Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you were born three generations back?
Maybe I’ve been watching too many sepia-toned Ken Burns documentaries, but in the early 20th Century, I’m sure I’d find myself organizing lady garment workers into a union. Then I’d be a suffragette, and then a flapper, and then – after a quick nap – I’d be Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor. When war breaks out, I’d clip on my overalls, flex my biceps and clock in at the nearest ammunition plant.
On VJ Day, I’d head to the docks and kiss every GI on the mouth. Hopefully, one of them would be Scott, in a tight-fitting sailor suit.
However, my revisionist fantasies fall flat when I remember that 70 years ago, I wouldn’t have a blog.* I wouldn’t even have a zine, or a faxed newsletter. And without the internet, I’d be forced to get my project inspiration from books and magazines.
I recently got a peek into that dark and primitive world thanks to a pile of DIY magazines from the 1940s and early 50s. When our friends Christine and Pete hosted an estate sale for a neighbor’s family, they set aside a stack of vintage Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and – yes, I’m spelling it right – Mechanix Illustrated magazines.**
So, what kind of projects were DIY enthusiasts buzzing about 70 years ago? In the dark days before This Old House and Apartment Therapy, what did we have for project and home improvement inspiration?
Here at Projectophile, we love nothing more than turning old junk into something useful again. After World War II, America was awash in WAR JUNK. If I were around back then, here’s some projects I would explore:
Now that the War is over, thousands of suddenly-bored scientists are itching to tell you how to run your life. This article warns millions of (also suddenly bored) American housewives how prevent over-exertion from cooking dinner.
On second thought, maybe we really shouldn’t try to piss off Khrushchev too badly. You know, because of that whole pesky Mutually Assured Destruction thing. In the meantime, here’s a home improvement project the whole family can enjoy!
“Let children help by snooping out oily rags, furniture polish, and other fire hazards grown ups may overlook. By building your Family Foxhole, you will also be building the state of mind that can resist the pressures of aggression as well as the shocks of actual atomic war.” As long as we’re going to die in a fiery blast anyway, enjoy some vices! Be sure to add a touch of class to this miniature cobbler’s bench ashtray by asking Grandma*** to stitch a custom lace doily:
And back at the central office, these humble workers just survived the world’s first conference call, which, through a decades-long process of technological mutations would result in the world’s worst portmanteau, the WEBINAR.
Now that the horrible bloodshed of war is over, scientists and home mechanics alike can turn their attention to improving our method of…. killing people? “From the first torture rack to the latest gas chamber, science has transformed the criminal’s execution from human butchery into a skilled profession.”
* Or a college degree, or a polio vaccine, or access to birth control. But we’ll save those details for another blog.
** I don’t approve of hoarding in my own home, but I do enjoy benefiting from the hoarding of strangers.
*** Before Etsy, there was Grandma.