Vic and Sade, 1930s and 1940s

A fun way to get a glimpse of home life “way back when” is to listen to an old radio show called Vic and Sade. Vic and Sade was a daily 15 minute show so popular at the time that each episode aired several times a day. Most of the episodes have been lost or destroyed but the ones that remain are available online. You can find some of them right  HERE.

Whether the show is an accurate portrayal of life in the 1930s and 1940s, who can say for sure? Not me. I can only assume it was a realistic reflection of the era. It was certainly a slower, simpler pace.

The family consists of Victor Gook, his wife Sadie, and their son Rush. Vic is an accountant at the Consolidated Kitchenware Co. and one of his primary interests is his lodge membership in the Sacred Stars of the Milky Way, where he serves as the Exalted Big Dipper.

Sadie is a housewife, whose best friend is her neighbor Ruthie Stenbottom. It seems as if the two of them are always shopping at Yamilton’s Department Store to take advantage of a washrag sale and in the evenings, she and Vic often get together with Ruthie and her husband Fred to play 500 and have ice cream.

Rush is their enthusiastic teenage son. He’s always discovering money-making schemes, reading his Third Lieutenant Stanley adventure books, and going to the YMCA with his friends to “watch the fat men play handball.”

The episodes aren’t full of wild adventures, mysteries, and outrageous situations. There are no laugh tracks, punch lines, and only a few sound effects. Instead, each episode is a slice of an ordinary (yet quirky) family’s daily life. Many of the episodes take place in the living room after dinner as the family discusses the trivial happenings of the day.

I feel like I’m eavesdropping on the Gook family; it’s like the social media of the early 20th century. The conversations aren’t exciting, but just like pictures on Facebook of an ordinary family birthday party, you can’t help but look (or in the case of Vic and Sade, listen in). The storylines move slowly enough that you learn the family member’s personalities, pet peeves, and individual peculiarities and feel you know them well.  The shows get funnier over time as I’ve learned the personalities of the family members. The subtle humor often make me laugh out loud.

Give it a try sometime! It’s a peaceful change of pace from the usual blaring TV noise, with its ads and fluctuating volumes. Life seems to move a little more quietly after I’ve listened to a few episodes.

 

Juneberry (Saskatoon, Serviceberry) Jam, 1924

I recently read an article in a 1924 issue of the Farmer’s Wife magazine on using wild fruits. At first glance, I didn’t think I had access to any of the wild fruits mentioned, like red haws, pin cherries, and chokecherries. But then I had a chance conversation with a fellow camper over the Memorial Day weekend…

unripened Saskatoon berries

I learned from the chat with my campground neighbor that Saskatoon berries are also known as Juneberries and Serviceberries. I’ve had a couple of Saskatoon berry bushes for years.  The bushes have been slow to take off, but I finally got my first harvest last year. I picked all the berries and put them into the freezer, where they have remained because I had no idea what to do with them.  Our conversation reminded me that the article included a couple of recipes for Juneberries.

frozen Saskatoon berries

So, I had an opportunity to try out one of the recipes. I didn’t have enough berries for a full recipe, so I just followed the ratio in the recipe of 3 parts berries to 1 part rhubarb. 

simmering the berries and rhubarb

I began to drain the fruit as directed, but then decided that I prefer jam instead of jelly, so I strained it through my jam cone instead.  I really like the idea of jam that doesn’t use store-bought pectin but I struggle with the jelly test on the back of a spoon. I’m always afraid of overcooking it so my jam often winds up more like an ice cream topping, which isn’t all bad, but a little drippy for toast.

I concentrated on counting drips–”1, 2, 3….13, 14, 15, drip” then “1, 2, 3….20, 21, 22, drip” over and over, gradually working my way closer to 60. I found myself counting faster and faster to reach my goal before it dripped. Even while pouring it into the jars, I knew it was thicker than I’d wanted. I think my problem was that by the time I counted all the way up to 60, the jam had cooked nearly a minute longer.  

stirring and counting between drips

In spite of the thickness, the taste is absolutely delicious, like blueberry with a little tang. All in all, I consider my first attempt at Juneberry jam a success. I’m anxious for this summer’s crop to ripen, so I can make another batch.

Have you ever tried Juneberries? (or Saskatoon berries? or Serviceberries?)

Print Recipe
Juneberry (Saskatoon, Serviceberry) Jelly
originally shared in 1924 by Mrs. Floyd Luros
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Wash and pick over berries and dice rhubarb. Put fruit in kettle with pinch of soda and just enough water to cover. Cook slowly until the fruit is soft and tender and then strain through a cotton flannel bag. Add an equal amount of sugar to the strained juice, bring the boiling point and simmer gently until it jells. A good plan is to see if the last drop on the spoon can be held while counting sixty, as then it will surely jell. Pour into hot sterilized glasses, cool and seal.

Minimalism and the Housewife, 1907

It is not easy to determine, in detail, just which things are really necessary to refined and beautiful living, and which are the evidence of…ostentatious waste. -1907

The lifestyle of all the cool people nowadays–minimalism. Like most extremes, it’s the reaction to the opposite way of life of the last several decades known as materialism.

Have you ever looked at pictures of a minimalist home tour? To generalize my observations, they’re usually condo/apartment type homes consisting of one or just a few people. A twin bed, a nightstand that doubles as a dresser, and a small table with an uncomfortable looking, modern chair. Is it my imagination that most minimalists seem to be bloggers and writers? I’ve yet to see a homesteading, DIY minimalist. Yes, there isn’t a smidge of clutter or disorder anywhere. But I don’t see the personality, either. Where is the cupboard of favorite teas? The photo albums? The boxes of craft supplies? And most importantly, where is the stash of mason jars?

We can’t deny the mass quantities of possessions we all have these days, more than at any other time in history. Garage sales, thrift shops, and big-box discount stores have allowed even those with a small income to have stuff galore. Several friends and I have gotten together numerous times to brainstorm and share ideas on managing our homes more efficiently and smoothly so that ultimately, we spend less time at it. It took us over a year to conclude that the best way to manage our stuff is to simply have less of it to manage. (We may not be sharp, but we’re persistent…)

For those of us who make our home our profession, we can’t keep our equipment scanned and digitally managed. Ours are tangible tools, essential to running a household. A cherry pitter may collect dust 363 days a year, but when I buy 12# of cherries, every time I’ve had to shuffle it around in a drawer has been worth it. I keep several tins of thread in all colors, because I actually mend and sew clothes and things for the house. I may not know what color thread I may need for a future project, but I have enough variety that I’m prepared. Having supplies on hand means that I don’t have to interrupt my day to track down what I need and run all over town to get it. Who’s to say that we’ll always be able to access anything we need at any time? Life would be a lark if we never had to consider the future. But a good manager prepares for possible needs in various situations.

It’s not that the minimalism movement is all bad. I’m learning to be a little more realistic and less sentimental when it comes to hanging on to something I haven’t used and likely won’t in the future. I’m also learning that I don’t need as much as I think I do.  By culling the excess, I can spend more time, money, and energy on the stuff I do value. Like books. Ahem.

As usual, happiness is found in balance. The Shoppers and Hoarders on one side and Minimalists on the other can tout their ways of life but I think the rest of us can live peacefully in the middle, hanging on to what we need and use without feeling materialistic and greedy. 

Where do you stand?

My Summer in a Garden, 1870–Week 2

My garden, early June

This summer I’m comparing each week of Charles Dudley Warner’s gardening journal, My Summer in a Garden, to my own garden. I’m finding that I can relate to many of his perspectives, and this week, his thoughts are centered on weeds.

Hardly is the garden planted, when he must begin to hoe it. The weeds have sprung up all over it in a night.

Ain’t that the truth. Warner continues…

The most humiliating thing to me about a garden is the lesson it teaches of the inferiority of man. Nature is prompt, decided, inexhaustible. She thrusts up her plants with a vigor and freedom that I admire; and the more worthless the plant, the more rapid and splendid its growth. She is at it early and late, and all night; never tiring, nor showing the least sign of exhaustion.

I’m in the middle of that long wait for my seeds to sprout (or not) while weeds merrily enjoy their head start. I always hope I can identify my seedlings by the time they come up, but if I can’t, it becomes a “Where’s Waldo” kind of adventure. Here are two examples from my vegetable and herb garden this week.

Can you see the lettuce seedlings? The teeny light green sprouts in the center of the picture? Besides the fact that the weeds are much bigger than the seedlings, I’m also a little bothered that there are so few lettuce sprouts, but that’s a whole other problem.  I may just have to replant.

And then there’s this little disaster zone. Can you spy the dill among the quack grass? (I can barely see it myself but there’s actually quite a lot buried in there.) Sigh.

On the whole, though, my garden is off to a good start and not completely overridden by weeds, but we’ve had a lot of rain this early summer. I’ve had to watch the weeds helplessly from the sidelines as they have their way with my baby plants. But with no rain in the forecast this week, I hope I can get some of my weedy spots under control.

A final quote from my gardening friend, Charles–

…there is no liberty in gardening. The man who undertakes a garden is relentlessly pursued.

Weeds. They’re after me.