Ask Aunt Ruthie FAQ on Technology


Ask Aunt Ruthie

Ask Aunt Ruthie FAQ Index

This page contains Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and answers regarding technology in the 1930s time period. The questions are organized by sub-category as best as possible.

Question Index





Questions and Answers


Q: What was the weather like?

A: If my memory serves me correctly we had definite four seasons each year. Because the weather works in cycles we could experience really hot summers and very cold and snowy winters. I remember one summer in and about 1937 where it was so hot that we would sit out on our porch all night hoping for a little breeze. During this hot spell it was reported in the newspaper that a man literally fried an egg on the Yonge St. sidewalk in Toronto.

Q: Were there any scientific breakthroughs?

A: Development of Polio vaccine and all kids were immunized once they started school. The first of the "talkie" movies appeared in the 30's. 

Technology per se was not too evident in the 30's although we did get to trade in our ice boxes for an electric fridge.  This was a very big thing. as far as really moving ahead.   You must keep in mind that the 30's were very lean years with mega unemployment and in this climate of things, there was not too much money around to develop new ideas. So technology was not too evident although I am sure there were many learned people with ideas swimming around in their heads.

The war broke out in 39 and that was a beginning or turning the economy around. Technology then of course turned its head to the development of war machines.

Q: What was the state of technology in the home in the 1930s?

A: Television was in its infancy in the 30's and it was not a household item at that time.  No one could afford it.  Cars were a little more streamline than in the 20's not too dependable and not too many people that could be in a position to buy.  Radios, for those that had them in their homes, were all AM. They were the biggest source of entertainment.  There were mixmasters in the mid 30's, refrigeration replaced the old ice boxes.


Q: Can you talk about refrigeration?

A: The most fascinating happening at the peak of the 30's was the invention of the electric refrigerator.  Prior to this we used ice boxes and the ice man would come delivering a couple of times a week.  Bread, milk and fruits and vegetables could be bought off horse drawn wagons as well as in the grocery stores. 

Q: What appliances would you have in your house?

A: The appliances in the 30's were varied according to how much money could be afforded.  We had ice boxes to store our perishable food in and the ice delivery truck came around every few days.  Electric fridges came into being in this decade and boy it was a big deal to own one.

We had wood cookstoves which turned out a pretty good meal. My mother used a scrub board in the laundry tub to wash clothers.  All hung outside to dry and 99% had to be ironed as there was no synthetic materials back then. Our kitchen table had a porcelain top and a wooden frame. The kitchen cabinet was all wood as were the kitchen chairs. We had stuffed furniture for living rooms and mostly dark wood tables.  Some beds we had were metal framed with a spring and mattress.

Q: What things do we have now that we didn't in the 30s?

A: First and foremost we did not have television, stereos, VCRs or DVDs. We did not have electric floor polishers, automatic washers and dryers. For part of the 30s we did not have refrigerators - we used ice boxes instead.

The first vacuum cleaner my mom had was an old upright and she thought it was great because she did not have to beat rugs out on a line.  Lucky people had a radio to listen to and we would sit as a family and enjoy the programs.

Milk was delivered in bottles with carboard caps - now we have cartons.  Bread was delivered by a baker and was wrapped in heavy wax paper.  You could of course go to a bakery and buy your bread there.  Our beds had a big spring under a mattress - today we have box springs and matresses.  We did not have shiny taps in our sinks or bathtubs - they were  heavy white metal.  We did not have an assortment of laundry detergents.  My mother bought bars of soap and used a scrub board to to the laundry.

We did not have steam irons - we used a pop bottle with holes in the cap and sprinkled the clothes for ironing.  We did not have synthetic materials for our clothes such as polyester, so all clothes (mostly cotton) had to be ironed.



Q: What were the major car manufacturers back then?

A: The major cars made in ther 30's were Fords, Chevs Buick, Olds, Packard. Also Willys, Nash and Chrysler. Of course given the times, there were not many cars around the big city and they were not the most reliable. However for those that could afford to own one I am sure they were much enjoyed.

Q: What were the modes of transportation?

A: Modes ot transportation of the 30's would include cars, street cars, bus, trains, horse and wagon.

Q: Can you talk about cars your family owned?

A: Cars of the 1930's were pretty unsophicated and not many could afford to own one as money was extremely scarce in this decade.  My uncle was able to purchase a 1934 Ford Sedan, red in color, and I thought this was the ultimate in travelling.  These cars were pretty boxy in shape but they ran (at least most of the time).

old cars

My dad purchased a used Willy's sedan (totally ugly) for $150.00 as he was lucky enough to get a job and needed a car.  I remember my mom and dad talking most of the evening wondering how they would ever get this car paid for.  The poorer class which were many in number, had to count on buses or streetcars to get around in the city.  Fords were the most predominant though there were other manufacturers such as Olds, Nash, Chevs and Buick.


Q: What were the sources of communications in the 30s?

A: Communication source of the 1930's would be the radio, the telephone, newspaper and of course the mail. As the years went by the above became more sophisicated of course and you are fully aware of how it stands in today's world.

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Last updated: May 5, 2005


© Terry Cumming, 2000-2005