The Autumn Garden dramaturgy: 1949 everyday life

Table of Contents

Everyday Life

The whirlpool bathtub appliance invented by Italian-born California engineer Candido Jacuzzi, 46, relieves the pain of his 15-month-old son Kenny, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. Candido and his brothers built farm equipment before turning to production of airplane propellors during the war; his brother Ray will design the first self-contained whirlpool bath.

Silly Putty is introduced by New Haven, Conn., advertising man Peter C. L. Hodgson, 37, who has discovered a substance developed by General Electric researchers looking for a viable synthetic rubber. The useless silicone substance can be molded like soft clay, stretched like taffy, bounced like a rubber ball, and can pick up printed matter when pressed down on newsprint and transfer it, but the stuff has no market until Hodgson borrows $147 to buy a batch from GE, hires a Yale student to separate it into one-ounce globs, packages it in clear compact plastic cases at $1 each, advertises it in a catalogue of toys he is preparing for a local store, and finds that Silly Putty is an immediate success.

New York’s Saks Fifth Avenue introduces Boaters—nylon diaper covers that presage disposable diapers. Invented by Connecticut housewife Marion O’Brien, the covers hold moisture in while allowing damp diapers to “breathe.” Donovan has experimented in her attic with surplus cloth from nylon parachutes and also sells her product in packages to nurses and physicians at $1.95 each, but the cover is cumbersome, requires pins to keep it in place, and costs a discouraging 10¢ per diaper. O’Brien will nevertheless sell her patent rights for $1 million in 1952, and Boaters will be promoted as the first mass-market, moisture-proof, disposable diaper.

The KitchenAid dishwasher introduced by the 52-year-old Hobart Co. will eventually become the largest-selling brand but will have little success until its advertising promotes the idea that machine-washed dishes and glasses are more sanitary than those washed by hand.

In popular dancing, the Jitterbug made its appearance at the beginning of the decade. It was the first dance in two centuries that allowed individual expression. GI’s took the dance overseas when they to war, dancing with local girls, barmaids, or even each other if necessary. Rosie the Riveter was the symbol of the working woman, as the men went off to war and the women were needed to work in the factories. GIs, however, preferred another symbol, the pin-up girl, such as Rita Hayworth or Betty Grable. Pictures were mounted on lockers and inside helmets to remind the men what they were fighting for. Wherever American soldiers went, even the first to arrive would find a picture of eyes and a nose, with the message, Kilroy was Here. After they returned, Kilroy began to mark his place on the walls and rocks of public places. More than one pregnant woman came into the delivery room with “Kilroy was here” painted on her belly.

Vale-Rio Diner in Phoenixville, PA.Boy Scout Troop 164, Portsmouth, NH 1949Working mothers, combined with another new phenomenon, the refrigerator, led to the invention of frozen dinners. With the advent of television later in the decade, they became known as TV Dinners. Tupperware and aluminum foil eased the postwar housewives’ burden, and diners, originally horse drawn carriages with a couple of barstools, became a stationary, respectable staple of the postwar culture.

The Slinky was invented by a ship inspector in 1945.

Teenagers became a recognized force in the forties. With the men off to war, teenagers – boys and girls – found employment readily available, and so had money to spend. Seventeen magazine was established in 1944. Advertisement began to be aimed at teens. With fathers away and mothers at work, another new phenomenon arose – the juvenile delinquent.


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