Buried in the bottom of a box lot I recently bought at an auction was an advertising booklet from the 1950s, 1003 Household Hints and Work Savers to Help You Beat the High Cost of Living. The title caught my attention because it mentioned a “high cost of living” in an era many of us now view as a good time economically, the time when many modern conveniences became affordable for the average American household. I suppose we always see the cost of living as high.
The ad for a funeral home just inside the front cover provided another smile – the cost of living may have been high then, but the cost of dying was not (at least by today’s standards). The ad promised “a beautiful funeral service” done “with highest regard to dignity regardless of cost…whether you spend $100.00 or $1000.00.” The advertiser is no longer listed in the phone directory; I was tempted to call and ask if they still offer beautiful services for $1000 or less.
Most of the booklet focuses on household tips for housewives (and yes, the term “housewives” is used regularly). Some of the tips would save money, but some would not. Some of the advice is actually the opposite of money-saving advice common today: use an automatic dryer instead of a wash line (with the argument that it saves ironing time and wear on clothing); eat cereal because “few foods supply so much nourishment at such low cost.” (Of course, “cereal” probably did not mean the sugared, boxed-with-a-toy stuff we buy now.)
The most outdated tips, of course, were the most interesting. Tips #580-583 are devoted to filling and draining the washing machine and using the wringer. Tip #41 recommends boiling handkerchiefs with a muslin bag filled with Orris Root in order to perfume them. The title of one chapter, “