Thursday, August 14, 2008

'A Woman's Place....'

I love looking through old books, especially those based on home and lifestyle with fascinating photographs accompanying the text. I recently bought a large 1950's book entitled 'The Happy Home', which is 'An indispensable guide for all housewives and home lovers who are best served by choosing GAS for domestic purposes'!

Its fun to see how some things have changed within our homes over the decades, but also how much has stayed the same. (I would quite like a pair of those pink flamingo curtains myself!)

We don't have a dishwasher at home - I still prefer to do the dishes in the sink with my trusty bristle brush and wooden drainer!

And red gingham features pretty heavily too! I love how my own mother's first kitchen had red gingham curtians and a red formica dining table and here I am with the same look.

Above this mother's fridge hangs a 'Memory Tickler' to make grocery shopping lists easy to remember.
I think my old rusty version is a Victorian one, going by some of the items on the list: black lead, suet, tapioca, soda, dripping, coal, boot polish and oil! So I don't use it and usually walk up and down the isles of the supermarket, hoping my memory will be tickled that way!!

And I do have a cream coloured cooker, but it's not as smart as this one...
A fabulous gas cooker with plenty of space for the Christmas dinner and gleaming copper saucepans bubbling away on the hob.
Of course every housewife needed a pinny or housecoat to protect her clothes beneath, with hair tied up out of the way in a gaily printed headscarf.
'The housewife can 'look her best' when acting as her own cook'.
(They were always in high-heeled shoes, weren't they?!)
Its good to see that some things have changed though. I don't think I would still like to be doing the family laundry using a gas washing machine with attached wringer....even if my kitchen did look this pretty.....
But it looks like we have always washed eiderdowns at home, drying them on the washing line outside.
And I still look out for these PVC hanging wardrobes to add to my website catalogue when I can. The 1950's printed covers are always so cheerful.
Finally, although this book does have 'jobs for the boys', I was quite pleased to see that it was the woman of the house who was hanging the polka dot wallpaper!
(Even if she is wearing high-heeled shoes!)

Niki x
Updated 9.30am Friday. I have received an email this morning bringing to my attention that 'real life' in the 50's may not have been this perfect.
It wasn't my intention to make light of or to offend anyone with this post. I am all too aware that things were very hard for most during the 1940's/50's.
My paternal grandmother lived in Lancashire where life was particularly hard and my maternal grandmother lived in Hertfordshire, where she actually had an even tougher life.
My Nanna still lives in a similar way to the book, in the same house that she has lived in all her life; she is in her 90’s. I am, of course, very aware that things were hard for her when she was bringing up my mother and my uncle who had polio, on her own during the war.
My blog is there as a light-hearted accompaniment to my website. I deal in vintage goods and like to reflect some of the items I have on my website, on my blog.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to recycle goods from the past, especially when we live in a far from perfect, throw away world today......
I am sorry that things were so hard for many growing up during this era, and still can be today for people all around the world.
This blog post was only meant as a fun report of an old book that I recently purchased (certainly not written with envy – I’m sorry if it came across that way) – please don’t think that I am not aware of what really went on for most of the population.


  1. Great post! It reminds me of Debbie's video that she has on her blog called My Shabby Roses (on my blog roll).

    I cannot imagine doing house chores like these women did! For one, how did they not keep from sweating? lol.

    Love your collections from days gone by. Very nostalgic and sweet! Your kitchen is fantastic!!


  2. Very nice kitchen you have. I love the memory tickler and I thought a memo board was a new fangled thing but guess I'm wrong.
    Thanks for shaing this post with me. Great to see it.

  3. Anonymous8:01 pm

    There was I running back and forth to the kitchen , absorbed in this post ! I was born in the middle of the 60s but so many of these items bring back so many memories Niki, the black ply board panaling around the bath, being dried on mums lap,I remember a similar water heater in the kitchen and the cream cooker, almost the same ,and this was only replaced 15 years ago , it had a wand at the side which you used to have to poke into the pilot light to get a flame to light the burner , this my brother learnt at an early age ( the age of 2 he did this caught the tea towel alight , carried this to the larder and threw it in !!) The blue chairs and table , two of the chairs are still going and the table , the seats on the other two perished because they are thick ply board and plastic,also the wachine machine with the mangle it went on for years and probably was not replaced until the late 70s . One thing that did surprised me was the "housewife" doing the wallpapering ! I have never seen a memory Ticker ,do you take the little pegs with you to the shops ? ! I to love books Niki and to find out how the past ticked is so warming when reading it from a book of the time , and also you find out how to fix or care for vintage things, thank you Niki for sharing this book

    PS The tea didnt burn !

  4. That would be such a fun book to read. I don't know about high heels for housework, though. Ouch! I can barely wear them when I'm all dressed up.

  5. Thanks for your comments girls!
    To Barbara,
    Many thanks indeed for that insight into your childhood - brothers eh?! ( I have one of those too!)
    My Nan (who is 94 next month) still has the black panel on her bath, with black and white tiles on the walls. She also has a hot water heater above her kitchen sink.
    The memory tickler has little metal flaps that you flip over when you have run out of a particular item. There was a place for a note pad in the centre, so it was a case of jotting down the flipped over items before your shopping trip! Great fun.
    I love how the 50's look is still trendy today and people aspire to have original pieces in their homes!
    Enjoy your old books too,

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  7. As a 50s baby the pictures in the book look much like some of the houses I lived in or visited in my childhood. I don't know that Mum did the wallpapering, but I remember my Dad making curtains for the house we moved to in 1956.

    My grandparents had an old range in the kitchen which my aunt and uncle (who took over the farm in the early 60s) continued to use for at least a decade. The washing up was done in a large shallow butler sink in the scullery.

    My aunt had a wash-house where she had a boiler and a mangle. I remember we had a mangle and I assume we had a boiler, too, although I do remember when we got a twin-tub washing machine in the 1960s - and it used to flood the kitchen floor from time to time!!


  8. Anonymous12:00 pm

    I love this post Niki, it reminds me so much of my own grandma's kitchen where she used to produce fantastic food..especially steak and kidney pies. I have some of her utensils and the most prettiest of jugs she used to use on the table for milk or cream, happy reading.

  9. Dear Niki,
    Please don`t let "that email" get to you!
    We know that you didn`t meant to offend anyone, and, you haven`t!!!
    By the way, I really enjoy this post, and you showing us you beautiful kitchen was a real bonus!
    I have added you to my favorites a while ago...
    And please, you consider doing the same for me... PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE!
    Have a lovely weekend!
    Kisses Kisses
    Debbie Moss

  10. Well I love your post - I think we were all born in the wrong era - I so wish I had had my Mam's life, when my Dad earned enough that she could stay at home and be our Mam. He had an ordinary job but they managed and I am glad sh was there when I came home every day. I daren't look on your website!! The money pit house is winning at the moment and eating £££'s

  11. What a fabulous post, Niki! Hubby's grandmother is 98, and we continue to find reminders of these days in her home to this day!

  12. It's always such a pleasure to visit here, Niki. I saw so many things that were familiar to me having grown up in the 50s. Funny how wearing high heels seemed so normal than. I don't even own a pair now. I also wanted to say that I really appreciated the kindheartedness of your follow-up to the email you received. It gives greater depth to the reality of the era AND says so much good about you.

  13. Hi Niki..
    I can't imagine how you could offend anyone with this charming and nostalgic post.
    I was born in the late 50's and remember with great affection having my bath in the kitchen sink when I was a baby.. My mother also favoured red gingham and red formica... I would choose this era any day over a high tech, fancy gizmo kitchen..

    Michele xx

  14. Sweet Niki! I think the way to comment on a blog is to leave a comment for all to see and not to send a personally upsetting email! We all know you have nothing but respect for all things vintage. Lovely post. Great pictures. Great humour. As always. Now, bedtime for the boy so where are my high heels and corset so I can look smart for the occasion?! t.xx

  15. Anonymous10:20 pm

    Fab post - I've loved looking at these pictures, they remind me of how my home looked like when my grandparents owned it when I was a child. I enjoy looking at old books of days gone by too - it is fascinating.

  16. Anonymous8:14 am

    Hi, I loved your post and your book. It brought back many lovely memories and of course my mum's real-life kitchen didn't look just like the one in the book, in just the same way that my kitchen today doesn't look anything like the ones I covet in modern books and mags. Even hardworking 50's housewives were allowed to dream! And ALL the women in my family did their own wallpapering - perhaps it's a northern thing :-)

  17. Thanks ladies for all of your kind and supportive comments - I am very grateful.

    To anonymous,
    I too do ALL my own wallpapering, painting, and general decorating, furniture renovations etc. I'm not a softy-southerner! My Dad's side of the family are from up North though!

  18. could anyone be offended by such a lovely nostalgic post?..we would be very naive if we all thought the 50s was how it was portrayed by the advertisers of that generation..perfect home, perfect family ..(gorgeous pink flamingo curtains..I LOVE that bathroom!!) I wonder if in 50 years time someone will blog about an old issue of country living and all its gorgeous homes, forgetting that petrol cost us a fortune and the credit crunch was affecting practicaly everyone. That book was a fabulous find thankyou for sharing it with us and I love your kitchen its change colours since your magazine feature..I'm loving the cream and red..totally gorgeous! x

  19. I love this post too.In fact I love old household encylopeadia so much.I have a little collection but none as pretty as that one.I must keep an eye out for it.
    I love the red chair in your kitchen very much. x

  20. i loved this post!!! debbie =)

  21. Such a lovely post and what a great book to find, thankyou for sharing it! Apparently my mum was up a ladder, wallpapering the lounge when she went into labour with my eldest brother, which was in the 50's she probably had her high heels on too! lol

  22. I wonder what the men were doing? Loved your blog!

  23. I loved this post Niki, thank you. You have in no way made light of domestic life in the 50s but have provided us with a gentle memory tickler of our own. Take care and please don't stop writing these kind of posts

  24. Anonymous11:52 am

    Loved this post Niki... first is made me smile & then it sent me off into a 10 minute daydream about my late mothers kitchen, she also had a wooden draining board just like the one in your lovely kitchen. I have a particular memory of mother giving me a 'strip wash'in the deep butlers sink and then sitting me on the draining board, from which I got a splinter in my backside.
    Sadly she passed away when I was 17. I wish now I'd had the foresight to treasure all her wonderful kitchenalia, but being 17 it was not top of my priorities.... back then it was clothes, make-up, music & boys.
    Thanks for evoking the memories Niki & keep doing what you do well... making the majority of us smile.
    Bye for now Frances

  25. Oh Niki! theres always one isnt there! never change your colours Niki! the very name of your blog;NOSTALGIA! tells us it is about all things beautiful,sentimental and nostalgic,we all come here to steal just a little piece of the past to enhance the present,but we all know the good old days were really quite hard,but still,myself and vintage affecionados everywhere,look to the past with fondness and respect,I too buy those lovely old books and smile at the perfectly coiffed 195os housewife! no harm in that! lovely,lovely post,dont be disheartened by the minority.xx

  26. Hi Niki,

    Thank you for this post.
    Life was hard for some in the 50's exactly as it is hard for some now,it is a terrible thought but that is real life.
    Your light hearted look at this era was wonderful i love collecting and reading those book's too.

    Please do not let this email ruin your lovely blog you have one of the most beautiful sites i have come across.
    Thank you and keep up your great work.

  27. Dear Niki,

    We have a cream cooker just like the one in your picture. It was given to us by a neighbour and is still going strong. It matches our 1950s cream Aga which we bought for 50 pounds at an auction 20 years ago. The Aga was all in bits. We brought it home in a 2CV(we had to make two trips)! Luckily, only one piece was missing (which we were able to replace)!

    Best wishes,


  28. Well Niki, how could anyone take this post as anything but a light hearted nostalgic look back at the past as portrayed in print from the era? I thoroughly enjoyed your look back and your comments. I always enjoy your blog and your upbeat posts and pretty pictures. xo, suzy

  29. I too loved this post although I know I'm a little late to the game.

    Growing up my grandmother had a pink stove! I always loved that stove simply because it was pink. It was a huge behemoth with two ovens and six burners on top. She finally replaced it about ten years ago and it's just not the same walking into her kitchen with it's tiny, white, modern stove. It still smells the same though =0)

    She also had pink formica counter tops that looked like grouted gravel, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

    And her little bungalow was painted pink as well. I don't know how she ever got my grandpa to go along with that much pink.

    I'm sorry someone was upset with your post. Some people just chose to be biter.

  30. Anonymous5:07 pm

    Now who would be such a downer poster? Of course, in some ways the past was harder and in some ways it was a heck of a lot better! I'm thrilled for all the bloggers/collectors who choose to preserve the past in any way (fabrics, household items, ephemera..)and share it with likeminded people. These items can trigger happy memories...hanging clothes on the line is a memory from my childhood and will probably just remain a memory as we don't live in the same environment.
    Love the magazine pics (I have a collection of old mags that I adore) and all your treasures. It's fun!

  31. Anonymous12:46 am

    Hi Niki - just found your blog this glad I did - WOW!!!
    I just LOVE all of your photos and vintage collectables and especially the passionate way you write about them all. I am amazed by the old architecture of the buildings on your trips to local villages. (I live in Oz where 100 is "old" - hehehe)
    I love to collect just about everything you do!!! Your writing style is wonderful - being both informative and yet lighthearted.
    xoxo Cathy


Thank you for finding the time to visit me...
Niki xx