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In The Zone . .Emotional Chaos . ..Number 9. . .September 11


Emotional Chaos
Weekly Column by Brian Codagnone

December 11, 2003


Contrary to popular belief, advertising isn't solely an amoral mind-sucking waste of time. It can also be good indicator of the national mood and tastes in a given era. For example, say you were to pick up a sports program from the 1940s or 50s. What would strike you right away (other than the prices) is the ads. The other day I was thumbing through a Boston Garden program from 1958 (experts tell us that to avoid damaging valuable printed material you should always handle it with your thumbs). It was a veritable treasure trove of what we now call "The Eisenhower Era", that time of peace and prosperity between the turbulent forties and the psychedelic sixties (with a brief stopover at the Kennedy Years, aka "Camelot").

The full page Ford ad on the back proudly boasted "This is the Edsel. Each of its lines is original. Each new feature is important." If that alone didn't make you want to run out and buy one, the ad continues:

"A performer in the true tradition (of what, one wonders?), the Corsair hit 80 miles per hour from a cruising 50, in 10.9 seconds." Seeing that the average car in 1958 weighed roughly the same as a Trident submarine, that's actually pretty impressive.

"The Edsel's distinction is easily seen in the classic vertical grill. The low, wide flight deck, the elegant lines of the car shown here." Flight deck?

True to their word, the reader was treated to a picture of the 1958 Edsel Corsair 2 door hardtop. Two attractive women occupy the spacious front seat and an oily looking gent in a three piece suit is leaning in the window. I can't help but imagine that he's the dealer and he's thinking "It's a good thing I unloaded this Edsel before before these saps found out it's a national joke!"

Most of the ads inside are for beer, whiskey, cigarettes and cigars. In a scant 22 pages there are ads for Budweiser, Schaeffer, Red Cap Ale, Carling Black Label, Knickerbocker and Pabst Blue Ribbon along with Seagram and Schenley's whiskey. A large Schenley's Whiskey ad proudly proclaims, "Time out... For sunny morning flavor!". I'm no expert, but I think that if you're drinking whiskey in the morning you have a serious problem.

Apparently, though, the real money was in cigarettes. This one program contains ads for enough cigarette brands to wipe out one of our smaller states (preferably Delaware).

A full page Camel cigarette ad features endorsements from movie stars John Wayne, Joan Crawford and Dick Powell. Wayne and Powell eventually died of cancer and Joan Crawford was, well, Joan Crawford, which was infinitely more frightening than cancer. Another Camel ad features "Popular Singing Star" Martha Hilton, who proclaims that "Camels are mild!" Who am I to argue with a Popular Singing Star?

If Camels weren't your brand, there were plenty of others to choose from. There's the ad in which Dorothy Collins, "The Sweetheart of Lucky Strike" says, "Be Happy, Go Lucky!". I'm not sure what being the Sweetheart of Lucky Strike involved. I'm not sure I want to know...

Endorsements weren't limited to movie stars and D-level celebrities. Sports stars were urging the public to smoke and drink as well. Ted Williams (who probably never touched a cigarette in his life), Joe DiMaggio (who made up for what Williams didn't smoke) and Stan Musial sang the praises of Chesterfields. "A.B.C. means 'always but Chesterfields'!" Wow! Thanks to that handy memory trick I won't forget what brand I want when I stop by the drugstore! Of course, to this day I remember "LS/MFT" stands for "Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco", so maybe there's something to it.

Not all of the ads were for booze and butts. There were also advertisements for the G.E. "Slim Silhouette Portable TV" (which was essentially a TV the size of a small refrigerator with a handle attached), Wonder Rolls, Coca-Cola, Nepco Frankfurters, and that most New England of products, Moxie.

Another uniquely New England institution was the Jordan Marsh department store. The store itself was just a department store, but, if you ask any Boston old timer, Jordan's blueberry muffins were the greatest muffins in the universe and well worth the trip, even if you were coming all the way from Maine (where they know a thing or two about blueberry muffins). In fact, when discussing this subject many become nostalgic to the point of despair and self immolation, so they probably were pretty good muffins.

So, what have we learned about that glorious era? Apparently you could smoke and drink to your heart's content while driving freakish cars. Life was good. Where have you gone, Dorothy Collins? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you...



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Surf Our Site

Home ... Misfits . Rafferty .. . S1019 .. . Star Crossed....
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Ginger & Shadow. ..Writer's Block.. ..Cool Links . ..More Cool Links .
Oddities ..Link To Us... Guest Comics . Online Store..
In The Zone. ..Number 9. . .September 11