Tuesday, March 19, 2013

19 March 1957 “Pink Heaven: A Pink Brick Ranch & Mental Health Then and Now”

pinkheavenarticle1 Today we are in the Pink! This article from one of my 1957 Magazines tells a fun little design story that I find very 1950’s. First is that we have a couple who can afford to hire a Hollywood decorator yet their house is a manageable little ranch style house and not a McMansion. And I also applaud the gutsy way that the 1950’s approached modern design. Despite the house style being quite modern and though it has the colonial use of brick, is far from a traditional house. Yet, they used loving Colonial or Early American design and in a rather pleasing way inside. It makes one pause and consider Ricky and Lucy’s house in Connecticut on the later years of I love Lucy. Yet, much as the Victorian’s did with their brash use of colors on their ornate “Gingerbread” facades, these homeowners have no qualms painting the brick exterior of a house containing a colonial look, fresh 1950’s Pink! I think that level of fun and exuberance should be applauded and maybe easily applied in our own modern little homes. Sometimes when the world seems a bit darker a little pink paint might be a good jolt of joy.

pinkheavenarticle2  The terrace is a lovely small house feature. My own little antique home has a small terrace and we use it all summer and even into fall. We have a small brick fire pit and 1950’s metal outdoor furniture. It is terraced blocks into the ground, as well as we see here, and there is something to be said about its being even with the ground as opposed to a raised wooden deck. One has more movement and flow into the landscape and yet a very definite partition between garden and rest space is apparent.

pinkheavenarticle4 The use of wood and modern appliance, vinyl floor but old wood burning fire place are on opposite ends of the spectrum but seem to combine the old and new in a very vintage (by today’s eye) but truly enjoyable space. What do you think of this sort of kitchen layout and design for today?

Now, onto mental health: A commenter on the last post had mention my quick reference to the changing mores of society towards self-evaluation and medication as a response to mental issues. In my first year, in 1955, I recall discussing own change about in Depression while happily distracting my personal thoughts with action. Though never have attempted a clinical diagnosis of depression, I had expressed that the year leading up to my project had, as previous years, always had bouts of the stuff. I would often find myself too introspective but to the point of stagnating or immobilizing depression. A sort of malaise that would put me on the sofa for the whole day and feeling ‘no point’.
I then, after my project began, noticed one day how these thoughts had not plagued me. I considered the newness of the project as a distraction at first, but then began to see that the project itself was about me somewhat, but it was also about learning and skills. And it considered others as well as myself, as a 1950’s homemaker’s ideal was to make a happy self and home to also please others. And while our modern notion of that selflessness can be characterized in a simplistic way as the sad “woman at home” doing for others at the expense of her own ‘career’ or personal goals. I began to see that as a very limited and flat characterization of what I was personally experiencing.

I found that the increase desire to learn and to create in my home and kitchen, desire to please hubby and friends with these skills if anything gave me more confidence and pride in my abilities. I felt not a drudge at others beck and call but an artist of the home who was happy to dazzle friends and family with a great meal, a comfortable home, or a fun evening of cocktails, cards, and conversation.

What happened in the comments was a surprise, however. As I had made a comment saying I wonder if many of the Depression diagnosis of the day and the subsequent over medicating was actually helpful or if in fact ‘getting out of oneself’ and doing activity was not a better cure, less expensive, more productive and better on the bodies chemistry. I had a commenter who was offended and angry that she seemed to think I dictated a no medicine ‘get over yourself’ policy. This, of course, couldn’t have been further from the truth. I hardly pretend to know the mind or habits or what is good for others. But, I knew what seemed to be good for me.

An ensuing debate began in the comments and actually quite a few commentor's felt the person was overreacting and that maybe, indeed, we should look at our current state of easy diagnosis of problems and quick solution of medication.

I could spend a week on articles on the change in mental health care and medicine from the post war years to today. In fact one could do a doctoral thesis on it, as there are so many layers and complexities, but today, just to touch on it. I thought I would share this 1952 movie on “Mental Institutions” as they were called.

Here is the film:

Now, my own opinion on this film is that it was first and foremost made to show the positive of the place. Yet, we know there was much strife and sadness attached to it; And the increase in that mistreatment could be tied to forced medication and electric shock treatments. However, we seem today, we modern people, to always look at the past as if that is when all the bad happened and nothing like that happens today. While in fact, electric shock therapy is still very much used and today the element of ‘work and doing’ to take oneself “out of themselves and not Focus on the Problem” seems to have vanished. Without the public institution where the farm and food and even electricity was made on site by the patients as part of their therapy and skill training we have private institutions operating as businesses whose product are people and the newly diagnoses ill. In addition the food, power, clothes and garden that was provided as part of the process is now simply another portion for private industry to sell into the private business of such institutions, including homes for the aged and elderly.

I also found this rather disturbing documentary about how today the modern prison system (also increasingly privatized-thus a business) is the new “Mental Institution:” Yet, instead of rooms with windows, activities and yard work, farm work, cooking, mechanical work etc they are simply put in tiny 8 x 8 cells with no walls and watched and then forcibly medicated.
I don’t pretend to know an easy answer, for surely there is none, for mental health and depression and its ilk. But surely we may have not moved in the right direction since the disbanding of the public institutions of the 1950’s in the 1970’s and 80’s. Much like the modern person needs to evaluate their life on a more personal level of responsibility and learn to take on more of the blame. if you will. That is to say to see that many situations they find themselves in that seem unfair or unjust may be simply traced to their own actions which happily means THEY can change them and take control over the solution rather than an outside source or medication. Thus a focus more on a cure of change through actions and choice rather than a fixation of daily over-evaluation of the problem that can only be soothed by doping one into a life of prescriptions. This may be the way to move towards the mentally ill and even all of us in a continually changing world of financial woes and stress of wars and global issues. And another point worth making is the increasing medication of children would be questioned more thoroughly and even appalled at by those in the 1950’s.

There are no easy answers and that is why simply medicating away our problems seems far too simple a band-aid for a much more serious state of affairs of the modern condition. And are we moving towards medicating simply for that: the Modern Condition? Is the modern world’s dichotomy of contradictory views and subsequent solutions making us all want to retire to our bed and take a pill? I hope not. I do know, since my 1955 project began five years ago, my mental health and even my concept and evaluation of my own feelings of depression have greatly changed. Often Action seems the best cure. To get out of oneself and get to work and make a change is a great pill to take for such ills. But, I don’t want anyone to think I make light of such illness and Do know that many do need medication to help them. Yet, I would hope that their aim would be to use it as a tool to get better which may mean no longer needing the medication. And that we must remember that prescription drugs are an industry and business and the need to sell the product is upper most in their business plan far above the welfare of the taker.

I hope all have a lovely day and as always Happy Homemaking. If anyone else is interested in seeing the videos That Frontline did on ‘the New Asylum” here is the link to part on on Youtube. I didn’t want it to remain on the site, but felt it was good to show for others to view at their choice in contrast to the 1952 version of the public institution.


  1. I was diagnosed with major depression (was almost on death's door) so it can be very serious and nothing to dismiss lightly; I was put on meds for it, which saved my life, but I also used the meds as a tool to get better, like you said, and after 3 years was able to get off them, and that was many years ago. I feel very sorry for people who must be on them for life, since their conditions must be very serious. Interesting post.

  2. 50sgal,

    I had to go dig around to find the previous post on depression that you were talking about to remember what was said. I'm glad you mentioned it as it was a great post. What was said then still holds true today.

    My parent's house is that same exact shade of pink. We refer to their house as being Pepto Bismol pink. :)



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