JF Ptak Science Books Post 2486
So, grazing my way through a random issue of America's magazine, LIFE, for August 28, 1950, I was struck by the profound amount of unhappy welcome-to-your-stinking-future-you-poor-stinking-sod articles contained in its heavy and mostly colorful pages, all packed into a quarter-inch thick package.
The issue starts out with a waxy portrait of MacArthur, followed by two big pages of freckly boys modelling Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Ice Cream Dixies, then a big splashy two-page ad for soles for your shoes, then contrasting color combos in a Glidden paints ad, a Swank tie-clip-ruler-mechanical-pencil, Vaseline cream hair tonic, then bits for DeSoto and Chrysler, and Ford. Ads done, there's a two-pager on an old lost film starring Babe Ruth, and a big/weird coverage of people flocking to a far-removed farmlet because the woman living there claimed to see the Virgin Mary.
Then comes the rain: it starts with a story on an unexpected best seller for civil defense ("Atomic Handbook a best seller"), followed by:
- A hand-drawn illustrated page on how to protect yourself from nuclear extermination if the bomb catches you unawares on the way to work;
- the effects of an underwater detonation in the harbor of a large unnamed (ahem, New York) city illustrated by a very forceful two-page drawing;
- a story on the opinions of New Yorkers on the building of a skyscraper when there is such an imminent possibility of an attack by the Soviets (who had developed their own Fat Man type atomic weapon in the autumn of 1949 and which was announced as confirmed by Truman in early 1950, so the threat as it was was new)
- then comes a story of bombing patterns in Korea
- then a short account of a vicious Korean battle at No Name Ridge
These tales are then interrupted by a full page ad for Old God cigarettes, with a pack of them floating on a lily pad in a pond.
The salvo is opened again with:
- a long story on Viet Nam, and the French involvement, and the components of the Foreign Legion fighting there, and how much they need the help of the U.S. to stop this fight for the control of Asia by The Communists, and that it may be a "matter of days" in which we needed to act
- then a big spread (which will get a blog post of its own) on ramping-up the U.S. air force components for the continuation of the new war in Korea.
That is where the bad news almost stops, mostly, the rest of the magazine filled out by fluff and stuff, with a lot of ads. Some of the ads are very puzzling, and some are just disturbing, like the big stretching crotch-shots for jockey underwear for men, and a bra ad featuring a model with Indian headdress saying "How how how", and a terrifically unsavory racist ad for Dumont televisions featuring a cartoon-clownish minstrel figure for no good reason whatsoever. Reeling in the back of the mag are a bunch of big red ad for bacon and pork and Big Red Meat, PBR, mustard, razor blades, a few movies, and lots of people smoking cigarettes.
But just when you thought you made it out of the issue pops up two final stories--a boring thing on "War and Politics", and a picture essay "Iowa Town Dies a Slow Death".
The back cover features a flat cover ad for unfiltered Camel ciggies, decorated with Nanette Fabray in a cabbage leaf dress, which loudly states "Not one single case of throat irritation due to smoking Camels". Giving the devil its due they also state that that (quoted?) nugget was for a 30-day trial. Certainly after x-years millions wouldn't have this complaint because they wouldn't have any throats anymore, being dead from cigarette-induced cancers and all, so the statement was shown to be not necessarily untrue.
August 28, 1950.
All that reading done, you were supposed to keep your eyes on the skies but not let it interfere with your eyes on the prize, which was spending money, and to have you hopefully go out to get some peanut butter that you could put on your new tv, while you and your honey watched it in your new sparkling white underwear, slathered in vaseline hair creme, drinking a PBR, smoking several brands of cigarettes, and thinking about the Parkay margarine-slathered big meat products in the refrigerator. Just make sure to wash your house after the series of Joe-1 Soviet nukes annihilate the rest of your city.
There was a lot of scary stuff in this issue, which certainly helped to put the "if"into "life" in the high summer of 1950--then again, as a summer of fear, there was a lot of it to go around, and with some good reason.
See here for a good article on the Life article on this town, "Bradgate, the Town that Wouldn't Die", at iagenweb.com (Iowa Genealogy)