Here’s an idyllic, family scene, isn’t it? A little boy or a little girl crawling into his or her’s grandparents laps, cuddling them while the old folks whisper sweet things into their ears and tickle them and give them cuddles……eventually, that little boy or little girl asks: “Nanna…Papa…what was things like when you were my age?” Grandparents smile, glad to know that their offspring’s offspring is fascinated with what they have to tell them. So gramps, nanna…what were things like when you were a child?
But what was it like 100 years ago, back when people were celebrating the first decade of the 20th century? Here’s a few things that used to be, that were commonplace, but which have changed drastically or which have disappeared completely from daily life. How many do you know, or remember?
The Traditional Wet Shave: These days when most of us shave, we think little of it. We turn on the razor, or we click a cartridge into our Mach 3 or our Gilette Fusion and scrape and buzz away like we’re trying to remove varnish from floorboards with a belt-sander. But things were very different back when grandpa was a child. How was it done without fancy, high-tech gizmoes like those electric buzz-saws we call ‘razors’ today?
Back in the old days, a man tackled this, usually daily task, with something called a straight-razor…A straight-razor (also called by the charming name of a ‘cut-throat’ razor) was the main shaving-tool from about the 18th century until the early 1900s. Straight-razors were kept literally ‘razor sharp’. They required considerable maintenance and a fair bit of skill to use. It used to be that grandpa or great-grandpa would hone and strop his razor at home in the bathroom to keep it sharp. Straight-razors had scoop-shaped blades so that as you shaved, the blade scooped up the shaving-soap and cut stubble as you shaved. Stropping and sharpening took up a fair bit of time. You sharpened the razor against a whetstone or a honing-stone and then you stropped it against a leather and canvas strop, to keep the edge sharp and even. Failure to sharpen and strop your straight-razor properly resulted in cuts or nasty razor-burn! Yeouch!
Along with the brush and the blade, you also had shaving-soap. Not cream, soap. You had a cake of soap and a shaving-brush… You used the brush to apply the soap to your face, moving it across your stubble in a circular motion to lather up, spread the soap around and hydrate the skin and lift up the stubble. The brush also scraped away any dead skin. Then, you shaved.
Of course, some people preferred using the new double-edged ‘safety razor’ that came out in 1901. Safety-razors were popular because they were…safer! And they didn’t require as much maintenance. King Camp Gilette, the guy who came up with the safety-razor, cooked up a business-deal with the US. Army. When soldiers headed off to war in 1917, they were all given safety-razors, which led to its widespread introduction into civilian life later on, replacing the straight-razor