How I Spent My Dollar, Part 1; by Irene Tibbetts; 1925

I am going to tell you about a dollar I spent.

It is very seldom I go to the city to trade, so when I do I always have a list of things I must have and a list I would like to have if I have enough money left. The last time I was in trading I had bought all my necessary things and was wondering what I would like best to get for Mother as it was near her birthday. A little girl and boy came into the department store and were looking around when I heard the little girl ask the clerk the price of a book. It was $1.98 and the children had only a dollar. So I asked them why they wished that book in particular and the boy said that they had seen their mother look at it the day before when she was in there and it was her birthday that day so they thought it would be nice to give it to her.

I gave them my dollar to pay for the book. I hope their mother is pleased, as my mother had to do with a box of handkerchiefs. Let’s hope she was pleased enough to make up for the way I felt not being able to give my mother more! I’ve often wondered since, was it foolish of me or not?

 

Trying out a Simpler Life

This past month we took our summer vacation. We spent a week on a lake in northern Wisconsin. We rented a teeny 1930s-era cabin at an old-fashioned “resort.”  The cabin had electricity, a kitchen sink, and a toilet. (The shower house was a short walk away.)

Throughout the week, I kept noticing ways in which life in our Northwoods cabin differed from our everyday life. Here are a few of things that I noticed the most:

Stuff. I had so few belongings that I used many things for more than one purpose. A mug doubled as a measuring cup. A saucer became the cover on a bowl of leftovers. A rolled up blanket functioned as an extra pillow. A few times I cooked in stages because we had one skillet. We just “made do” with what we had or did without but we got along fine.

Entertainment. We had electricity but no internet or tv. So instead we found entertainment in our surroundings and surprisingly, found no end of ways to stay busy. We watched boaters and water skiers go by and got to recognize some of them. We noticed clouds and fronts move in and out throughout the day and watched the sunset every night. (It’s amazing how different every sunset is.) We watched every day for the duck with 8 ducklings who bobbed around in the water and the loon that came around our dock in the early evening. And time flies when you’re sitting in front of a bonfire and just talking.

Cooking. I made our meals without any recipes and I never looked for online inspiration to help me make dinner. We had a craving for potato salad one day and I made it from memory, with a spoonful of this and that. By golly, it tasted the same as when I follow a recipe and drag out multiple bowls and measuring spoons. I need to trust myself more in the kitchen!

Cleaning! Oh my. After breakfast we’d do the dishes, then sweep out the whole cabin, make the bed, and put away a few misplaced belongings. That sucked a whopping 10 minutes out of the day. Then I had to decide if I would read my book sitting out on the dock or in the hammock.

I realize that I was living a fantasy kind of life. And honestly, I wouldn’t want to live that way permanently. I want more than four outfits, two books, and a week’s worth of food. And let’s not forget my garden, canning jars, and my crafts. I would miss them terribly.

But I did learn a few things that will do me well to adopt back in my “real life.”

-We estimated and brought enough food to last the week. Since we didn’t want to waste any, I found ways to incorporate leftover ingredients into a meal the next day. Because our refrigerator wasn’t jam-packed, ingredients didn’t hide behind the condiments and leftovers and become forgotten and spoiled. I think I was more organized because I didn’t have endless options and I used what I had instead of cooking according to my ever-changing whims.

-We found that overall, we didn’t miss technology, even though at home, a tv, radio, or something is nearly always on.  We spent more time outside because the outdoors was so much more interesting than anything in our tiny cabin, with nothing enticing us to stay indoors.  Because we weren’t distracted by electronic entertainment, we went to bed when it got dark and woke up with the sun. In spite of being on vacation with few responsibilities, I still think we were more well-rested than at home.

It was great to get away and “reset” and see life in a different angle. I don’t plan on giving it all up for a life in the Northwoods any time soon, but I’d like to incorporate a few things into my life for the other 358 days of the year.

Don’t Save Your Pretty Things For Wife #2; 1937

 

Whenever I am tempted to put pretty things away and not use them I think of a neighbor I had. She was fine to visit with over the garden fence or in my home, but it was no joy to go into her home. It was beautiful–but the polished floors were covered first with new rugs and then with old rugs and where there wasn’t any “rug” there were heavy papers, so you couldn’t possibly mark the floor. The chairs were all covered so they wouldn’t get dusty or scratched. She never used her best dishes for fear they would get nicked or broken. Her beautiful linens were laid away, so they wouldn’t wear out. Children were not welcome in the house, as they might leave a mark or fingerprint on something.

One day Mary died of heart failure.

Within a year Joe was married again. All the old rugs and coverings disappeared, the costly china is used everyday and on wash days the most beautiful linens hang on the line. Four  healthy, sturdy boys have come to bless the home.

As we see them learning to swim, having water fights or sailing boats in the bathtub, sliding down the banisters or playing train with the furniture, we wonder, “What would Mary say if she could see all this?”

We are thoroughly convinced that we, ourselves, shall use and enjoy all our pretty things and not save them for wife number two.

 

 

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.