Revisiting Memory Lane
Today I find myself immersed in thoughts about the budget crisis our city faces and the decisions our elected leaders will face at their council meeting tomorrow. Quite honestly, culling through all the numbers in the staff report for that meeting makes my head hurt. So, I thought it was time for a little change of pace today.
A REPLAY FOR TODAY
Three years ago, on April 13, 2006, when I was publishing this blog on another site, I wrote the following entry. I've tinkered a little with it today to improve the clarity, added some images and thought it might make for some interesting reading for you new readers. Sit back and enjoy...
A PASSPORT DOWN MEMORY LANE
Recently a neighbor presented me with a gift - a passport down Memory Lane, as it were. She's planning to do some renovations in her home and her contractor discovered, hidden inside a brick room divider, some pages from the November 1, 1956 Los Angeles Examiner. This treasure included the sports section, plus several pages of classified advertisements. The newspapers held no value for her, but when she showed them to me my eyes lit up and I began to wax nostalgic, so she gave them to me.
It's hard to find the words to describe the wave of nostalgia that swept over me as I read the names of sports writers Mel Durslag, Bob Hunter, Morton Moss and Bob Oates. Those were the men who helped shape my interest in sports back when I was a whippersnapper. These pages were published when I was a sophomore in high school and the memories are golden.
GHOSTS FROM THE PAST
As I scanned these yellowed sports pages I found that the Los Angeles Angels (the real Los Angeles Angels, of the Pacific Coast League) were being run by a guy named Clarence (Pants) Rowland - what a great nickname! - and managed by Gene Handley. The Rams, featuring Harlan Hill and Elroy (Crazylegs) Hirsch, were to play the Chicago Bears with league leading passer Ed Brown and runner Rick Casares. The Rams were in the midst of a quarterback controversy - aren't they always? - with Billy Wade, Norm Van Brocklin and Rudy Bukich sharing the duties. Coach Sid Gillman was under fire for that arrangement. Some things just never change!
Another article spoke of a tune-up track meet for the United States track and field team that was headed for the Melbourne Olympics in November. Names of athletes scheduled to participate rang some bells for me. Pole vaulter Bob Gutowski, shot-putter Parry O'Brien, hurdler Lee Calhoun and high jumper Charlie Dumas all were mentioned in the article. I grew up watching those men compete.
WORTH EVERY CENT
A small article noted that Ed Price, the football coach at the University of Texas resigned as of the end of 1956. Price apparently had one year left on his contract which paid him the whopping sum of $12,500 per year.
MY PANTHERS CRUSHED
I even found a game summary for my high school basketball team! They were crushed by Reseda High School, as that school won its very first basketball game.
Even more fun was reading the ads in the sports section. I found advertisements for Crown Russe Vodka (only $3.66 for 4/5 quart), Four Roses bourbon and Lejon Extra-dry Vermouth. Those days are long gone!
I also saw an ad for Coberly Mercury-Continental-Lincoln-English Ford, which offered a new, 1957 English-built Ford (which promised "over 30 miles per gallon in traffic") for $1295 full price. Tired of paying a couple hundred dollars for a tire? Back on November 1, 1956 Shull & Phillips on Olympic Blvd. would provide you with a retread for only $8.95, exchange.
LIPSTICK ON PIGS
My favorite advertisement on the sports page, though, was a large ad on page two, near the top of the page, for an outfit called "Executives Unlimited Schools for Men". Beneath a photograph of suave actor Adolphe Menjou, the ad promised "Every man can increase his business & social position through training at EXECUTIVES UNLIMITED. Let professional business men help you reach your goal." It goes on to offer training in the areas of Personal Public Relations, Business & Social Comportment, Executive Guidance, Voice Dynamics, Physical Fitness and Wardrobing. It closed by offering "Budget Terms and Evening or Sat. Classes". Ah, how times have changed.
This packet of memories also included the comic pages. There, snuggled around the Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not feature - which tells of such wonders as an oak tree which grew through a steel rim in South Kingston, Rhode Island and that every horse owned by notorious English miser Daniel Dancer was shod only on it's two front legs - were some very familiar comic strips. Blondie was there, looking as sexy then as she does now. I also found The Lone Ranger, Buz Sawyer, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, Beetle Bailey, Steve Canyon, Bringing Up Father, Hi and Lois and Mandrake the Magician.
GIVE ME SHELTER!
On to the classified ads, where I found that you could purchase a new 3 bedroom home in Puente for $7895, full price. You could occupy that little beauty for only $129, including closing costs, and pay $59.95 per month. Or, if you wanted to step up a little, you could have a 3 bedroom, 1 3/4 bath house "ideal for small family" in Brentwood/Bel Air for only $22,500.
If renting was your game, you could get a room with private bath, parking, TV, meals and maid service for $18.50 per week.
I kept on flipping pages past the section marked Automobiles - New, where Bacon Ford in Hermosa Beach promised that they were "trading like crazy" and guaranteed "to beat any legitimate deal by many $$$$$", on to the Automobiles - Used section to see what bargains were available to me back then. I found a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible for $1999, no money down. I found a 1955 Ford Victoria , complete with Fordomatic, Radio and Heater for only $1899. Digging deeper for bargains, I found an ad for a place called Burton Sales, Inc., where I could buy a 1948 Oldsmobile convertible for $99 or a 1947 Cadillac sedan for $299. I even found an ad for a 1951 Chevrolet 4-door sedan - just like my very first car - for $395.
AUTOS PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
As I scanned the pages I saw many familiar brands - Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Buick, Cadillac, Pontiac, Lincoln and Mercury. I also saw names of brands now long departed - DeSoto, Packard, Nash, Plymouth, Rambler, Studebaker, Willys and Oldsmobile. What I didn't find was even more interesting. There was no reference to Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Acura, Lexus, Hyundai and Kia, although there were a few Mercedes, Triumph, Volkswagen and Rover automobiles listed under "Imported Cars". Heck, back then you could even buy a Simca or a Sunbeam Talbot.
NOT TODAY, BABY!
I then flipped over to Section 3, page 9 - the first page of what might be called the Help Wanted advertising. As a recruiter of sorts all my working life, I was curious about how things have changed in half century. I found the answer to that question as my eyes stopped at section 61, SITUATION WANTED, FEMALE. The first ad in that section reads as follows: COLORED girls. Call Ladies Employment Aid Agency. 3226 S. Central ave. AD-29505, AD-13244". In that same vein, another ad read: "MIDDLE aged colored woman to care for 2 sm. children. Live in or not". Another, for an agency, solicited candidates for aids, maids and cooks and made a point of saying, "Plenty time off. No cash required. Colored only."
I continued on to Section 69, HELP WANTED, FEMALE, where opportunities were available for Beauty Operators, Car Hops, Clerk Typists, File Clerks and a "Forelady-Asst", where "experience on ladies knit underwear" was required. I spent some time thinking about that one.
MORE CAREER OPPORTUNITIES
A local savings and loan association offered an opportunity for a "Young Woman" with fire insurance experience. There were lots of opportunities for ladies as receptionists, secretaries, typists and waitresses. My personal favorite in this section was a little ad paid for by a doctor that read as follows: "WOMEN - girls (5). Must speak good English & Spanish. No experience necessary to give colonics. I teach you. $1 per hr. to start. Rapid advancement". Sounds like a great career opportunity to me! Another less-specific ad offered the following opportunities: WOMEN. want to make good money in dignified & pleasant way? Full or pt. time." I've thought about that one, too.
STRIKE? WHAT STRIKE?
I saw several ads for "GROCERY CHECKERS at $86 - $125 per week".
I'LL BE DIPPED!
When I read that Beaudry Bros. Candy Co. was looking for experienced "CHOCOLATE DIPPERS" I had a flashback to that classic "I Love Lucy" skit in which Lucille Ball was working on the chocolate assembly line.
ANOTHER "NOT TODAY"
I found several ads for "GIRLS", the definition of which varied from "18-25", "18-24" or, from a more enlightened employer, "18-57".
An ad for an employment agency called out for FACTORY GIRLS, to perform jobs like Electronic Inspectors and Egg Candelers for wages beginning at $1.60 per hour.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
Another ad ran the following:
"FACTORY help, male......$1.90 per hour.
FACTORY help, female....$1.55 per hour."
I then moved on to Section 79, HELP WANTED, MALE. In that section I found advertisements for all manner of workers in the then-growing aircraft industry, plus ads for Auto Salesmen, Credit Man, Bus Boy, Designers, Electricians, Engineers for the aerospace industry, IBM tab machine operators, Inspectors, Machinists and Salesmen of all types. One little ad caught my eye. It read as follows: "KITCHEN MAN. white, under 60, ROOM, BOARD AND SALARY."
I found an ad for a "BUSHELMAN" at a clothier in downtown Los Angeles. After spending a few minutes digging through several dictionaries I found the definition in an old one. A "bushelman" works repairing garments - who would have guessed?
As you can probably tell, I'm having a great old time perusing these old pages, plucking gems from the tattered and yellowed pages. These ads and stories represent a much simpler time - a time when political correctness was an alien concept. It was a time when we worried more about the education our children were receiving than bruising their fragile egos. Those were the days when a high school graduating class had one valedictorian, not forty, as was the case at a local school recently. Those were the days of Costa Mesa's infancy, when small homes on big lots provided room for kids to play and enjoy the ocean breezes that floated across our coastal table land.
It was a time when technology didn't isolate us from those around us, when kids chattered among themselves instead of texting each other or seeking refuge in their Ipods, Gameboys and the like. They were the days of pickup football, baseball and basketball games during which kids honed their skills instead of wasting hours of glorious sunshine hunkered down in front of a 60 inch plasma display, playing video games that splatter opponents all over the screen in life-like animation.
Back in 1956 one could not even contemplate the experience of a lunch partner interrupting your conversation to take a half dozen cell calls, and to make another half dozen of his own. Technology is turning us into a productive, yet boorish, society where instant personal gratification has become an art form.
So, I'll clutch these old, yellowed pages close and continue to glean some fond memories from them. I'll enjoy those memories while I can and share them as I feel moved. I'm grateful to my neighbor for providing the catalyst for my trip to the past.