Would You Like to Go Back in Time?

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The TV show The 1900 House started last night, where a family lives as though it is the year 1900 for three months. Would you want to do that? Would you really like to live back then? What would you miss the most? I think I'd miss soft toilet paper, modern books, Aleve, and pop.

-- Kymm (hedgehog@hedgehog.net), June 13, 2000


Yes, without question! And yes, I'd love to live in that era (most folks tell me I was born too late anyway). That era had a greater appreciation for beauty -- in behavior, in style, etc. -- than what we have right now (see Kymm's comments about other reality TV shows). I'd certainly miss indoor plumbing the most, but then that's why one runs down to the local community bathhouse . . . and I'd miss all those labor-saving devices like vacuum cleaners and washing machines; the tasks they perform were once filled by servants and I fear that I would not be wealthy enough to have servants.

-- Robert B. Dimmick (rbdimmick@earthlink.net), June 13, 2000.

When this show aired last year (over here, in the UK), it made me so grateful for how cushy and simple my life really is. I couldn't live without so many things (contact lenses, moisturiser, deodorant, leg waxings, indoor plumbing) that I know with 100% certainty that I was born at the right time.

Thank you, God.

-- Jackie Danicki (nein@freeuk.com), June 13, 2000.

I really wouldn't want to stay in the 1900 house for any period of time (see my astonishing "dainty quotient" if any explanation is needed). However, I read on the pbs web site that the next project will be a 1940s house and I would absolutely love to do that.

In either case, I think the thing that would get to me is the fact that the family has to uphold the societal standards of the time... that they can't live as they wish to only without modern amenities but that they have to live as people of that time would be expected to. Watching last night, I was struck by the fact that the little boy would have his own room while the three girls would share one (and the twin girls had to share a bed). As a woman, I think living with (and having to conform to) the attitudes of the time would take a much higher toll on me than the extra work and lack of physical comfort.

-- Moira (profundum@yahoo.com), June 13, 2000.

Let's see. No computers, no Internet, no felt-tip pens, no air conditioning, no CDs or cassettes, no Buffy the Vampire Slayer...

I'm sorry, is there a question?

-- Shmuel (shmuel@nycmail.com), June 13, 2000.

This is one reality show that I find fascinating. Last night's episode was very interesting -- kind of "This Old House" in reverse.

I do like the idea that it's less about confrontation and more about cooperation. I have enough of the former in my real life to want to watch it on TV.

I am not sure that I could do it, although I would give it my best. I don't know how much time I would actually have to read, but there are enough books written prior to 1900 that I haven't read that I'm sure I could find enough to keep my mind occupied. I would miss Tylenol and probably Pepcid AC (based on that toad-in-the-hole thing they made last night, I think I'd need that).

-- Laura (lbhelfrich@yahoo.com), June 13, 2000.

I loved that programme when it was shown here in the UK, too. For me watching it, I had an odd mixture of really wanting to get back to that kind of simple, pared down day to day living and thankfulness I didn't have to do such intensive house-keeping. (washing clothes in a barrel with abrasive salts? no thank you!)

Who do you think would cope better, though - someone from 2000 going back to 1900, or someone from 1900 brought forward into 2000?

-- bea (bea@diaryland.com), June 13, 2000.

Bring it on! As long as I wouldn't have to bring my own wardrobe, and there was someone there to teach me how to operate the stove...I think I'd be ok. I have lots of 19th Century literature to catch up on anyway. It's hard to find those high button shoes in a size 8 1/2 medium--the costume department would have to find me a pair before I could participate. I'd probably spend the whole time learning how to sew by hand. Ever since Kymm turned me on to reading books by Jack Finney, I've been intrigued by this time period. "Toad in the hole"? Is that that thing where you cut a hole in a piece of bread and fry an egg in the middle of it? We had that dish growing up, except it was called "egg in the hole", which sounds a lot less disgusting.

-- Vida (vidadoll@austin.rr.com), June 13, 2000.

HAHAHAHA!!! All will be assimilated! I'm spreading that Finney word, man--for somwone who pretty much wrote the same story over and over again, with variations, he's pretty goddamn great.

I did think about my huge fucking feet, not many size 11 clodhoppers would there be lying around, I wonder what the freaks of nature did back then? Probably wore men's shoes, just like I did.

-- Kymm Zuckert (kymmz1@yahoo.com), June 13, 2000.

O yeah, and toad in the hole is sausages and mashed potatoes, what is known as in my house, the perfect meal.

-- Kymm Zuckert (kymmz1@yahoo.com), June 13, 2000.

More than anything. Time travel is my fondest wish.

-- Joy (jrothke@earthlink.net), June 13, 2000.

Not to be a smitty, but toad in the hole is actually sausage in Yorkshire pudding.

-- Jackie Danicki (nein@freeuk.com), June 13, 2000.

Oh yeah, and sausages with mashed potatoes is bangers and mash. But I think you really need a fine onion gravy to go with it in order for it to be true bangers and mash...

-- Jackie Danicki (nein@freeuk.com), June 13, 2000.

Whoops, of course you are right. Still a swell meal, though.

-- Kymm Zuckert (kymmz1@yahoo.com), June 13, 2000.

Absolutely. I think I'd enjoy a time when walking to get places was a primary mode of transport, public transport systems were often very well developed and a lot of modern "conveniences" hadn't sped life up to a breakneck pace yet.

What would I miss the most ... yep, soft toilet paper is up there as well as flush toilets ... comfortable undergarments too, corsets and layers of petticoats are no laughing matter.

I hate to say it but I know I'd miss my washer and dryer. Washing clothes must have been a herculean task before and I run out of underwear enough as it is.

I think if I got ill, I'd miss anti-biotics.

And I'd definitely miss being able to wear shorts and a sleek swimsuit in summer.

-- Beth K. (owl@littleowl.com), June 13, 2000.

Right NOW? Air conditioning. No question.---Al of NOVA NOTES.

-- Al Schroeder (al.schroeder@nashville.com), June 13, 2000.

Let's see. I could not deal with corsets in 90 degree weather with no air conditioning. It just wouldn't happen. Especially with lack of margaritas.

-- Melissa (mesawyou@yahoo.com), June 14, 2000.

I too saw this last year. There will be plenty of tears and arguments ahead! :)

I would miss: a university education ,the vote, freedom to enjoy sex



-- Smallkat (smallkat@hotmail.com), June 14, 2000.

No.No. No. Maybe I am lazy and soft but in my opinion I was born in the era I was supposed to be. Just doing laundry back then was a task! The irons that were used to press clothes look more like instruments of torture.

-- Bill (wessonw@mindspring.com), June 14, 2000.

I saw the show and loved it! Sat there gaping with rapt fascination for the entire hour, if you want to know the truth.

I think it would be fairly grand to live at the turn of the last century only if one were of the Upper Class. You know, where there are scads of gorgeous clothes, and parties, and servants to take care of absolutely all the work (including dressing one, and raising those beastly offspring..)

However, for the lower and middle classes? No, thank you. Nice place to visit, but I know it would be a hard place to live, even for only three months.

A friend of mine called to cancel a visit the other night, explaining in her inimitably perky way that she was sorry she couldn't come by, but there was this weird blister on her foot that seemed to have these red lines snaking up her ankle, so it was probably blood poisoning and she was off to Emergency. An overnight IV of antibiotics later, she was fine. But I couldn't help but think that at any other time in human history before the last 50 years, she'd have lost at least her foot and more probably her life. Instead, she was able to go out dancing the very next night.

Antibiotics, being a Person in the eyes of the law, the internet, indoor plumbing, not having to wear a corset (even though I actually make them for clients!)- ahh, yes, there's no time like the present.

-- Cameron (Cameron@cimtegration.com), June 14, 2000.

i thought it sounded like a lot of fun! i was all ready to go until the mom was being shown how to make her very own sanitary pad out of a piece of cloth! good god! i'd definitely miss my always with wings! i'd also miss rock music, my car, computers/internet, electricity, heat/air conditioning, microwave ovens, fast food restaurants (oops! wait, i'm supposed to be on a diet, right?), basically all the modern conveniences! but, i think i could do it for three little months!

-- hez (summer-girl@butterflytattoos.com), June 15, 2000.

Well, I'm way past Always, with or without wings, but as it's 108 today, I'm with Al--I'd definitely miss air conditioning.

And the computer, of course!

-- Bev Sykes (basykes@dcn.davis.ca.us), June 15, 2000.

Well, I've always said I'd give ten years of my life to spend three days in the 1890's....

Kymm: have you considered doing any kind of living history? As in, the museums where the docents actually dress up and demonstrate things from the time period? I spent two summers doing that, and in a lot of ways it was a blast. The clothes were *heavy*, even though they were modern versions. Leg-o-mutton sleeves are no joke in 80+ degree weather, lemme tell you.

Also, there *is* some place in the northeast that has immersion experiences into past historical periods...and I cannot find the information online, so will have to wait until I get back to the states. But I know it exists (or at least used to).

Or you could just buy an American Girls doll and live vicariously!

-- Dorothy Rothschild (dorothyr@spies.com), June 18, 2000.

Though I think it would be great to travel back to that time period (I'm a Jack Finney fan too), I don't think I'd like living in the 1900 house. Don't they have to stay inside or in the yard for the entire three months? I'm assuming they can't go out in public since the entire city hasn't been converted to 1900. If you can't socialize or participate in cultural events, are you truly experiencing the era?

And I don't think I could spend three months in the house with my family even with a computer, television, telephone and pizza delivery.

What I'd miss most--antibiotics. I get some wicked bladder infections without em.

-- Catherine (catcoicrit@earthlink.net), June 19, 2000.

I, for one, WAS lucky enough to travel back to that time. It wasn't 1900, but the 1950's to my grandfather's place just outside Poplar Bluff, Mo. He never had had electricity installed as he was afraid of it, but there were always fires of some sort burning for heat or light. The water came from a hand pump in the back yard and the "facilities" were even further back. I remember the irons, several of which had to be kept heating on the wood stove to iron the cotton dresses my aunts made from flour sacks. Being the only boy may have gotten you a separate bed or pallet, but never your own room. As we didn't own a television at the time, I didn't miss that. Or computers, or carry out, and I hadn't yet tasted pizza. With plenty of cousins and acres of timber nearby, can't say I really missed much of anything. Well, except for "real" bread, and milk that wasn't lumpy. You know how spoiled city folk are.


-- David Wisdom (jdavid@dave-worl.net), June 19, 2000.

I just watched Episode 2 of The 1900 House. Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. I would have fallen apart long before day 4. I can't believe how much work that woman has to do! As much as I hate housework, I'd die.

I definitely was born in the right time.

-- Lisa (lisa@selkie.net), June 19, 2000.

I saw episode 1 last night and it was fascinating. I like that family; they seem to genuinely love and care about each other.

-- Joy (jrothke@earthlink.net), June 20, 2000.

I saw Episode 2 last night, was away for Episode 1. It's a lovely series, compared to your average reality teev show like Real World and Road Rules and from what I've heard of Survivor. No-one in this family has yet made me want to smack them or shake them until their teeth rattle, said reactions making me stop watching RW & RW and anticipation of which will mean I'm not going to watch Survivor I suspect.

As for travelling backwards in time, as it's been said above, only if I could go back rich. The world of the poor or even middle class in the past seems to be hard and brutal, exponentially so as the income level decreases. I also suspect it'd be a lot harder to be a mouthy woman back then too, it's difficult enough to be that once you go outside the white western class model these days. I'd end up in jail or worse. I appreciate all the battles fought on my behalf of my sex, and have no desire to go back and be in the middle of them.

Having said that, I do have a curiousity about the past, but I think I'd like to go back into my relatives and my immediate past, to see how people I know now were then, and also how my life was then. I'm not one of those people with photographic recall of all the events of my childhood, and I'd rather like to be a fly on the wall for that.

-- Amanda Page (amanda@amandasprecipice.com), June 20, 2000.

Well, that's the thing, that's why I'm so interested. My father was born in 1915, in New York, not London, but my grandparents must have lived a very similar life, so I find the whole thing to be a link to them when they were young. I only knew my grandfather very old and deaf and disliking children, he died when I was about five, and my grandmother died before I was born, but I can sort of picture them young and how they must have lived in that house in Throgs Neck, New York.

-- Kymm (kymmz1@yahoo.com), June 20, 2000.

I haven't seen the show, but I know my answer: there's NO WAY I'd live in any time except right now. Things are so much better now than they were then -- medicine, social rights, education...

Touch my Internet connection and feel my wrath!

-- Diane Patterson (diane@dianepatterson.com), June 20, 2000.

It would be an interesting exercise to live that way for three months, but knowing that there was an end coming, and that you could opt out of the life if you had to (emergency, whatever), it would keep the experience from being real. Knowing my dependency on modern conveniences (computer, cell phone, Palm Pilot, etc.), I wouldn't want to live that way, even though I'm quite happy without television, and I don't mind 'roughing it' without electricity while camping for a weekend. But, no, not as a way of life.

Another thing that I really didn't see explored here, although several contributors touched on a similar issue: in 1900 England, the air was absolutely murky with air pollution from burning coal and tuberculosis was rampant. Let's not forget about influenza, either. The show did mention how they didn't use "original" wallpaper and paint because of arsenic fumes off-gassing from the paper and lead in the paint - but they didn't really explore the typical lack of proper ventilation in the homes then or lack of insulation. Even in America, it was 'normal' to be chased out of the house for a breath of "fresh" air while stoking up the stove: flues were imperfect, and kitchens were usually dark and smokey.

Just some thoughts. I'm glad that I live now, in a time of greater awareness of clean air, avoidance of toxins and I can get a decent banana year round! Now, if we could just work on those tomatoes...

-- Mary Hebard (mahebard@oregonvos.net), June 23, 2000.

I would like to back in time as it would be interesting to see how a soft pampered 2000 person like me coped without modern comforts of life. I would also would be interested in whether neighbourhood companionship helped or hindered the situation. I feel this is the one thing that I feel the Hymers, ref."The 1940s house" really miss on and I feel left in that house when not at school or on voluntary duties they are alone to carry on. For people in the 40s time were exceptionally hard but there was always an aunt or cousin a few doors away to lend or be lent to. coral

-- Coral Rumsey (coral@crumsey.fsnet.co.uk), January 13, 2001.

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