callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,

Mother Tells You How

Since the second-hand bookshop closed, the best place in town to look for older books is the museum shop. The book I bought there yesterday isn’t very old and I paid too much for it but it brought back so many memories I couldn’t resist. Some of the images leapt off the page at me, I knew them so well. That’s because, way back when even quite poor families had newspapers and magazines delivered, my weekly treat was Girl comic. I’m very displeased with the publishers, though, for making fun of my old friend. Here’s how they sell it: ‘Mother Tells You How’ might appear to be an over-the-top ‘50s spoof, but is in fact a wholly genuine period piece. There is no irony here, and it’s the well-intended, earnest instruction that provides such high comedy in our very different times.’

Mother Tells You How to make a bed/lay a table/keep cool may seem ridiculous but the compilers overlook certain factors. The target audience for the comic may have been teenage girls but as with most comics the readership was actually younger and most readers would have been ten or eleven, as I was when I read Girl. There’s also an aspirational aspect to all these hints; most of the girl readers would not have come from nice middle class homes like Judy’s (see below) and could only dream of having her bedroom and her clothes. ‘our very different times’ have also changed since 2007 when this book was printed. In a recession ‘make do and mend’ makes sense and when more and more people are crafting, hints on knitting, crochet and patchwork don’t seem funny at all.

Judy’s family live in a well appointed ‘contemporary’ home. Mother always looks elegant, never shops without donning a hat and gloves and is never too busy to help Judy learn something useful.

Father rarely appears. He is occasionally seen at the table expressing his appreciation of something Mother has told Judy how to cook. He obviously provides well for his family as both Judy and her mother have extensive wardrobes, which they constantly freshen up or refurbish with useful tricks. They even go to fashion shows.

Judy has a much younger brother, so that she can learn about childcare.
In this picture she doesn’t look too impressed by the new baby.

Jill is Judy’s friend. Her role is to appear in the last frame of the strip admiring Judy’s new dress/hat/bedroom chair etc. Judy goes to lots of parties (a chance to make an old dress look like a new one) has lots of friends whom she likes to invite to the house (‘What can I give my friends to eat that’s new and interesting?’) and goes rambling and camping (how to keep safe, warm and comfortable). Both Judy’s parents travel abroad occasionally, which was quite uncommon then.

There are two distinct Judys in this book and this later version is the one from ‘my’ era. For some reason I remember this next strip very well; I suppose it seemed very exotic.

Can you tell what mother plans to make out of these?

And if you’re preparing to celebrate the royal wedding, why not take a tip from mother?

OK, some of it is quite funny. But I love it.
Tags: girl comic, housekeeping
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