About Sally Edelstein

Sally Edelstein is an award-winning artist and writer whose work has focused on mid-century American culture. Her nationally exhibited collages of vintage imagery, (www.sallyedelsteincollage.com) offer a remix of popular culture. Her blog, EnvisioningTheAmericanDream.wordpress.com, offers up a curated collection of vintage advertising and illustrations of mid-century American consumer culture. Weaving personal stories along with vintage images, the commentaries are an amalgam of satire, history and memoir.

All American Barbecue

Suburbs BBQ

The Smell of Democracy in the Air

Every July 4th our split level development would be shrouded by the smoke of burning charcoal, the sizzling smell of democracy was in the air.

Besides a parade, nothing was more quintessentially American than a July 4th back yard barbecue. Like some sacred Old Testament tradition of sacrificing an animal to please the Lord, every Independence Day a burnt offering of seared flesh was offered up in homage to Uncle Sam.

And in that confident mid-century soaring bull market, Democracy was as vital to our health as a Delmonico steak.

Dad knew tossing a hunk of meat on a sizzling grill, the ubiquitous package of Kingsford briquettes at the ready, proclaimed to the world “I’m proud to be an American.”

The Smell of Capitalism In The Air

Wealth from Waste

In fact nothing was more American than those Kingsford briquettes. Invented by the quintessential American capitalist Henry Ford as a way of further lining his own pockets, Ford had a better idea. By charring the wood scraps left over from his Model T’s and mixing them with starch fillers and just the right amount of chemicals, industrious Mr. Ford created briquettes.

Ford Briquettes

The smell of democracy was indeed in the air – nothing reeked of capitalism more than turning industrial waste into profit.

Excerpt from Defrosting The Cold War:Fallout From My Nuclear Family Copyright (©) 2014 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved

 

 

Empty Nest Syndrome

Our wonderful contributing editor, Sally Edelstein, adds more reverie to the thoughts on today’s graduates:

Education-Graduation-Tears

Thoughts in a Mothers Eye -Vintage Gruen Watches Ad 1945

To the click of camera shutters and the ring of stirring oratory, hundreds of thousands of students have stepped forward this spring to receive diplomas from the colleges and universities of our vast country, thus marking an age-old rite of passage into the American Dream.

Amidst the ivy-covered towers of venerable universities, that familiar ritual characterized by cheers and tears has been repeated for generations.

Like many parents of past generations, today’s teary eyed baby boomers are gripped with a host of feelings – sadness, depression, grief and worry. But for today’s parent their constellation of feelings is less about the loss of their child moving on as the fading dream of their own retirement.

Ever the ground-breakers, boomer parents are gripped by a new condition-empty nest syndrome.

Empty Nest Syndrome

Visions of that dream retirement home deep in the blue mountains of Asheville, North Carolina get dimmer with each day as savings are slowly dwindling between supporting their adult children and aging parents.

As more boomerang kids live at home due to the bleak job market, and the elderly life expectancy is ever-increasing, feathering the boomers nest egg becomes an impossibility, as much as an outmoded pipe dream as that high paying job is for their kid.

Sandwiched between the millenials and the greatest generation, baby boomers may soon go bust.

Now that’s something to get teary over.

 

Colds, Flu and the Story of Kleenex

Sniffles

It’s the height of cold and flu season again which means it’s all out war on sniffles and red running noses.

For those battle fatigued sufferers, endless reinforcements of Kleenex are constantly being supplied to the front lines.

Today we take for granted those ubiquitous boxes of soothing tissues, but for an earlier generation who battled the 1918 flu epidemic, the existence of Kleenex would have been nothing short of a miracle.

Kleenex Cleans Up

Kleenex wouldn’t make its debut until the mid 1920s and a grateful nation suffering from hay fever and winter colds sat up and took note.

No one was more grateful than my grandmother Sadie.

Tucked into her sleeve, or balled up in her pocket, Nana Sadie never went anywhere without a tissue at the ready, her first line of defense against deadly germs. Nana was certain the air was filled with dust and germs which could then be inhaled resulting in a nasty cold…or worse.

To her, the invention of Kleenex was a modern marvel of science, rivaling sulfa drugs and penicillin in saving mankind. With the simple toss of a disposable Kleenex into a waste basket, you were wiping out thousands of dangerous germs, and saving countless lives.

1918 Flu Epidemichealth-flu -winter 1918

As a veteran of the first and worst flu epidemic every, old fears and suspicion borne of that war, had scarred Nana Sadie for life.

In 1918 America was at war, not only over there but here at home as well. The Influenza epidemic of 1918 meant it was all out war on the home front too.

The public in 1918 and 1919 was petrified of the Flu.

It was a panicky time, when everyone and everything became suspect as the cause of contamination mirroring the Red Scare which reached near hysteria that year.

Provoked by a fear that a Bolshevik revolution in America was imminent – a revolution that would destroy the American Way of Life, ordinary people became suspect of being Anarchists and Communists.

So it was with the Influenza, when even everyday items such as books, candy wrappers came under scrutiny and attack as transmitters of the dreaded disease.

health-handkerchief

Everything came under suspicion – paper money, ice cream, even wet laundry. No one was safe from that villainous brute Influenza.

“Everyday someone else you knew got sick,” my grandmother would explain sadly.

“It killed the young, the strong, the healthy, the rich, the poor, people who had so much to live for…my own brother and sister, so young, God-rest-their-souls. People avoided one another, they didn’t speak, if they did they turned their faces away to avoid the other persons breathing…”

Dangerous germs, scowling and sneering could be lurking right around the corner- yesterday a suspiciously shared sarsaparilla in a soda fountain, today, a sneeze on a shared seat in a sullied streetcar, tomorrow-who knows- the blunder of a borrowed book from the public library.

But the favorite source of blame continued to be handkerchiefs. Continue reading

Coke & American Diversity-It’s the Real Thing

Coke Ad - 1948

“Hospitality-So Easy and Welcome with Coke” vintage Coca Cola Ad 1948

Real America is causing a controversy for some real Americans.

Coca Cola’s multilingual Superbowl commercial celebrating American diversity has stirred up xenophobic rage across social media.

In the great cultural cauldron of 21st century America there still seems to be one basic ingredient to being a real American…English-speaking, heterosexual, and Caucasian.

Vintage Coke Ad 1946

Once upon a time no one reinforced this more than that all American beverage Coca Cola.

Their sentimental mid-century ads portraying an America that existed primarily in our Norman Rockwell fueled fantasies, were as syrupy sweet as the elixir they sold. Like all advertising at the time, their heartwarming illustrations of small town America were a color and ethnic free zone.

#SpeakAmerican

The internet was abuzz with angry comments after the ad appeared, creating a deluge of pseudo patriotic hashtags to break out on twitter. The outrage at “America the Beautiful” being sung in anything but English resulted in some calling for a boycott of Coke, that most American of products.

Well apparently that old-fashioned recipe for prejudice is still being used by some real Americans who are outraged at a Coca Cola commercial showing real America. The spot features people from diverse backgrounds singing “America the Beautiful” in different languages.

Vintage Coca Cola Ad

Coke is as American as apple pie and baseball - Vintage Coca Cola ad

Face the Facts

The fact is, some conservative pundits are uncomfortable with the look of America and its diversity.

The fact is, the America Coke displayed, is the Real Thing!

That a broadcast commercial might reflect this actual diversity of thought like the multicultural and sexually diverse fabric of modern America is as refreshing as a frosty bottle of Coke!

While All-American Coca Cola has now beautifully embraced American diversity, the cranky critics of the Coke commercial crying “un American” seem stuck in a time warp .

This isn’t “their” America – that is the Mad Men mid-century America where the “other” was best kept in the shadows. Perhaps they long for a simpler time like the ones served up with extra sugar by Coke in their vintage advertisements.

Their notion of what constitutes an American is as dated as the portrayal of real America that Coca Cola once pictured in their ads

 The Right to Happiness and a Bottle of Coke

Coke at the Soda Fountain - 1946

“There’s always a welcome – at your favorite soda fountain.This congenial club is as warm and American as an old-fashioned barbecue or band concert right in the village square.” vintage Coca Cola ad 1946

Coke has long been associated with the American way.

“The soda fountain” that dispensed Coca Cola was, they explained in a 1946 ad, “as American as Independence Day …the very expression of Democracy!”

These slice of life images showing Americans enjoying a refreshing pause in their American dream life often took place in that neighborhood soda fountain- “the friendliest place in town”- that is, as long as you weren’t Asian, Hispanic or African-American.

The “friendliest place in town” was also the whitest place in town.

Americas Friendliest Neighborhood Club

“Not far from you right now is a neighborhood branch of Americas friendliest club-the soda fountain,” begins this folksy Coke ad from 1946.

“Here folks get to know each other better. There’s always something going on in the friendly exchange at the soda fountain.”

Now instead of a “friendly soda fountain the place where everybody can good-naturedly air their opinions, parade their pet peeves and add your 2 bits worth to world opinions,” we have the internet where friendly folk can rage to their heart’s content.

To read the article in its entirety jump over to Envisioning the American Dream

A Thing of the Past

The Doctor is Always Within Reach

Vintage ad Mallory Electronics 1949

 A Thing of the Past

Today when it is unthinkable to go anywhere without your smartphone in hand, it’s hard to imagine the excitement and wonderment generated by this post war ad that hinted at the future possibility of a mobile car phone that functioned merely as a…. phone.

Traditionally, progress was what Americans could always count on…new and better ways of doing things.

Replacing one convenience for a new improved model that would irrevocably improve your life for the better has always been the American Way.

Calling All Doctors!

Mallory Electronics

It may be two in the morning raining buckets but in 1949 you could always count on Dr. Higgins. Like the US mail neither rain nor snow nor dark of night could stop the beloved family doctor from making a house call.

When a call for help comes the doctor can’t say no!

But imagine the time when Doc Higgins can be reached even when he’s at the wheel of his old Buick just by picking up his mobile phone. That was the near future offered up to the hopeful reader in this optimistic 1949 advertisement.

Thanks to Mallory, a manufacturer of parts for modern electronic equipment and their contribution to the future of the mobile phone, “the family doctor would always be within reach of his patients. In emergencies he can give directions over the phone as he speed to the side of the stricken.”

“Modern miracles of communication were already happening,” the ad explains. “The spoken message is no longer chained to fixed routes defined by existing wire lines. With equipment now available, explained by Mallory “oral messages can now be sent from one moving vehicle to another and to central control points.”

Call Waiting

Doctors Smoking!

The Doctor Makes his Rounds.

“Wherever he goes, he is welcome…his life is dedicated to serving others” the copy in the ad reads. ” Not all his calls are associated with illness. He is often friend and counselor. His satisfactions in life are reflected in the smiling faces of youngsters like this one and countless others whom he has long attended. Yes, the doctor represents an honored profession…his professional reputation and his record of service are his most cherished possessions.”

Of course this illustration appeared in a 1946 ad for Camels cigarettes, where our kindly family doctor heartily endorses smoking, so perhaps his professional reputation was less than sterling.

Of course modern miracles of communications like the car phone did come to pass, but the idea of a doctor making house calls has become as antiquated as the ad itself.

You may be able to speed dial your doctor on your mobile phone but good luck in getting a timely appointment.

Now all you can count on in our ailing health care system is interminable office waits and astronomical costs.

Today, the smart phone has replaced the car phone but the house call by a family doctor…irreplaceable.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

I'll be  home for Christmas

"I'll be home for Christmas...if only in my dreams ~ IIlustration  by Haddon Sundblom for Vintage Christmas Coca Cola Ad 1945

For most American servicemen and women serving in the military overseas their holiday wish is simple: to be home for Christmas.

Soldiers sacrifice much for the sake of others, not the least of which is being able to spend the holidays with their loved ones.

No Christmas song captures the soldier’s heartfelt longing more than “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”

The melancholy words of the soldier overseas writing a letter home, echos generations of soldiers who long to be home but are unable to e because of the war.

The wistful holiday classic written during WWII was the perfect sentimental war-time song holding deep meaning to US troops overseas and it rings as meaningful today as it did 70 years ago when it was first recorded.  To read the full post follow Sally.

Photo thanks to ~ Lets Find 1 Million People Who Really Support Our Severely Injured Veterans

When Flying Was Fun for Thanksgiving

As millions crowd our airports for the traditional Thanksgiving trek home over the river and through the woods, the tension mounts at the thought of long lines, insufferable crowds, and the dreaded delays that inevitably await the weary and wary traveler.

Gloom is cast before the holiday even begins.

But for the Post-War population, the new air travel was a breeze.

For the modern mid-century family, the notion of flying home for the holidays was a novelty and a grand experience at that.

“Over the River and Over the woods. To grandmothers house we go,” this 1951 TWA ad announces gaily.

The gleeful modern family fairly bursting with pep and anticipation couldn’t wait to board their flight to visit Grandma. Why let old-fashioned distance keep a family apart?

“There’s a new road now to an old tradition. It’s the TWA high way home for Thanksgiving. And what a blessing it is to families separated by too many rivers and too many woods….and so many years!”“If you’ve let distance and lack of time keep you away too long, try traveling this high way. Find out how TWA can make it very near to someone dear- for even an ocean apart is only hours apart…by skyliner!”

TWA went out of their way to make flying a family affair! Flying was no longer just for Dad and his business trips. Once the airline, started their Family Budget Plan, “…parents have had cause to cheer'” boasts TWA in this 1949 ad. “for now they can take the whole family by air at down to earth prices.”

By traveling on a Monday Tuesday or Wednesday, they could save substantially. “As head of the family,” they explain “Dad pays full fare. Mother and the children under 22 go for only half fare each”…and best of all crying infants and toddlers under 2 could fly free of charge!

Tempting you further, TWA promises, “The flight is a delight, the service supreme, with delicious hot meals served free. Best of all…and oh how mother loves this!…you’re there long before the kids start to fuss or fidget!”

“Snowtime’s no time to give up flying! Vintage American Airlines Ad 1950

Compare the cheery disposition of Mr. and Mrs. Modern who have chosen the up -to-date way to travel to visit Grandmother with their neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Outdated who chose the more antiquated mode of travel- their automobile.

Hampered by a snow storm they are unable to dig out in time for the turkey. Mrs. Outdated, with visions of stuffing and cranberries dancing in her head, looks longingly at the speeding plane in the sky, carrying the wise Moderns to the destination.

Vintage ad American Airlines 1949

 

“Don’t Give Up- Go Up,” declared American Airlines in this 1949 advertisement , touting the benefits and wonders of the new air travel that most post-war families had yet to experience.

“Air Travel- and only air travel can often make the difference between the accessible and the impossible. This is especially true during the holidays when the earthbound are frequently snowbound. Hence, wise travelers plan to go by air.”

“Also, air travel is little affected by the challenge of distance and time. The miles on the map lose their menace- the hands of the clock become friend instead of foe when you use this modern means of transportation.”

“So when holiday travel plans seem likely to get ‘bogged down’ don’t give up- go up.”

Step Right Up, Amigos – Have a Coke!

Drinking Coke was synonymous with fighting the enemies of freedom and democracy. Vintage WWII Coca Cola Ad 1945

Drinking Coke was synonymous with fighting the enemies of freedom and democracy. Vintage WWII Coca Cola Ad 1945

The heartbreaking tragedy on the Leyte Island of the Philippines which bore the brunt of the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan has a special relevance today when we honor our veterans. Thoughts go back to another fall day, October 1944 when General Douglas MacArthur landed on that very same island keeping his promise “to return” and liberate the Philippines.

Wherever the American army went so did Coca cola.

Coke went to remarkable lengths to make sure their soft drink was never far from the front lines, wasting no time in running an ad celebrating our shared victory in the Philippines.

“Naturally Filipinos thrilled when their Yankee comrade-in-arms came back to the Philippines,” the copy for this 1945 Coke ad declares.

“Freedom came with them.”

“Fair play took the place of fear. But also they brought back the old sense of friendliness that America stands for.”

Now the Filipinos need us again

Let us not forget that Filipinos bravely helped our American soldiers, let us not forget them now. We shall return…with help.

 

 

 

Siri – The Voice with a Smile?

Welcome home Mac! The first Mac Pro to be Made in America will be unleashed in December. This news got us to thinking about all things Mac and we zoomed in on Siri because the real voice of Siri was recently uncovered.

Siri Speaks!

Exactly two years after Siri made her auspicious debut on October 4, 2011, the mystery woman’s identity can now be revealed. Apple’s voice activated virtual assistant never quite took off in popularity the way Apple envisioned her, but the closely guarded identity of the oft time snarky Siri has been widely speculated.

According to CNN, she is an Atlanta based voice over actress named Susan Bennett.

Though Apple is being cagey and won’t confirm it, the sleuths at CNN found audio forensic experts to back up the actresses claim.

Would You Repeat That Again?

Staying connected with the assistance of a disconnected female voice is nothing new.

Once upon a time, the alert, courteous voice of the telephone operator was known to everyone who used the telephone. Siris’ snippy voice and quirky personality stands in contrast to the golden age of telephone operators who possessed the “voice with a smile.”

The Voice With a Smile

Bell Telephone Ad 1940

Vintage Bell Telephone Ad 1940s The familiar "Voice With a Smile' operator

Telephone operators were known for their courtesy. “It’s nice to pick up the telephone,” ads would point out, “and hear an alert friendly voice come over the wire.”

“The voice with a smile” was the familiar AT&T slogan used from the 1930’s through the 1950’s . The ads visualized the cheerful sound of the company’s female operators painting a pretty face on the happy voice of the phone worker.

The speech of operators was firmly regulated through strict codes of appropriate responses enforced by supervisors listening unannounced on operators line.

“Operator ~ May I Help You?

"The Bell system appreciates your patronage, and tries to deserve it"

From the beginning, the occupation of switchboard operators was almost exclusively female. Women were valued not only because of their gentle voice, and nimble fingers , but as an added bonus, they worked for lower wages.

According to Lana Rakow in “Women and the Telephone.” an article in The American Telephone Journal of 1902 explained why female operators were desirable: “The dulcet tones of the feminine voice seem to exercise a soothing and calming effect upon the masculine mind, subduing irritation and suggesting gentleness of speech and demeanor, thereby avoiding unnecessary friction”

What Number Did You Want?

Vintage Bell Telephone Ads

From the 1930’s through the 1950’s AT&T recruited female employees through popular women’s magazines such as American Girl, Senior Prom and True Story, appearing next to ads for weight loss, feminine itch relief and bust creams.

Ads emphasized how important women were to the telephone industry. “170,000 women are employed by the Bell system,” one ad stated. “More than half of the 315,000 employees of the Bell System are women. They are your friends and neighbors- living in the same section of the country. They average length of service is about ten years.”

Perhaps courtesy and manners have gone the way of the telephone, which itself is beginning to feel rather antiquated.

 

A Soaring Economy

america-economy-50-swscan015811

The Soaring American Economy Special issue Life Magazine 1/5/53

The soaring economy of post war America was the gold standard for the American Dream.

The people of Mid-Century America had never been more prosperous, never had Dad, the breadwinner, taken home so much money.

The soaring strength of the roaring bull market was at an all time high symbolizing confidence in the Capitalist system. American industries were the symbol of our strength, and like the biceps of the healthy and strong, spoke of the wisdom of our ways.

In early January of 1953 Life Magazine published a special issue devoted solely to the booming American economy. Entitled “The American and His Economy,” it was an unabashed love letter to this record-breaking economic splendor.

A Land of Good n’ Plenty

economy-capitalist-profits

Mid-Century Businessmen were sitting pretty (L) Illustration from Martin Aircraft 1946 (R)

“During the past dozen years or so,” the magazine begins in an introduction written by social historian Frederick Lewis Allen, “we have been watching in the United States something close to a miracle…The once sick American economy has become the wonder of the modern world.”

The articles then go on to boast: “In two decades the U.S. has by-passed the methods and exceeded the goals which old-fashioned socialism had set up as ideals for an economic society.”

“It has achieved instead something totally new and something infinitely better.”

“More or less unconsciously the nation has pulled off a major social revolution. The means to this end have been historically unique, a process mainly of grading society up from the bottom rather than down from the top.”

american-dream-post-war-abundance

American Abundance for all Vintage ad Wheaties sweepstakes 1958

“Most of the change has been wrought by a simple but bold economic idea: more of everything for everybody.”

“It is an idea of production and consumption rather than conservation and thrift.”

“Some of the results are far-reaching:

  • More Americans now own their homes than rent.
  • Since 1929, the US has moved halfway toward equality of income for all members of the population.
  • The US has reached a state almost unique in history where increase in population means increase in prosperity.

 The 99%

For Mr and Mrs America, the factory workers, engineers, housewives and business managers, the issue never lets us forget that, “the US is still a place to get rich quick and honestly.”

A Confident Future

economy-capitalist-wall-street

Money to Burn in a Booming Economy (L) Vintage illustration Wall Street from “The Romance of Capitalism” 1958 by Donald Cooke (R) Money to burn illustration from vintage American Airlines ad 1953

And finally, to answer for the reader the most important question of all about their economy the article asks: “Where are we going from here and what will happen to me?”

According to the giddy experts, there was no end in sight for this soaring economy.

The bull in our soaring bull market was a symbol that the US could compete and win.

And in this land of good and plenty one thing we were never short of was confidence.

A Bull Market Indeed!

Copyright (©) 20013 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved