History

What Will I Wear?: Home Front Housewife Edition

For many home front housewives, January was a cold month indeed. Since this month was almost all about January magazine issues, I thought I would show you a couple of images of clothing from a 1941 issue. I’ll then compare those with a 1945 issue. I can imagine a home front housewife pouring over her magazines at the kitchen table after all her chores were done or during a break in the afternoon while she listened to her favorite radio program. Here’s some of what they would have seen.

January 1941

The first issue is Woman’s Home Companion. The date on the one ad is 1940, but the magazine it was in was definitely 1941. Since much of the magazine was still focusing on holiday topics, I imagine the issue was delivered to homes in December.

The first image is an ad for winter boots. I’d wear any of these boots today. I like how they have categorized them into country, town, dress up, and formal boots.

Next is a half ad, half article that shows Companion-Butterick patterns that were available to purchase at local Butterick dealers or by mail order through Woman’s Home Companion. I love the colors, and look at those hats!

The last image is part of an article with suggested Christmas gifts, but I like how it shows options of sweaters, scarves, and slippers that the home front housewife might consider in 1940/41 for her family.

January 1945

I have a January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day. I was not surprised that there were few mentions of clothing. Most of the magazine was filled with articles about how to stretch rationed food or other ways to deal with the war. New clothing was probably not on their minds as much. I was really surprised, though, that the only fashion article in the magazine was about how to buy a new fur coat. There were a couple of ads in the back of the magazine for support girdles, but otherwise, no other fashion. In contrast, the January 1946 issue had several articles about clothing, including one that showed how a tailor made a suit and one that suggested adding material to tighter fitting styles of coats to make them more modern. Neither of these articles would have been published during the war years since fabric was conserved during those years.

February

I have fun plans for February. I have some February magazine issues. I have a few new cookbooks, booklets, and magazines I want to explore, and of course, Valentine’s Day is coming up! Enjoy your last evening in January 2020 and I’ll see you here again Monday for February’s First Monday Menu.

Warm Up with a Good Book

Perhaps you are the type of home front housewife who would rather stay in on a cold winter evening and curl up in front of the fireplace with a good book. I’m here to help. Here are five suggestions based on a January 1945 Woman’s Day book roundup.

A note on finding these books: I’ll let you know at least one place you can find these books if I can. Worldcat.org is a great resource, too. Just type your zipcode and the title in and they’ll provide you with a list of libraries near you that have the book on their shelves.

Just in case you want to follow up your reading with a movie night out, here’s a link to some movie suggestions.

America Unlimited

by Eric Johnston

Eric Johnston was the president of the United States Chamber of Commerce. This book records his thoughts, hopes, aspirations, and beliefs about issues of the early 1940s. Johnston claimed that most Americans shared his views. This would be an interesting look at a political opinion from the war years.

We Live in Alaska

by Constance Helmericks

This book is available used on on Amazon. The author and her husband moved to Alaska in 1941 and explored the Yukon in a homemade canoe. There are a few sequels to their adventure if you find this first one enjoyable.

Watching the World

by Raymond Clapper

Raymond Clapper was a journalist and a radio news analyst and commentator. While covering the war in 1944, an airplane he was riding in collided with another plane during the invasion of the Marshall Islands. After his death, his wife put together some of his best material and told the story of his life in this book.

Cluny Brown

by Margery Sharp

This humerous coming of age story follows a young English woman in 1938 on her adventures after she is sent into service in the countryside. It was made into a movie in 1946. This book is easy to find. It’s even available as an audio book.

Enjoy Your House Plants

by Dorothy Jenkins and Helen Van Pelt Wilson

This book has chapters on everything from ferns to succulents to orchids. There’s advice on caring for numerous types of indoor plants. I love my house plants, so I’m excited to try to find a copy of this one. I’d like to compare their advice with what is suggested care today.

While you are reading, you might like to munch on some cookies or a slice of coffee spice cake. Stay warm and enjoy your weekend!

Movies for a Rainy Day

Part of living on our ranch is that when it rains, the dirt roads heading into town turn into a dangerous, muddy obstacle course. Sometimes we get stranded at home. Since I haven’t been able to go buy groceries to cook some tasty 1940s recipes, I decided to give you a list of movies the home from housewife might have gone to see on a rainy day. All of these are available to rent or buy, so you can watch them on a rainy day of your own.

I don’t want to abandon our January magazines, so I’m using a list of top movies from late 1944 that was in the January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day. The author, Raymond Knight, was particularly taken with a brand new actress “with the unusual appellation” of Lauren Bacall.

My Pal, Wolf

This movie starred Sharyn Moffett as a young girl who finds a dog that has escaped from its army training camp. The girl’s nanny calls the army to retrieve the dog, but it escapes gain. The little girl goes to Washington D.C. to see if she can have the dog live with her permanently. It was director Alfred L. Werker’s production debut. This movie is available to buy on Amazon. It’s the only movie on this list that I could not find available to rent.

Mrs. Parkington

Mrs. Parkington began as a serial in Cosmopolitan magazine and was later published as a novel by Louis Bromfield. It was also made into a radio program in 1946. Greer Garson starred as a woman who looks back over her life through flashbacks while dealing with family drama in the present. Greer Garson and Agnes Moorehead won awards for their performances. It also starred William Pidgeon, Gladys Cooper, Edward Arnold, and others. This movie is available to rent on multiple platforms.

To Have and Have Not

Based loosely on Ernest Hemingway’s 1937 novel, To Have and Have Not starred Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan, Dolores Moran, Hoagy Carmichael, and a brand new actress named Lauren Bacall. It’s a romance between a fisherman and an American in Martinique with a bit of French resistance activity thrown in. Both Hemingway and William Faulkner worked on the screenplay. Most people liked the movie, but critics claimed it was just a remake of Casablanca. Raymond Knight, the author of the Woman’s Day article, also mentioned similarities between the two movies. The film was released in October 1944, and Bogart and Bacall married in 1945. This is also available to rent on many platforms.

The Princess and the Pirate

Based on a story by Sy Bartlett, directed by David Butler, and starring Bob Hope and Virginia Mayo, The Princess and the Pirate is a comedy about a princess traveling in disguise to elope with the man she loves instead of the one she’s supposed to marry. Her ship is attacked by pirates, she is kidnapped, and adventures ensue. Bing Crosby makes an appearance. This was Bob Hope’s last movie with producer Samuel Goldwyn. You can rent The Princess and the Pirate, as well.

Laura

The American Film Institute named this movie as one of the 10 best mystery films of all time. Starring Gene Tierney, Dana Andres, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, and Judith Anderson, Laura was based on the 1943 novel of the same name by Vera Caspary. The film is about a detective trying to solve a woman’s murder. This one is available for rent, too.

I’m going to watch some of these this weekend while I wait for the sun to dry up the roads. I’ll let you know how they are. In the meantime, if it’s cold where you are, you might enjoy some breakfast cocoa or a hot apple toddy.

What are your favorite early 1940s movies?

First Monday Menu: A Helping of Hamburger

In January 1945, ground beef wasn’t being rationed. Using ready-ground hamburger as a staple in meals was a great way to include meat without resorting to the less appealing but more plentiful organ meats like liver and heart. Ground hamburger was also cheaper than other meats, so it helped keep food costs down. This month’s menu includes a hamburger recipe from the January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day.

Menu

  • Party Hamburgers
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Green Beans
  • Bread Roll
  • Apple pie

Party Hamburgers

  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 1/3 c milk
  • 1 tbsp fat
  • Party Sauce

Mix hamburger, salt, pepper, and milk. Form into cakes and brown in fat. Remove cakes to a platter and keep hot.

Party Sauce

  • 1 tbsp fat
  • 1/4 c chopped mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 c cooking sherry
  • 1/2 c ripe olives, chopped and pitted (we used black)
  • salt and pepper

Cook the mushrooms in the fat for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the flour and brown lightly. Add the water gradually, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture is thickened. Add sherry and chopped pitted olives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat and pour over the hamburger cakes.

Results

It’s funny how sometimes something as simple as a meal made with ground beef can spark a conversation that lasts until dessert is over. We had a lot of thoughts about this menu. While it wasn’t our favorite, it was a hearty, filling meal. The hamburger cakes tasted exactly how you would imagine a hamburger cake to taste. We discussed adding finely chopped onion or garlic next time to add a bit of flavor. The sauce was thick and chunky and tasted great with both the hamburger and the mashed potatoes. I liked the combination of mushrooms and olives and the gravy-like consistency. I could taste the cooking sherry a bit more than I would have liked, but maybe cooking a while longer would fix that. Overall, everyone liked the meal. Enough to have it again? I’m not sure. I’m definitely glad we tried it, though, and I enjoyed the great conversation about 1940s life we had while eating it.

One of the things I liked about this particular menu, was that it was a solid choice for a home front housewife. The green beans and the potatoes were grown in Victory Gardens, and the housewife could easily substitute cooked carrots, squash, or even corn from their garden. The ground beef didn’t use any points, which was helpful. Points could be used for favorite cuts of meat on other nights of the week.

Eating organ meats was encouraged by the government. Large amounts of meat were being shipped to the soldiers overseas. Organ meats, however, were still plentiful in the United States. Magazines of the time period are full of tips and tricks for disguising liver or heart to look and possibly taste more appealing. Using ground beef was much simpler and straightforward–its taste and texture didn’t need masking.

Let me know if you try this menu. The party sauce is versatile. I think it would complement many kinds of meat and would add a nice flavor to vegetable dishes.

Later this week we’ll try out a recipe or two from the January food calendar found in the 1941 issue of Woman’s Home Companion. It’s before the start of the war for the American home front housewife, so we’ll see how folks ate just before food shortages became more widespread and rationing went into effect.

Peter Pan Peanut Butter Frosting

This month, I’m going to be testing recipes in January magazine issues from 1940-1945. I’ve scoured ads and articles to find recipes you can use in your meal planning today, ranging from full menus to yummy desserts.

I’m beginning the month with a Peter Pan Peanut Butter frosting recipe from an advertisement in the January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day. It was a full-page, full-color ad inside the back cover of the magazine.

Peanut butter was originally sold in tin cans with a variety of reclosable lids. Metal shortages due to the war led peanut butter manufacturers to switch to glass jars. In 1988 Peter Pan peanut butter was the first to come in a plastic jar. This ad shows the new glass jars that were being used during the war, and still has the woman portraying Peter Pan in the imagery. Much later the company used Disney’s version of Peter Pan instead.

This frosting recipe is one of two listed in the lower-right corner. The company, like so many others at the time, offered a recipe booklet by mail. I managed to find a copy of this booklet and it should arrive next week. I can’t wait to share it with you when it gets here!

Until then, here’s a recipe to use with that jar of peanut butter you have in your pantry.

Peter Pan Frosting

  • 1/2 c Peter Pan Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 c butter or margarine
  • 1 c confectioner’s sugar

Cream the peanut butter and butter together. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar. Cream until light and fluffy. Use on white, spice, or chocolate cake. Makes enough for 24 cupcakes.

Results

The frosting is really soft and smooth. I found that putting it in the refrigerator for a while helped keep it from becoming too soft to use. It does taste like a sweeter version of peanut butter, so peanut butter fans with a sweet tooth will definitely ask for seconds. We used white cake cupcakes, but I think this frosting would be amazing on chocolate cake.

What is your favorite way to use peanut butter?

Soldiers' Christmas Boxes: Soft Ginger-Date Jumbles

In 1942, the folks in the Good Housekeeping kitchens spent quite a bit of time finding recipes that would work in a Christmas box for soldiers serving their country. The December issue included an article with the resulting recipes and some tips for packing goodies up to mail.

Here are a few:

  • Allow plenty of time for your package to get to its destination. The article mentions several times that only stateside servicemen should be getting boxes of treats. The government actually asked for packages to be free from perishable items when shipping overseas. Even so, transportation of vital military supplies was given higher priority over gift boxes, so a home front housewife needed to prepare for the box to take twice as long as usual to arrive.
  • Plan on the box arriving before or after Christmas Day. The armed forces provided good holiday meals to soldiers and getting a box of goodies before or after would extend the celebration.
  • Plan with friends and loved ones before shipping. Arranging for boxes to arrive every few days instead of all at once also extended the joy of the holidays.
  • Organize a cookie making club. Sharing cookies with others sending off boxes added variety to box contents.
  • Weigh and Measure! Servicemen could only receive packages under 70 pounds and with a combined length and width of under 100 inches.
  • Add a homey touch to boxes by lining the lids and any divider edges with pretty pantry-shelf paper, and by wrapping smaller boxes of treats with ribbon.
  • Address packages carefully and mark them with “Perishable–Handle with Care”.

I chose one recipe to test, and we are going to try them fresh, then seal some up the way they suggest to see how they taste in a week. I wondered how these foods would last and what they would taste like when they got to their recipient. We are also going to put some in a modern airtight container to see if that makes a difference. I’ll let you know how they taste in an update.

Until then, try these Soft Ginger-Date Jumbles.

Soft Ginger-Date Jumbles

  • 1/2 c and 2 tbsp shortening
  • 1/2 c brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 c dark molasses
  • 1/2 c boiling water
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/2 c sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp mixed cake spice or cinnamon
  • 2 c pitted dates, cut up

Work shortening with the back of a spoon until it’s fluffy and creamy. Add brown sugar gradually while continuing to work with a spoon until light. Add eggs and blend. Mix the ginger with molasses and then add it to the shortening mixture. Stir in the boiling water. Sift together the dry ingredients, and then add to the sugar mixture. Add the dates and mix the mixture well. Cover and refrigerate for two hours.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto a greased or oiled cookie sheet about 2.5 inches apart. Bake in a moderately hot oven at 400° F for 10-12 minutes. Makes 2 dozen cookies. You can keep the dough in the refrigerator and bake cookies as needed. You can also substitute raisins for the dates or leave the dates out entirely.

Results

These cookies had mixed reactions at my house. My husband and I loved them, but some of my kids thought they were “just ok”. My 2-year-old devoured them. The cookies were very soft and cake-like. The dates added nice flavor and texture. They had a milder molasses flavor than other similar cookies I’ve tried. I’m really curious to see if they keep their soft cakiness after a week. Look for an update soon!

Happy New Year!

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