Ranch Romances & Adventures

Ranch Romances & Adventures, May, 1971.

Ranch Romances & Adventures

Contrary to what Jack Martin/Gary Dobbs says, I do not see Ranch Romance (& Adventures) magazines as primarily for women.

Jack/Gary says they must be “aimed at young women since all of the stories have a romantic element to them.” But come on now, dude, I know this may be difficult for a man who loves Westerns to admit but the whole genre – from books to films — is nothing but male romance novels and dick flicks. Sure, there’s some action in there; but the guns and body counts are there to win the damsel, the dame — the 500 miles he would walk just to fall down at her door.

Stop living in denial.

You men are just as much suckers for romance as we women are. You want to read about a good chaste kiss, a ravishing bodice ripping — and this publication proves it.

Or does it… Perhaps I am biased more than a bit by my feminine experiences and feminist equality-seeking nature. For over at Laurie’s Wild West, Laurie Powers shares the story behind the pulp magazine, using the publication founder’s own words. Harold Hersey claimed full credit for launching Ranch Romances in September 1924 (The “Adventures” joined the “Ranch Romances” in 1969) in his biography, Pulpwood Editor. Hersey writes:

My home run was Ranch Romances. I conceived of the idea of combining the Western and the love themes in a single magazine under the title of Western Love Stories. Our distributors considered it too close an imitation of the Street & Smith titles. We were told to think up another. The result was Ranch Romances and it was an almost instantaneous hit with women readers. Instead of the cowboy hero, we offered the cowgirl heroine. Bina Flynn, the editor we chose to handle the fresh idea, built the magazine into a huge success.

While I think combining Westerns and Romances is redundant, either I’m wrong — or Hersey’s another one of these men afraid to admit the romantic truth about men. Maybe, just maybe, the truth of Ranch Romances‘ success lies in the complicated truth of this simple line: “Instead of the cowboy hero, we offered the cowgirl heroine.”

Vintage Ranch Romances Magazine

Women likely responded to dreaming the possible dream of a strong female heroine who was still desired by men. Men likely felt reciprocally reassured that even today’s ballsy woman still could be wooed and won by a macho male. (However, as always, the stories end before the truly difficult part of meshing roles and living happily ever after begins; like dirty dishes in the sink, no one wants to get to that part.)

Laurie Powers touches on some of this modernized gender stuff in her post too, so read that as Exhibit A. And as further proof of the male adoption of this publication I’ll let you know that the previous owner of my May 1971 issue was male. And check out the sexist ad on the back cover.

Anyway, this Ranch Romances & Adventures I have makes me sad. (It probably made others sad too as it was the publication’s last year.)

Ranch Romances may have been more of a pulp publication, prior to the mid-1960s at least, with fantastic graphics and fantasy fiction, but by this point the magazine was more personals ads digest than pulpy delight.

Of course, I may be biased. Again. I prefer the vintage styles more than the retro ones, and my “like” barometer is built upon that grading system. But from what I’ve seen and read, Rance Romances & Adventures is a desperate combination of personal pleas and ads designed to make money off those in despair.

(I’ll be sharing more of scans from this particular issue here and over at Kitschy Kitschy Coo as Valentine’s Day approaches.)

It’s Like A Pucci In The Face

If you have difficulty being a woman and knowing what you want, you can blame it on Emilio Pucci‘s death.

In this vintage lingerie ad for Pucci‘s Fiore Festa line for Formfit Rogers the text boasts, “How does he know what women want before they know themselves?”

Because women are such fickle stupid creatures, we don’t even know what we want to wear.

Even if all we do is shop.

Right?

It’s true; I have conflicting responses to vintage lingerie advertising. But who doesn’t?

(And if you don’t, then we should talk!)

Image via devocanada.

Familiar Feminist Faces

This pair of Ms. mugs look familiar… But then, as someone growing up in the 70’s, I saw a lot of the art deco dames — and the word “Ms.” Sometimes the word was a slur; but still…

I have no idea if these were put out by Ms. Magazine. Someone needs to make a site or page devoted to Ms. collectibles… Gads, I hope I didn’t just assign myself another project.

Pinups Perverting With Pink Plush

This is Jayne Mansfield, surrounded by her pink plushies; but lots of babes of yesteryear posed with stuffed animals and little girl gear (yes, I now are a “tumbl tard”).

I have really mixed feelings about sex kittens taking their “adorable youth” and “cutesy girl” status past shy coy smiles while wearing babydoll lingerie and dresses and move right on into props which promote themselves as children or as having a somewhat diminished emotional &/or intellectual status; then it’s pushing pedophilia and issues of consent. And both creep me out.

Soul Train Lessons

Hubby and I enjoy the hell out of reruns of Soul Train.

Rediscovering lost musical loves and finding new-to-us artists to hunt for, like Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, is too awesome. The clothing and dances are feasts for the eyes. Don Cornelius holding the mic a hundred yards away because his deep booming voice doesn’t need a mic, but the show totally believes in the props, is a hoot. Spotting regular dancers and keeping up with yesterday’s lingo… It’s heaven.

But we also play this game when we watch reruns of Soul Train. The Soul Train Game is to guess the year of the episode before the credits roll and reveal the answer.

Amazingly, hubby always wins — even though he was an underage kid when most of these shows aired.

You’d think I’d have the advantage; not only was I buying plenty of records and tapes, but soon I was out dancing in (and dressing to kill for) the club scene too. But no, hubby, the stay-at-home-young-pup wins.

I’d like to think it’s a matter of me over-thinking my answer (I lived in the Midwest, so how far behind were we in the fashions?). But the simple fact is, he is smarter about this stuff. I’m greatly disadvantaged because I don’t think in terms of years; I view life and history as “chapters” and “episodes,” and am hard-pressed to name dates. His knowledge of technology and historical time lines beats out my real life experience — at least in this case.

(In fact, I always turn to him to help me date any antique or vintage collectible — even clothing — because he’s so damn good at this stuff.)

But I have another point to make, another story to tell, so I’ll move along…

The other day, hubby and I were joking about the Soul Train Game, and Destiny, the 13 year old, asked us what we were talking about. Have you ever tried to explain Soul Train and American Bandstand to a teenager of today?

She couldn’t fathom the idea of kids wanting to watch a bunch of kids dance on TV, let alone that those dancing kids had groupies and fan clubs of their own.

So how could we move on to the issues of race and lip-syncing — often with a microphone from the future, with a fake short cord that wobbled about. But we did. Because that’s the kind of context geeks hubby and I are.

Honestly, I think Des understood the race issues and the faux Microphone Of The Future better than the concept of turning on the television to watch a bunch of kids dance.

I’m sure getting over this speedbump of understanding is thwarted by her preference for Goth-kid-attire; she’s not interested in finding out the latest trends in fashion.

I’m sure the fact that learning dance steps is only relatable in terms of the uncoolness of line-dancing in phy-ed — or today’s shows which emphasis professional dancers, oft paired with celebrities. Destiny’s clearly not thinking she should bust a new move on the dance floor — or that watching teens dance on TV would be the way to learn. You’d Google it, right?

I guess the basic problem here is that these shows didn’t spoon-feed you the dance steps, or break down fashion into sponsored “must haves.”  You watched, like a voyeur, identified what you wanted, and figured it out. So to kids today, the concept of watching teens dance on television is like watching a party through a window — only you’re allowed to go, so where’s the thrill?

And so I didn’t even try to get into Solid Gold or the Solid Gold dancers.

Even after she watched Soul Train with us (right after a Ru Paul’s Drag Race episode) it didn’t seem to make sense; she made it through the hour of Ru Paul, but only 20 minutes of Soul Train.

Explaining teenage dance shows to kids today is like explaining the joys of watching fuzzy YouTube clips of a kid & his light saber dancing to Star Wars to the kids of yesteryear.

Shopping For Awesome Toys In Retro Sexploitation Flick

Over at French blog Au carrefour étrange, a review of Joseph W. Sarno’s Flesh and Lace (1965).

Since the site is in French, you may be confused — but it’s apparently exactly how it looks: A film that starts at a strip club and ends up at a toy store, with a woman seduced by a giant stuffed lion.

The images expose glimpses of tantalizing toys and nostalgic games from the 60’s, such as Mastermind, Hands Down, Marx toys, robots, and stuffed animals.

Ah, to be teased by vintage lingerie, nudity, and some incredible retro toys — I must buy this film!

Thanks to Klaudia’s post on the shoe and stocking scenes which sent to me in the right direction to find this review.

Of Goldie Hawn & Babydoll Dresses

When I saw this 1960’s mod-meets-Edwardian little black velvet mini dress, which looks like a jumper over cream ruffled blouse and trimmed in gold braiding, I instantly thought of Goldie Hawn.

1960s-mini-mod-edwardian-dress-by-atria-fenwick

Goldie, like the Atria dress above, had an incredible way of taking a simple, even older looking fashion design, and breathing new life into it.

Some people think of Goldie Hawn — and any babydoll mini dress, really — as an exploitative thing. They tend to view short feminine dresses as something sinister involving the sexualization of children. But I don’t think that’s quite right… At least not always.

If you remove the ‘babydoll’ from the description, and just look at the dresses, they do express traits we tend to equate with children: simplicity, innocence, delight in bright cheery colors (not dwelling in those dull colors symbolical of adult conformity), the unencumbered freedom of a swinging skirt above bare mobile legs. But are these things only for children?

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Sure, I think Goldie’s warm, sunny, playful confidence was sexy — but not one that risked the promotion of pedophilia. You ought not mistake childlike for being an actual child.

60s-bell-sleeve-empire-paisley-babydoll-mini-dress

Like so many of the characters Goldie played, she may have seemed direct and simple to the point of silliness, but her innocence was anything but dumb; possessing the wisdom of a child and the charm of childlike innocence without being a child is beautiful. And Goldie matched that beauty with her own natural beauty which didn’t rely on lots of accessories and artifice. For a woman to be so comfortable in her own skin, happy to express that she was a girl — not just unapologetically female, but celebrating femininity — that’s spectacular.

terry-oneill-goldie-hawn

In the 60’s and 70’s, Goldie was a visual reminder to avoid, as The Graduate would say, the ‘plastics,’ the mold-fitting uniformity of the establishment. But unlike the cold mod of Twiggy which held you at a disdainful fashion distance (and at a fashionable distance of social disdain), Goldie invited you in to play with her. Not (simply) sexually; but to come play, laugh, learn, and experience with her.

70s-cream-babydoll-empire-waist-mini-dress

In truth, such babydoll dresses better suit the slim and less ‘womanly’ shaped among us. In part because curves require garments with more structure to restrain &/or retain than most babydoll dresses have.  But primarily the problem isn’t so much that babydoll dresses are less apt at covering ample bosoms and rounder aft-areas (things which could be addressed if fashion was properly sized for real women’s bodies), but rather that society deems such displays of female form, however natural, as solicitations — offers to men that women and children have no right to refuse.

That people don’t always see the more honest virtues in those retro babydoll dresses makes me more than a little sad; it makes me ill.

#MusicMonday Zazzle Gifts Edition

Retro audio themed gifts to kitsch-slap your vintage vinyl and retro cassette tape (and 8-track) lovin’ friends — even your disco dancin’ pals.

Extinct shirt
Extinct by bluelucy
Many tee designs available at zazzle

There Are Flowers In The Attic

flowers-in-the-attic-original-paperback-coverWhen V.C. Andrews’ Flowers In The Attic was published in 1979, it became all the rage for a teenage girl to read it — and by ‘the rage’ you can presume not only the inclusion of the outrage of those who prefer to censor for all rather than interact with their children as well as the rebellion of teens who wanted to flaunt their right to inflame. And I was one of them.

I can’t imagine there’s anyone who doesn’t, 30 years later, know the story of the four Dollanganger children locked in an attic. But if you don’t…

A) you can find reviews via the comments and ‘links to this post’ at The V.C. Andrews Movement / Reading Challenge

and 2) you might want to stop reading this post now — because while I’m not going give a classic book review, I will be discussing the reading of this book and my reactions to it, which certainly will contain spoilers.

I don’t recall buying the book (I believe my younger sister, ever much-hipper and popular than I, got it and I feasted on her literary leftovers), but in any case, I definitely recall reading Flowers In The Attic as a teen. (It was the paperback version, so that would have been when I was about 16.) In fact, it was an incredibly vivid book, which left its marks (marks — not scars) on me. It haunted me so that I had planned to name my son Cory, after that ill-fated twin, in some sort of sentimental attempt to wipe away the sins or offer retribution via resurrection. But before I would come to that decision I would have to find redemption for myself and my reading habits.

I was horrified reading Flowers In The Attic. I’d read Gothic novels before; I’d read so-called smut before. But nothing disturbed me like this V.C. Andrews novel had — and the rumors that it was based in truth did not help my ambiguity at all.

I was repelled by what I was reading — yet compelled to continue reading it. I couldn’t put it down and walk away from it… Why was I reading this creepy story about a cruelty and performed on children by family members? Especially as I’d elected to neither watch Sybil nor read the book just a few years before simply because it was too horrifying. How was I now reading this book — and sympathizing with incest and rape?! And, heaven help me, I was itching to get the next book in the series. It was scary and confusing and it made me question my own morality.

I could have gone to my parents with my feelings; they were open and easy to talk with, as I’ve described before. But I figured whatever I was going to have to articulate to them, I ought to be able to articulate to myself — and so figure it out for myself from there. And let’s be honest, there was a significant about of shame which kept me from admitting what I was thinking and feeling to anyone else.

So I endeavored to struggle through it on my own.

Eventually I learned that my fascination was simply that of a reader drawn to a compelling story, into the lives and emotions of characters. The creepy and horrifying things were supposed to be creepy and horrifying — I was supposed to cringe and feel crazed for those characters (and despise others). And if I allowed (or was willing to have) the author manipulate and suspend my disbelief into feeling for these characters to the extent that I sympathized (or even romanticized in the Gothic sense) the matters of sibling sex and rape (if not classic violent rape, that scene certainly raises questions of ability to consent), I was not some lewd damaged being caught up in some literary Stockholm syndrome-esque relationship with the author — the very fact that I was bothered enough to be forced to sort through so many shades of grey (and pure evil) proved that. If I was engrossed enough in the characters to want to cheer them on through darkness to some sort of victory and happiness, I was simply human.

By the time the sequel, Petals on the Wind, was released in paperback, I had no qualms about reading it. I would go on, with a clear conscious, to read the entire series (save for the prequel), but I never did name anyone Cory. I got over it.

Being reminded of this book recently, I wondered if it would still have such a powerful effect on me; so I decided to get a copy and read it again.

I titled this post There Are Flowers In The Attic for two reasons. The first one is that in rereading the book, I was again moved. Yes, it’s lighter fiction than I am used to reading (perhaps not young adult reading per se, but light in literary terms), but the dark subject matter still moves. I did spot continuity errors (in two places, Andrews confuses the two twins with one another, which made for bumpy & annoying rereading), but it’s still a solidly creepy, horrific novel.

The second reason the flowers remain in the attic refers to a parenting opportunity.

flowers-in-the-attic-vc-andrewsWhen the 13 year old spotted the ‘scary cover’ of the book, she hinted (she’s forever hinting, not asking) that she’d like to read it. Being that there is a strong sibling effect, I knew the oldest daughter would then want to read what ‘we’ were reading.

Both are pretty strong readers, but the eldest, 20, is an Auspie, so she might have additional confusion reading this book, and the 13 year old has abandonment and other issues resulting from her mentally ill, neglectful biological mother. Suffice it to say, I had concerns how either of them would process the book’s subject matter. So I sat them both down to talk about the book and its content.

I told them that I had no problems with either of them reading the book, but that I wanted them to know that the book was scary — and at was at this point that they interrupted me, laughing about how they watch and enjoy scarier movies than I do. Which is true, but, as I explained to them, Flowers In The Attic was far scarier because it wasn’t about vampires, zombies or other fictional monsters; people did the horrible things.

Mothers and grandmothers abused their own children (the girls’ faces fell) — and as a result, the children themselves did things which would, I supposed based on my own reaction to the book, make the girls uncomfortable.

“What things?” they asked.

“There’s some inappropriate sex,” I replied, not wanting to completely spoil the book for them.

There was a pause; no laughing now.

I told them that the book had made me feel creepy and I was ashamed I continued to read it — so much so, that I was too embarrassed to talk to my parents (their benevolent grandparents) about it. So if they wanted to read it, and they felt uncomfortable, they should feel free to quit reading it, talk to someone about how they felt, or both. (This is a general ‘rule’ we teach the kids; but I felt the need to be specific about it with this book.)

The girls looked at each other and then at me, sitting there with my eyebrows arched into question marks. The 13 year old passed on reading it (I suspect it was the ‘sex’ part; she’s quite the prude). The eldest took a look at the book, read the back of it, and said she’d look for more books by the author at the library the next time she was there.

On one hand, I fear I may have not only ruined a potential good read for them but removed their individual opportunity to struggle with their own morality… My intent was not to censor or turn them off of the book.

But on the other hand, I was honest about the book, the subject matter and issues which might arise, and left it to them to decide for themselves what they could handle and/or were interested in reading; and that, in my opinion, is what parents should do.

Even if I denied them the chance to bloom as readers with this specific book, there will be others — there are always others. I hope our continuing discussions about books, and my respect for them as readers, is simply more seed sowing.

FYI, The Complete V.C. Andrews has a contest to win a copy of the newly released Flowers in the Attic/Petals on the Wind bind-up (two books in one) edition to give away.

Whatjamacallit Wednesday: Waste (Can) Not, Want (Can) Not?

In response to my Gadabout post (about a vintage composition dog), Laura (of Doodle Week) said, “I really like how you know all this stuff about old things and how they were made. But how do you manage to keep all these collections without running out of room for yourself?”

Well, Laura, here’s the painful truth: Occasionally I sell stuff.

I don’t like to do it — it does actually pain me. But sometimes, in the continual space battles that collectors face (both living space and the empty space in your wallet — spaces you & your spouse must agree on!), selling items is the proverbial poo that happens.

In this case, hubby (shown here miserable that I’m not only buying another one, but that he’s forced to carry it lol) was right that I had no more room for using another wastebasket…

forced-to-carry-scotty-trash-can

So I’m selling this retro metal waste can with a huge, adorable, Scottie dog on it — despite my deep affection for vintage metal waste cans.

I console myself not only with 11 more inches of space and the extra bills in my wallet, but by imagining the thrill such a find will be for the new owner — who will melt every time they see those warm brown eyes, that black plastic nose, and that red felt tongue.

retro-kitsch-trash-can-huge-scottie-applique

Whatjamacallit Wednesday: Soap Opera Challenge, Y&R Edition

young-and-the-restless-soap-opera-challenge-gameHubby grabbed this 1987 Soap Opera Challenge game for me at a rummage sale this summer for a buck or two and I’ve just now gotten around to attempting to play it.

This particular game in the series by The United States Playing Card Company is based on television’s The Young and the Restless daytime soap. There were several others in the series — and had I either the As The World Turns or Guiding Light versions, I might have fared far better… As it is, my puny knowledge of the Y&R was limited to either my high school summers (1979-1982) when my sister insisted upon watching it because she discovered that the show’s fictional Genoa City, Wisconsin, was based on the very real — and visited — Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and a few episodes in my freshman year of college (1982-83), when the boys in the dorms insisted upon watching it. (Though most of them locked their dorm doors and pretended not to be ‘home’ whilst watching the show, Y&R had a huge male following at the University of Whitewater; mostly the same guys who watched pro-wrestling, so no surprises there, really.)

Anyway, since the Soap Opera Challenge games are, as you’ve likely surmised, trivia games, my lack of viewing of the soap itself, especially around 1987, impedes my ability to play the game with any success. If you were a fan you’ll likely do much better — though that’s not saying much, because I stink.

However, I endeavor to be fair in my reviews and my lack of knowledge isn’t the game’s fault. While pretending that can fathom just who Jack Curtzynski is/was and so make a guess as to who his first wife was won’t quit cut it, I will focus on the game’s play.

ynr-tv-soap-challenge-game-legendThe game itself consists of a game die and deck of 54 question & answer trivia cards, categorized as Love Affairs & Friendships, The Family Tree, Characters & Circumstance, Disappearing Acts, It’s A Crime, and Challenge Plus (“Outrageous questions challenge even the most devoted soap opera fan. It’s in the name of the game!”). Each of the six categories is represented by it’s own icon (Broken Heart, Tree, Theater Masks, Question Mark, Scales, and a Star, respectively) which are then repeated on the game die.

Here’s how it’s played:

Two or more players gather. Each rolls the die and the player who rolls the Star goes first.

Game play begins with a (fresh) roll of the die. The player to the right of the die-rolling player picks a card off the deck (with questions facing ‘up’) and asks the question which corresponds to the icon on the die. If the question is answered incorrectly, the card is placed at the bottom of the deck and the player on the right begins their turn. If the question is answered correctly, the roller keeps the card and rolls again until she gives an incorrect answer.

When there are no more remaining cards, each player counts the cards they ‘won’ and the player with the most cards (correct answers) wins.

There also is a Solitaire version of play. In this version, the player draws a card from the deck, rolls the die to determine the question category, and takes a stab at answering 54 questions (one question off of each card). Cards answered correctly are placed to create a ‘yes’ or ‘correct’ pile; cards answered incorrectly are placed to create a ‘no’ pile. After going through the entire deck, the player counts all the number of cards in the ‘correct’ pile:

If there are 27 or more cards in the ‘correct’ pile in front of you, you are a winner and a devoted soap opera fan.

If there are less than 27 cards in the ‘correct’ pile, don’t take it to heart, these questions are truly a ‘Soap Opera Challenge.’

Again, I can’t really experience the joy of playing, let alone winning, this game; but if you are a Y&R fan — who knows the show’s history — I can’t see why you wouldn’t dig it. A gaggle of giggling girl’s night guests who know the soap opera’s score (and who scored with whom) would have fun; and lonely girls with a half-gallon of ice cream could distract themselves well enough.

And, if all else fails, you could turn it into a drinking game by having the loser take a shot for failing. Just be sure that stinky players such as myself do not drive themselves home.

the-young-and-the-restless-soap-opera-cards

The Very Best From Hallmark: Greeting Cards Through The Years

the-very-best-from-hallmark-book-coverThe Very Best from Hallmark: Greeting Cards Through the Years, by Ellen Stern, is not a collector’s guide, really; there are no prices or discussion of the secondary market at all. However, savvy collectors and historians who view the world through pop culture vision glasses can learn much from this out of print book published in 1988, which is approaching collectibility itself.

Collectors who are lucky enough to find their cards represented here may ascertain their card’s publication date. Or identify potentially rare cards, such as those which were pulled as failures — like the time Hallmark inadvertently used an X-ray of human bowels rather than the intended heart X-ray for its “heart’s in the right place” card. (Pulled cards would mean fewer in circulation and even rarer finds for collectors — worthy of higher prices, certainly.) But mainly, collectors will gain more insight into greeting cards — in general, and, especially, the Hallmark variety.

(Clearly The Very Best from Hallmark is a corporate sanctioned publication, but I don’t think anyone can challenge Hallmark’s market share superiority or the company’s longevity — both of which speak to the book’s genuine insight into a culture that buys so many greeting cards.)

Ellen Stern’s introduction to the book gives a very brief history of the greeting card along with a rather erratic telling of the story of Joyce C. Hall, Hallmark’s founder. I realize Stern’s job of taking centuries of greeting card history and stuffing it — along with greater detail of the Hallmark company specifically — into a mere 12 pages (including space for images) is no small task; but something’s wrong when I have to re-read paragraphs over again to understand what she’s saying. However, when Stern gets into the aspects about the workings of Hallmark, from art department design to product marketing, she shines.

Here are a few gems:

On a trip to New York in the 1940s, accompanied by Hallmark’s head of corporate design and a couple of artists, [J.C. Hall] would visit Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, and Bonwit Teller — and there be ushered out because the group was taking too many notes on colors, styles, and windows displays. Everywhere he roamed he analyzed, assessed, and appreciated the wares and wonders…

I do this myself; but as I do my note-taking without entourage, I’ve never been escorted out.

In the 1940s and fifties, in department stores and card shops, Hallmark clerks adhered to a dress code — wearing only black, brown, navy, or charcoal gray — so as not to compete with the merchandise.

As a person who’s served a long retail sentence, I find that fascinating — and wonder why they changed the policy.

Dean Walley was a journalism major at the University of Missouri before joining Hallmark. Now one of the senior writers, he’s also the man who offers a marvelous course in American manners — and manners of speaking — to the artists and writers. Projecting slides of old cards from Hallmark’s archives on a small screen, he will rhapsodize on a colloquialism here, chuckle at an antiquated idea there, applaud an adjective, blast a dialect. He loves the high-falutin’ use of the word “grand,” the bravado of “staunch,” the evasiveness of “To a certain cheerful someone.” His sentimental olio embraces cards of every era, every province: a bluebird of the twenties chirping “Please Hurry Back,” a Dutch girl saying “To mine friend,” a tippler saying “Happy Birschday to You,” greetings to the dentist, a quack from Donald Duck. The point is that Hallmark writers must keep up with the language as it changes.

If you collect or read any vintage printed matter &/or antique publications, you know how true — and puzzling — this is; language is often as ephemeral as old paper itself. (Oh, how I’d love to dish with Dean Walley!)

And that’s all before we get to the over 750 images of vintage Hallmark cards.

Looking at the images, I reaffirm my love of vintage illustration. But it’s not all charming — or at least not all simply charming. There are things to note about our culture here.

vintage-hallmark-birthday-cardsSome of these things are noted by the author, like on page 45 where among the images of vintage greeting cards (birthday cards from the 1930s, shown at left) the author observes, “You couldn’t get a drink, but you could still say ‘Hell’ on a greeting card. By the fifties, it would be just the opposite.”

There have been many changes in deed; and our general history has been documented in this specific form of ephemera. In the forward, Stern has this to say:

The ups and downs of our economy, our hemlines, and our mood: such is the grist for the Hallmark mill. The days of our lives, as you will see on the following pages, are reflected in the cards of our days. Prohibition, fitness, the income tax, Vietnam, the G-man, the G.O.P., women’s suffrage, women’s lib, the radio, the jukebox, the computer, talkies, hula hoops, the Atom bomb, the gray flannel suit, the mini skirt, My Fair Lady, Huey Long, Mickey Mouse, the TV quiz show, the fireside chat, the Duchess of Windsor, Miss Piggy, Sputnik, the beatnik, Charlie Brown, Charles Lindbergh, canasta, Mussolini, rationing, cowboys, hippies, hillbillies, bobby soxers, flappers, the Dionne Quints, Valley Girls, the airplane, the blackout, the Crash. The seasons come, the seasons go, and Hallmark is up to the minute.

“Actually, says Bill Johnson [head of Hallmark’s public relations from 1966 to 1985], most cards reflect more everyday life than national events. And a national event does not in itself bring about a card. Most are ignored by the greeting card industry. It would be a folly to pretend that by looking at cards from 1920 to 1935, say, you’d get a full idea of what was going on in America.” But you get a pretty good one.

I think that’s true. Especially what Johnson says. But it’s here that we learn some things which are (rather miraculously) not noted by the author.

As you critical thinkers probably have noticed, there’s not a damn mention of civil rights. I didn’t not present them; they are not in the book (even though Beatniks garner two pages worth of attention).

vintage-hallmark-cards-with-kidsOK, I’ll admit a “civil rights” themed greeting card is probably not too likely to become a best seller, but where are the persons of color? In the over 750 images of “Hallmark’s best greeting cards, spanning seven crowded decades of American life,” I found exactly two cards of what I’ll call non-white people — that weren’t Mussolini or other rather racist depiction of foreign public political figures. I’m sure too that Hallmark made many more racist cards once upon a time — which they were too ashamed of to share in the book — but to not address the whole issue of race is odd… At least show more than two cards with black folks, right?

Whether or not Hallmark does or doesn’t make cards which are more reflective of our society is research I’ll leave for others; but we don’t see much represented here.

Then again, perhaps that’s a problem best explained by the context of the time at which this book was published.

This 1980s book makes clear choices to mention and display the G.O.P. several times (yet I found no clear representations of the Democratic Party) and the republicans of the 80’s certainly weren’t building their platform on civil rights; ultraconservative republicans disliked Affirmative Action and, in a backlash against it, President Ronald Reagan cut funding for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the civil rights division of the Justice Department. Of course, I could be connecting some dots based on those missing dots, creating an image that doesn’t really exist, but I don’t think so. I think the G.O.P. populist pride slant is part of the book’s construction.

But that doesn’t necessarily detract from the book either. At least not if you are a critical thinker. This book may have intended to document our American history through the social connection of greeting card commerce up to its then present day of 1988, but it also documents, through its selections and omissions, a view of that once present day of 1988 which is now a part of our history.

If this is the sort of stuff that fascinates you half as much as it does me, get a copy. (The book is not as common as you might think for a 1988 title; however, it’s not as rare as the Amazon listings might indicate, so check for it at eBay.) If you’re not sure yet, stick around; I’ll be discussing some more from this book during the next few weeks. (If I make the posts really long, I know you won’t read all of it!)

History Is Ephemeral, Issue #7

Welcome to edition number seven of the History Is Ephemeral Carnival, where ephemera lovers share the history behind their obsessions.

If you’ve got posts about old paper and other ephemera, please submit them for next month’s carnival via the carnival’s submission form!

As Pop Tart I present “the meek do not inherit the earth — or at least that part of it presided over by the American political system” posted at Purple Pud Muddle. (Some scary facts about activism!)

Derek talks about his collection of Folk Art Postage Stamps (1977-1980) and WWII stamps at Collectors’ Quest. (You don’t have to beat ’em to lick ’em!)

At Here’s Looking Like You, Kid, Jaynie goes in search of Dorothy Gray’s Cherry Bounce. (She’s still looking for some help!)

Shawnee presents Living With Extended Family: The Ultimate Mother-In-Law Nightmare, Or A Gift? posted at Purple Pud Muddle. (Can we learn from the past — in this economy?)

At Collectors’ Quest, both and Collin and Derek dish about exonumia, with My Summer In Exonumia and Adventures In Exonumia, respectively. (First I didn’t know what exonumia was, then there’s multiple posts about it!)

Cliff shows us 1939 Rothmans Beauties of Cinema Tobacco Cards over at his movie collectibles blog at Things-And-Other-Stuff. (Pretty, pretty!)

Also at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid, Jaynie looks at a few past predictions: The Death of “New Look” Fashions & Other Fashion Predictions from 1950 and Film Options Are Like Predictions: Made, But Not Always Fruitful. (Hindsight sure helps with predictions!)

Here at Kitsch Slapped, I work hard to find out what this 1970 photo is about. (I could use some additional info, if you’ve got it.)

Honorable Mention:

My Collectors Quest post about managing a collection.

That’s the end of this month’s edition of the History Is Ephemeral blog carnival; please submit your posts for next month’s carnival via the carnival’s submission form!

Whatjamacallit Wednesday: Sewing Hat For A Rainy Day

I’m a dork. I know it, and now you’ll know it too.

When I spotted the cover of this 1975 Simplicity sewing book — “updated!” — I had to have it.

simplicity-sewing-hat

I had to have it because I actually thought that they’d have instructions for how to make the hat. Yes, I thought that 1) the kitschy fisherman’s hat adorned with pincushion (with pins, no less), scissors, and measuring tape-turned-bow, would be awesome to wear going to rummage sales on those rainy days, and that B) a book of sewing instructions would actually include instructions for creating the item featured on the cover.

Now you might agree that I’m just plain silly for the first thing; but don’t you think a person ought to expect the latter? But no. Apparently Simplicity thinks making the hat is obvious enough. Which I suppose is better than being like that super-annoying and frustrating Science Channel show, How It’s Made, which informs you that markers are made by putting felt into a plastic tube and inserting ink into the absorbent felt. A Duh. That’s not how something is made, that’s how something is assembled from already made parts.

But my point is, while I can buy a bright yellow rain hat and all the sewing supplies, I have no idea how to attach said sewing supplies without ending up having to wear a pirate’s eye patch — and telling people that I was blinded by my own lack of sewing skill, causing a scissors to fall from my kitschy hat & skewer my eyeball.

None of this, however, dampens my desire for such a hat. Sew So, if you know how to make such a hat — that is safe enough to wear — please do tell.

New Vintage Reviews Carnival, 7th Edition

Welcome to the seventh edition of the New Vintage Reviews Carnival, where we review “old stuff” — from the classics to the forgotten — that is likely new to someone…

Films:

Jaynie discusses Spencer Tracy as a father on film in Father’s Little Dividend over at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

Yours Truly reviews The Adventures of Ford Fairlane over at Kitschy Kitschy Coo.

Cliff Aliperti posted Peter Lorre stars in MGM’s Mad Love (1935) over at The Examiner.

Jaynie of Here’s Looking Like You, Kid has a review of The Goddess. (I love this film!)

Cliff Aliperti on Warren William in Arsene Lupin Returns over at Warren-William.com. (Can you tell he’s a Warren William fan?)

Books:

Kerrie reviews Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? by the Queen of the Golden Age of Mysteries, Agatha Christie, at Mysteries in Paradise.

Yours Truly reviews Mary Stewart’s Airs Above The Ground here at Kitsch Slapped.

At The Viewspaper, Surbhi Bhatia reviews the classic Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier.

Alessia (of Relationship Underarm Stick) takes a quick look at the vintage fortune-telling book, Fortune-Telling by Cards — and you can find excerpts here.

Mee reviews Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories, by Truman Capote, at Books of Mee.

At Collectors’ Quest, I review Magnificent Obsessions.

Surbhi Bhatia, of The Viewspaper, reviews Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

Monte Cook reviews the three original Dungeons & Dragons books at The Escapist.

Games:

In A Board Game Fit For a Suffragette, Thursday Bram reviews Pank-A-Squith, a suffrage-themed board game posted at Science of Board Games.

Yours Truly reviews the Dark Shadows‘ game, Barnabas Collins, here at Kitsch Slapped.

Etc.

Cindi Albright‘s What’s in your Vintage Cookie Jars? (at Muggsey & Mae Vintage Collectibles) is an unusual review of cookie jars.

At VintageMeld.com, Cliff Aliperti reviews the 300 Piece Uruguayan Movie Card Set.

Honorable Mentions:

My old live-Twitter account of Night of the Lepus at Kitschy Kitschy Coo might fit your Halloween mood…

Hyde and Seek doesn’t review games so much as present a visual museum of vintage Australian games, but it’s cool to see!

There’s also some “old books” in the 29th edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival I hosted — so check ’em out!

If you’d like your review to be in the next edition, please submit it (or one you’ve read) to the next edition of the blog carnival using the carnival submission form. (If you’d like to host the carnival at you blog, just let me know!)

Sign Of The Times: A Fishy Ephemera Hunt

I confess, I kill a lot of time just looking at the old snapshots and vintage photos at eBay. Sometimes I buy them, sometimes they inspire odd comments and random captions, and sometimes I become obsessive about them. This post is about a vintage photo I’ve become obsessed over:

ruth-lee-rally

All the seller (Darrins-Photoclique) says of the photo is, “Vintage Photo Ruth Lee Speaking at Rally Protest” and that the photo’s size is 3.5 x 5 inches; but I have no idea who the pretty blonde Ruth Lee is… And Google, searching for that name and with variations on “activist,” “rally,” “protest,” is of no help either. So I take a good look at the signs in the photo.

I can’t make them all out; only “Fish before people right???” is absolutely clear. But I try searches for “Ruth Lee” and “human rights” — with no success. I even try searching her name with the word “fish.” (Don’t laugh; if you ever become obsessed and desperate, I wouldn’t laugh at you — with you, sure. But not at you.)

So I try to make out that nearly-white sign above the sign with the argumentative fish question. Looks like “Bring Back Simas.” So I try that. Nothing shows up with her name, but I try “Simas” alone — too many results. So I try that name with “protest,” and low and behold I discover the story of Simas Kudirka, a Lithuanian sailor who tried to defect to the USA on November 23, 1970. (That date fits the fashions in the photo far better than the seller’s ‘Pre-1950’ categorization too.)

Being only 6 years old myself at the time, I knew nothing of this. Thankfully, Martha’s Vineyard Magazine (2005) has a fine retrospective the newsworthy events and CapeCodToday (2007) covers the interesting historical connections and political ramifications — each worthy of reading.

The short story is this: The 40-year-old persecuted Simas Kudirka, a radio operator on a Soviet fish processing vessel, leaps onto the deck of a Coast Guard cutter. The vessels were moored closely together, about one mile off Martha’s Vineyard, as folks were there for a day-long fishing conference attended by American and Soviet officials. Kudirka announces that he wishes to defect, but the Coast Guard, unsure what to do, goes up the chain of command until they are told by Ed Killham, the Soviet specialist, that they could fish a defector from the water — but he fails to add that they should keep him afterward. So when the Soviets forcibly come to get Kudirka, the Coast Guard lets him go. Bound and beaten, Kudirka is dragged back to his own ship, and the Americans are told Kudirka, if not already dead, will be so soon. The nation explodes in outrage, with plenty of press coverage and rallies — this is presumably where our photo comes in — and there are a number of international political issues as a result (Cold War and all).

You’ll have to read the links to find out whatever became of Simas Kudirka; but I will tell you that in 1978 there was a made for television movie made about the incident, The Defection of Simas Kudirka, though there’s currently no home release of the film. Something J.B. Spins laments — and while I may not agree with his views on Russia’s plans, I think it’s important to remember stories like this too:

These stories are important to study. They are not distant skirmishes from the War of 1812, but critical events of the defining conflict of most of our lifetimes.

I have my perusing of vintage photos to thank for the history lesson. However, I still have no friggin’ clue who Ruth Lee is, or even where this photo was taken. If you have any information, please share it!

Cheap Thrills Thursday, Retro Halloween Edition: Barnabas Collins Game

A character in the Gothic soap opera television series, Dark Shadows (1966 – 1971), Barnabas Collins was a long-suffering vampire — tormented both by his status as a blood drinker and his doomed romance with the beautiful Josette. But none of this really matters when it comes to playing the Milton Bradley Barnabas Collin’s game; it’s just a “scary” game for the kiddies.

original-barnabas-collins-game-box-and-parts

I only paid $1.50 for the game (# 4003, copyright 1969, Dan Curtis Productions, Inc.) at a thrift store; the original store price tag was $3.99. (Ha! Take that, inflation!)

Our game is complete, save for the toy fangs which, while originally included in the game box, were “not part of the game” and ” to be used by the owner of the game when playing the role of Barnabas” (printed inside the box’s lid — twice). Of course, kids being kids, there’s also the proviso that “they should be washed before a player uses them.”

The game is rather like hangman — at least visually. Only instead of trying to spell words, you spin the spinner and try to build your glow-in-the-dark skeleton by “hanging” him, piece by piece, on the cardboard scaffolding.

making-skeletons-in-dark-shadows-barnabas-collins-game

Each of the 2-4 players takes a turn spinning, hoping for the chance to collect bones/parts from the coffin. In order to begin building your skeleton, you’ll need either the skull or the body piece; so the first few spins can be anti-climactic. When the spinner lands on the ring, it’s like a wild card; the player chooses any bone, skull or body piece from the coffin.

winning-move-dark-shadows-gameBut beware, you could land on the wooden spike space! When you do, you’ll need to take a wooden spike from the coffin; collect three of them and you’ll need to remove a bone from your skeleton (and then you may return the three spikes as well). There is an “advanced game” option, in which the player with the three spikes may challenge a player of his/her choosing to a “Vampire Duel.” (They take turns spinning to see who will spin the ring space first. If it’s the challenger, the s/he doesn’t lose a bone; the challenged player does. If the challenged player wins, the challenger must remove two bones from their skeleton.)

As game play is based upon the spinner, there’s very little strategy involved (other than having luckily guessed to use your wild ring spin to get an upper arm when your next turn gives you the lower arm, etc., it’s all chance), making it rather simplistic (even for the ages 6 to 14 stated on the box). But it’s certainly a cheap thrill — on any day of the week.

And it’s cool for Halloween — though it’s not anywhere as scary as indicated in the original television commercial (I doubt it was seen as scary then either).  But before you watch it, here’s an FYI: if you’re a Dark Shadows, Gothic fan, or just a Johnny Deep nut (perhaps all three?), Depp’s apparently signed to play Barnabas Collins in Tim Burton’s film adaptation of Dark Shadows.

Now for the word from our retro sponsor:

History Is Ephemeral Carnival, 6th Edition (A Thursday Thirteen Edition)

Welcome to edition number six of the History Is Ephemeral Carnival, where ephemera lovers share the history behind their obsessions.

(If you’ve got posts about old paper and other ephemera, please submit them for next month’s carnival via the carnival’s submission form!)

Because there are 13 links in this edition, this post is also a Thursday Thirteen!

#1 History Cellar shares a Boston Restaurant Dinner Menu from the 1860’s over at The History Cellar. Can you afford the Potted Pigeon?

#2 Derek talks Irish Republic Bonds (from the 1860s – 1880s) at Collectors’ Quest. Do you know what they have to do with one of the earliest attempts to build combat submarines and plans to take over Canada and hold it for ransom?

#3 Yours truly has one of her antique postcards displayed in a museum; the story is posted here at Kitsch Slapped. (It’s so thrilling!)

#4 Jianfeng presents images which remind him of his grandfather in China’s Civil War in The Big Retreat in 1949 and My Grandfather posted at Jianfeng’s Blog. I think it shows how the details of individual stories somehow make things universal.

#5 Collin talks about The Brush Project at Collectors’ Quest. I never thought about it before, but artist brushes certainly are ephemeral.

#6 Yours truly interviews Troy Pedersen, owner of a real world vintage magazine store — in my neighborhood! Aren’t you jealous!

#7 Cliff, with the help of John Gingles of JG Collectibles, gives us A Peek at a Rare Harry Houdini Signed Photograph at Vintage Meld. Included is a tip on how to preserve and display such unique items.

#8 Frank reflects on This is Ephemera: Collecting Printed Throwaways, by Maurice Rickard at his blog, Antiquarian Holographica. Find out why Frank recommends the book and appreciates it for what others might call its short-comings.

#9 Val Ubell dishes about Silent Star Lucille Ricksen from an article in a 1925 issue of Jim Jam Jems over at Collectors’ Quest. I collect Jim Jam Jems myself, but don’t yet have that issue — so now I’m even more hot on the issue’s trail.

#10 Yours truly will be a presenter at the first Bookmark Collectors Virtual Convention. More details to follow at the official convention’s website; subscribe for updates!

#11 History Cellar shows us the Record of football deaths and injuries in 1900 at The History Cellar. Are things better or worse in the sport now?

#12 Yours truly finds out that her laminated in-flight instruction card for TWA’s Convair 880 jet holds a place in aviation disaster history, at Collectors’ Quest. Maybe you have items to help with the memorial?

#13 And if you’re not too sick of me &/or ephemera already, I’ve been interviewed on The Ephemera Show! Check out the podcast here.

While you’re here, let me also remind you that today’s the final day to submit for this month’s New Vintage Reviews Carnival — and, I’m hosting the next Book Review Blog Carnival. Please submit your posts!

It’s Not Blackface When They Have Black Faces, Right?

I love this vintage cotton novelty print blouse from the Bahamas — well, at least until I spotted the three Bahamian singers…

1950s-bahamas-novely-print-top

bahamian-singers

Then I worried that they looked a lot like minstrel performers in blackface. But black persons can be shown as black persons, right?

Uh, I don’t think I can send myself, a white woman, out into the world unless I’m absolutely certain that the rest of the world can tell that this is not racist.

PS I know this isn’t Black Americana, it’s Bahamian. But I’m using that tag so folks can find quasi-related stuff; such is the way of folksonomy.