WENDY ELLIOTT: My, how things have changed

Wendy Elliott
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At a yard sale this spring I picked up a copy of the Ladies Home Journal that was published in the early 1950s. It was fascinating to sift through at home, especially the advertisements.

For example, I read, “most occasions in life are happier and brighter when you enliven them with sparkling Coca-Cola.” I certainly don’t believe that sugar makes me happy anymore than Nescafé’s allegation it offers, “better flavor than ground coffee.”

Mazola was advertising its propensity to keep calories down while frying food. The fried chicken illustrated sure didn’t look like it had a “protective calorie barrier.” Colgate toothpaste was offering a lifetime protection against tooth decay that practically promised to put dentists out of business.

It was the era when milk bottles were being replaced by Pure-Pak container. Used only once, they are supposedly better because they eliminate bottle washing and save refrigerator space. Then there was the “new dairy miracle,” Pream, which was a powdered dairy product. Not sure I follow that reasoning.

There’s a two-page spread promoting Swansdown cake mixes that are “so much better” than home made cakes. Instant puddings by Royal that give “children food energy” and quick meals with very canned looking vegetables are flaunted in big ads.

A feature story looks at a Minneapolis couple with three young children and how they cope. They live in a new house, which cost $13,500, and spend $130 a month on food. They spend $7 on sitters and $2.75 on cigarettes. The wife has to be Superwoman

I had to shake my head over a cartoon showing a peevish housewife with mop and vacuum being informed by a sedentary husband that, “in fifty years all this drudgery will be done for us by atomic energy.”

Another cartoon has a wife (with three toddlers) telling her husband, “no, this isn’t a gravel pit. It’s a normal suburban kitchen to which you came home 30 minutes earlier than usual.”

A third features a sweating husband on the phone to his wife while folding a cloth diaper. His quavering voice asks, “OK, what next?”

A column called Making Marriage Work, written by a male psychologist, had a list of 14 ways wives can get on a husband’s nerves and reminded the female reader that “her husband is the most important person in her life.”

Skin care seems to be an all-consuming topic and toilet paper softness was as critical then as it is now.

Women in the 1950s were all dressed in big skirts and aprons. Every woman sporting “town and country tweeds” is wearing gloves. My, how things have changed.

I found this 60-year-old magazine captivating because, among the Women of Wolfville, I have been spending the last few months looking at clothing and memory. These two evocative topics provided the theme of the 14th annual WOW production June 13 and 14.

The collective creation, which is full of storytelling, song and dance, involves every aspect of garments from race shirts to clothes that talk in the show Unbuttoned and Out of the Closet.

Through its annual theatrical adventures, WOW has raised more than $160,000 for charity since 2001. This year’s show will help create a commemorative statue for Wolfville’s unacknowledged Second World War heroine Mona Parsons. The proceeds will also help pay for free dance classes for kids, equipment for the Breastquest Dragon Boat Program, goats for a village in Tanzania and education for a female Guatemalan farmer.

Come check out the clothes and the aspects of the past this coming weekend.


Organizations: Ladies Home Journal, Coca-Cola

Geographic location: Minneapolis, Wolfville, Tanzania

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