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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/20/03 -- Vol. 21, No. 51
Table of Contents
Ancient Life (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
On our trip to Maine we passed by a used bookstore that had a fairly complete collection of old "Life" magazines for sale. Since I was going to see family members soon I picked up the issues that were on the newsstands when each of the three of us siblings were born and the issue when Evelyn was born. I believe they followed the convention that the magazine was on the newsstand until the date on the magazine was reached, then it was replaced by the next issue. That means I got for myself the May 22, 1950, issue, having been born the 17th. (Actually, I find most people my age were born on May 17th.) The whole magazine is a time capsule of attitudes, particularly the ads.
The front cover is the Duke of Windsor. At this time he was held in some esteem. Supposedly he was King of England and had abdicated in 1936 for love, as the romantic version of the story went. I believe the common opinion these days is that he abdicated more for sympathy. It was sympathy for Germany, I believe. These days even the romantic story is besmirched. There is a new film coming out exploring the possibility that Wallis Simpson, the Duchess, had an affair with another man.
Perhaps the most striking change in attitudes one notices in how women's place in society has changed. I open the first page. One ad for Kelvinator shows a happy housewife in an apron. I don't remember the last time I saw a current ad with a picture of a housewife. The fact that we have housewives in this country has become something of a dirty little secret. However, this was a time when there were few nations in which families could get by with just one breadwinner. We could. Now that time is pretty much gone. It is not always true today but it is assumed that both adults in a family will be bringing in income, more or less like it was in other nations in 1950. Then again, this was a time when maintaining a house was probably a 40-hour a week job.
Another ad shows a woman joyfully holding her new broom. "4,000,000 women switch to Perma-broom. Electrene Bristles pick up dirt by Magnetic Action as you sweep." Wow! That's science. A smaller picture shows the woman with a whiskbroom brushing off her husband. (I get the brush-off occasionally, but not like this.) And for only fifty cents you can get a smaller Perma- broomette for your daughter. I figure the little girl is just about the right age that she will get involved in the Women's Liberation movement when it comes along.
Then there is an ad for Birds Eye Quick Frozen Frying Chicken. It has a little comic strip showing a success story of frying chicken. The title of the strip is "Suzie serves up a Smooth Quickie!" It starts out with Husband telling Susie, "Now, Susie, I want you to have fun tonight, too. So PLEASE plan something that won't keep you in the kitchen all evening." And Susie responds "For gosh sake! What can you serve that's good that doesn't take time?" The Birds Eye Chicken, hero of the comic strip, says, "I'll tell you." The chicken then tells her to serve chicken. I am reminded of the "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" steer bred to want to be eaten. "Have you considered my liver?" the steer asks. If it sounds like the woman is oppressed, think about that chicken. Still, the strip ends up with the guest couple praising "the tastiest chicken I ever sailed into" over a hand of bridge. Clearly in the 1950s there was much more of an attitude that there was a proper role for everybody in society and you fit into that role no matter how much it hurt. There is less consideration for the feelings of the woman twice called "Susie" and once "Suzie." They are clearly paying a lot of attention to Susie.
At least two ads are for alarm clocks. They are brands I have never heard of. One is for Telechron and one for Sessions. If you want to succeed you have to be to work on time.
Another ad is for Ipana Toothpaste. I wonder what happened to Ipana? I remember they used to advertise it to kids with their mascot Bucky Beaver. As the kid with an overbite I took my share of flak over Bucky Beaver.
Molle has shave cream in a toothpaste-like tube or a jar. There is a big ad showing Betty Hutton as Annie Oakley in MGM's ANNIE GET YOUR GUN. That had a recent revival on Broadway.
Some ads are strange just because of wording that would come along later. There is an ad for two kinds of green giant canned corn. You can get it with just the corn or Mexican style with limp red and green pepper pieces. As the ad says, "Some like it natural. Some like it gay." Ouch.
Page 104 has an ad for products that use dextrose corn sweeteners. A big dish of canned grapefruit slices is shown with a cherry on top. It is being tapped by a woman with what looks like a magic wand. She is wearing a brief drum majorette costume trimmed in red, white, and blue stripes. She appears to be wearing an Uncle Sam top hat. Sex, patriotism, and magic to sell products with corn sweeteners.
Ah, the Borden ad. The ad shows a domestic scene of parents sitting around a house while the teenagers cavort to music on the record player. Only this is not a human family it is bovine. There is a cow and bull and two calves, drawn like humans. In the foreground is Elsie the cow in an apron. I will just quote:
"What happens to teen-agers when they grow up?" puzzled Elsie, the Borden Cow.
"You heard me, woman!" bellowed Elmer the bull. "What kind of men and women will these jitterbugs turn out to be?"
"About the same kind their fathers and mothers turned out to be," smiled Elsie. "Remember where we met, dear? . . . at a Charleston contest!"
"AW, that was different!" flushed Elmer. "I had my practical side, too."
"I wonder if we were as practical as the new generation?" mused Elsie. "I know they're wiser about eating what's good for them. Look at the way Beulah's gang goes for those nutritious sandwiches I make with Borden's Chive Wej-Cuts!"
"They stoke up to get more pep to jitterbug!" sneered Elmer.
Well, it goes on but that's enough of that. I think old Elsie and Elmer have a few rude shocks coming when they see what teenagers will be like in the 1950s. And the 1960s. Come to think about it they also have a few rude shocks coming about what happens when dairy cattle get old. Let's put it this way. I wonder if Elsie has ever asked herself why there are no graveyards around for deceased dairy cattle.
And the back cover there is an opera singer with a cigarette in her hand. "NOTED THROAT SPECIALISTS REPORT on a 30-Day Test of Camel Smokers... Not one single case of throat irritation due to smoking Camels! Yes these were the findings of noted throat specialists after a total of 2,470 weekly examinations of the throats of hundreds of men and women who smoked Camels--and only Camels--for 30 consecutive days."
"Metropolitan Opera Star Nadine Connor: 'When I smoke, I have to think of my voice. I made the Camel 30-Day Mildness Test. It proved Camels agree with my throat. They're mild and they taste so good!'"
Now where would you go to find 2470 exclusive Camel smokers? They probably went to the R. J. Reynolds home office in Winston-Salem, NC. (Some day I must tell about my adventures in that building on Strike Duty.) "Does anyone here want to report an irritated throat? Nobody? Okay, back to work. (Writes) No throat irritation."
Times have changed. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I did my usual periodic "comfort reading" recently of the "Charing Cross Road" trilogy. This comprises Helene Hanff's "84 Charing Cross Road". "The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street", and "Q's Legacy". The first is the most familiar, particularly to me, since I listen to it on audiotape frequently. (For those unfamiliar with these books, Hanff was a scriptwriter in New York who struck up a correspondence with an antiquarian bookshop in London while trying to find English literature not in print in the United States. The second is about her experiences after the first one made her famous, and the third is about how she discovered a lot of this literature in the first place, from Arthur Quiller-Couch's writing.)
But something has always bothered me. In her first letter, Hanff says she encloses a list of her "most pressing needs." The reply says, "In reply to your letter of October 5th, we have managed to clear up two-thirds of your problem. The three Hazlitt essays you want are contained in the Nonesuch Press edition of his 'Selected Essays' and the Stevenson is found in 'Virginibus Puerisque' . . . . The Leigh Hunt essays are not going to be so easy . . . . We haven't the Latin Bible you describe . . . ."
What I can't figure out is how Marks & Co figured they had solved two-thirds of her problem. It appears she requested three Hazlitt essays, a Stevenson essay, some Leigh Hunt essays, and a Latin Bible. And they sent back the Hazlitt and the Stevenson. If you could all the essays for a given author as one request, they "cleared up" half her problem. If you count the essays separately, they sent her four items (three Hazlitt essays and a Stevenson), meaning two were left. But clearly there is more than one Leigh Hunt essay, so this can't be it either.
I know that the answer is that they weren't being mathematically precise, or maybe the Bible didn't count for some reason, but the mathematician in me finds it irksome.
On my business trip to Swindon in 2000, I managed to find Quiller- Couch's anthologies of English and Victorian verse in nice editions in Ludlow, quite reasonably priced. And I just recently ordered his book on writing. Hanff talks about reading one of his books--possible that one--and getting stuck very early because he assumed his readers had read Milton. So she went off to read Milton, only to discover that *he* assumed his readers were familiar with Biblical books such as Isaiah and Ezekiel. Computer types will understand when I say that Hanff found herself pushing more and more onto the stack. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: The artist needs no religion beyond his work. -- Elbert Hubbard
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