I used to have a big interest in the 1930s, but with the way things have been for the past few years, I’ve shied away from anything referencing the Great Depression. One book that has stuck with me since I read it was Keep Smiling Through, by Ann Rinaldi, which is semi-autobiographical.
There were some great movies produced during that time, however, that didn’t necessarily reference the hardships of the time. Shirley Temple films in particular were more of an escape from reality. Others, like the Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, while based on works that took place earlier, hint at the struggles of the viewer (I’m thinking specifically of the black and white portions of Wizard and Scarlett’s declaration in the garden). Robin Hood, though it came at the latter part of the decade, is somewhat appropriate in it’s timing as it is about the redistribution of wealth–just as the world was drawn into WWII, and American production picked up to supply arms, creating more jobs.
The war itself has inspired a plethora of movies, television shows, and books. To describe them all–or even just the really good ones–would take months. Two that I’ve seen relatively recently and enjoyed were Bomb Girls and Land Girls. Both follow the struggles of women on the home front, trying to find ways to support themselves while their men are away and to support the war effort as well. Bomb Girls is set in Toronto and centers on a munitions factory and the women who work there, while Land Girls is the story of half a dozen women in the “Land Army” created in England to grow food for the war effort–think Victory Gardens, but on a farm-sized scale. Both deal with everything from sacrifice and survival to sexuality and the disparity between genders, races, and classes.
Knitting as paramount during this entire 15 year period. In both cases, knitting once again became a way to save resources as old sweaters were unraveled to make new ones, yarn was salvaged for socks and gloves, and every scrap that could be saved was reused or repurposed. When America was drawn into the war, yarns were specifically produced for the war effort in military colors. The Red Cross published dozens of pamphlets of patterns, just as it had during the first war, and once again those left at home took up the needles to keep their soldiers warm.
During times of war, it became illegal to send patterns beyond borders for fear that they might contain coded messages. In Belgium, at least, we have an example of codes being worked into knitting by women who lived near railway stations, recording the times and types of trains that arrived and departed a la Madam Dufarge. For more information on knitting in WWII, this post has a lot of really great links.
Due to austerity measures during this time, typewriter production saw a decrease. There was less demand for them as everyone was tightening their belts, and then the metals were needed for the war effort. What was produced was often painted in drab colors, reflecting the mood of the time much as the candy colors of the 1920s did. The sleek finishes of the 1930s eventually gave way to the notorious wrinkle paint of the 1940s.
Does anyone know why the wrinkle paint started? It just doesn’t strike me as being terribly practical, particularly since it was used on so many army and military issue machines, considering how hard it is to keep clean. Then again, I suppose it’s harder to scuff and scratch than a glossy or smoother paint, so it wouldn’t show wear as much.