Sunday, January 23, 2011

23 January 1957 “Increasing Garbage and Increasing Awareness for a 1950’s Gal”

The other day while perusing through my February 1957 copy of Better Homes and Gardens, I noticed this little snippet on wastebaskets.wastebasketarticle

At first I was drawn in by their darling design and wanted to see what they had to say. When I read the lines: “Trend today is to larger wastebaskets-to take care of the increasing use of paper napkins, plates, towels, place mats, tissue, wrappings.” It got me thinking, as usual.

Here I am happily in 1957. Many new products are available to me and certainly I cannot but help consider my 5o’s homemaker’s life only 10 years prior. Even after the war years, the amount of what I used daily for cleaning and cooking would be seriously half of what I would have today, here in 1957.

I consider my dishwasher, that little gem happily chugging away in the corner of my kitchen. The roll of paper towels at the ready for any spill or cleaning. There is my bright shiny electric stove, heat ready and willing with a turn of a button, no lighting pilots. My icebox, big and roomy and perhaps I’d have a full size freezer as well, stocked to the brim with food. More food than I could have imagined during the lean war years or the prior Depression years.

I’d happily pour myself another cuppa from my electric percolator (no stove top needed here) and enjoy my lovely coffee, hard to come by during the war. I’d pat my up to the minute washing machine and dryer and consider the cold Fall mornings, my hair in pin curls and my goulashes frozen cold pinning clothes to the line. How far I have come, I’d most certainly think.

I’d have the time, now more so than ever before, to relax with my cup of coffee and my magazine. Peruse the items I’d like to add to my lovely rich beautiful life. My husband, as well, would work less hours than his future self in the 21st century, but much less than a chap back in my childhood of the 20’s. I’d have the freedom to enjoy my leisure time in a home paid off in a few years and perhaps a second car in the garage awaiting my every whim. Life, it seems, would be good.

Yet, here I’d sit, an older homemaker, closer to 40 (VERY CLOSE) than 20. I’d remember those war years. Maybe the early days of my marriage, before the war or when hubby was on furlough, sipping our coffee substitute over a single burner alcohol stove, our little apartment done over with the best I could do with make shift spare fabric and a lot of ingenuity. We’d have so much less and more stress from the war, but we also needed less. Perhaps we would talk and dream of those days when ‘this bloody war was over’ and think of a little place, a picket fence and simply happiness.

And, now, I’d think, here we are. I am happy for my dishwasher and that freezer full of food. Heck, there are so many products available, canned exotic fruits from our new state Hawaii (1951) and so much, just so much. Will it always be this way? I might wonder. Had I any children I would consider their futures, imagine their college years and their eventual move towards all I have now, the ease of the modern home, less working hours, a home paid for, good jobs a plenty.

Of course, the modern me, that little pain of the 21st century who always pokes her head into my eden and points out I am just a visitor here, in 1957, and that I cannot remain a permanent fixture forever always bursts my bubble. I need no crystal ball or soothsayer. I know what the world is in the 21st century. I have lived there. It has, in fact, made me increasingly want to close my eyes and turn my back to it and stay here in the 1950’s.

But, even here in my plastic luxury and convienant leisure, I cannot help but think of what we are doing. I see this ad and consider  “the increasing use of paper napkins, plates, towels, place mats, tissue, wrappings” and wonder…when should we stop? When is enough enough. Let’s put on the brakes and work on maintaining what we have for our children and grand children. Do we need more? Do I need a phone in every room in every color? Do I need a phone at all, remember as a child in the 30’s all those years of learning penmanship and letter writing? My trusty dishwasher, do I need it? Sure, electricity is so cheap today, here in 1957, but as I become more dependent upon it for my increasing ‘homemaker’s helpers’ will they ever up the price to make more money? Then, when my daughters can’t imagine a world without those appliances will they just deal with increasing costs?

hubbert I would have heard, last year in 1956, about the scientist M. King Hubbert who clearly described how we in the US, now one of the major oil producers, would run out of oil between 1965 and 1970. Sure, he was then considered a laughing stock. And why not, look at all that wonderful petroleum pumping out of the ground in Texas! Why worry. But, I might consider, what if we our US oil supply does go away? What then? What about all those towns and jobs and business in our country where our young G.I.’s are happy to have jobs? What then? What about the towns and all the people and what about our increasing roads and highways built to continue travel and production in our country. I already see our train travel and means of supplies changing over to trucks, cars, and planes. What if….?

I don’t honestly know if we could have some how put the brakes on and made our ‘land of plenty’ last if we only slowed it down and tried to continue the jobs/production and use of our own oil if it would have made a difference. Many think the American way is to grow and grow and grow, but do we grow for the better or for the pockets of a few?

I know that wives today have to work as well as their husbands. They both work longer hours than one in the 1950’s. Their homes are not affordable enough to pay off quicker. And we have SO MANY MORE modern appliances to make our lives ‘easier’ and yet are our lives easier? And if so, are they more enjoyable? Are we getting our ‘bang for our buck’? I honestly don’t know.

When I started my project I had no idea the roads it would take me down. I have found so many things I am proud of and like to re learn from the past. But, along that same journey I have found out things, hidden evil that I wish I could forget and didn’t learn. Things which seem to show a very pointed path to where we are currently and I am not sure, sometimes, if even hiding in the 1950’s is far enough away.

I hope this post is not too bleak. There are so many things I love about my life and the 1950’s but I also know there is so much about the modern world that I feel could be better but I am not sure they can be undone. For, I find many of them, many of these things I don’t like, really began here in my favorite decade. It only we could say, ‘enough, we have it right. Let’s just work on equality for more people and continue to advance medical system, but don’t inundate us with more and more drugs. And please don’t turn farming into a corporate business.” But we have no real time machine and no magic wand.

I have to make my happiness the best way I can. I find the joy in the simple and the skills of the home and land. To bake and cook, to grow and raise my own, to try and make more myself. Yet, for the country as a whole, I find it almost impossible to want to support others in those endeavors as they are not legally allowed to do so. Our local farm was almost shut down, because of more legislature last year that made them have to add more ‘health and saftey’ items that are really in place to shut them down and make it easier for the big corporate farms. I just don’t know.

Perhaps you can add more to my little ran here to make me feel better about our modern times. I am happier for the freedoms enjoyed by women and minorities, but in that same vein it seems the freedoms of the general public seem to be less than before, despite your race, sex, or creed. Have we gone to far? Have we given up too easily to the convienance of the modern world without asking ‘WHY’ or wondering if we need it.

Perhaps, my little moment of wonder would fade as I see the time on the clock. Hubby will be home soon enough and I have to put more clothes in my dryer and then thaw something from my freezer for dinner. Perhaps just a few minutes of the daily Soap Opera…just a few minutes. Would and could this become my life if I were truly in 1957? Would I slowly accept all the ease and watch it wash over me, caring little what happens to the future generations? I don’t know? It is so hard to say. I do know that was at first the joy of petticoats and pin curls sometimes veers into the realm of social responsibility and wonder at my world at large. I wish I could say that I know the 21st century will be an improvement upon what I have here in 1957, buy I am not sure if more legal drugs (Or prescription drugs we call them advertised to us), new diseases possibly caused by our foods and their genetic alterations, and 3-D TV and Cell phones that play movies and books that appear, as if by magic out of thin air on our devices, is better. I don’t know. What if, and I don’t know the answer to this, neither the 1957 nor the 21st century me, what if all the things we come to rely on become too expensive too run because we may have less oil at higher prices? I honestly don’t know.

I do know that a simple trip back to the 1950’s has made me more aware of my modern world than ever watching modern tv and news ever did. And I have to say, it the road ahead for you, my 1957 self, better? I don’t know…



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