1.4 The American Way of Life Between Dream and Reality

Home Zone A Way of Life The American Way of Life Between Dream and Reality

Consumption and Salaries in the Immediate Post-war Period

Despite its harshness, in Trieste the Anglo-American military occupation is remembered as a serene period. After the hard years of war, people were starting to make plans for the future again. In Zone A, the American way of life could be seen up close, but it was out of reach for the majority of the population.

Although in 1946, nightclubs, dance halls, and cinemas multiplied in Trieste, only about 0.8% of a working-class family’s budget could be “invested” in entertainment. Despite newspapers and periodicals publicising the latest fashions of the time, most women had to repair or adapt clothes since they could not afford new ones.

In 1953 a Trieste newspaper titled Women rebel! ran an article about the length of the skirt, but it would be a long time before this was actually possible. Even if much desired, appliances had almost no presence among the housewives of Zone A. Finally, in 1946 only 10% of working-class households had a toilet.

Erica Mezzoli
WeCanIt – University of Ljubljana


“Efficiency” is the Catchword

casalinga anni 50 modello americano
Fig. 1.4.a – The new model of housewife that comes from the United States is that of a manager who can manage everything: house cleaning, family finances and, finally, affection.
(Fototeca CMSA, Trieste – USIS, inv. F169735)


Women’s salaries

Fig. 1.4.b – The maximum wages for women in the zones of Trieste, Gorizia, and Pola during the AMG-“Venezia Giulia”. Values in Italian Lire.
(Erica Mezzoli, Labour Data for the Zone A-AMG Venezia Giulia and the Zone A-Free Territory of Trieste, 1945-1955 – forthcoming dataset)


The newspaper Il Corriere di Trieste: Women and consumption in Zone A

Il Corriere di Trieste (1945–1960) is the newspaper that best highlights the complexity of the post-war period and the early years of the Cold War in Zone A. It also proves to be a useful tool for investigating the market and female consumers’ desires.

Fig. 1.4.c.1 – “In the palace dedicated to the Moscow ladies, new models appeared – Soviet fashion competes with Paris”
(Il Corriere di Trieste, 21 September 1947, p. 3)
Fig. 1.4.c.2 – On the left, the fashion column The Woman Showcase. On the right, ads aimed at the female market. From the top down: furs, appliances, chine, and pain relievers for menstrual pain.
(Il Corriere di Trieste, 12 December 1948, p. 3)
Fig. 1.4.c.3 – Toothpaste ad: “Afraid for my teeth? They look great!”
(Il Corriere di Trieste, 1 August 1948, p.4)
Fig. 1.4.c.3 – Picture accompanying the article “Baths under the full moon – Post-war French Riviera”.
(Il Corriere di Trieste, 25 July 1948, p.3)


The Trade Show

Fig. 1.4.d – The establishment of the Trieste Trade Show in 1948 represented an important step in the post-war reconstruction process.
(NŠK, Magajna, Fiera di Trieste, 1948)


Shady Dealings

During the military occupations, goods were illegally trafficked from Zone B to Zone A and vice versa. From Zone B, Kozara or Jadran cigarettes were smuggled in particular. From Zone A – in particular from the Pula zone –it was more oil and foodstuffs.

Fig. 1.4.e.1 – Gatherings in front of the billboards were the privileged places for negotiations.
(NŠK, Šelhaus-Petričevič, 1947_7587-3)
Fig. 1.4.e.2 – A stealthy trade in the street.
(NŠK, Šelhaus-Petričevič, 1947_7587-11)


An American Starlette

Fig. 1.4.f – Show by the actress, singer and pin-up artist Nyta Dover.
(Fototeca CMSA, Trieste – Borsatti – proprietà Fondazione CRTrieste, UB NP 611-40)


Young, Good-looking, in Love, and Successful

Fig. 1.4.g – After the war, the Triestine Fulvia Franco, Miss Italy 1948, and the boxer Tiberio “tiger of Trieste” Mitri were the love dream of many youngsters.
(Archivio Vitrotti)


Just Like a Boy

Reconstruction also means a need for comfort.
Furthermore, a notion that was previously reserved only for the wealthiest began to spread: leisure time. So, a pair of trousers, a blouse, and a sweater become the unisex outfit for a bike ride, a picnic or a walk by the sea.

Fig. 1.4.h.1 – A pair of trousers, a T-shirt and you’re ready to go out.
(Fototeca CMSA, Trieste – Giornalfoto, inv. F57921)
Fig. 1.4.h.2 – For a soirée a glamorous woman wears a white tux and sneakers.
(Fototeca CMSA, Trieste – Giornalfoto, inv. F57921)


Baby Boom

Fig. 1.4.i – The still empty cribs portrayed by Carmen Perco tell us about the baby boom to come.
(NŠK, Perco, 1948_7713-10)