Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - February 10, 2017


Celebrations, comfort, convenience and cookies

Last weekend, I decided to put away our Christmas things. After all, Valentine’s Day is almost here!

Picking up last December’s “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine, I rediscovered the 1956 issue underneath. Purchased as an antique some years ago, I had intended to look it over during the holidays.

My clean-up plan shifted into neutral as I began going through both copies page by page. I was curious about what, if anything, has changed, and what has stayed the same.

In terms of bang for the buck, the 1956 magazine was 35 cents, or about $2.90 in current dollars. The newer edition cost me $3.99. The older one had 194 pages, while the new one had 158. The new one had 8-inch x 10.5-inch pages and the older was printed on 10-inch x 12.5-inch sheets. That yielded about 50 percent less space per page in the current magazine. When all three figures are combined, the new magazine is a bit more than 2.5 times the cost of the older one.

Focusing on the 1956 edition, I found most advertisements were for brand-name products that are still around. Foods included Del Monte peaches, Welch’s grape jelly, Betty Crocker cakes, Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate, Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, Hunt’s Tomato Sauce, Campbell soups and Morton salt.

Ads for kitchen appliances and other related products included Hamilton Beach, Sunbeam and General Electric gadgets, Pyrex casserole dishes, Melmac dinnerware, Cascade dishwasher detergent, Cheer laundry detergent and Brillo soap pads.

There were also ads for Cannon towels, Black & Decker tools, Johnson’s baby lotion, 7-Up soft drink, Drano for clogged drains, and Ford, Chevy and Buick cars.

But other products are history - or at least I’m not familiar with them: Pard dog food, Lewyt Power Cleaner vacuum cleaners, Parallel-o-Plate glass - “the most distortion-free glass made in America,” KVP Company gift wrapping paper with cutter boxes, Rid-Jid Ventilated Ironing Set, Tweedie Footware, S & H Green Stamps and Pontiac automobiles.

Pall Mall cigarettes were advertised in the older magazine, but no cigarettes were featured in the recent one.

I had to laugh when I saw the ad for Crisco: “2 out of 3 bake and fry with Crisco ... it’s digestible!” Gee, I’d hope so!

Another, for Phillips Milk of Magnesia, had a woman in a fur coat and skirt walking her poodle and proclaiming, “My constipation worries are over!” My question: hers or the dog’s?

An ad for the Bell Telephone System brought back the time when it was the only telephone company in most places. With a virtual monopoly, the copy was aimed at increased use of its products:

Families today need several telephones ... Like most families, the Ernest Hesses lead a busy life. Their beautiful modern home, their son John, [and] their community activities keep them on the go. "Probably no one in the family appreciates a telephone more than I," says Mrs. Hesse. "Having one close at hand saves me hundreds of steps and so much time. That’s why we have telephones in the kitchen, the den, the master bedroom, and our son’s room. It would be hard to manage without them." ...

The main illustration has Mrs. Hesse handing the phone to her husband while they’re at the table. Hmm ... Maybe things haven’t changed all that much!

Most of the women and little girls in the ads wore dresses and had carefully-coiffed hair. Both ads and articles emphasized what were once traditional women’s and men’s roles: women in the kitchen and men in the garage or working outside. One article, “Desks designed for typing at home,” said: “Each desk holds a typewriter at correct work level for Junior’s studies, Mom’s recipe cards, Dad’s office ‘homework.’”

There were articles specifically geared toward men: “How to choose and use screwdrivers,” “Garden furniture - repair and maintenance” and “What men see in gardening.”

“Christmas around the world,” reflected some of the political happenings of that era. One illustration was captioned: “Germany: Despite Communist grip on East Berlin, hundreds huddle around the Nativity scene in Marien Kirche.” Another had this caption: “In the past, Arab-Israeli tension has eased on Christmas Eve when Christian pilgrims visited Bethlehem.”

Unlike the recent edition, there were no people of color and only heterosexual couples.

Fast-forwarding 60 years, I found it interesting that while women appear to wear less makeup today than when I was young, the newer magazine had more ads for beauty products than the older version. Neutrogena, Olay, L’Oréal, Maybelline, and Cover Girl products were prominently featured next to articles about makeup and hair and skin care.

Until the regulations were changed a few years ago, prescription medications could not be advertised. The recent issue had multiple-page ads for Keytruda, Eliquis, Restasis, Trulicity and Premarin.

As I closed the rear covers on both, I was left with the inescapable conclusion that anyone inspecting the two would pick out the older one immediately. The dated style of artwork and clothing, to say nothing of the yellowing pages, jumped out at me. Still, the focus of the articles were remarkably similar. If the main ideas on the front covers were mixed, I doubt anyone could determine with certainty which were from the old issue and which from the newer one.

1 - Come On In: Bring Home the Holiday Spirit
2 - Fun making decorations
3 - 168 Ways to Celebrate the Season
4 - Gifts that live on and on
5 - Love this felt wreath and learn how to make it
6 - 65 recipes to tempt your guests.

So the editors over the years have been effective in choosing a focus and staying with it. That theme might be summarized as celebrations, comfort, convenience and cookies - a theme that seems as appropriate today as it was 60 years ago.

Oh, and in the list, the even-numbered items are from the older edition’s cover.


Top: 1956 (left) and 2016 covers of the December issues of "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine; bottom-left: Ad for Phillips Milk of Magnesia; bottom-right: the last page of the 2016 edition included the front covers of some older issues of the magazine. The middle image in the lower row is of the 1956 version.



Comments? gloria@kansassnapshots.com.
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