Thursday, January 14, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, I made as a starter salad:

Tomato and Dill Salad

5 skinned tomatoes


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

1 egg yolk


cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp dry mustard

grated rind 1 lemon

1 crushed clove garlic

1/2 cup oil (I used olive)

3tbs cream

1 stiffly beaten egg white

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

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


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

2 pounds potatoes

2 egg yolks

2tbs butter

salt and pepper

1/2 cup hot milk.

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

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


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

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

1/4 cup maple syrup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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