Tuesday, July 6, 2010


In the good old summertime,
in the good old summertime. 
Strolling through the shady lanes with your baby mine.
You hold her hand, and she holds yours,
and that's a very good sign.
That she's your tootsie-wootsie,
in the good old summertime.

This little ditty from 1902 transports us  back to the good old days when life was simple, easy, safe and comfortable. That is if comfortable means wearing layers of long clothing and living without air conditioning.

Doing the laundry in the long dress would have been hot, sweaty and exhausting.   What a treat.  Besides  slaving over washboard or wringer washer, clothes line and iron, a store aisle displaying a selection of laundry detergents and scented fabric softeners was years away.  There were big bars of soap, a fabulous creation eliminating the need for soap making at home.  Imagine the free time that created.  The bars, however, required grating into flakes.  By hand.   The modern homemaker rarely grates her own cheese.   One popular soap brand, Crystal White, was made in Kansas City with mutton fat.   It was believed that Crystal White contained the toxin mercury.   It was also used as a skin whitener.

The home refrigerator-freezer and ice maker did not exist. Ice cream was available, but required hot manual labor to crank the machine.  Today we crank up the air-conditioning in the car on the way to the supermarket or ice cream store or crank up an electric ice cream maker at home.   Useful word, crank.  It used to mean work.  I cranked out a no calorie, no fat, sugar free variety…….

Good old summertime parties would probably have included something created with Knox Unflavored Gelatine. In case this pantry staple has passed you by, gelatin is a protein derived from livestock bones and connective tissues. Charles Knox made it available in granulated form to the American home cook in 1890.  It still exists.   What cooks must have gone through before Charles Knox came along is just grisly.


Think Jello with no flavor or color. From this miracle substance of the day, home cooks created an infinite number of ingenious recipes such as veal loaf, chicken mousse, tuna mold, tomato aspic and eggs in aspic.   Meat Jello. Yum yum. Lest one forgot the source of the delicacy, the sweet face of a calf adorned the package.

In case a party guest went home with a tummy full of spoiled meat jello, eggs in aspic or the tuna mold was moldy, several remedies were available from the physician-pharmacist pas de deux. The druggist mixed up whatever concoction the doctor prescribed and created the appropriate drops, capsules or tablets.   Gastric disturbances meant one of two things - a trip to the out house in the back yard or use of the handy dandy chamber pot.  Tra lee.  Tra la.

Sometimes the remedies were even effective. Often they were not. Many were harmful and deadly. Perhaps the doctor would have prescribed Calomel tablets for the alimentary ailment…..

Calomel (second from right), is a tasteless compound, Hg2Cl2, also called "Mercurous chloride". It was used as a purgative and insecticide. How handy - a laxative and bug killer all in the same bottle.

It is miraculous that anyone survived the Good Old Days. Women dying while giving birth was not uncommon. There were no cancer survivors.  Lupus was always fatal.  Infections frequently meant death.    

Life for the living was long hours of hard work and few conveniences.  The Good Old Days? Perhaps not.

The Good Old Days are now.  Happy summer!


Vintage items donated by Garry Gribble ... Garry Gribble's Running Sports
PS:  Two TangoPony Designs are featured in new Etsy Treausuries......


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  2. Thank you! I read your blog and love it!