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.


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