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.

 

Are Wives Loyal? 1937 & 1938

Letter 1–

It seems I am never with some of my married friends–girls my own age as well as those of the older generation–but they are complaining about their husbands, or criticizing them, one way or another.

Perhaps you would not call that a lack of loyalty, but I feel that it is.

I have been with these same husbands a lot, and have been more or less in their confidence. It is seldom, if ever, that they say one word in criticism of their wives. Is it because the wives are so nearly perfect in their husband’s eyes? Or do they, perhaps, see our faults, but are loyal enough to say nothing about them, even to close friends?

After all, we marry of our own volition, and surely should not expect our husbands to be faultless, when we ourselves are not.

Letter 2–

The other day I overheard two women talking about their husbands. Each seemed to be trying to make hers out the worse–nothing especially bad, just ordinary “meannesses” and I could not help but wonder what they would think and feel if their husbands “visited” the same way.

Why isn’t it just as easy to say, “John likes me to have meals on time,” as it is to say, “John is always so cross and unreasonable if I am behind with the meals”? Both statements can be true but how differently they sound when saying them to a group of other women!

One evening I knew my husband would be away late on business so I started the chores and was milking when a neighbor came in. She watched me for awhile and then said, “I wouldn’t milk any man’s cows. He could do it himself if he was late.”

“Well,” I replied, “I’m not milking ‘any’ man’s cows, I’m milking our cows.”

There wasn’t any answer.

 

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?

Take a Weekly Vacation, 1927

Last year we took a vacation that lasted all summer and well into the autumn, and yet the actual “vacationing” took place on only one day each week. John and I both believe in the re-creating powers of an occasional outing, and since we could not leave our little farm for more than a day at a time, we hit upon this plan.

Every Sunday morning last summer we were up before dawn and while I packed a well-planned lunch, John took care of the chores. When everything was in order for the day, our little car slid down the shadowy driveway and out into the open road. And with what joy we went out to meet adventure!

Sometimes we had a trip planned, to some resort or beauty spot, a visit to a distant relative, to the mountains or the lakes. Or again we started out with no particular destination in view, just following any road that took our fancy. Sometimes after a strenuous week we looked for a quiet spot where we might just rest among Nature’s beauties. A fishing trip, perhaps. At least that is what we called it–even though our idle lines bobbed on the sunny waters all day long and we never caught a thing!

Each of these trips brought its little adventure, its bit of beauty, a lesson, an amusing incident, a lovely memory to store away and think about and discuss all through the following week. Our Kodak album is filled with pictures that tell the story of each of those trips, and often during the winter we have taken them out and laughed and talked them over.

And best of all, we never missed a Sunday at church all summer. It was always possible to find along the way a church of our denomination holding services sometime during the morning. We always came away refreshed, awakened, with some old truth or some new thought to take with us on our little journey.