The Proper Way to Run a Household – 1932 Style
I’ve been doing it all wrong.
The first chapter ‘The Art of Serving’ begins ‘In wealthy homes …” which may be the tip-off that this advice doesn’t apply to the majority of American homes. Especially in 1932. Most family stories and tales I’ve heard from older friends that experienced the post-depression years were not in the setting of ‘wealthy homes’. The accounts I’ve heard tell of a hand to mouth existence, where survival was the day to day goal.
But … assume for a moment, that we were in a ‘wealthy home’ in 1932. Here is the advice given.
A good maid is the most important part of the household, and her main qualifications are: Reliability, Cleanliness, Order, Speed, Good nature – and it is hard to say just which one of these can be more easily dispensed with. The maid, in an apartment of not more than seven rooms, and with no children to care for, is expected to
Keep the apartment clean Cook and serve meals Answer telephone Answer doorbell Wash and iron all fine lingerie, handkerchiefs and stockings.
The proper uniform for a maid is blue or gray percale in the morning, and black, or gray, with small white apron, collar, cuffs, and headband, after noon. She should wear lisle hose, and medium height plain oxfords.
The well trained maid observes a routine as scrupulously exact as that of any army private or hospital nurse. The house which is not run on a schedule is not well run. An experienced mail will welcome a well-planned working day, and with an inexperienced maid, a properly planned routine in invaluable. The following is suggested for a six-room apartment with two adults. Such a routine, typed and pinned over the kitchen sink, trains the maid with a minimum of effort and worry on her own and her mistress’ part.
Breakfast, 7:45. Sweep living room with vacuum or carpet sweeper; dust; go over window sills with oiled or wet cloth depending on finish; wash ash trays; refill cigarette boxes; put fresh match boxes on tables.
9:00 – Clear breakfast table; sweep dining room; and dust. Sweep bedroom floor, strip beds, and leave, to air. Scrub bathroom floor, tub, and bowl, wash soap dish and all fixtures, hang fresh towels. Wash dishes, wash dish towels, boil, hang to dry. Make beds, dust bedroom, wash soiled hose, and hang to dry.
Luncheon – Prepare whatever food can be prepared in advance for dinner. Do dishes, scrub kitchen floor. This leaves remainder of day free for silver, cupboards, pressing, etc., until time to get dinner.
Monday – Clean ice box; polish silver; clean book shelves.
Tuesday – Clean stove; clean drawers.
Wednesday – Wash lingerie and iron. List laundry.
Thursday – Polish furniture. Go over all overstuffed pieces with Energine; clean ice box.
Friday – Clean closets; polish nickel.
Saturday – Clean shelves; wash all bulbs in electric fixtures; press dresses.
That’s our trip back in time for this week. Now, if you’ll excuse me – I’ve got some dishtowels to boil and some light bulbs to wash.
Do you know any of these women? Do you have any stories about ‘the good ole days’ that you’d like to share? Contact Trisha Faye at firstname.lastname@example.org