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Friday, February 15, 2013

15 February 1940 “Our Town”

1940turbans You may have noticed the date up top. And strictly speaking this post is not about 1940 specifically. But as I included the film “Our Town” in it which is from 1940, I thought an image of modern hats of the time might be a fun ice breaker.

Before we get to what my post really is about, let’s quickly look at February in 1940.

On 7 February, RKO released Walt Disney’s full length animated feature, Pinocchio. It was the first since Snow White.

On 10 February the cartoon cat and mouse, Tom And Jerry get their start in the short “Puss gets the boot”, though not until 1941 will they get their own official start as Tom and Jerry.

hattie At the end of February 1940, Hattie McDaniel will be the first African American woman to win an Academy Award for her portrayal as Mammy in “Gone with the Wind” in 1939.

And though War rages on in Europe, The US will not join WWII until 1941 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. But many Americans are asked to help if they can and try to send care packages to the British especially after the beginning of the Blitz in September of 1940.

ourtownposter Now, why have I brought us here to 1940? In a way it is sort of a time-travel meeting ground. A sort of halfway point from 1913 and 1955. And the film, “Our Town” that I am sharing with you was made in 1940. It was based on the the Thornton Wilder play also entitled “Our Town”. It stars Martha Scott and William Holden.

What I like about this film is it has a very ‘time-travel’ sort of feel. The narrator addresses the audience and even encourages the characters to ‘answer questions’ from the audience. It has the feel of a guided tour in a time travel scenario for me, double so as the ‘present day[ is 1940 and their trip to the past of Our Town is 1900. This version of the film, though for some reason sub-titled, maybe for the deaf, is still endearing and pulls one in.

Yet, you might ask, why Our Town, why a movie and a stop in 1940? What has that to do with 1913 or 1950? Well, here is what happened: Having been content to try to remain in 1913 this year, I found myself almost hungry for the color and also availability of the 1950’s research. Its interpretation on the screen in blog form certainly lends itself more entertaining and a better general attraction to a wider variety of people.

There is also, as I began to dig deeper, a feel of the 1930’s in my 1913 research. That is to say, it had begun to feel to raw and close to home to today’s problems. Just as I was unable to remain in 1933 very long without feeling rather depressed and wretched, mainly due to the parallels to our own time. And when I would discover things that were happening in the Depression seemed to be happening again but with possibly more dire circumstances, I had to look away as it were.

Now I find that 1913 seems to be the beginning of so much of what was failing in the Depression. And though it seemed to later be stifled for that one supreme decade of the 1950’s (as had the 1920’s after WWI) It unfortunately began to all unravel again. There is so much legislation and things like the beginning of new taxations that really began in 1913.  And even our current view of Mexican immigration was born from our War in Mexico in 1910 which will manifest itself more in 1913 with a general view and opinion of the time. 

So, there I was not living technically in 1913 but still very much ‘in it’ daily.Then I sort of had an epiphany the other day, after being without power due to our storm and then the return to it gave me pause to think.

Picture it, if you will, myself slumped at my desk, various old texts open about me, quite a few tabs open on the computer and my coffee cooling in my lovely old 1950’s cup. The weight of it all was too much for me, so I thought I needed a break. I wanted to quickly come out of the past and so turned to music. I began rummaging through some old things I have. As many of you know I have records that go as far back as the 1900’s in 78 form and plenty from the 1950’s. But, I just needed to quickly purge my palette, as it were; to get my head back in the game.

I found some old music from my college days and in the mix was this song I had completely forgot about. I put it on and was simply transfixed. It both took me out of myself and also grounded me in the present. It gave me the melancholy for the past, both my own and my imagined from the 1950’s and in its bittersweet sadness made me realize how important it is to be happy and reflect upon what is good.

I wish I could change the world about me. Sometimes I feel like we could, we rag tag band of Apron Revolutionaries, make a difference in the future. In our knowledge and thirst for learning and doing, we can enact change on a small scale. And whether our aprons are for cooking, cleaning, making art, working in labor, or a metaphorical apron of scholarly intent, we wear them with pride and practicality.

I see there is so much of the world that is out of our hands, we little people. The world of politics, banking, money and war is played out among some secret place to which we cannot get yet our children and family are often the victims of these actions. We, in most cases, simply must keep our heads down, do our best and just like it or lump it. We are all given just enough entertainment to distract us from looking to hard at our world and in many ways what we see and read about our world is simply theatre for our benefit or distraction. We must, however, in that “Keep Calm and Carry On” sort of way, forge forward.

As I was sitting there, holding my cold cup of coffee and crying to this song, I began to think of the fun and happy moments of my three years in the 1950’s. The joy that carried me into it and the fun that kept me going through the challenges and the sometimes scary realizations. And in a way that became a representation of how to really try and live through the rough patches of life. To know what was bad, see what may be coming, prepare as best we can, but along the way have as much fun and joy as possible. Though much of our life seems to be out of our control, down to what we are allowed to own, do with our own land, or even our own hard earned money, they cannot take away our ability to have joy.

So, with another change here at the Apron Revolution, I have decided to forgo 1913 in this epic format and return to a sort of 1950’s stasis. In many respects our modern world began to be formulated in 1913. And if we view the past 100 years as a sort of graph, the 1950’s seemed to have been that exact moment where it all worked on some level. The powers that be got what they wanted, laws and money and banking and corporations were getting their fill and a middle class was able to form. We built affordable homes, had cars that were affordable with cheap gas, and could send our children to college affordably. And if we could not, they could realistically work a minimum wage job and pay for it themselves, no student loans or credit cards.

In my own research I saw how quickly that 10 year peak, on that graph of the past 100 years, soon began to point downward. And if I am an arm chair time traveler and my purpose of happiness and also some entertainment for you, my readers, is important, than those brief glorious days of the 1950’s seem the best place to reside. A place for us all to meet. Our Town.

Though I may not live my actual life 100% 1950’s everyday, it will continue to be heavily influenced by it. And with all I have done thus far it gives me a solid foundation to build upon. And it offers some security, rather real or imagined, when the foundation of our present world feels a bit shaky. A sort of escapism but with an innocence of shared fun with all of you, mixed with real and oft times usable knowledge of how to do things thrown in.

As the end of my third year in the 1950’s was coming to its close I kept wondering, what now? My failed attempts at the Depression was too close to home to be of any real use to myself. Yet the joy the computer and my project brought to me still seemed important enough to continue down that path. And as we can use the computer as a sort of pseudo reality and a cyber community, I want us to have that place be a safe place. Again, Our Town.

A world where advertising, though still out to trick us into things we didn’t really need, still had a breath of innocence to it. It was less about branding and labeling us all into sub-categories unto which to sell.TV shows didn’t exist to show us how much all our varied groups were out to get each other. The auto industry, though still out to strip us of much cheap public transport in the form of trains, still co-existed with them. And many small towns in the US still had a local train station they could affordably go to so as to visit the city or bigger town on outings or days out. Malls had yet to infringe upon our downtowns and little mom and pop stores still provided us with what we needed and when a dress was too dear for our pocket books, we saved for one store bought and made the rest ourselves. When the minimum wage was higher than it is today and we also had less tax to pay so it didn’t hurt small business because we all were able to keep more of what we made. That local grocery store job Johnny took after school provided money for his college and hand delivered groceries to our homemakers.

This comparative list could go on and on. And in many ways I wonder if the “powers that be” that seem to want to own and control everything could have just been happy with their more than fair share at the time, could we have kept that feeling going forward and helped other countries to have that? Could we not have advanced in things like fairness in equality while still allowing the current tax/banking/trade laws to remain as they were? We may never know, but we can see that good or bad for the most part our idea and ideals of the 1950’s, rather all based in fact or fiction, are still a happy place for many of us. And so I wish to return my blog and my writings to a general 1950’s theme.

The layout of the blog will remain similar but the style will change as I play around with it over the next few days. I still wish to share free eBooks that are pertinent in the library as many ‘modern’ 1950’s gals and guys would still have had access to these books and probably used them accordingly. In a sense I want to continue to be a sort of time traveler but to hop about more. My main landing pad or my ‘home base’ if you will shall be the 1950’s, but one day may be 1951 and the next 1959 and at least once a month I’ll take a longer journey to 1900 or even later. But, as I have learned, the safe place the ‘Our Town” of the 1950’s is important enough to me to remain our home base. I realize I may have lost many readers when I changed my format many times before, but at least with my return to generally the 1950’s, new comers will find my old things still relevant to what I do on a daily or weekly basis.

For me I cannot simply do things part of the way. I have always been an extremist I suppose, throwing myself into things; it simply is my way. The passion for the past and writing and blogging and now even art (having returned part time to school in that venue) all seems mingled together and yet all parts of one whole passion of mine. And I don’t want that passion to only be dry research or unhappiness. In every day some rain must fall but the sun will still come again.

Now, I will share with you the song that brought me back to myself and made me nostalgic for Our 1950’s; our own little “Our Town”. It is Iris Dement’s Our Town from her first album. I have included the lyrics as well.  “Enjoy the song and the film and as always happy homemaking!

And you know the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye,
But hold on to your lover,
'Cause your heart's bound to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town.
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town,
Goodnight.
Up the street beside that red neon light,
That's where I met my baby on one hot summer night.
He was the tender and I ordered a beer,
It's been forty years and I'm still sitting here.
But you know the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye,
But hold on to your lover,
'Cause your heart's bound to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town.
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town,
Goodnight.
It's here I had my babies and I had my first kiss.
I've walked down Main Street in the cold morning mist.
Over there is where I bought my first car.
It turned over once but then it never went far.
And I can see the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye,
But hold on to your lover,
'Cause your heart's bound to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town.
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town,
Goodnight.
I buried my Mama and I buried my Pa.
They sleep up the street beside that pretty brick wall.
I bring them flowers about every day,
but I just gotta cry when I think what they'd say.
If they could see how the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye,
But hold on to your lover,
'Cause your heart's bound to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town.
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town,
Goodnight.
Now I sit on the porch and watch the lightning-bugs fly.
But I can't see too good, I got tears in my eyes.
I'm leaving tomorrow but I don't wanna go.
I love you, my town, you'll always live in my soul.
But I can see the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on, I gotta kiss you goodbye,
But I'll hold to my lover,
'Cause my heart's 'bout to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to my town, to my town.
I can see the sun has gone down on my town, on my town,
Goodnight.
Goodnight.

 

13 comments:

  1. I have enjoyed the many aspects of your blog, I think everything in life is presented better when there is happiness and love behind it. To me it seems that you thrive in the 50's era, but have a general love for the "olden ways". It's also fun to mix things up a bit, and of course, do what is right for yourself...Hope you have a wonderful weekend! Mrs.C

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  2. I have mixed feelings about this as I was so enjoying the foray into 1913 and seeing the parallels and contrast between then and 2013. I do hope that you can continue to present even the dark aspects of your research and how it affects us today, it is so important that we here in 2013 learn and understand how the past shaped our present.

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  3. Betsy-I still will be looking at 1913. And of course, will occasionally throw in a look what is happening research piece. I was considering picking a day a week, say Friday, as my "1913 Day". That way each week on day will continue on through the year looking at 1913.
    Then other days can be joyful 1950's post about cooking, homemaking, fashion, entertainment, or just simply music and movies. And of course, the more I find out about details of 1950's information as well. But, I want to bring some of the joy back into more posts with occasional more in depth compare and contrast posts about then and now.
    Each day I consider how I can better serve what my general aims are for the blog. This would give me a more equal balance I believe.
    Thanks for sticking around, by the bye, it can be annoying when one changes formats but much like with one's home, there has to be periods of 'nesting' doesn't there?
    50sgal

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  4. 50sgal, I am enjoying your blog so much. I was interested in the Depression Era, but have a tremendous interest in WWII (before my time), and have collected a few books and pamphlets about it. I don't remember much about the 50s at all, but my older sister tells me she felt it was a happy time. So I'm definitely going to be following along with you! Thanks for keeping your readers in mind, but definitely go with what feels right and timely to you.

    Kathleen in IL

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  5. " . . . the 1950’s seemed to have been that exact moment where it all worked on some level. The powers that be got what they wanted, laws and money and banking and corporations were getting their fill and a middle class was able to form. We built affordable homes, had cars that were affordable with cheap gas, and could send our children to college affordably. And if we could not, they could realistically work a minimum wage job and pay for it themselves, no student loans or credit cards."

    I believe what you wrote hits the nail on the head as for the reason why the 1950's has a firm nostalgic hold on us. It was a time period of the U.S. being a creditor nation (over a debtor nation) in a world in which most other industrialized nations were still recovering from the ravages of World War II.

    It was a "sweet spot" of technological innovation: daily life didn't have the drudgery of hard labor as the horse was replaced by machine and illness didn't mean certain death, but technology didn't eclipse and watch our every waking moment and did not place people in on the information and consumption treadmill.

    With two World Wars behind us, we had a taste and familiarity for life outside our shores, but foreign lands were still "over there" and viewed from a distance. This kept American labor economically competitive.

    Lastly, after Prohibition, the Great Depression, and World War II, it was finally time to nest, rest, and enjoy hearth and home.

    I enjoy your blog and encourage you to follow your passion and bliss. I'll savor the journey wherever you take us.

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    1. Hi 50sgal,

      I agree with this. I'm happy to see you doing some posts on the 1950s and homemaking again. I was originally drawn to your blog because it was an escape of sorts from the things that I don't like about the world around me. It was nice to come here and reads posts that focused on the positive things from that time. Of course, I want you to do what makes you happy, but I personally like the 50s posts the best.

      PL

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  6. I agree. Follow your passion where it leads you. We will enjoy going along. I have learned so much. Set nothing in stone for your blog that you do not in your heart want to follow. If say you try to do a 1900 blog post every Friday...well do or don't. Whatever works each week. You hit so many good points and facts in our posts you could change eras every day and I would still learn. I love the movie Our Town and have watched it many times...tears each time for it reminds one of the sweetness of just the ordinary days of life with family and the simple pleasures of life. A life we so very often take for granted. I lived during the 50s and patriotism and having fun in the simplest of ways was the way of life. It was was as one already said here a sweet spot for America. I so miss people having pride in being American. Or if it was a different country proud of that country. Just pride in who you represent no matter where in the world. To stand for things and stand up and do the right thing by each other. To not be so divided as we seem to be an more. It should not be you or me it should be us. Divided is what people always have been as each has their own core beliefs etc but the difference is that before it was ok to disagree. Now it seems you are horrid and Have to agree with who ever is of the opposite stand. No working together..no giving part way. If you are the top dog then what you say will have to go and any one else has no say now. You can't just agree to disagree it seems. Sorry for the rant. I can truly understand when you say your research has brought you to close to worry over the present times and where it is leading us again as it may have in those past years. This is not like you explained but you understand I understand what you are saying. I and probably most of us get antsy too over things and how they are going and if we know history well... You are unique and your perspective and reading on these ages has a newness I enjoy very much. You write beautifully. I find myself slowly reading so I can absorb what you are saying so I remember and understand it all. It makes so much sense. Thank you again for all your work. I know you must love to research but you don't have to take so much time to write it all here for us. so thank you for that. Sarah

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  7. Have you ever read Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine?" It's one of my favorite books; an autobiographical fiction of a perfect little small town in the 1920's midwest (of course, the darker side of human nature always peeks through, but throughout you're overwhelmed with the warmth and nostalgia and golden-ness of it all). In one of the chapters the main character and his friends meet an old man who lives in their town, and they call him their 'time machine,' because he lived through the Gold Rush and saw the last great buffalo herd roam the prairies, ran with the Native Americans, etc. They give him a year and he tells them all about it.

    This post reminded me strongly of that. Your forays into the 1950's were of endless fascination to me, because with every post I could feel your awe at what you were learning and experiencing, and the joy you felt at every turn. I haven't felt that from you for a long time.

    I think using the 1950's as your home base is a brilliant idea, because you shouldn't ever stop exploring and learning, and I know you have a fascination with many parts of the past, but you also need to do things that just make you remember how exciting and joyful it can be just to be alive, and I think you were finding that in the 1950's.

    Whatever you decide to do, I'll still be reading. I have only posted a few times but I have read all of your blog entries (some several times over) and will continue to do so. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. -Robyn V

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  8. Hi Donna

    I've been reading your blog for a couple of years now in between work and having children and I'm still catching up on your old posts and I have to say you truly seem happy in the 50s. I'm loving your rants as you called them and honestly you have inspired me so much. I have always felt I was born in the wrong era (1980 baby here) but you have made me proud to love the past and want to bring it into my home. I wouldn't have found half my homemaking and cookbooks from the 40s and 50s if it weren't for you. I really think you have hekped alot of people with your blog and I believe you should do what makes you happy :)

    From sunny Australia

    Jodie

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  9. The new blog look is fabulous. I have enjoyed reading your blog for a few years now. You must do what works best for you. If that means focusing on various eras at different times or in the same post, by all means go for it. From what I see in these comments, we are all here to enjoy the ride, so carry on!!

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  10. This part of Robyn V's (anonymous 11:41 am) comment says it all for me:

    "...Your forays into the 1950's were of endless fascination to me, because with every post I could feel your awe at what you were learning and experiencing, and the joy you felt at every turn. I haven't felt that from you for a long time.

    I think using the 1950's as your home base is a brilliant idea, because you shouldn't ever stop exploring and learning, and I know you have a fascination with many parts of the past, but you also need to do things that just make you remember how exciting and joyful it can be just to be alive, and I think you were finding that in the 1950's."


    I have always loved your blog no matter what era you were in because you are a very good writer; But I miss the lightness and joy it used to have. The news (which I rarely watch because they all thrive in keeping us in constant fear) is full have scary and bad things so I don't really want to read about scary and bad things on the blogs I choose to read. I know we can't escape reality, but there's nothing wrong with focusing on the good more than the bad.

    I can't wait to see what you have to share with us. :)

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  11. Hi Donna, I have read your blog since day one and have enjoyed it all. The 50's have been my favorite as I really liked seeing how you cooked, made clothes, etc. Thank you for all your hard work so freely shared, Dee

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  12. Welcome back to the fifties, Donna. :) I know this is where you belong, since you always sound more positive in your posts. I don't like 1913 and will be very happy to find the fifties here again. Hugs from one of your old followers - from the very start indeed. :)

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