Tuesday, February 28, 2012

28 February 1933 “Shoes: The Latest and the Most Lasting and Fewer Clothes but More Style”

arpelshoe1 These very futuristic shoes are from the 1930’s, designed by Steven Arpad. The forward thinking designer played with many styles and ideas that seem ultra modern even today.

arpadshoe3 I like the tongue in cheek of the ram heel of this pair.arpadshoe4 The Lucite heel of these are reminiscent of ice cubes in a modern cocktail.arpadshoe5 These look like a shoe a modern Pop Glam star would sport.

arpadshoe2 Most of these were made for the fashion house of Balenciaga through the 1930s. Such shoes would certainly be worn by very few. Even among those wealthy enough to own such shoes would have to be the adventurous type who would want the latest. These were for the very latest and modern take on fashion.

shoead Of course most ladies, particularly in the early 30’s, as here in 1933, would still be wearing their serviceable late 20’s shoes. In fact, these advertised here in 1920, would be appropriate for the Edwardian Period right through the 1930’s. It shows, certainly, the pace at which shoe design changed. Here we see looks that have a multi-decade sensibility yet lovely style and look.

 edwardiandressesphoto They would have looked adorable when they peeked out for just a glimpse under a long floor length hem of an Edwardian dress.  


WWIcouple They would have been very similar to those accompanying the ankle length looks of the First World War.

 1925 They would have been even on the most modern and daring looks of the shocking above the knee length of 1925.

30sshoead30sfashion 30sfashion230sfashion3 And such shoes would look right with the longer skirts and return of the waist of the 1930s.  That’s quite a bit of wear out of shoes. And of course these shoes were made to last and leather soles were always redone. The cobbler was in every town and happily repaired and re-soled shoes. Today, of course, we see many shoes, even those supposedly ‘well made’ really just shabbily stitched and soon to fall apart. Things are definitely not made to last in the same way.

It is interesting to me to think that ladies of the time, though they had easily a quarter of the clothes and shoes we have today, looked more put together and smart. In old photos, even gardening or casual family shots, men in ties, ladies in dresses and such shoes as these. And, most likely, their wardrobes were really very sparse. Yet what they did have was stylish, well made, and easily accessorized. Today we throw out clothing and have piles of the stuff clogging up closest, bureaus, armoires. We have the need to run our laundry machines every day and yet, when it comes right down to it, how much style is there really in the day to day? White and bright colored tennis shoes, jeans jeans, and more jeans, leggings, and t-shirts seem to be all most people wear. How can we all look so sloppy and yet have so many more things?

One of the main side affects I have found since living in the past is the vast reduction in things. I did not set out to reduce my garbage or my wardrobe. It simply happened. I have less clothing, so less laundry easier to maintain, yet almost always get compliments on my outfits. Surely I will wear the same skirt more than once in a week, but one day it is topped with a blouse and the next worn with a collared shirt, scarf tied as a tie and a sweater vest (I am really loving the men suit inspired looks of the 1930’s).

Now, I only do my laundry one day a week and so washing every day isn’t really an option. If I had children this might be different, yet at the time, wash day was often one day a week. And the children would have far less clothing as well. I think dirt on play clothes would have been overlooked more than today, because if they were then to go into town, little Bobby or Susie would put on their better school clothes. And the messiness of food was not the same in that children more often than not ate at the table. There was no wandering about the living room with handfuls of chips or dripping peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as they mindlessly stared at the TV screen. Surely, there was mess, but one had a napkin tucked into the shirt and even older children often wore a sort of bib at the table for luncheon or dinner, to protect the clothes. And you were to focus on what you were doing, eating, and not eating as a secondary act to accompany watching the tele.

poorchildreneating Even the very poor often ate at table. Despite this family having very little, the children, most likely in their only clothes other than one nice set set aside for Church and school, are enjoying their repast at the table. The littlest is standing up on a crate, but still at the table.30sfamilyeating This family seems to have very little and are most likely poorer farmers or city dwellers, but the whole family shares their meal at the table, mimicking mum and dad and trying not to make too much a mess.

workingclassfamily A working class family shares a meal at table. Mother’s outfit protected by her pinny while Father shows little Johnny how to use his silverware.

depressioneating Even those hit very hard by the Depression and having to share their homes and meal with extended family and neighbors still gathered at table. Here the table almost serves as an alter, as it is far too small to be used by the vast majority of the diners, but all gather together in the act of eating. Even in this photo of obviously hard times, notice how the ladies hair is done, girls in skirts and dresses. The act of normalcy or the importance of gathering together, even when there was little to eat, was important. It is sad that TV and Computers in many ways has taken this away from family and friends in day to day life.

In a middle class household, however, you would most assuredly been at the table with a napkin on your lap. You would have been expected to wash and dress for dinner as well. Not the black tie evening dress of the upper class, but possibly a clean sweater/jumper for son and simply taking off your apron for little Sis and mum and some lipstick and comb in the hair.  And in the upper middle and upper classes, well into the 1930’s, children often ate their evening meal in the nursery with nanny so they were certain to eat properly at a table with a stern eye watching their table manners.

If you were enjoying a treat it would be on the back steps by the kitchen or away from the nice furniture in house. And most likely you would never have food in many rooms, such as bedrooms and the nicer living room used for company.

This odd tangent from shoes to children's clothing does have a point of sorts. It is this: Less but better makes one’s life easier and more cost effective.

I will not and try not to ever give advice to people with children. I have none of my own and would never presume to give advice. There is probably no job harder nor more challenging than being a Mother. But, because of that very fact, maybe less clothing for lil Bobby or Susie would make some of the day easier? Maybe less clothing but specific to purpose, such as play dungarees and a few t-shirts for play, two pair of nice trousers for school and church with a few dress shirts, would be all is needed. And a good bib and apron for eating, even for an older child, and more eating at the table rather than eating while walking about or in rooms such as the living room. I don’t know, as I said, I know it must be incredibly hard with children. I only know that were I to have a child I think that would be at least how I would like to plan it. Of course, planning is often upset and it is easy to buy cheap clothing for a few dollars at places like Old Navy, but why make more work for oneself? And even for adults, less clothing more stylish means less money spent, less laundry and less repairs needed. And a good solid apron for working around the house and grabbing your quick lunch at the kitchen table.

This, then, is true of shoes. If you have styles you like from a specific period, than buy a few pair of well made shoes that can be re-soled in leather at a cobblers and they will last forever. They will also be stylish. I am not sure when the endless need for ‘sports shoes’ in everyday life first arrived, but it does baffle me now that I wear vintage or vintage inspired shoes. Am I uncomfortable when I shop or walk? No. Even when I exercise I simply wear flats or simply no shoes at all, when I am in the house. If one is running and playing tennis, surely your shoes should reflect that, but I think it is funny how there are little sports shoes for babies who cannot even walk? In the past, children wore a very similar leather lace up shoe for most of their childhood, one pair. And these often were resoled and passed down. I have a pair of shoes that my husband wore as a baby that were his great-grandfathers. These now act as decoration in our house, but had we a child, you can bet he’d wear them until he grew out of them.

I am finding that less with more style is simply a better way to live, at least for my little family. And as we live in an age where one can also easily get the old quality of the past by simply buying the actual antiques locally or online, we have little excuse not to surround ourselves with less things that work better, use less power and last longer. I think in today’s fast paced world of two income parents, less to own, less to clean would make the limited time families have together more joyful.

What other ways can we reduce and make do with less?

Happy Homemaking.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

26 February 1933 “Movie for a Sunday”

designforlivingposter Prior to starting this challenge, the 1930’s was an area of history of which I had scant knowledge. Even now I feel I am only breaking the surface of this very interesting decade. Much as I felt going into 1955, I had a sort of preconceived Hollywoodized version of the Great Depression. A sort of Mass Consciousness of ‘this is what the decade is’. As I found with the 1950's, what we believe as the general idea of the time is not very accurate.

An area I now want to look more closely is film. Here in 1933 ‘Talkies’ have only been around since the late 1920’s. Hollywood and films are very much still in their infancy. But, we shall begin to see the changes that have eventually lead to the sort of media we are familiar with today. I am finding it intriguing that much like other aspects of modern  machines, like the automobile, many start getting into it and bring innovation, than a few begin to monopolize, manage to control laws and begin to weed out any variety.

This film for today, Design for Living, is a fun little romp. When I read the synopsis of the film, I was surprised at the subject matter. Young independent working girl off on her own. Sharing, platonically, a flat with two men and views of marriage and so on. This film has a rather modern feel. Of course it makes one wonder, what is modern? And, as we are more familiar with the general idea of middle class and American ideals from post WWII times, it is interesting to see such different general feelings only two decades prior.

I am increasingly being amazed by the various things I am discovering about this decade and as I said before, there is so much I didn’t know it is hard to condense and share.

But, today on this fine Sunday, why not grab a cuppa and sit back and enjoy an old film. Here is part 1 and the rest of the movie is HERE on my channel. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Happy Homemaking.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

22 February “Ash: Coal & Wood, Gas Prices Then & Now, and Economical Soup Recipes”

 couplecuttingwood In my last post someone asked about the use of ash. As someone answered, correctly, these can be used for garden as well as soap. Though the type of ash is rather important as well. Wood ash has many uses and is quite safe while its cousin, coal ash, must be handled more seriously.

To begin with, ash was the main ingredient in soap. It is simply fat and a caustic chemical, such as lye. This type of lye can be derived from ash. Adding salt to this easy mixture of melted fat and ash adds varying degrees of hardness. Thus, a ‘soft soap’ used for SO many household chores, would have no salt and would appear as a brownish heavy but pliable ointment. This would be stared in jars or crocks and would simply be added to hot water and whisked to create suds for dishes. This same soft soap was used in many ways, including being mixed with sand and more ash to make a silver and copper polish. Soft soap was also used in the garden being added to water with copper alloys to make an early form of bug repellent.

How one got the lye water from the ash was to place in a barrel with drilled holes in the bottom, a layer of straw. Then wood ash is placed on top of straw. Boiling water is poured over the ash and through the straw and collected in a container under the barrel which is propped up on something. This liquid was passed through several times. The test of the strength of the lye water was to either see if a feather would dissolve in it or if an egg in its shell would float upon the lye water.

Here are some good uses for wood ash:

1. De-skunk pets. A handful rubbed on Fido's coat neutralizes the lingering odor.

2. Hide stains on paving. This Old House technical editor Mark Powers absorbs wet paint spatters on cement by sprinkling ash directly on the spot; it blends in with a scuff of his boot,

3. Enrich compost. Before the organic compound get applied to soil, enhance its nutrients by sprinkling in a few ashes, says the host of radio's You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath. Adding too much, though, ruins the mix.

4. Block garden pests. Spread evenly around garden beds, ash repels slugs and snails.

5. Melt ice. TOH building editor Tom Baker finds it adds traction and de-ices without hurting soil or concrete underneath.

6. Control pond algae. One tablespoon per 1,000 gallons adds enough potassiumm to strengthen other aquatic plants that compete with algae, slowing its growth,

7. Pump up tomatoes. For the calcium-loving plants, McGrath places 1/4 cup right in the hole when planting,

8. Clean glass fireplace doors. A damp sponge dipped in the dust scrubs away sooty residue.

9. Make soap. Soaking ashes in water makes lye, which can be mixed with animal fat and then boiled to produce soap. Salt makes it harden as it cools.

10. Shine silver. A paste of ash and water makes a dandy nontoxic metal polisher.


Coal ash, however, is a much different animal. It is not as safe to put on gardens and certainly not used in making soap. It can be much more dangerous, as coal is burnt the chemical changes are vastly different to that of simple wood. I was surprised to read in a modern article that stated,

“the waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.”

Now, I don’t know if this is true or not. I have come to question any modern notions in publications, because of the glaring differences I have found by simply looking at points from the past to the present. The above was stated in a Scientific American article.

I was very surprised to see how much we use coal ash today! This seems to be a major element in our large agriculture. We create large amounts of fly ash, as our electrical power plants burn coal to make electricity. We often have this view of Victorian cities filthy with coal smoke, as if it is a quaint idea that now longer occurs. When, in fact, we burn much more coal today than the Victorians ever did. Though we are not heating our homes with coal in grates and cooking our food, the electricity we use is more often than not, created by burning of coal. The left over ash, fly ash, is used to amend soil. This can be good if the levels do not get too high. But, that is where I get worried.

“Currently the U.S. produces 130 million tons of coal combustion waste every year. In another 10 years it will be 150 million".”

That is a lot of dust and studies showing large amounts used on crops leave elements such as arsenic and titanium. Now, in the old days, you would have simply had your ash, wood and coal, taken away. Or, if you were a gardener and had a small plot, you would have mixed your coal ash with your other organic matter in the garden compost heap and used it in your garden. This, however, was probably not in the same quantities as on a commercial scale.

What is right? What is good or bad? I increasingly find I cannot tell by any media or study. This makes me want more and more to have more control over my own food production, but this is not viable for all things or all people. So, I will most likely happily use wood ash, but were I to get coal ash, be more leery. Of course ash from Charcoal is as safe as wood, as it is made from wood itself.

Hubby and I made the decision to go down to one car when we were still living in 1955. This decision has become increasingly seen as a good one, as I am surprised at fuel prices thus far this year. I use our car once a week for my marketing and any trips to the post and bank. During the warmer months I use my bike even more. When I had to stop at the gas station the other day I was shocked at the prices just from the previous week. This, of course, made me want to look more closely at gas prices in the 20’s and 30’s.

30sgasstaionHere is the price, per year, of a gallon of gas in the U.S. It is interesting to note that gas actually went down, at first, in the beginning of the Depression. This seemed an odd coincidence to the hike we had from 2006-2008 then the decrease from $4 back down to $2 in 2009. Now, however, we can see this year already the price is quickly raising. (I have put the adjusted rate for inflation to what that same amount would cost us today in 2012 dollars) I preciously used an inflation calculator that only went to 2010. I have now found one that goes to this year. I was surprised that the .18 cents for 1933 in my 2010 calculator gave me the price:$ 3.02 while two years later the same actual amount was already $3.14. This has me really looking at the inflation of our dollar.

1920...30 cents  (3.40)
1929...21 cents   (2.78)
1933...18                (3.14)

Price to date, in my own state of Massachusetts, has increased. This chart shows the increase in gas price JUST in the month of January.

This chart shows the price over six years: One can see the spike after the ‘Crash’ of 2008. We are, however, riding close to those highs now.

These sort of facts make me worry about what is ‘said’ today. That we are “doing better”. I am not sure on what that “better” is based. I know food prices continue to rise, even since Jan of this year.

Again, one cannot help but draw comparisons or try to consider the Depression with today. For some reason, some people become angry when you try to correlate the two. I am not sure why that is, as long as one is not some how saying the suffering of those in the Depression is meaningless. To me, ignoring what happened in the facts and stats is, in a way, not honoring those that went through it. They certainly would not want others to suffer as they had and to have the benefit of their going through it already gives one a sort of crystal ball. We can see what lead to and how they dealt with the hard times to better understand and prepare now. Their suffering and hardship was not a lost cause if we take the time to view and study what was happening then.

As I said, the gas prices were lower in the early Depression than the 1920’s, but then they began to rise again. This is as we have seen over the past six years. While it is true we have many Government funded programs not even begun in the Depression to help people today, not all of us are able to take advantage of it. For me, as I am sure for many of you, I receive no direct Government aid, so the increases at the pump and the market affect me greatly. If hubby were to lose his job, we would have the option, I suppose, of unemployment, but that only lasts so long.

Those who have lost their jobs and find nothing to replace it, when their unemployment runs out, what shall they do? Will they continue to fall deeper into the Welfare system, or will they not qualify in the same way as others? If they do, then as those recipients increase, how will we afford those costs as well as increasing needs of Medicare, Medicaid of the retiring Baby Boomers? I don’t honestly know and I am truly worried.

These statistics show that in the past few years the number of people on some form of government assistance has increased.

“More than one in three Americans lived in households that received Medicaid, food stamps or other means-based government assistance in mid-2010”

I think as much as we can study the various affects and causes of that Depression will help us to better understand how and what might be coming our way. As I have said, however, we have many more costs on the average middle class family that even those in the Depression did not have to deal with. And, apparently, the cost of gas is now another aspect we will continue to face that is greater than those had to face in the 1930’s. And they did not rely on cars in the amount that we do today. The cities and highways of our current world, created since post WWII to really only be navigated by cars, had yet to exist. The amount of money spent on things like electricity and electronics today cannot even be compared with the 1930’s. So, as our prices increase with so much more money needed to survive today with various costs, taxes, insurances, how do we stand?

On that note, then I shall close today with a happier note of the kitchen. One can always try and console oneself with the hardship of bad times by increasing their skills for self preservation. The more we can understand and learn about our world the better and then we must balance that with skill, I think. Cooking, obviously, is one of the most important. We must eat and we must be ready to create more with less.

These soups in my 1933 magazine are rather hearty but really quite inexpensive to create. We all know that a heel of bread and warm soup can do wonders for an empty tummy. And when we make it ourselves we can be a little more certain what is going into it.

This first recipe makes me think of the children’s book, “Stone Soup” where soup can be made from a stone. You just need some veg and other things and it will be tasty.


I think this corn chowder would be interesting to try with some other canned veg, even things like beets, or Green beans or combinations there of. Also, as one learns to can their own vegetables, this type of soup becomes even more pleasurable to make, I am sure.cornchowder beefsoup I like the idea of using preserved fruit, such as raisins, in a soup recipe. They would reconstitute and add a nice sweet bite. Surely such a sugary treat would be welcomed when food is becoming more dear.

When you are too busy for homemade bread or if simply yeast is too dear, what a simple bread solution. These could also be fun to serve floating in a soup, like the croutons in French Onion. You could also spice this recipe either savory or sweet. A simple addition of chives or dill and cheese would make them company ready. Or one money, as a treat, rolled in cinnamon and sugar to accompany breakfast. It uses very few ingredients.


I think the more we begin to think about our food as simple items to throw together (if one is worried about cooking skill or time to prepare it) we can begin to move towards simple cost effective ingredients and less pre-packaged, pre-made foods that are more expensive, take more energy to store, create more waste we Can’t use (like our lovely organic garbage and wood ash!) and are not as tasty or healthy. Little moves in this direction will prepare us all for harder times. And when the good times increase we will still have the skill and then can increase our repertoire of dishes with more expensive ingredients as the economy improves. From every aspect, it is simply win win.

Happy Homemaking.

Monday, February 20, 2012

20 February 1933 “So Many Things not sure Where to Start”

womanpreseving I may seem to be rather lax with posts of late. In all honesty it isn’t the lack of drive nor the scarcity of information that has made me thus. It is, in fact, the sheer amount of things occurring this year that I want to speak about. Their correlation to our own current world continues to astound me and having to also put it into the perspective of the various little recipes and hints is almost putting me in a sort of stasis.

I have yet to talk of the amazing 1932 Nationwide march and strike of the WWI veterans. Three days ago, on the 17th, the Blain Act was enacted, ended prohibition:

The Blaine Act was sponsored by Wisconsin Senator John J. Blaine and passed by the United States Senator on February 17, 1933. It initiated the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which established Prohibition in the United States. The repeal was formally adopted as the21st Amendment to the Constitution on December 5, 1933.

This, though once simply believing prohibition was brought about by the actions of many T-totaling women and men, oddly coincides with Henry Ford’s final giving up on his ‘growing fuel’. Prior to prohibition, Ford had developed a motor that ran on a form of pure ethanol and living in the mid-west felt strongly he could ‘grow his own fuel’ thus adding to his business model. Rockefeller, head of Standard Oil, did not like this one bit. Oddly enough Prohibition was enacted making it illegal to move corn and grain alcohols (thus the fuel Ford developed) to not be allowed to be transported and created. His final ‘letting go and shutting down’ of this idea was, in fact, this year and suddenly prohibition ends. Perhaps they are not connected, I don’t honestly know. I just know I bump into these odd facts, dates start lining up and I suddenly have those, ‘ah-ha’ moments. But, I digress and move along.

I want to discuss garbage and rubbish and our concept and view of the stuff. That it was not always viewed as a ‘mess to be taken away’ but that in fact much of our garbage wasn’t garbage at all. The saving of and dividing of garbage into sections, though modern day recycling seems to think it a new idea, was rather a norm. Ash, Organic, and unusable were the three main categories. Ash was saved and in some places and other countries as well, as UK, there were ash men who paid YOU to take this away. It was used both in agricultural as well as soap production. Secondly, the compostable or organic waste was often bought by various people as well to use here in the USA as feed for the hog industry. A very sound idea which also gave better nutrition to our hogs than today’s need to feed the ‘special feed’. This, again, seems to suddenly stop as companies such as Monsanto grow who require certain feeds for animals and also populate various political offices as well as heavy handed lobbyists. Again, I am not saying things are planned but I am saying it was a fact that we once treated garbage quite differently. Much was saved and used over and over and would NEVER be considered garbage, such as fat and drippings.

Bottles and containers, as well, were either saved for canning, preserving, storing and many things, like milk bottles, wine bottles and such, were taken back or brought back to stores to be refilled. The ultimate recycling rather then their being trucked from place to place smashed and remade they simply were sterilized and re-used.

Even something as simple as writing pens were refilled with bottled ink rather than tossed away and more bought. There was literally less garbage as more things were considered to be bought and to hold onto for a lifetime.

There were even Rag and bone men who made a living from collecting these from homes. And at one point the drippings were considered part of the pay of the family cook, or if you were servant less, the homemaker was able to sell these drippings to a local man as well. These were also used in the production of soaps and cleaners. And, of course, there were NO plastic garbage bags/bin bags. What trash there was was put into a trash can and either  a trash man came or you buried or burned it in your incinerator, yard and as the 50’s progressed, garbage became mixed at dumps.

There are many photos of the Depression of people living and getting what they can at the dump. Could you imagine a modern family down on their luck even trying to get into the dump? We need a paid sticker and a car to be even ALLOWED into our local dump processing area and everything is put into large metal bins and taken away.

A 1930’s person transported to a modern house, restaurant, or hospital would gape wildly at the food thrown away. The amount of clothing and such also tossed out would appall and amaze. The lessening of garbage was simply a natural part of buying less, using more, and realizing the inherent value in many things today we would scoff at. Why save the pure drippings from your cooked meat to use again as cooking oil, to oil pans for baking, in pastry, or recipes when you can buy heavily processed vegetable oils?

I am also finding many fun things such as easily drying apples in a low oven, an easy one egg donut recipe, preserving eggs in ‘Water Glass’ which is liquid sodium silicate. This can be bought at some drug stores or even some automotive stores. When this is mixed with water eggs can be set into this liquid and preserved as fresh eggs for up to a year! So, I am finding many non electric forms of storage, remember that it wasn’t until the 1930’s WPA programs that brought electricity to many rural areas of many states. Living without electricity was a very real state of being for much of the USA in the early 1930s.

There is just so much information that I want to share that, as I said, it is almost too much and I find it daunting how to bring it all to you. Therefore, I need to simply try and bring a bit at a time. Today, so faced with this dilemma, I felt the need to simply create this post explaining both my excitement about all that seems to be learned as well as my need to find the best way to present it to you.

I am finding that with many of the shocking things I also see rays of hope. As we can try ourselves to begin to implement the little changes that, though not popular en masse, our certainly doable for we as individuals. Things like approach to garbage, preserving more foods without refrigeration, considering alternative reactions to things that might not be garbage, such as drippings and old bones; these are not only fun ways to connect with our own homemaking past, but also a boon to our pocketbooks in these trying and recessionary times.

I hope today’s ramble gives hope to my future findings and patience with my increasing learning curve of the best way to present and share these things with you.

Now for fun, some inventions that didn’t stick around but fun to view from 1933 from Modern Mechanixhomemakerinvetions

Friday, February 17, 2012

17 February 1933 “A Darling Little House Plan and the Wants of the Middle Class”

houseplan2 I wanted to share this darling little house plan. There is much talk of home building in the 1933 and on magazines of the time as we are now just getting the FHA and so on. As I had discussed before, home ownership was much harder. There were no 30 year loans, one often needed a large percentage down as high as 50% and loans went for around 5 years. Of course, we must remember that homes were more affordable then. So, when the FHA and such schemes came in at the time it was to actually help the poor to buy a house, already cheap, with payments spread over a longer period (not 30 years yet though).

Of course what happened with that system was it became a way to sell overpriced homes in an overinflated market to an unsuspecting populace. I am finding many things coming into play here in the 1930’s that are easy to read game plans for our current economy, yet I know there is no real discussion of solutions in the modern media. At least, that is my impression when I speak with people ab0ut it, as I myself do not watch any TV now. But, I digress.

In the 1950’s there were always many home plans in ladies magazines. The building boom post WWII would make the 1930’s home construction look like like a drip of rain to Niagara falls. And with those homes in the mid century, the modernist movement, which had begun really before the 1930’s, had begun to streamline and become more sharp or precise. The inventions of plastics and increased abilities in manufacturing greatly affected the building process. Though, despite their being quicker to build and more allowed on smaller lots, the 1950’s home, to me, can be a little cold compared to the 20/30’s cottage.

There was much of the fairytale in the 20’s cottage. One self-taught artist/builder in California, Hugh Comstock, took the ‘English Cottage’ and ‘Neo-Tudor’ passion of the 20’s to a small scale fantasy extreme. He first built a little Tudor fantasy for his wife to sell her dolls in Carmel by the sea.photo

It was such a hit that he immediately found himself in the home design and building business. Here are some of the other ‘Fairy Tale Cottages’. comstockcottage comstockcottage2

Certainly there was modernist architecture happening in the 1930’s. And even some private homes. 30smodernhouse Here is such an example of the sort of modern happening, this home build in 1932. However, you can very easily see the influence, rather it was meant or not, of a basic colonial or early house with a box shape and chimney to the side. Though authentic early colonial houses had chimneys interior, as our home does, because it contained all the heat inside as it was meant for heating source rather than ambience.

In Germany in 1919, Walter Gropius founded Bauhaus, which was an art school which combined all the arts. Though it was heavily inspired by the Arts and Crafts school and the Weimar Academy. Yet, the result of the Arts and Crafts, which in the 19th century had shown its ‘back to roots’ appearance in the hand of the craftsman in the wooden and pottery details of their work, the 1920’s-30’s Bauhaus had a much more streamlined factory made look to it. This building could easily be one of the new modern 1950’s American office buildings, though it was build well before WWII in Germany.File:Bauhaus.JPG

I could go on and on, as I am sure you all well know, about such things. But, my main point was to show that both the modern almost rigid idealism of a new and different world post WWI also carried a sub-current of escapism. The quite tide of wanting hearth and home to be, well, rather like a story book. The joys of the nursery, warm fire, lovely little painted furniture, hodgepodge of books and things held dear, ran equally with the high brow ideals of clean modern design.

So, in the 1930’s where we are now, that sense of the ‘homey’ seems to be the main ideal in the middle class building boom. While, post WWII, we shall see the other trend gain footing. Plastics and clean smooth featureless walls are the coveted look of the mass building of the 1950s.

There is much to be said for the look of the mid century home, for sure, but whilst I was living there I kept being drawn to the “Early American” look that was popular in the 1950’s. A look that allowed a new middle class family with their first new little rectangle home, flat roof, smooth window-pane-less windows and asphalt drive to add a touch of homey to their life. Chairs and cabinets in pine with curved and detailed legs. Pokey and primitive Folk Art that looked rather good with the modern smooth architecture, but yet still drew one in. I think that drawing in, in my opinion, is that deep down we all do love that hearth and home lifestyle.

We might scoff, were we so high brow and inclined, at the such things in our terrazzo floor glass walled apartment in NYC with concrete counters and bath. One painting on a wall which in its Rothko-like appearance is simply a slab of orange and brown paint, sadly blending together. But, deep down, I really feel the crackle of the fire, the smell of old leather of books and worn furniture that has been used for years has an appeal that the new may never know. But, of course, we all like different things surely.

I was thinking the other day how this need to change and grow is really middle class. I don’t mean to always go back to class, but I always find it fascinating. One you think about it, the middle class were created when the merchant classes were suddenly born and could obtain more money. They could work their way up and so they are often either trying to forget where they came from or focus on where they are going to. The lower and upper classes often had or didn't’  want any mobility. And is so doing, often kept and used things over and over. Both out of necessity as well as out of simple joy and need. A palatial country home of an upper-class family would happily have shabby silk curtains owned by generations before. The furniture would be old and worn. When more money was available or a particular family member happened to care about interiors, then new things might be made up. Surely they were the patrons of the arts of such new ideas, but they didnt’ throw out the old for the new. And the very poor lower class simply had to keep what they had and repair it.

In fact, even the change in the upper-class attitudes, which we have today, are largely due to the marrying into them the sudden wealth of the middle merchant class, to get a ‘bit of money in’. At the end of the 19th century, there were many dollar Heiresses' made with the growing industrialized money classes. These daughters were married into the old families so they could keep their old piles of homes going with increasing taxes and need for money. With these daughters came the idea of ‘doing over’ rooms and homes. Because, though they may have come from a large palatial mansion on the Hudson in New York, it had only been recently built and kitted out. This idea then, this need to makeover and redo, was really born out of that.

The Victorians, as well, with new mass production of furniture and objects cheaply made but resembling fine art pieces of the upper classes were kept alive by the middle class. They were the buyers. They the purchasers. It makes one wonder, now, with the dying of the middle class, what is our new direction?

We will try, I am sure, to further this odd modern ideal of constant growth, but can it go forever? I mean we are literally filling up the world with stuff we buy use and then toss away. Surely the world is a big place, but we too are increasing in number. And the idea of constant growth in business, home, lives, electronics, is such an odd view and only really a new concept. I wonder where we are all headed?

But, again, I digress. My main point was to share this lovely little plan for a darling little cottage one could have built in a suburb or country lane. I think it’s size is small and manageable for the homemaker, but its clever design leaves much space and style to really create that Hearth and Home feeling I think many of us do like.

My, I do go off on tangents, don’t I? Well here is the article accompanying these house plans.homeplan1

And look at the sweet little options for the bay window and the entrances.houseplanentrance

And over all, I find the layout of the little living room with the book shelf detail and the eyebrow openings of the doorways delightful. The simple addition of the wall at the front swooping out to form an entrance at the drive is really easy to construct and yet adds so much to a small houses style. The variety of roof heights, as well, really make a small single story home look more interesting. Though varying roof heights cost more, when you are building small it still is less that a large two story house but with more style.

What do you think of this little plan? Do you like it? Do you think a ‘suburb’ of these with more old growth trees being left, is a more pretty picture than the 1950’s version? Could you live in a house this size and style?

Happy Homemaking.

Monday, February 13, 2012

13 February 1933 “The View of Freedom and the Homemaker and the Facts of the Cost of that Freedom”

Since I began my project the one thing I often find interesting from peoples comments, rather in real life or in letters or comments to me, is the great divide between reactions to a SAHW. These seem to be either Black or White.

I am either told how little freedom I must have. How trapped or unfulfilled I must be ‘forced’ to be in all the time. And how boring and non stimulating it must be. The other extreme is the often misconstrued vision of the endless freedom bordering on slovenly laziness. Sitting on sofa’s all day eating chocolates and watching soaps, was and sometimes is the general view of a woman ‘at home’. Yet, the reality is, there is a great grey area, much as there is in any life.

I thought of this disparaging crevasse of view today when I read this comment. Now, I am not saying this is a bad comment nor did I take it that way. It was simply a statement of their perception of my life, and in many ways it simply speaks the truth. So, do not think I am ‘picking’ on this commenter.

I am so envious of your life. You get to live in what ever decade/time period that you like, get to change home decor, cooking, and clothing styles. Not have to worry about caring for children or working outside of your home and get to blog as much as you like about what ever whim comes your way. I wish that I had the luxury that you have to indulge in what ever whim of the day I feel like. Such a carefree me-centered life, wow! –anon

This was my response:

anon-yes, I am lucky. I am very grateful for my opportunity. Having a loving husband who understands AND appreciates that what I do do at home is a job. It is true that I get to structure my day, though I still have to work around a schedule ruled by meals as to when hubby goes off to work and returns.
Though, I must say that it isn't as glamorous as it might sound all the time. Blogging all the time is rather hard work. Especially as I spend quite a bit of time studying, researching and just endless going through dry boring bits of knowledge mixed in with the fun stuff. It is very much like being at university and writing your papers or being a journalist. I give myself deadlines, have to try and check facts.
Though, of course, we all live ME centered lives, how can we not? I do still have others to consider. My family, though I have no children, still exist and I do have to and often consider and plan for them as well. I wish, sometimes, that we were blessed with a child. But, with the economy as it is and our continuing look at the coming future mixed with the devaluing of the dollar, and the increase in food costs and university, were we to have a child I would alas have to leave the poor thing to others care. And, to us at least, that just isn't what we would want as parents.
Now, I am not saying that is bad for those who have chosen that role, good for them and they are far stronger and possibly much more clever than I. But, for us, a child would benefit from my being home to teach and love and care and provide stability. In our current climate that is not a viable solution in our income bracket. It rather makes me sad, really, that in many ways the US has changed so drastically that that joy of a child, in the way it once was, has been taken from many of we middle class folks. But, what can one do? I cannot change the whole world and many of the things that lead to it continue to happen. And even the changes those they are happening to could do to try and change it refuse to see it, so we are at the whims of the few and the actions of the masses.
But, yes, overall I am very lucky. And I am very appreciative of my life. There isn't a day that I send hubby off that I don't stop and think, "I am lucky".

It got me thinking again about that perception of one working at home. Now, were I to work outside the home, say even a non professional job such as working at a local grocery store all day, then coming home and sitting in front of the computer while I eat heat up food, this would actually, in many cases, be viewed as a harder worker than I. Now, I am not saying that such a person is NOT a hard worker. But sometimes simply doing a job assigned to you CAN be easy, while have to structure your day to get all that NEEDS to be done so that you can have time for your WANTS does take more skill than some might know.

Now, I don’t want this post to seem to be one of those where I try to defend myself. I have no need. I am unapologetic for my role as a stay at home wife. It works for our family and husband and I are both happy with it. But, it does make me consider that again, there may be many women out there who would love to still become stay at homes. And it makes me sad when we start looking at all the obstacles to that.

First off, I think, there is the obstacle of perception of others of you. That, I think, should be tossed out the window for anyone who really wants to try their hand at SAHW or SAHM. One must, in today’s world, be like a ducks back for such thoughts that you are lazy, for they will surely come. Now, getting to grips with that is much easier than the simple hard facts of just living in today’s world.

That fact being, of course, money. We must have it to survive. There really is little chance for anyone to ever be truly self-sufficient again, for there will always be taxes, and inflation of our money, and various costs to simply own a car or home. Nothing is free and very few things are actually owned. Even when we buy a car it is not done for, as we have to continually pay insurance on it and inspection fees. These are costs that have NOTHING to do with the actual running of the car, yet we MUST or we CANNNOT have one.

I was really thinking of this lately as I begin to look more and more into costs during the Depression. What keeps coming forward to me is that despite our view of it as such a hard time, which it was for many, the standard middle class family fared so much better, or rather had a better chance of getting started, then than now. The simple facts of less cost and there being less required costs for everything simply meant one’s dollar was stretched further. And, of course, the relative value of that dollar was, of course, stronger. It was even backed by gold, which we have not had since 1971 in this country.

We all need some basics to survive. Food, Shelter, and Clothing. These are the basics and quite literally all other is simply the icing on the cake. Various degrees of icing, surely, but lets look at these basics.

Food: We all need it to survive. In 1933 many who hit hard times found they were without much of it but they made do with what they did have. And often had to resort to the help of their community in the forms of bread and soup lines. One thing those folks did have, however, is the ability to cook generally. The skills of the kitchen were more a normal part of most people’s lives. There was never a chance to get used to microwaved foods or fast food restaurants for, they simply did not exist. SO, when prices rose and jobs were lost someone, usually mother, were able to look in the bare pantry and consider ways to make the food stretch. I have heard of pancakes being used as a replacement for bread, as they use less ingredients and can be made to be stretched with the addition of more water. These could have items such as a thin slice of lard in and rolled and taken in the pocket to school or to look for work. The truth being that the carbohydrates of the bread and the protein and fat of the egg and lard would carry a soul further than say a quick ‘energy bar’ today which is mainly carbohydrates. And I wonder how many modern sensibilities would be able to consider even eating such a thing.

Now we can continue down and down the rabbit hole on even the simplest of things when we look to the past. For example the right and ease to have that lard in your pantry. Then one had more rights to ownership of said animals. One could keep them in more places and also be allowed to feed them what they like and to, if they needed, sell off what they could of it to help aid the failing family budget. Today, such actions would have the FDA on you so fast you’d haven’t a chance to even think. That ability of self sufficiency again just a bit further away. One might laugh at such a concept, keeping a hog. But if one were worried of the future and that basic element of food think about it for a moment. One hog would not only feed the family basic meat, it would supply the fat you would not only use for making pastry and bread, but that very same fat, mixed with lye or caustic soda, is all that is required for soap. That soap would clean you and your family.

Now, I am not saying all should have a pig or a be a farmer, but if one wanted to spend less and have more at home to care for to be allowed to stay at home, one simply by law, not do so. Just think that you would literally be breaking the law to simply live as our forebears had. That is a scary and rather shocking realization. And I come upon it often when I am studying the past.

Much goes the same for growing your own food. What if you haven’t the time, but your neighbor does and wants to sell some off or barter to help ends meet. If such a concern becomes big enough for attention, we are now at the whims of the bureaucrat who are paid tax dollars to come around and inspect and make sure we are not breaking the continually increasing laws. Though, as far as I can tell, the large corporate farms seem to have carte blanche to spread and spray chemicals proven to do harm in scientific experiments on food that is eaten by all including the sick in hospital and children in schools, yet one could be in trouble for raising a chicken in your yard, killing it and selling it to your neighbor. Again, we have moved away from the ability to self survive and to exist at a smaller communal level. The very way in which, when times get hard, we must often turn to survive. But, I digress.

It just rather upsets me and really makes me sad the more I look into the past further and further back to see the freedoms the average person had really dissolving. Certainly we have made strides in racial and even female rights, but so much of the average rights and the abilities to CHOOSE to stay at home or try and live more self sufficiently are simply gone. And, of course, the more this happens of course it is not only easier to simply work and work and pay and pay, but it becomes more of a Need and less of a Want. And it is no wonder so many waste hours in front of TV, Computer and phone screens. There is little freedom and hope so one must find the diversion.

Let’s look at some facts. Here are some actual ad prices for homes for sale in the 1930’s. I will do the conversion of inflation from then dollars to now in brackets [].

1933 Sheboygan Wisconsin
10 acre chicken farm large basement barn and small house
$1,900  [$31648.38 would cost today]

  1933 Fitchburg Massachusetts
6 room Cottage, garage and large plot
$2,800 [ $ 33314.09 would cost today]

1934 Oakland California
5 room stucco bungalow , breakfast room , separate garage, delightful location
$3,750 [ $62463.91 would cost today]

Now, to understand how much money we were earning in order to buy or rent homes lets look at income.

Average Median Income Then and Now.

1933: $1970  [$32,814.0 in today’s money]

2011: $31,111

(that number is per earner so a median two income family would presumably earn twice that. It is also of interest to note that the avg median per household in 2004 was $44, 389 thus, much like the beginning of the Depression, earnings are going down)

So, here we see a similarity in earnings in 1933 to today per earner, yet we have two earners as the norm in today’s family, so why is there less chance to stay at home? Well, the house costs is the first indicator. One could own a home with about 1-3 years salary. Surely we could add up today's salary three years and thing that might be enough for a home, but there are endless costs one did not have in the Depression. As stated in a previous post just the costs in insurance, fuel, inspections. Now, add to that the increase in things we ‘need’ such as computers, TV, cell phones for all family members, cars for more than one family member, increased costs in health care and insurance for home, car, payments on credit cards. And, well, I am hardly saying anything we don’t already now. The list goes on. Simply put:

More things, more ‘needs’ =higher costs

more laws requiring payments and more loss of freedom in food production= less income to keep.

higher inflation= less purchasing power of the same dollars as yesterday.

Sometimes, as well, I feel we attack one another rather than think of attacking those very issues which are actually affecting our choice to stay home or our ability to do so. Even in this online world we now exist there is a level of anger and entitlement that just didn’t exist before such technology. Others begin to expect what they want when they want it and if it doesn’t immediately go there way or fit into their current realm of thought, they attack it. It is almost, in many ways, quite animal. One views the opponent either they are friend or foe if foe, then attack! I suppose it is the anonymity of the thing that allows one to feel more brave to say cruel or hurtful things to one another.

We are lucky here on my blog as we often have such lovely comments or if we disagree we do so with decorum and sense. We do not resort to name calling or simple hurtful replies. But, could you imagine in the past, the ‘old days’ as it were, someone coming into a shop or someone’s home and just demanding to be entertained or agreed with immediately? They would be seen as crazy at least.

Well, again, I seem to have wandered off my point. I can continue to list the various costs of things then and now and compare how much more it simply costs  to live today and that many of those costs we cant even do away with as they are required by law. We can, however, choose drastic things as I have, such as one car for the family. Almost no extraneous shopping save for what is needed in the basics of food and shelter and saving up one’s pin money for that special hat or scarf we find at a yard sale or local thrift shop.

But, quite honestly, the vigor with which I started this post is now quite gone due to the commenter above now stating the following to me:

How can you claim that you have choosen to be child-free due to the economy. Thant is one of the most selfish cop-outs I have ever heard. if you choose not to have a child that is your right, but do not blame it on the economy. Think of how many families with a lot of children survived during the depression, and without government handouts. I think that your biggest challenge to mother hood would be giving up your "you" time and unplugging and really doing something productive and meaningful.

Now, I know you shall say don’t let such things bother me. But, I must. I see such responses as the very core of what it is we have become. We feel the need to force and judge at every turn. Really, I can’t imagine why it should seem odd that I have chosen a list of criteria for a child and finding myself wanting chose not to do so is somehow bad? Perhaps it is and as the commenter states, surely I am selfish. But, by that very point, I should make a wretched mother and I find myself back to the same decision. Here was my comment back:

First off, I wasn't aware we were not allowed to have any reason we choose to not have a child. A family should make sure they feel comfortable with the choice, I feel. But, I am afraid anon, that for our reasons I do , indeed, blame the economy. Now, we certainly could go ahead and have one. Many do and, as I said, I applaud them. They are made of stronger stuff than I. I am, perhaps, far too selfish in that way and thus, by that very admission, might make a wretched mother anyway, don't you think. Certainly if you think me incapable of my not being selfish you should be quite glad I have chosen not to be a mother. For what a mess of it I shall have made. No, I shall let other better mother's do their job and be happy and proud for them. But, for my own criteria for Me personally for having a child, I do and will blame the economy. Only because those are part of the set of criteria we, as a family, have set down. Were we more certain of the future, were it say actually 1955, I would, without a doubt, have a child! But, it is not and I am, as you say, self interested. So, there you are and her am I , childless. Yet, I don't think I have less purpose or am less a productive member of society. We cannot all be mothers, can we? It is one of the hardest jobs and requires the best of women and they deserve much praise. And believe you me, I happily give it. But, alas, I could not for myself have a child and then go off to work because I AM selfish and would WANT all the time with the child. I am just sad that we do not live in an economy that would allow me more opportunity to make that very choice, but c'est la vie, what can one do.

I think today, after this nonsensical rambling of a post, I shall just end here. I am off to be with some of my friends today and hubby, we are to our local tea shop. Pretty hats and fun clothes and good conversation. Selfish it might be, but I find myself increasingly wishing to retreat more and more into what is important to me and that being simply enjoying what it is we CAN control within the small framework we are allowed by today’s standards. I hope all have a lovely day, I know I shall.

I shall return to simple posts of fun facts about 1933 and perhaps try to do more daily simple postings, less involved, but more simply stated. I am rather becoming a bore or worse yet, a dilettante. For that, I ask forgiveness.

Happy Homemaking.

Friday, February 10, 2012

10 February 1933 “Singing Telegrams, Ukulele, Deviled Shrimp Pie & Unusual Lima Bean Loaf””

H. Armstrong Roberts / Retrofile / Getty Images Today in 1933, Western Union began offering Singing Telegrams. Prior to this (and of course again in the coming decade with WWII) receiving a telegram usually made one feel apprehensive, as it often was a harbinger of bad news.

Western Union Singing Telegram advertisement, 1955 (Photo: Business Wire)Apparently, their popularity picked back up again after the second World War, as here we see an advert for singing telegrams from none other than, 1955!

I read an article saying that Western Union actually launched this year a website to brink back the telegram. But to do so through the internet, so someone could send a singing telegram today. I won’t give the address, because when I followed the link in the article and the page loaded, I was accosted by the worse LOUD sounding hip/hop rippity rap sound that tortured my ears! I had to close the window immediately and listen to this to bring my ears back to the sensibility of good music. The lovely Ethel Waters singing Miss Otis Regrets

Here is a fun song and clip from the picture “Take a Chance” from this year. The song is called “Blame it on the Ukulele”

By now, the Ukulele is the established instrument of the people.

Flappers with Ukes

Transplanted to America in the 1920’s the ukulele, portable, it was considered the image of the Jazz Age. It was first introduced to the masses in 1926 with one of the earlier sound talkies staring the very talented Roy Smeck. Smeck was a genius of the strings and he could do magic with stringed instruments. Here is a clip from that ‘26 film showing off his talents. He plays the uke later on in the clip.

I found some cans of shrimp very inexpensive at my local market and so picked some up. Much as my Depression era sisters would have done, with food prices rising we must try to find inexpensive ways to make meals.

shrimppie Here is the recipe and I will tell you how it turns out.

unusuallimabeanloaf And from my Hostess Handbook from the 1930’s this fun recipe with a great drawing diagram to accompany it. I love that this recipe book has these little illustrations. It makes me want to get back to drawing again.

limabeanloafillustration Do let me know if any of you try this recipe and cost it out if you can. I shall do the same. We can try and build up an arsenal of inexpensive but interesting foods to supplement our menus. It seemed to me today, as it was my marketing day, that prices seem to have gone up again! It is very frustrating.

Happy Homemaking.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

7 February 1933 “New Hats and Old Laundry Techniques”

aboutphoto I have new hats. The first, pictured here, I really adore. It was bought at the local goodwill but I know it is a modern hat from a chain store by the tag.

Obviously I tinted this photo and placed it in an old edging so as to look vintage. I liked the result so much it is now my bio shot on the main page of the blog.

I think it looks very vintage ,this hat. In fact I wore it the other day when a friend and I went to our local antique shop. There is a lady there who always comes up to me and says, “I know I tell you this every time, but I love your style”.  She wondered how I get all my vintage things, other than what I get there at her shop. (usually hats and bags from her shop) I told her the hat was actually not vintage at all.  But by keeping in mind the style you are looking for, there are always modern versions of old looks. After all, many styles simply keep repeating themselves and with the immense amount of things mass produced today, you are going to find something close to the period you are aiming for.

This hat, which is rather hard to see in this photo, I purchased that day from her shop. It is black lambs wool. I had to have it as I have a coat of the very same fabric with a fur collar, which I am sporting in this photo.

mehat1 I realize dark hair, hat and coat may make for a bad visual of the hat, but I thought the style of the snapshot rather vintage.

hatsbag Here it is with the other hat and the lovely bag I also purchased at our antique shop. The lovely handbag is real leather and has an adorable tassel motif in gold plated metal. This lamb shearling hat is, indeed, vintage and here is the old tag proudly stating it was Union Made in the USA.hattag Something that means quite a bit here in the 1930’s. Unions are and were once an important part of the fabric of our country. An attempt to counter the corporate with the corporation of the working man. Today USA made is very hard to come by and sadly.

Now you might very well say, 50’s gal what a naughty time traveler you are, buying yourself things in the height of the Depression. But, I can tell you, to counter such spendthrift ways (though it was but little out of my pin money) I attempted laundry the old fashioned way. Well, let me correct that Gussie and I attempted laundry the old-fashioned way. I called upon my old ‘maid’ to return from my 1950’s project to aid me here in 1933.

I haven’t  mentioned Gussie in sometime, as she was only a part of my 1955 experiment the first month. She happily stepped in as ‘maid’ for that first month of my 1955 year to see how it would be for a middle class homemaker to have such help. The other day she returned, for a few hours, in that position. We tackled the laundry together.

I do not as of yet have an old washing machine so we did a laundry day with my normal machine on cold. Then we hand rung the items. Now having a ringer, even a hand crank old wooden ringer, would have made more sense, but I had not. In 1933 I would most likely have a machine with a motorized ringer, but then again, I might not.

 vintage bicycle laundry ringerBut, I would have certainly at least had the hand crank model that most homes had even in 1900.  As I do not own such a device, hand ringing was what we did. Boy oh boy was it labor intensive!

We were laughing at one point so hard we nearly dropped our precious cargo on the cold damp grown. It was late when we finished and the last to be wrung out was a large feather duvet. We each grabbed one end and folded it in half. Then we both twisted it opposite directions. It was amazing the amount of water that came out! We did it several times (our hands freezing as it was below freezing outside at this point). Even after all that ringing it was so much more damp than had it been in the washer. That machine really spins out the water! What a magic moment it must have been when that homemaker of yore first got her electric ringer.  And then when she got the self contained machines of the 1940’s how magical it must have seemed!

We had to hang that heavy piece over our fence in the moonlight, and come morning hubby commented that our nightly chore was frozen solid outside. But, once the sun came up and it warmed up, it eventually dried, of course.

I know, really, this was not a very good experiment. As I said, having a wringer and washing it by hand in the sink would have been more accurate, and I shall attempt that as well. I think I can get an old wooden hand crank fairly inexpensive come summer at a yard sale. But, I have had no luck as of yet getting my hands affordably on an old electric or gas powered washer with automatic wringer.

What it did show me, though, as I often learn in my little attempts at old homemaking, was patience. Diligence, stick-to-itiveness, and patience were and certainly are the corner stones of any good homemaker. Then, however, we were seeing many new gadgets arriving, many could not afford them. Laundry in tubs scrubbed on metal washboards and hand wrung may well have been a norm for many a homemaker. Still, whenever I am forced to stop in the midst of such a trial and consider the past and my own abilities, I often feel empowered by it. Rather than just giving up and thinking ‘thank God for modern life’, I actually often think, “Hmm, if i wanted to do this all the time, I would simply have less things to wash, as it would make it easier.” And it was just such revelations that really began in 1955 that made me look forward to simplifying my life.

Today is ironing day. In 1933, from what I can find, there were no steam irons. In 1927 the Silex company introduced the first iron with temperature control. Prior to that it was simply determined by your touching the iron and deciding if it was hot enough or not. The steam iron would not be around for awhile and after WWII a pump model steam iron was developed but proved too costly.

33iron Here is an ad from one of my 1933 Better Homes magazines for this latest iron. It only weighs 3 lbs, he claims, comparative to a usual 6 lb iron. We certainly see why the homemaker in the Depression would not have needed the gym. But, as this is fairly new, I wonder if I would either still have a 6lb electric iron from the 1920’s or even, were you poor enough, the old type that simply was heated on the stove or was fueled by kerosene or charcoal placed in a brazier on the iron.

This 1920’a gas iron would simply be hooked up to your gas. Prior to electricity, many homes were plumbed for gas for lights. Appliances were then made to simply plug into this fuel supply much as you would later with electricity.

There were also coal irons were the hot coals were placed inside for the heat source. Oddly enough, in places like India even today such coal irons are still used, as shown in this modern day photo of an Indian man using just such an iron.4164645211_a8811857c6

That goes to show that though we may believe we have all advanced to a state that is only moving forward and that the past is, well, simply in the past, that is not always the case. If times become harder and choice begin to be made one might find themselves hoping to own the workable appliances of the past. Especially when they run mainly on our own sweat and not on things for which we must pay. Now, I certainly am not saying I shall go out and get a coal powered iron tomorrow. And certainly my 1933 counterpart simply had a heavy electric version with no steam, it is important to recall how we did things once. And to consider, for ourselves, when such antiquated things might not be reconsidered. This is an extreme, but hand washing dishes, using clothes lines or a push non electric vacuum are all simply ways to bring back the old and put more money in the bank (or our mattress as the current banking scams might lead us to consider).

So, today, I shall simply use my 1950’s antique iron with the steam off, no water in and a medium setting. We shall see how crease free hubby shirts come out.

Happy Homemaking.


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