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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Look Back at Life, September 5, 1955

By now readers of Room With No View know that I love all things retro and I get a bit nostalgic from time to time.  You also know I have a stack of old magazines from my wife's uncle and I love to peek through them for advertisements that give us an idea of what was really going on during those years.  The articles are nice, sure, but advertisers have their fingers on the pulse of the readers far better than those writing the articles.

And so we dip yet again into the ad-world of Life magazine for September 5, 1955.  And remember, the things you'll learn here are completely true.  I don't make any of this up.  Honest!
We start with this eye catcher from the inside cover.  I have no idea who Forstmann is, but they make a snazzy business suit for glamorous women on the go!  However, that's not quite true.  The small print tells us that Forstmann is a woolen company.  They make the finest woolens in the world.  And this wool, "oriola" in cornflower blue, is a lovely, soft wool that can be found in stores near you.

You can also purchase this fabric by the yard.  It doesn't tell us which yard you can buy it by.  I suppose it should read "you can buy it by a yard near you."  Which always leads us to the question: how do they know where you are?

Forstmann Woolen Company was founded in Passaic, New Jersey in 1904.  They were in business until the 1990's, when they were eventually bought out by Victor Woolen Products after a financially troubled decade.  Does anyone out there remember this company?

Here's an ad that will make your mouth water.  Who didn't love these tasty metallic treats?  Here you get turkey and gravy, peas, carrots (or is that sweet potatos?) along with a surprise helping of stuffing.  Everything you want in a turkey dinner.  But wait!  There's more!  In this great magazine offer, Swanson is offering to reimburse you for a package of fruit pies.  That's right, go ahead and buy your family fruit pies to top off that dinner with a tasty dessert.  When Swanson sends you 35 cents, you'll be more than reimbursed.  You'll have your money back, your husband and kids will have already enjoyed their flaky, fruity treat, and you'll be happy knowing that you were able to feed them all from metal plates.  That's really cool.  After all, in 1955, everyone knew that the future was heading towards a society that would be based on metal, plastic, and synthetics.

I'm not so impressed that the 35 cents more than covers the cost of the pies.  I'm impressed that it was worth sending 35 cents through the mail back then.  Currently, that is 11 cents less than what one stamp costs today.  Enjoy your pie!

You know I'm gonna try to find a great car ad to show you.  And although there were no car ads in this magazine (what was up with that?) I did find this wonderful Sky Chief layout.  And what a beauty it is!  Here you learn that Sky Chief  gasoline gives your car three types of power.  Count them, go ahead...1,2,3!

Of course the first one is Petrox.  You knew that, right?  I mean, this stuff is awesome.  It actually protects as it powers.  Essentially, since it cannot leave harmful deposits (that's right, it is some sort of law, it can leave no harmful deposits--go ahead, read it right there in the ad) it will make your engine last longer and you'll get more, money-saving miles from every gallon.  Petrox.  You gotta love this stuff.

After pouring 75 million dollars into an octane increasing project, Texaco wants you to know that this gas, which is now the highest octane Sky Chief gasoline ever available, will enable you to "enjoy a brand new power-feel every mile you drive!"  (The exclamation point is theirs, so don't think I am terribly impressed by their expensive project.)

And don't forget number 3:  This gasoline is 100% climate-controlled.  Seriously, I had no idea gas could be air-conditioned.  And the great thing is, that in all 48 states, you are assured top performance from Sky Chief which means...oh yeah, you wouldn't have guessed it...faster getaways!  (Now that exclamation point was added by yours truly, because I'm impressed that Texaco would be marketing their gasoline to bank robbers.  That's just unique, in my humble opinion.)

Now hear is an ad I can really get excited about.  RCA Victor wants us all to see that their 5 new Orthophonic "Victrola" phonographs bring you a new concept in High Fidelity performance.  Incredibly, the price spread here is from $129.95 all the way up to $1600.  That's a pretty big spread.  And really, it starts at a pretty steep price.  I mean, if you can buy a package of pies for 35 cents, shouldn't you be able to buy a stereo for about $60?  Well, I guess that's the price you pay for quality.  And RCA Victor is nothing if it is not quality.  Just consider the following:

The "Mark VI" table model has a 3-speed phonograph.  You get two choices for the finish--Mahogany or Light Oak.  And if you'd rather put your table model on the floor, you could add legs for it.  (An extra charge will be added for the optional legs.)

To add an FM-AM radio console, you'll have to move up two models to the "Mark III", which is gonna bite you for $325.  Ouch.  But then again, you get all that free music on the airwaves, along with great radio dramas, something we don't get anymore, unless you count the news.  I'd tell you all about the "Mark I" twin-console, which includes not just a radio but a tape recorder (I know, you must think I'm making up this magical technology) but why tell you about it?  Even if you could get back to 1955, there is no way you are gonna be able to afford $1600 for a Hi-Fi.  Who did you think you would be, Frank Sinatra?  Be serious.

Oh, here's one that is near and dear to my arteries...uh, I mean heart.  My grandma Alice used to keep Meadow Gold ice cream in her freezer, which was on the bottom of her refrigerator--remember those?  Meadow Gold ice cream was the best ice cream I've ever eaten.  I still believe that.  After all these years.  And it was simply vanilla that she kept there.  Not even this enticing Butter Brickle flavor you see in the ad.  What I don't recall is ever seeing a playful cartoon on the box.  The box always just bore the Meadow Gold standard, which was all we needed to know that yummy goodness was waiting inside the end flap.  (My kids don't know what I mean by "end flap", but you older folks like me know.  Are there any ice creams that still come in square boxes?)

So let's get to the good stuff...the fine print.  First off, we're promised that there is a wonderful candy surprise in the ice cream.  That's the butter brickle, of course.  But then we are given a recipe for making a delicious mocha topping.  What I found interesting here was that the instructions tells us to melt chocolate in our double boiler.  Anybody out there still have a double boiler?  To be honest, I'm not sure what a double boiler is.  Would this be something that is steam-powered?  It sounds terribly dangerous.    

And as an extra, you get a coupon to buy a doll.  That's right, the lovable Little Meadow Gold Girl, who has saucy pigtails.  (That would be mocha saucy pigtails, I'd guess.)  She's lightweight, soft and unbreakable.  I would bet you that if you put her in a double boiler, she would not be as unbreakable.  Sorry, it was just a thought.  Anyway, this great $12 value can be had for $3.50.  Sorry to all my friends outside of the United States, the coupon is only good in our fine country.  

Our extra ad today is one readers of this blog should recognize.  That's right, a second Veedol ad.  I'd been intrigued by Veedol, since I'd never heard of it until I found it in another issue.  I've been assured by my father that Veedol was indeed commonplace back in the day, though he does not remember it being particularly well liked.  For those of you who didn't know, Veedol comes from the Tide Water Associated Oil company.  If I didn't have to rush off to work, I'd tell you all about them.  Maybe another time.


  1. I have a double boiler. Don't use it much any more, because I do my melting in the microwave. Then again, I am hesitant to use the microwave for my Swanson's TV dinners* for fear that the aluminum trays won't play well with microwaves.

    The best thing to do with a TV dinner is to eat it on a card table in front of a new episode of "Superman." The best thing to do with a double boiler is to liquefy chocolate sauce which has solidified in the fridge.

    *BTW, they're sweet potatoes.

    1. Card table? What about a TV tray? I wish I had a good set of TV trays. Those were terribly handy.

      Where I work, in the old days, the men used to bring their food in a stainless steel box that they set on top of steam lines. By noon they were good and hot, their dinners well cooked and ready to eat. I'm told they also put foil-wrapped potatoes on the steam lines as well. Still sounds safer than a double boiler.

      I suspected they were sweet potatoes, having become accustomed to seeing them served here in the South. But as a native Yankee, I don't recall sweet potatoes on the menu. I would certainly have expected them to be carrots for the northern folks.

  2. As a boy I was surprised to learn that sweet potatoes didn't grow with little melted marshmallows on them.