,000 dollars in his retirement and was close to retirement age. When they unfroze it after the crash, he was left with $1200.00! That’s not 12 thousand but 12 hundred. That is why when people say they are against caps or regulation saying it isn’t part of the free trade, they are only being lied to. It merely allows a free reign for large companies to do as they wish. And these regulations we saw fit to put in place, such as the Glass-Steagall Act, are simply wiped out and the general public has no idea. I think the 1950’s was simpler in what was going on so one had time to be more aware of what was happening in their world. Today we seem happy to forget our yesterday’s, why bother?
So, the continual lesson learned from the 1950’s: Pay attention and think before you act and plan plan plan and Be aware of  your world and  your wallet. Act with rational thought and consideration not  childish heated whims or anger. I wish we could get a 1950’s school teacher to come in and teach basic manners to many of our ‘news channels’ and the Government at large.
**As an addendum, I just want to add that from now on every post will subsequently be placed into the new site. So, today this site can be accessed again under the COOKING PAGE as well as the 1950’s PAGE. This way you can see how the site will build up with my information. And, every friday, I shall begin placing all old posts info accordingly. I am hoping this will lead to a very useful and easy to navigate site full of Vintage information. Thanks again for you patience with that.
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