I am not quite sure how, but the other night, trolling around the vintage blogosphere, I spotted a reference to this BBC series — 1940s House — and now I have my DVD set from Amazon on the way. Pretty much every day I get into a conversation with someone about whether “times are worse today than they were for our parents and/or [fill in the blank to any decade past]”. I have my *opinions*, but I have not dug up actual facts to support my own personal hypothesis. Even before I would, though, I’d want to discuss: What specific aspects of life are we going to measure to determine what may be *better*, exactly, or what may be *worse*? We need to have a discussion around these assumptions and parameters first, I think, to then be able to measure and compare now vs. then.


Anyway: In that vein, I love the concept of this TV series. I guess you’d call it a retro-reality show: A family is put into a constructed environment recreating what it was like to live in the midst of WWII England — housing, food, amenities, technology … or lack thereof. They must deal. I can’t wait to watch.


  1. johnny dollar says:

    i would volunteer for 1960s house, if it meant i could drink and smoke at work, then spend all weekend playing golf and smoking and drinking.

  2. J D Log says:

    They aired this show in Australia I found it very enjoyable. I was talking with my father the other day when we use to have manufacturing he was in the metal industry. I asked him his view of this stuff made in India or China. He said stuff is so cheap that it does not matter that it is poor quality and does not last as he can afford a lot more items. I wonder if a better standard of living was worth sacrificing our industries which I believe is much the same situation in the U.S. This is just food for thought as I believe there is no clear yes or no to the issue.

    1. Eliza says:

      This made me suddenly remember my childhood, dad fixing things when they broke. We couldn’t afford to buy replacement, and couldn’t afford to take anything in to a shop to have it repaired. If dad couldn’t fix it, we did without. And often did without for weeks or months while dad was working on fixing it, and even then after something was fixed, wasn’t ever the same as it was before it broke. It certainly filled me with a lot of anxiety as a kid, when something broke it was bad news. I’m happy now that when something breaks I can generally afford to replace it.

  3. Michele says:

    Pioneer Quest: A Year in the Real West was a Canadian show I was hooked on. The mosquitoes are bad in Manitoba (and here right now as I squash one that has just bitten me)…anyway, they did a behind the scenes episode and one of the woman told the story of always hugging the director because he had bug spray on and they of course were not allowed to use it back in the day..funny.

    1. Elisabeth says:

      Pioneer Quest is SO MUCH BETTER than Frontier House. Less drama, more real life and content. The people on Frontier House are pretty clueless about how to actually farm, and make no attempt to learn how to do it. They sneak in makeup and real mattresses and plow fields in nothing more than their underwear.

      So yes. Pioneer Quest and Yukon Quest are MUCH better than the US House series. The UK House Series are much better, including one I’ve only seen half of, about 1930s coal mining.

      Additional huge, major kudos to Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm and Victorian Pharmacy. With the exception of Pioneer Quest, these are by far much more excellent than anything listed above. And if anybody out there has a source for watching Tales From the Green Valley online I am ALL ears.

  4. Dulcie says:

    I literally just finished watching this yesterday afternoon, how strange! It was really good, almost as good as Frontier House and much much better than Colonial House. I had a hard time with the accents at first, but after watching awhile, I got used to them. Twice I was literally in tears, once in empathy of an exhausted housewife who’d just had a chance to sit down and relax when the air raid siren went off and again when they showed the family listening to a real life radio news show from the ’40’s. This was balanced out with a few laugh out loud moments, the family had a great sense of humor about their situation.

    Well worth watching.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Dulcie, how many episodes are there? I couldn’t actually tell this from the Amazon listing… Thanks!

      1. Dulcie says:

        It wasn’t broken up into episodes on the dvd, it was basically a 3 hour program. I took a break after the first hour, then watched the remaining 2 hours a couple days later.

  5. John Hedge says:

    Sounds interesting either way. Its got to fun to watch a reality type show from another time. I’m sure today’s reality TV will seem more interesting 60 years from now!

  6. Stephanie B. says:

    I can’t wait to check it out. I’m living in a 1940s house (in the U.S. though), and have always wondered what it would’ve been like back in the day.

    Also, just saw the movie Midnight in Paris. A major theme is nostalgia and whether things were better in the past.

  7. katkins says:

    Loooved 1940s House. Educational and well put-together. Fascinated me so thoroughly that I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up for a “1940s Camp” if only such a thing existed.

  8. Amy Hill says:

    I remember watching the end of the 1900’s house, when the wife was doing the laundry & as she changed the load of clothes from the washer to the dryer, she said, “minimal effort, maximum result”.
    I enjoyed the program, and found it to be very educational. It gave me a greater appreciation for all the conveniences of modern life.

  9. Jana (Berniecat) says:

    I’m intrigued by the 1940’s house series. I love social history- especially first hand accounts. . When I visit my remaining living aunts and uncles, I love to listen to stories about their experiences with rationing in the U.S. (sugar, gasoline, nylons, dresses, and anything metal), my aunt’s harrowing experiences working in a bomb (munitions factory) and the history of my grandparent’s house (my grandfather built it in 1939 and my uncle still lives in it). Also, speaking of the Frontier House… on my dad’s side of the family I loved to hear stories from my grandmother (who passed away at 98) about being born and growing up in a “soddie” in Nebraska. I am going to order the series about the 1940’s house. It will be interesting to see how accurately they recreate the actual conditions that English families endured during those times. As far as my ideas about the past and whether things were better or not… they were simply different and each generation adapts to the circumstances that they are faced with.

  10. hillary says:

    LOVED that show! It really made me thankful to live in this relative peace and prosperity.

    I highly recommend the Victory cookbooks from the 40’s. They are a fantastic resource if you are, say, trying to bake a cake but it turns out you only have one egg. They are also really good for info about preserving food and have tons of tips for pickling, drying, and canning.

    1. Just another Pam says:

      There are some amazing web sites covering these subjects as well. Our fore mothers were endlessly creative!

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