Wednesday, February 23, 2011

23 February 1957 “Housecleaning Blues”

This 1937 Betty Boop Cartoon is rather sweet. It also does a nice job of showing the sort of ideal of the middle class home of the 1937’s. The way the camera sweeps through it almost feels rather real.

One can see you scandalous Betty’s tight fitting skirt must have been at the time,when you consider it was only 20 years earlier women were still in corsets.

In many ways Grampy (whom you will see when you watch this little short) sort of represents the increase of the production of ‘home making machines’. 30shomemaker The homemaker of 1937 had a much easier time of it than her 1907 counterpart. Though she may, being middle class, have been more likely to have a maid than her 57 compatriot, the Depression in America certainly aided the eventual end of household staff. As well did the continued automation of the chores of Homemaking.

Now, have a look.

Obviously none of us will admit today, “Oh, housecleaning is a breeze, no problem what so ever”. But, it is quite true that machines have helped us immensely. Add to that the modern feeling of guilt of the stigma of a ‘messy house’ seems almost not to exist. At one point, particularly in the 1950’s, one would not wish to be seen in an untidy home. Today, it seems, with both members of a couple and easily 10 times the amount of cheap and easily acquired and gifted toys for children, mess and clutter is the norm. And with that there are more of us with the clutter and less stigma attached.

For me, however,  the joy of no clutter and a clean home is worth the daily effort. There are many days I have no visitors and the house is mainly mine and I still want and try to make it clean for me. I also have no children, so that makes a HUGE difference. When I think of all the little things that must accumulate today for children. There are just SO MANY CHEAP toys and cutesy things that people just pick up or gift. Now, in 1930 you would have had limited amount of toys. If you were middle class your child would most likely have a few dolls, some blocks, some metal cars, a dollhouse and some hand me down toys. If you were poor, most likely your child had hand me down toys and whatever mother could make for you with scraps in the rag bag. This probably made housecleaning a bit easier, but then there were no dishwashers etc. However add to that fewer dishes as they were expensive.

One didn’t hop down to Ikea or Target and buy an entire set of dishes for a pittance like today.

SO, it really seems to me that by having more things less expensive: rather than having a similar life of ease of cleaning with the same amount of things we may have had in the 1930’s but with better machines to clean them. What happens is BECAUSE we have machines to clean them, why not have TONS of dishes? Washing machine easy to use and clothes are cheap:a tidy closet of enough items for a weeks wear without repeats and a few special dresses? NO: we have MORE clothes, piled high some not worn and more washing to do.

SO, I think in many ways one could make an argument for how much the machine has aided in lessening the time we use to clean. NOW of course the machine is better to have than hand washing, only sweeping and so on. BUT, here is the lesson. If we acted as if clothing was more expensive and that toys were a limited and dear item for our child, we COULD have less, enjoy it more, find it easier to care for and clean them up and live in less chaos and more organized cleanliness. This is sort of the reality that has set into me over the past few years.

It lead me to think that if hubby and I were to have a child, it would be hard for me with the toys. Many well meaning people would happily give things, as they are cheap and easy to get. But, I would probably hurt feelings, because I would want a rather limited amount for my child. I think too much is just a way to teach them to live in clutter and to have far too  many choices. There is also not as much imagination when every conceivable situation can just be played out in a plastic play edition of everything they see on TV. Another thing I would most likely not let my child even know existed until he was a bit older. This, of course, would probably be seen as child abuse. But, we have no working TV in our home, so that would just be the way it is.

By 1957 the homemaker now has an increased lure away from cleaning: the TV. By this time more daytime shows are showing up. In TV’s beginning time most shows were an evening event shared by the family. But, now we have ‘soap operas’ (so named as they were aimed at the homemaker and their sponsors were often cleaners and soaps). We also have the arrival of daytime game shows, such as the Price is Right. Here is a commercial break from that show this year 1957.

See how easy the cleaning can be when  you BUY this product?

50swomanwashingclothes So, here in 1957, I am much more likely to wash my clothes much as we do in the 21st century while my 30’s counterpart would still be using this.30slaundry2 And while many rural women by 1957 would be more likely to have a washing machine, in the 1930’s she was most likely still washing much like her mother did in the 1900’s.oldlaundry2

I would most certainly have a dishwasher at this stage in 1957 where my 30’s counterpart would not really have that option. I am also having the ability to get more dishes affordably. temporama The very vintage dishes (Temporama) we now use as everyday dishes were in fact such a cheap dish. They were offered as a lure to come to a particular grocery store and each week they would offer a different piece so you could collect up the whole set. While not Ikea cheap, they certainly offered a chance for a homemaker to obtain a set of extra dishes at an affordable price.

So, I think the jury is still out on rather or not more and easier means better or less stressful. I know I am thankful for my dishwasher, washer/dryer, vacuum (my 1956 Kirby), and my electric sewing machine (My 1960 Singer Rocketeer).Yet, because of my project, I have been reducing my ‘stuff’ and it makes it easier to clean. Every year, this year especially, I am on the continual mission to remove all the unwanted and unneeded ‘stuff’ that often accumulates in a modern homemakers life. More is definitely not always better.

Do you feel that your modern conveniences are an aid to your life? How would your life and your family’s change if cheap clothes/toys/house wares didn’t exist and one had to save up for what we had? Do you think your cleaning would be easier or harder?

I will close with the daily cleaning checklist offered up in my America’s Housekeeping Book from 1947. The additional checklists I can include in another post if you are interested.


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