During the War years Thrift and Conservation became words used often. The idea of it being an ‘Old Fashioned’ value is present in this ad. That Grandmother’s generation, or that of the last century, valued savings and conservation. In many ways the actual amount of available products just weren’t there in her time. What is interesting in this ad is that advertising is using the idea of Patriotism and saving for the war effort as a way to sell the homefront homemaker new towels. Not thrifty at all, in fact.
Here is an article from this same 1943 magazine which opens with tugging at one’s heart strings for what the soldier longs for home. In his desires for the wing chair by the hearth and that ‘old bed’ to sleep in, really we see a complete doing over of the house. New things bought, post war, with War bonds bought now. Or to do so now would be, in a way, Patriotic. When in fact, the returning soldier would most likely want to see the old things as he left them and as he recalled them. The comfort of home is constancy not change.
I look at such war time ads with different eyes than I did when I started my 1955 project. Then I was keen to see what we had and what was new in the post war years. Now, I see us beginning to be told how we, as Americans, define ourselves through our things rather than our deeds. The idea that the old kitchen wasn’t good enough and that such luxury is not considered so or that our freedom is somehow tied to purchase rather frightens me now.
In some ways it makes me shutter for those older people during those years, the grandmothers, that wondered at their own value system dying away. I am sure, much as we see today with older people to today’s youth with constant need of new phones/computers etc, the same thing. Yet, that idea of flux and constant change. The very business model of constant growth was rather foreign in 1900 yet by WWII we really see that changing.
The idea of saving, though here in war bonds for future use, is already changing. The setting aside for a rainy day is beginning to blue a bit. And today savings is an almost unheard of concept. Add to that the 0% interest rates, which are meant to somehow help the failing economy, actually punishes saving. With no interest on money set aside, there almost seems little reason or incentive to do so. And many young people today most likely live only on debt from credit cards.
There is most likely not one element that has lead to the rapid change in our concept of who we are as American’s, but one has simply to step back one decade at a time to the turn of the last century to get a feel for how it has been greatly affected.
Though we had concepts of thrift as a national idea during the last World War, we today, though the US is involved in many wars, have no such national idea. We are told to spend to be American. I feel for our soldiers today and those left at home. And I feel for all of us, homemakers alike, who live in a world of flux, constant change, and continual disparaging and contradictory news and realities as espoused by whatever channel we are tuned into. When really, is any of it actual reality? We get our reality through programming while our own lives go unlived in ways unthinkable hundreds of years ago. In many ways I feel like that mythical soldier in the article above who simply wants to leave it all come home to a comfortable bed and feel safe in the constancy and comfort of home. Have we all, as a nation and a world, lost our home? Is the concept of Home even alive anymore for us to get to or is it just a marketing idea only achieved through discount shopping? I hope not.
Let’s not let Home be a product to be bought but lets make home a place of frugal savings and comfort of love not things. The comfort that comes from less and easy living because of camaraderie and not picking sides of being part of a clique is Home. Let there not be Them and Us, but let our homes be We. Let’s not be branded like cattle into our little pigeonholes, lets be happy industrious home loving families who revel in knowledge and skill. Who look at challenges as tasks to be overcome with grace and study and not to ease or overstressed life with ‘shop therapy’ or to ‘get away from it all’. A new kitchen won’t bring as much feeling of safety and home as will some savings and a meal made through thrift and skill. Getting more and getting it cheaper isn’t always the answer. Having less and caring for it and ourselves is.