The other days I shared some party tips from the writings of Ruth Drew; These writings date back to the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s so are about a very, very different world from ours! Looking at something like a list of suggestions for a party tells us so much about life then, in a more vivid way than if we read a social history of the time, It’s not just what food might have been served and how, nor what clothes people would have worn.
The food she suggests includes piping hot sausages, cheese straws, cheese pies, dishes of salad, vol-au-vents, patties, toasted ‘decker’ sandwiches, hot soup with plenty of grated cheese. This should be garnished with parley, strips of pimento and sliced stuffed olives. I guess the sausages, pies and patties would be small as it is supposed to be finger or fork food! Maybe not so very different from some party food today! Also on offer were cigarettes – no doubt in attractive cases and boxes, with matches and ashtrays.
Mary comments that few guests would have cars, most people would have used public transport – hence her mention of somewhere to put wet coats and umbrellas, and trying to arrange those with transport to give lifts home.
Games seem to be part of Ruth’s party plan:
if paper games are to feature, see that plenty of paper and sharpened pencils are ready , (Biros weren’t invented until 1938!) If charades are your speciality, organise a dressing room stocked with a pile of dressing up clothes, and plenty of large safety pins. Fur hearth rugs are always popular with animal characters! Lots of stoles and scarves and funny hats will be made full use of.
Ruth doesn’t want to worry the hostess who isn’t up to organising such fun:
If you think games would be fun but lack ideas, it’s a good plan, when inviting your guests, to ask them to come prepared to organise their favourite variety. If you think the company is likely to include people with talents for party tricks, give them fair warning. Maybe the evening will then be enlivened by an amateur card trickster who will be delighted to contribute to the evening’s entertainment.
We’re in a fortunate position where we don’t have to worry about power – we have gas for heating and cooking, electricity for the same and light too. Some house in those times may have had a form of central heating, and most cooking would by now have been done with gas or electricity like us. Many people – more people than now would have had payment metres for their fuel supply, so Ruth reminds ‘the hostess’ to ‘make sure of stocking up in advance with the appropriate coins!’ There should also be a ready and available supply of fuse wire to mend a blown fuse, torches in case the party is plunged into darkness, and spare lamp bulbs.
I’m sure, from reading about Ruth, and her book, all her parties were a wonderful success, and great fun!