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.
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