I’ve been having a lovely time reading some old magazines I picked up over the bank holiday weekend. They are The Woman’s Pictorial and Home Journal, the first I've seen (cover pictures above). I’ve written here and here about my interest in old housekeeping books and advertisements; these have added post-war interest and show just how difficult times were. Some of the ‘make do and mend’ ideas are quite outlandish. How do you fancy table mats made from curtain rings and ‘off the ration’ twine? Or decorating a hat with flowers made from sealing wax?
Features and advertisements reveal the severe shortages of basics in the late 1940s.
You could buy a carpet sweeper, cosmetics, any number of remedies for headaches or constipation but Stork margarine was still unavailable, wool was needed for export, Cadbury's couldn't get enough milk to make their chocolate and you were lucky to find tinned fruit at the grocer's. All this is described in Nella Last's Peace but it's interesting to see the evidence.
I was delighted to see that my old friend Elizabeth Craig wrote a regular home feature for the magazine.
'Elizabeth' could give advice on anything from furnishing a child's bedroom to dosing the cat but what she mostly wrote about was food; and what food! The dependence on luncheon meat, dried egg and junket is depressing. Here is just one of her ideas for 'hot weather breakfast dishes': If you keep poultry, boil eggs (allowing one between two people) til hard and serve with sliced luncheon meat. Ugh! Coincidentally, I've just been reading about similar privations in Elizabeth Goudge's The Herb of Grace. Saintly Hilary is contemplating a grim supper left for him by his housekeeper when he is rescued by the resourceful Malony, who makes little fritters from powdered egg, removes the sausage from some soggy sausage rolls and fries the lot up with onion to make a delicious meal. Poor things.
These were of course the baby boom years, so there's lots of advice about bringing up baby and plenty of advertisements for products to keep children healthy and happy. This picture is by Marcia Lane Foster or I'm a Dutchman.
Of course, you made all their clothes
as well as your own:
My mother-in-law made her wedding dress from parachute silk.
With all this cooking, cleaning, sewing and beautifying of the home being recommended, it's rather surprising that the government (as busy advertising then as now) was calling for women to help Britain by working; you could join your friends and 'put more money in your bag'.
Light relief was offered by stories, including this Georgette Heyer serial.
These were the magazines read by our mothers and grandmothers and they give a wonderful insight into the times.