Monday, April 11, 2011

11 April 1957 “War Years, Nostalgia, and Salted Vegetables”

Since my Anniversary, I have been thinking more and more about my ‘War-Bride’ status. I have been thumbing through my various war time 1940’s magazines this weekend.

From one issue of House Beautiful in 1943 (My fictional wedding year) there are some interesting things. First, in the section on items for sale I came across this odd little item, Soap Capsules:soapcapsules

I wonder how many factory/farm war workers actually had these in their pocket? I wonder if they actually were purchased or most likely considered to dear to spend one’s limited and falling bank balance on. I found it an interesting aspect of the coming ‘future’ though.

In that vein I also found many such juxtapositions of old sage wisdom of coming future ease. Certainly, during this time, even American was facing Rationing. Although we will never compare to what went on in England, we did suddenly find ourselves with less. So, the modern movement from the 20s-30s was suddenly halted and we wanted to know how to make do and mend.

martexadThis ad sums up the dichotomy of the American experience of wanting to use the past’s knowledge to solve a current problem, but prepare us for the coming onslaught of advertising and consumerism.

We see the opening text of this ad for Martex towels accompanied by an old fashioned ‘sewing bee’.

Is grandma chuckling? She’s entitled to when she hears talk about conversation  today. In her day they called it “thrift”. She lived it. She’ll tell you how it developed self-reliance…the use of abilities peculiarly woman’s own.

It is interesting to me that even then, the War years, the young would look at Grandma’s “thrifty ways” as quaint. Particularly in this country. As after WWI, which was also fought in Europe never reaching the American Shores, we simply had an increase in productivity. In fact, since the Industrial Revolution around the 1900’s we were on a fast pace to the consumer country we have become. Yet, the two wars both speeded up the process yet also provided two intermittent times when we were suddenly plunged into the past. The Great Depression had many return to old ways, some as old as Hunter Gatherers when families were literally without homes and had to travel with their things, place to place hunting and gathering what they could.

Now, in the second War, we find ourselves looking to Granny to tell us how to stretch that dollar, preserve that food and make that dress. Ready to wear clothing was becoming more affordable and normal to the pre WWII American middle class. Yet, the war quickly put us all into pre World War years ideas of thrift and homemaking without the ease of store0bought.

This, however, is always being told in our American magazines of the time, that it is simply what we must do NOW, but after the war, look out, it’s going to be great!

hotpointadThis ad, in the same issue, shows the kitchen many are dreaming of when they buy those War Bonds. The bright new shiny metal and plastic world after the war.

nostalgiaarticle1This article, based on the popular radio actors of “Life with Father” are avid antique collectors. The article starts out with this interesting concept some American’s felt:

“In all the talk about how everything is going to be different after the war, there is an untrue over-optimistic ring. For life was never thus.

In their overwhelming admiration for the great surge ahead in American technology, due to the war, people are talking over-time about the shape of things to come. Radical changes are predicted for the American scene by planners and designers. A cross-section of the current press would lead one to believe that we are about to scrap the past.”

Yet, in many ways, have we not done so? Have we not scrapped the past?

Continuing on with Grannies ideas, we also see in this same issue adverts such as this for an oven dehydrator.dehydratorThis mentions how one can preserve the labor of one’s Victory Garden with the aide of the stove.

saltvegetablesI also found this article quite interesting in that it talks of the surplus of the garden (certainly something not really happening too much in Europe) and how to preserve it. This goes on to mention how one might simply run out of glassware in which to can and preserve  your food. So, they discuss the ancient act of preservation in salt. This really intrigued me. Though, the article says one must write to get the ‘How-To’, I was able to find it as a download HERE. When you click it  you will get the download to refer to or you can print it up if you like. It is a .doc document.

We seem then to have this unique American War experience where in our own shores and production are not in any real danger and so have a combination of thrift with the expectation of a consumers bounty. And this did indeed come to pass. The 1950’s in America was that unique time of plenty where in one was the happy homemaker with the knowledge of the past but the ever increasing luxury of the modern world at her finger tips. Her dominion was the Home and there was money enough for her to choose to stay in it, raise her family, and make her own haven. This, as we now know, was short lived. What lessons could we have learned from that war time thrift? Could we not have held on to ‘grannies ways’ a bit more than we did. Yet, the baby and the bathwater were quickly thrown out the door. I hope it is not too late to get them back.



  1. I think once women got a taste of independence and their own money from working during the war years, they never wanted to permanently go back to the home. That's what my father thought.

  2. I really enjoy your "War Bride" posts. My parents married in April 1942, and dad went off to the army very soon after. I always begged for stories of those times from them!

  3. Mary R-I think that is very true. Also many of the younger generation were beginning to grow up with more and simply taking over the older hard living version.
    Su-I have really been pouring over my wartime publications. I think we may find this week is going to be War Bride week. I have some more interesting articles and things to share. Does that sound fun?

  4. Such an interesting post; I look at the 50's a little differently. It was not that there was automatically enough money for a woman to choose to make home her dominion, rather that the expectations for material possessions were lower. It was uncommon in the 1950's for a family to have two cars; two or three bedroom houses with one bathroom were typical even for the largest families, and a TV was a luxury. Now most familes have not only two cars, but two car payments, lots of families I know have one or two children and houses that could fit two of the post-war bungalows in them! My children at school hear about their friends Tv's, game consoles, and starting in about third grade; CELL PHONES!

    I think it's a matter of choice and sacrifice. My family has chosen to lead a much simpler life; one more in line with a 50's housewife. We have one car, no car payment, one TV (a hand-me-down); a 1150 square foot house for our five children, and we're doing just fine!

    I see the tide changing; women in my generation who were born around 1980, see the mistakes that were made by our mother's generation; who were told that staying at home raising a family is demeaning; that they needed to show their children that a woman can do whatever they want. Well, this is what we want! Many, like me, have chosen to eschew the financial and personal satisfaction (we were told) would accompany a woman that "has it all"; because we have seen women, like our mothers, end up feeling empty and regretful after their children were raised.

    Thrift is becoming "in fashion" again; there's a whole world out there of women my age and younger who now sew, knit, stay home with their children, and manage to feel quite fulfilled and independent at the same time!

  5. Isn't it great that we are moving that way.
    I actually don't see the 1950's as a time when we suddenly had money, but in fact, well, my past three years have been a pretty in depth study of the move into the 1950's and how the changing mores and more readily available items as well as increasing advertising outlets, TV becoming more the norm and even the idea of the second car becoming a real idea.
    Certainly, in any time one's life is a matter of choice, but often those choices are highly influenced by the times in which we live. And as more of our times become global and shared instantly through computer and technology, the more the idea of what is common or normal spreads quicker and far and wide.

  6. Certainly I see those old thrifty ways coming back! Even among women who work outside of the home.

    The funny thing is my mother (who lives with us) was a 1950s wife (she worked both in and outside of the home at times). She doesn't really get my interest in doing things "grandma's way". For her family, thrift wasn't a choice - they had no money, so it was the way it had to be. Kind of puzzling to her that I would choose to pursue thrift, when we have more means.

    Mary Ellen
    The Working Home Keeper

  7. Mary Ellen; that's exactly the point I was trying to make; in previous generations, there was no choice between thrift and not, and it was the expectation for a married woman to be a housewife.

    Now, women have the benefit of seeing the experiences of previous generations, and making the choice for themselves, as well as the negative of having to buck modern expectations if they choose to live like the "good ol' days".

    I always find it humorous when people are so surprised when entering our house that we do indeed have five little boys, a tiny house, and it's still very nice! Certainly; if I allowed modern expectations to creep in, it would be impossible to fit all the gear for five children in our house and still have it be livable!

    I've had a good mentor; my 90 year old next door neighbor; who looks at the world with the experience of a Depression era childhood; which was the experience of the average 50's housewife.

  8. Very thoughtful post. It does seem that we could learn so much from our fore-mothers. To do with less, to care for things, to reuse and to find enjoyment and purpose in it do certainly add to a full life. Thanks for the great post today.

  9. Among many homeschooling families there is an emphasis on thrift,making the most of what you have,the art of homemaking and the joy in managing the home.
    You might like to read: Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman and also Managing Their Homes by Terri Maxwell. In both books it addresses how to use your time fully,wisely and with happy purpose.
    Many of the blogs begun by homeschoolers encourage the art of homemaking but within the context of raising and schooling a larger family. Ex:see Marmee and Co.
    Such purposes and learning from the past have never entirely disappeared. Even more basic skills necessary for homesteading are out there. We just purchased a set of DVDs on some of these skills and philosophies. It is called Homestead Blessings and can be found at Vision Forum or
    Have you considered research on the church going and religious habits of the ladies of the fifties? I am older and can remember being fully dressed up for church and even matching clothes with my siblings.Hat and gloves were worn at Easter. Our family are still very committed to our faith and even if others do not dress well for Sunday service we have always done so (as in: if we would dress well to meet the president or another important man why not do so to meet in a house of God and look pleasantly to other believers).

  10. Fantastic post! I'm curious about the salted vegetables and will have to look more into it. I tried a few months ago to find information about WWII on the homefront in America and is for me hard to find information, at least on the internet. I hope you will do a week on this, or more if you see fit.

  11. Minnie-if you click where the word HERE is highlighted in the post, it will down load an easy to read .doc file with the vintage instructions for preserving with salt. Hope this helps. I am going to do more 1940's this week, I think.
    anon-those sound very sound books indeed. I have looked at some church history, but often try to not to get into religion here, only becuase it can be such a 'hot topic' that I really sometimes worry about it. Also, the aspect of religion in the 1950's is was very different based on your location. Here in my neck of the words in old New England, we are mainly Episcopalians, Methodists, Unitarians. Though we do have some of the 'newer' christianity around, for the most part it is seen as secular and would have been almost un-heard of here in the 1950s. The church was much more a center of town life than, though in my own town, we have some lovely old churches and they too are in many ways the towns center. But, the way in which religion may have affected the farm family in say rural Georgia, to the family in rural Maine was so different as to be almost different religions. And, in simply dissecting these differences I am afraid it would begin to seem that one was saying 'bad' things about various religions. That would not, of course, be the case, but it is very personal for people and the very personal often is misunderstood in discussion as to be an attack rather than simply an observation. I don't want anyone to feel that way nor do I wish to, so I try to stay clear of it over all. Suffice it to say, that overall, Christian religion played a major role in 1950's middle class life in that schools often referred to God in a Christian sense more and people, on the whole, went to their choice of worship on a Sunday. And it goes without saying they dressed in their 'Sunday Best', but then even going to a movie theatre often saw men in suit coats and ladies in dresses and hats. Our ease of fashion today, which is mainly 'sloppy' because that is easiest and cheapest to mass produce. Think how hard it would be to pump out lovely dresses with petticoats in China and India, but a t-shirt jersey dress/top outfit, takes seconds, costs pennies (in the matierial and the cheap foreign labor) and so if we keep fashion as jeans T's and various 'gengres' such as "I am a goth I am a prep" then one can pump it out in those areas over and over again simply changing the imgages added to it.
    Dressing up is so normal to me now, that the other day when I went biking into town, I wore my white cotton gloves and hat without even thinking about it. And yes, I was wearing a skirt, knees socks and loafers.

  12. Speaking of dressing up, how do y'all respond when someone asks, "Why are you so dressed up?" I wear dresses and skirts everyday - at home and at work. Fridays are casual days at my office and last week someone commented that I was making the rest of them feel like bums! Totally not my intention and I think (hope) it was just being said in jest. But that's typical of the response I receive from other people. That there must be some special occasion happening for one to "dress up".

    Mary Ellen
    The Working Home Keeper

  13. Working home keeper-To me, after three years of vintage dressing, it is like water on a ducks back to me. Often when I am engaged in this way, it leads to a positive response. Someone might say, "Oh, did you come from a wedding?" or "why so dressed up?" that sort of thing. To which I usually respond, "Oh, this is my normal attire. I try to look my best before I leave the house". What I find is many people will often talk more, as if I have some magic ability that allows me to just dress up because, "I feel like it" and often find them saying things like, "Oh, I wish we dressed that way still today." or "I should try to dress up more". The only negatives I have ever got is snickering youths, usually dressed all the same, low rise jeans, too tight so they barely move or so loose there underpants show, baseball caps at crazy angles, and always some shirt with some corporate or corporate made 'ironic' printed logo on. These people, to me, are simply wearing a 'uniform' and though they feel they are 'expressing themselves' are in fact 'expressing the very mass produced, low quality product pumped out for a quick buck".
    Almost always people will give me positive comments. And, isn't it odd that we, free people, somehow feel that we cannot just wear what we want? There was almost more freedom of dress when there were more rules to dress, because one felt comfortable in what you were wearing. If you knew hats and gloves at the theatre, you could express that how you like but also know that you will fit nicely. And rather than others judging you on what you are wearing, judge you on who you are. It is ironic that a less casual and greater array in modern dressing is suppose to be about 'it doesn't matter what you wear don't judge me by my clothes' but how can that be when the very difference set up by the various 'types' of dressing does just that, sets us up into the category we 'chose' to be represented by?!
    So, for me, I almost always engage with positive response and try to get the person to feel, if they want, they can have the same 'magic' to go home and wear whatever they want out in public. There is no shame in looking well groomed, wear it proudly.
    I love that, 'casual Friday' as if the rest of the time workers aren't practically in their pajamas that they can't even make it through five consecutive days 'dressed up'. I am glad to know you still dress appropriately on Friday. Good for you.

  14. Donna, I am so appreciative of the research you do for your posts. I often spend some time pondering your current topic, speculating how it would have been for me to live during that time.
    I only lived in the 50s for 10 months, so obviously, I have no memories. I have spoken to my parents and in-laws about the time though.
    My mother-in-law married in 1953 and moved from California (where my father-in-law worked at car factories during the winter). They moved to the family farm in northern Montana and lived in a refurbished chicken coop for their first couple of years.
    It really wasn't till the 1970s that they saw much prosperity and that ended in the difficult farming years of the 1980s.
    Even though finances were tight on the farm in the 50s, my MIL remembers many pleasures as neighbors gathered for dances, card parties, home demonstration clubs, country school functions, and much more.
    By the time my husband and I married in 1981, there was little of the above mentioned socialization left. My MIL attributed that to the fact that farmers had to farm more land to make a living and television kept people in their own homes. (How sad on both counts.)
    My parents married in 1955 and lived in the East, where my dad attended grad school to obtain a doctorate in physics. He made a good living, but as a result of the Depression years, he was very financially conservative. He saved money and they bought some nice items for their home one at a time.
    Well, the weather is finally nice, so I'm off to do yardwork. Have a terrific day!....Denise


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