Saturday, May 7, 2011

7 May 1957 “Do Our Gadgets Help or Hinder?”

This morning I had a harried modern morning. Hubby had to be to work earlier so I had to get up and head out the door. Now, let me preface this by saying I almost never use the car any longer.
When I originally decided to get rid of our second car, we were half way through 1955, but then knew that we would be moving back to a different home, so it got put on the back burner. And even though I knew I was driving less and buying less, I was still making unnecessary trips to buy things I did not need. I did not have to be innovative or a better planner so that when I had the car I made sure I got everything needed. Or if I needed something I didn’t have, how to make do and be creative.

So, now I have come to loathe the car so that I use it once a week for my marketing day. I plan everything out to get it done on that day, post, bank, shopping and home. This morning, however, I had to rush out the door and get to the bank. Once there I am told, “The systems are down”. “What does that mean?” I ask, innocently enough, “Well, we can’t do anything”. “I just need to deposit”, say I. “Well, we can take it but we can’t give you a receipt. READ MORE

Now, in the old days, before computers, I think they hand wrote it all out, made notations and it was checked at the end of the day. Today, if it doesn’t get entered, good luck. I have had bad luck with my bank NOT making a deposit that I had got an electronic receipt for, so needless to say, I said, “no thank you”.
So, first chore not done, off to the store. I am in a rush so I figure, well I will just use an electronic scanner, so I can bag as I go. By the time I have left, I have had to have my scanner checked as the register began flashing and in my hast, forgot to take the little box of doughnuts I had scanned. This realization came once I returned home. It also left me no time to get the car filled with fuel, which I was going to do for hubby to be kind.
How quickly my morning turned. I was rushed about, angry and my temper was up. I realized, in minutes, how quickly I felt a completely different person. I recalled my old life and running about, in the car, running a business, trying to do a million things in one day with no plan or schedule and no hope of a reprieve. And days off simply a waste of trying to catch my breath.
This got me thinking about the 1950’s homemaker and her new gadgets. She was vastly becoming an automated factory of sorts. In fact, many educational films of the time tell of the new ‘Electric kitchen’ being rather like a factory with the homemaker as the head of it all.
I began to think how different her life was from her own mother’s in the 20/30’s and her grandmother in the 1900’s!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy modern conveniences, the dishwasher and so on. I am sure the 1950’s homemaker was proud with glee at the arrival of her deep freeze, second car, and wrinkle free dresses. But, and here is the rub, did it make our lives better and give us more time over time? I don’t know. I don’t think it has.
I know when that homemaker got her first washer/dryer she must have been ecstatic. Consider her forebears: water4sale Her amount of weekly washing was suddenly done in a matter of hours! SO, did we continue with the usual amount of clothing worn during the week? Did we still need less because we simply could not keep it all clean? Did we have a few nice things we carefully cared for to be handed down and cherished? No, it began to increase. Suddenly Suzie and Johnny wouldn’t be caught dead in the same thing twice in one week! The new era of Teens as little status symbol micr0-culture was born. And now you could afford more shirts for hubby and they are drip/dry, so why not. And before you know it, there we are piled under excessive amounts of laundry. Yet, we have spent more on the product that makes our life easier. We have bought more items to wash, as now it is easier, but of course costs more. And suddenly we need service repair men and electricity to run it all.

I am not saying we shouldn’t have things. I am not saying we shouldn’t have innovation, but in a time such as now, can we not really live like these people who had a score of servants? If we had less things, but nicer, took more time and didn’t have or need cell phones, iPad, 2-3 cars and so on, could we not really, on much less, relax and sniff the roses?
If we simply stepped back and thought,

“How much clothing could and would we have as a family if I had to wash it all by hand with a ringer?”

“How important is it for me and my family to be able to call one another at the drop of a hat all the time? And for my children to be able to text and call friends all the time?”

“Do I need to update every electronic device I have all the time? Do I NEED half of the electronic devices I even use?”

I keep considering how the situation when a new ‘must have’ arrives. Think upon the cell phone. What a wondrous tool it was when it arrived for the masses. Many of us were annoyed by others talking all the time, how silly, how rude. Yet in a matter of years it was a matter of course. And, suddenly, everyone knew how to get a hold of you all the time. Given, in an emergency situation, we are So happy for it. But, add up the emergency situations in a week, a month, a year. Is it worth it to live in a state of cat-like readiness for that bad thing to happen. Does fear drive us? The fear of not fitting in AS well as the fear of what might happen IF…

Now, consider that our phones, which we think nothing of tossing out and buying new every 3-6 months, aren’t enough. We need them to hold more music than we could ever listen to, our endless photo albums, our day planners, movies, walkie talkies. But, wait, even though our phones have become little computers and our laptop computers have become cheaper and smaller and easier to carry, wait we need another thing: the digital pad. Which, from all I can tell is simply a computer without an easy to use keyboard that you can read magazines on. But, now my magazines and books require electricity.

This brings to mind another thing I have noticed. Back in the day when photography was first introduced to the masses with the brownie, the camera became accessible and easier to use. Yet, the photograph was still a cherished memory. They sat in dark pages books on shelves stamped in silver and gold, “Our Holidays” or “Our Wedding”. Sally might beg granny to take it down and peer through the pages at family members when small and oddly dressed. Today, taking photos and pictorially documenting our lives has become so every second, that we are inundated with it. I think it is nice, certainly, but who and when are we going to use all these images? Would one image in a frame be better? Yes, it is lovely to have more now and I am not saying that we should not, but did those who didn’t have it in the past suffer because they only had a few photographs and paintings? Which do we enjoy and covet today as collectors? I am not saying do with out, but it is true when things are not always readily available they take on a meaning, a quality of value that endless production can’t ever. Would you rather own a piece of furniture, hand made one day, loved and sat upon for generations by your family or some family or some quick and cheap particle board manufactured in Sweden and shipped in flat crates to your home?

There is no right answer, of course. And that is what is wonderful about the modern age: We have SO many choices. But, I worry sometimes ( I know it was true for me) that we let those endless choices and others choices rule our lives. We covet a time long ago when things were simpler, yet today we can easily create such a time very easily and affordably and have modern medicine to boot. But, if we all keep on the endless debt cycle  caught in the gerbil wheel of covet, buy, throwaway, covet, buy, throwaway, shall we ever truly be happy? Is happiness a full bag of things we may not need with less money in our banks and more work to pay for it all? To some, yes, this might be their idea of happiness. And I don’t want to seem to be saying I know the RIGHT way to be happy and content, for I do not. But, I do know that I see many harried people and get letters from people who wish for a more slower paced time.

Right now we honestly live in a time that we can choose the level to which we want to live. We can even, as I myself have done it, choose what era to dress in. There may be stares, but there is no longer a set code of manners and dress upon society. Therefore, this does not mean that we then ALL have to simply be rude and half naked because many our. If anything, it allows us to be as polite and as dressed up as we choose. Even the ability to sew and make our own clothes or to connect with those who have those skills and sell their wares on the amazing computers leaves for us a world out there for us to take. We simply need to sit down, decide what is good and wonderful and how we would like to live and know we CAN do it.

There is no police or bogeyman who will come after you if you suddenly disconnect all your TV's and get rid of them. IF  you go down to one car or no cars, there is no ‘un-ownership of vehicles tax’ (Yet, anyway). If you sell, donate, give away 3/4 of your wardrobe to have a few things to wear each week and a couple nice things for special times, the fashion police will not show up. In fact, if we only have a few things they will most likely be more stylish than a closet full of identical blue jeans and stacks of t-shirts with clever sayings on them. Even our work clothes can be fun and stylish if we’ve only one pair and need to care for them and have them made of rugged stuff.

This isn’t rocket science and it has really been coming to the forefront for me this year, this 1957. I have enjoyed my 1950’s experiment, but  what it has taught me is ageless, timeless. In fact it has affected hubby and my very perception of how and where we live and why we live. We have considered some vast changes to our lives because of it, but I have not spoke of any of it yet, as I want to wait until details are ironed out and plans have been made. But, believe you me, I am always thinking who I can get to be more like these peopleladiesinboat   while living in this worldbusycity .
It is good, I think, to stop and consider every so often. We needn’t continue to go forward in a life that isn’t enjoyable or fulfilling. There are many ways and choices for a modern family and even if there is balking or unrest at first, in the long run many might find a happiness they did not even know existed.

How do you fare with the modern world?Today in the news below you will see a fun short about a modern 1950’s kitchen (Starring the father from A Christmas Story) and a fun article about a Farady Cage, to silence your cell phones with style.
Here is a 1962 glimpse into phone changes in the 21st century, as seen back then.


  1. I really enjoyed the video of the modern kitchen. This is very thought provoking. If I had to pick and choose appliances that I thought made my life easier and gave me more time, the washer and dryer would be at the top of my list. I also really like having an ice maker, but don't care for the refrigerators that let you get it at the door instead of opening the freezer. I like having a laptop too. I don't own a dishwasher, so don't miss it. Growing up, we always had one and I never liked loading and unloading the dishwasher, after washing the dishes in the sink. My parents washed them until clean, but still put them in the dishwasher. Why???? They also had a trash compactor which I thought was silly.

    I have grown to not care for cell phones and the need to be available 24/7, or the price of cable tv, and the price of gas and all the extras that go along with owning a car. One of my household appliances that I don't care for is a food processor. Cleaning it does not outweigh the convenience factor of not having to chop food. Same for using a mixer to knead bread. I'd rather just do that by hand.

  2. I love these thoughtful posts! I'd never give up my washing machine, but if I only had hanging space, I'd gladly forgo the dryer.

    In our house, we no longer have a microwave nor a dishwasher, and we don't miss either one. Lately, I've been doing just what you mention, having less in my closet, but more of what I truly love & feel happy in.

  3. Thank you 50sgal for this wonderful post. You are ever giving us plenty of inspiring thoughts, helping us create a better life for ourselves. We do have choices. Can't wait to learn of your plans. Linda

  4. Hey 50;s gal,

    It seems like the more technology we pursue in attempt to keep up with the latest, the busier ones life becomes.

    I choose to step away from that, my cell phone I don`t use, nothing more annoying is witnessing people stuck texting their phones ina check out line.

    Often I find people ``talking `` to themselves, until one realizes their having a phone headset, it looks quite silly.

    I can`t wait to learn of your plans, keep up the good work :)

    Mom in Canada

  5. On the flip side.

    While I could forgo some modern conviences (the dishwasher and cable TV well ok i have never had cable) some things I would find difficult to lose. The internet has been a fabulous way for me to explore my love of vintage without it I would be less interested as I would have less information on my pursuits. Oh and thank God for spell check, central heating, air conditioning and TAMPONS!!!!

  6. There are some things I could easily live without, like my cell phone (which is old and rarely used), dryer (I line dry, so I only use it once a week for the towels), TV (but I would miss my weekly vintage movie). I could also live without my pc, although it would be very difficult nowadays since almost everything is computerized, and I would never have met nice persons like you then. :) I am not living my life in cyberspace, I use the internet as a huge encyclopaedia. I can quickly find information, recipes, or just nice stuff to read (I download free e-books to my e-book reader, which I also could live without). We could live with only one car, DH could ride his bicycle to work (the exercise would become him, ahem), but it would make our life rather difficult. And I would miss my vintage car VERY much! I could live without the dishwasher, although I hate washing up by hand, but I could NEVER NEVER NEVER live without my washing machine. Please don’t ever take it away from me! ;) I would also miss my radio and record player a lot, although I often enjoy the silence. I do think a lot of taking the power over the machines and not letting them taking the power over me. You have a choice, and you don’t have to just do what others do.


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