Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thrifty Acres: 1971, Life Magazine Style

Hello! A few days ago, I was telling my husband about the Life and Look magazines I used to read as a kid, courtesy of my dad's job as director of a Catholic Social Services agency. At the time, these two publications came out more than once a month, so the back issues would have cluttered up the agency waiting room in no time. Thus, they were brought home for the family to read.

And as it just so happened, I encountered a small stack of early 1970's Life magazines at a thrift store the next day. I thought they'd be interesting to look over. What's changed and what's stayed the same since then? 

Here's the cover of the oldest of the four magazines I bought, the May 7th, 1971 issue:

"Saucy Feminist" Germaine Greer. Quotes from her then-current book, The Female Eunuch, were included in the article about her, and they sounded quite radical. Social media would have a field day with her, no doubt, had it been around in 1971!

Moving on, literally and figuratively, ads related to cars:

Free automatic transmissions on the Plymouth Fury (only on specially-equipped ones, though). I liked how they photographed that Fury Grand Coupe to look about as broad as a barn!

Not too exciting an ad, though, so how about this one?

Wonder what the average male found more exciting - the Ford Mustang with its "sports-car hood - NASA scoops and all", or the blonde  wearing hot pants? 

Unfortunately I don't have good memories of the car featured here:

In the above ad, the folks in the station wagon are supposedly mocking the folks in the VW van for having a vehicle that is "...short and high and really quite ugly." But fear not, those VW owners are the smart ones, since their car is more fuel efficient and has more than double the cubic feet of carrying space!

And that large amount of cubic feet is why I don't have good memories of VW vans. My parents had a string of them for several years, the better to cram my family of ten into. (Even then there was barely enough room for everyone. My three brothers sat in what passed for a trunk, while my little sister sat on my mom's lap. Yes, this was before seat belt laws were in effect).

This car didn't have much power, so once it was laden down with all of us, it didn't move very quickly. Don't think it got any faster than 50 mph on the hills in Pennsylvania the year we went to NYC. But even worse, the heating system was pretty meager. If you sat in the back end of the car, as I had to, you suffered with cold feet during wintertime excursions. Not fun. 

One last auto-related ad:

Above, a matron is merrily trying on a hat. I say "matron" because the copy seems so bad now, I wondered if the advertising agency deliberately wrote it that way as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the "woman of a certain age". I mean, the woman in the ad says: "A brand new idea for cars... and for girls. The Car Man's job is looking after my car...the way that nice man at the bank looks after my savings...The Car Man makes sure I do the right things to my car."  And then she's off, trying on hats, visiting her children or attending club meetings. 

I'm guessing "saucy feminist" Germaine Greer would have likely read this ad, seeing how it appeared in the magazine that featured her. I wonder what she thought of it? 

Due to the unpopularity of the Vietnam War by this time, I doubt that the US Army was high on the list of options for high school graduates. Perhaps that's why this ad was made:

Ah, let's just forget the Vietnam War ever happened, okay folks? Instead, enlist for European duty! You can have a great time in the Italian Riviera and other wonderful spots in Europe! And to prove their point, the other page of this two-page ad had 35 photos of the wonderful European sights awaiting the soldier. 

It'd be interesting to find out if this ad campaign was successful. The US Army might not have appreciated an article in this issue that featured an antiwar Republican congressman named Pete McCloskey, who said of the war: "Nixon is pursuing an immoral policy that the American voters won't back up...If the only way to change it is to run for President, I'll do it." (And he just that, the next year, but came nowhere near challenging Nixon). 

Sure, the reasons behind the US Army's need to promote fun times in Europe were serious, but there were ridiculous ads as well:

The Trim-Jeans, "guaranteed to reduce your waist, abdomen, hips and thighs a total of from 6 to 9 inches in just three days or your money refunded." The woman in the middle reportedly lost a total of 7 1/2" in one brief session. Really? Even as a kid (I was 11 when this issue came out), I wasn't fooled by such ads. A quick Internet search revealed that the firm responsible for the product was eventually indicted on mail fraud. (The same company was apparently responsible for a bunch of other figure-enhancing gimmick ads of the era, such as the infamous Mark Eden Bust Developer). 

I didn't take a photo of the "letters to the editors" page, but from reading it, I saw that people were concerned about the same things people are still concerned about: is the President doing what he said he'd do (Nixon's handling of the Vietnam War), who was at fault for the breakup of a very popular band (the Beatles), whether or not veterans have trouble finding jobs, and the environmental hazards created by the big power plants and cars of the day (I think we've made progress with both).

Funny, some things have changed a lot - automatic transmission is no longer something special, and "car men" likely service as many men's cars as women's, given that cars are more complex now. But there's still dubious figure-enhancing ads - and people still wonder if the President will do what he said he'd do.   

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