Simanaitis Says

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DAVID BOND’S BOOK The Guinness Guide to 20th Century Homes was published in England in 1984. Thus, the book has a certain quaintness by virtue of its 36-year perspective as well as its locale. Here are tidbits from this book on home and garage, together with my usual Internet sleuthing.

THE GUINNESS GUIDE to 20th Century Homes, by David Bond, Guinness Superlatives Limited, 1984.

The Motor in the U.S., then England. Motors, as early automobiles were called, became popularized first in the U.S., largely through the 1908 introduction of the Ford Model T. An English counterpart, the Austin Seven, appeared in 1922.

The Austin Seven’s elemental nature. Image from Austin Seven, by Chris Harvey.

Proud owners of motors came to be called motorists, and they sought somewhere to store their motors when not in use.

A Garage, From the French. According to Merriam-Webster, the word garage, “a shelter or repair shop for automotive vehicles,” traces back to Middle French guerrer, garrer “to moor (a boat) or shelter (merchandise).” Its first known use came in 1902, in the early days of motoring.

The Roaring Twenties. The roar of the Roaring Twenties could well have been automotive exhaust notes. And, as The Guinness Guide to 20th Century Homes noted, “America was one of the first countries to become car oriented on a mass scale; advertisements began to promote the idea of relating the car to the home.”

This and the following images from The Guinness Guide to 20th Century Homes.

The Guinness Guide quoted a book of the era, The House Desirable: “The young wife of today who is not blessed or cursed with wealth does not pine for a double fronted house larger than that of her neighbours. Her ideal may be described according to the taste and fancy of the describer as a cottage and a car, a bungalow and a Baby Austin, or a maisonette and a Morris Minor. If she lives in the country, she has no desire for three acres and a cow; she would much prefer a quarter acre and a Cowley.”

First the Car, Then the Garage. The Guinness Guide noted that even classics such as neo-Georgian homes were brought up to date with a garage or two added to the design.

A neo-Georgian with a pair of garages.

A modest family house might feature a 17 x 12 ft. drawing room (we Yanks would call it a living room), with a 17 x 10 ft. garage.

A modest family home still shows some of the country cottage influence, but includes the growing requirement of an attached garage.

A 1920s Perception of Aesthetics. The Guinness Guide cited a magazine of the era: “Old world effects beloved by house agents have a high market value. We love an atmosphere of mellow age slightly tinged with decay, and if we cannot secure the genuine article we contrive spurious imitation. It is only when we enter our garage that for a time we are content with reality, with clean honest design and healthy aesthetics. So far we are not attempted to design our cars in imitation of Roman chariots.”

Home Economics, 1930s Britain. The Guinness Guide commented, “The comparative cost of home items in the Thirties differed considerably from present day [1984] values, particularly when related to earnings at the time. An annual middle class salary of £1000 was considered impressive and more than sufficient for a comfortable standard of living. The majority of houses were sold for less than £1000 and pre-constructed garages made in sections were advertised for under £10.” 

“In contrast,” The Guinness Guide said, “a Marconi radio in a veneered wood casing was priced at 11 1/2 guineas (£12.07 1/2). Fifty-two piece dinner sets in patterned china were available at £12, but a vacuum cleaner and attachments could cost as much as £27.”

To put these prices in perspective, £1 was worth about $6.40 in 1935.

Advertisements frequently showed young housewives doing their own domestic cleaning.

Late 1940s America. The Guinness Guide’s perception of post-World War II America reflected the latter’s economic boom while England was still under rationing: “Double garages were often a standard part of these comfortable homes; the two- or even three-car households had become quite unremarkable in America by the 1940s. Fathers often had to drive considerable distances to get to their work; and a car was also needed by many busy mothers for their day-to-day life which was sometimes spread over quite large areas. Schools, shops and sports centres were usually further from home than in the more closely packed cities, towns and suburbs of Europe.”

The Guinness Guide observed, “British family cars like this 1948 ‘Humber Hawk’ showed a strong influence from the streamlined designs already popular in America.”

The Guinness Guide continued, “American high school pupils in their late teens, much to the wonderment of their European contemporaries, frequently drove themselves to and from school in their own cars listening to the latest Glenn Miller record playing on their car radio.”

I assume the Glenn Miller hit was “In the Mood.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021 

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