Dessert Excavations

I recognize Jughead’s little head at the bottom, and Wishbone the Dog up at top left. But most of the little severed heads that dear Betty Crocker has stuck atop her totemic brownies are not ones that I know.

One of them appears to be asleep, or at least trying to block out the feeling of being watched from behind by a goofy pumpkin who has eaten too many popcorn balls.

And the one with devil horns at the back looks extremely grumpy. Try putting him on your plate! You will probably be sorry.

According to Betty, in her Party Book (1958) these are made out of lumps of hard sauce. So they will probably melt and fall off if you try and pick up a brownie. Betty was too busy rereading Gods, Graves and Scholars to remember that she had a bag of marshmallows handy, I guess.

Ice Cream Pranks

We can come up with better ice cream pranks than this! These aren’t pranks, they’re desserts. Ice cream mischief is more like this (note the retro-ad exclamation marks):

1. Serve scoops of your favorite ice cream down the back of your guests’ necks!

2. When trick-or-treaters come to the door, give them each a generous scoop of Sealtest ice cream in their goody bags!

3. How about an ice cream jack-o-lantern on your front porch! That’ll be fun to fall over and fun to clean up the next day.

4. Or play bobbing for ice cream! Boy, that’ll keep people amused for hours.

5. Tell some scary ice cream stories while gathered round a container of Sealtest in the dark. Like the story of the time you ate the bubble gum pieces in the Baskin-Robbins.

BHG 1960s Halloween ice creams

Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments!

Speaking of which: I love and appreciate all comments and I really, really do try to respond somehow or the other, and if I don’t it’s because I was probably in a panic about getting other things done in real life or on that other blog of mine. And with NaNoWriMo coming up…well, you know. I will be posting (oh, yay) but my comments appreciation might be sort of – implicit. But there.

Pumpkin’s Complaint

From a session with the celebrated analyst Dr. Pepper (who is rather a mystery figure, since no one knows if he is a condiment, a vegetable, or a soft drink)…

Little Depressed Pumpkin Cookie: It all started with that Charlie Brown special. You know the one. The one with that…Great Pumpkin. All that fuss Linus makes, sitting around all night waiting…it just got me thinking, doc, how there was this huge thing I had to aspire to – that I could never be. How can I be a Great Pumpkin? I’m just a little sugar cookie – no, its true. It’s just that I’d never thought of myself that way before and frankly it got me down.

And then I began to notice all the real pumpkins. Those big orange things. I began to feel so little! I tried to tell myself, so all right, you’re a cookie. That’s something. People like cookies.

Then it occurred to me that people who like cookies tend to – eat cookies. And I started to feel very anxious…about being consumed.

Dr. Pepper: By the mother figure, perhaps?

LDPC: Not really. I think she might be on a diet. I mean by anyone – anyone can just open the tin and take one of us. Or maybe they’re going to throw us in someone’s bag on the 31st! Just whoever comes to the door, ding-dong, trick or treat! Oh here you go, have a nice cookie, little boy pretending to be a robot! Only that’s me they’re tossing, doctor. Without any thought for my feelings. My needs. Do they ever think of my needs as a small baked seasonal confectionary item? I don’t think so!

Dr. Pepper: That seems to make you angry.

LDPC: I notice that candy is allowed to be angry. You ever read that e.e. cummings poem about Angry Candy? What about us cookies? Open any cookbook and you see us with big smiles and happy gumdrops all over us…I don’t think that’s really fair, do you?

Dr. Pepper: I see that Good Housekeeping – is that it?

LDPC: Oh, that. I don’t read that magazine. Too many ads.

Dr. Pepper: I notice that they put a picture of you in their Party Book. And you are certainly not smiling. Nor are you covered in – how do you say? – in happy gumdrops.

LDPC: Woody Allen, Portnoy, e.e. cummings’ Whitman Sampler – it’s OK for them to whine and call it art! What about me? Just because I’m not a gigantic vegetable deity in a Peanuts special, does that make it all right to treat me like a little snack?

Dr. Pepper: Hmmm…a fear of abandonment. A fear of being consumed…This is very normal. And even more normal if you’re a cookie, I suppose. What about the little Halloween cat next to you, you are friends, no?

LDPC: Well, not really…he keeps to himself. He’s turned away from me, you see? Hostile. I always wanted to talk to that gingerbread man, the one in the story – he ran away, he got out, you see. My hero! The Jack Kerouac of cookies. I’d love to meet that guy.

Dr. Pepper: And the snowman cookie? Do you speak with him?

LDPC: The snowman? Are you kidding me? Stick coconut and a hat on him and he’ll smile ’til next Tuesday! I tell him, just wait until that Santa Claus guy comes around and you’re sitting next to a big glass of milk. Does he listen? No, hey….hey, doc! Wake up! You haven’t heard a thing I’ve said! I want to tell you about my dream where there’s this big Mixmaster and…

Dr. Pepper: Oh look, that little clock cookie is telling me that our time today is up…I’ll see you next week, at the same time. And next time I would like you to bring a big glass of milk, yes?

The Ghost Room

LHJ Oct 1946 The Ghost Room 1
Just what you need for those last-minute Halloween visitors, I guess. Our hostess looks pretty moody sitting there in the guest room – or is it the ghost room?

You know, if she just invites some ghosts over, that would solve the linguistic problem right there.

For the decor problems, Singer suggests that you make their Sewing Center one of your regular – er, haunts.

LHJ Oct 1946 The Ghost Room 2

Look at the lady working away at dolling up the dressing table. Why, she looks like she’s getting ready to invite Miss Havisham to stay. The draperies are shadowed so that they look rather – shredded. And where are the “reams of exciting trimmings,” anyway? Whatever could they be? Strings of flashing lights? Glow-in-the-dark draperies?

We can only hope that these ladies cheered up after they went down to the Singer store. I wonder how they perked up those dark, eerie rooms. I am not sure that there’s enough scat-singing silver rickrack in stock to perk up this Suburban Bungalow of Darkness.

Maybe opening the curtains would help.

This special Halloween-flavored ad was offered up in the October 1946 Ladies’ Home Journal.

Tune in tomorrow when we’ll eavesdrop a little on a pumpkin cookie who is glum enough to want to visit the Singer sewing ladies.

But Liquor Is Quicker

Welcome to a week of Halloween Retro…which means, in the main, candy ads and – well, later this week we’ll meet a depressed pumpkin cookie (and possibly eavesdrop on one of his analytic sessions), learn some wacky Sealtest Halloween non-pranks…And last but not least, we will encounter some little shrunken heads that Betty Crocker, that noted anthropologist, stuck on some unsuspecting brownies.

And that’s just the beginning!

Wait…no, that’s not the beginning. This is:

In this case, candy probably isn’t so dandy. That candy is squashed from the Lady in Red sitting on it by mistake.

This must be a classic Halloween date – also known as the Trick Or Treat. First she gets tricked: her friend said he was a Byronic, dark, moody type and look who shows up – Zeppo Marx on a sugar high. And the chocolate is the treat. Get it? (Oh fine, don’t laugh…it’s Monday morning, and we’re all doing our best, I suppose).

And what smirking behind the couch is in aid of…nope, not gonna speculate. If I were her, I’d grab my mad money and go. Don’t forget to take the chocolate, Sally – it looks salvageable. You can eat it in front of the TV later (perhaps one with an amazing blaxide tube, if you’re lucky).

(Ad from Duke University Ad Access; they say it’s from 1947, and I believe them!)

The Wonderful New-Shape Box

What a fiendishly clever plan!

After you go out and buy your Modess, wrap them up like a birthday present. You may want to buy some special polka-dot paper for this purpose.

Oh, and don’t forget the twine, either. Make a nice knot when you tie it up. The idea is to make it so difficult to get at that – here’s the clever bit – no one will know what you have inside the little box.

Because people know that you usually carry little wrapped boxes of note paper, and candy, and bath salts, and Kleenex, around with you – that’s just a normal day for you, isn’t it?

And keep holding the box up high like that – that way no one will even see the box. So they won’t think, hmm – Arlene’s sure got a thing for carrying wrapped boxes around, doesn’t she? And she never tells anyone what’s in them!

And there’s a different-colored box every day.

She shouldn’t really worry about hiding those Modess thingies, you know. Because after a few weeks of this, I think people are afraid to ask what’s in the box.

Image, dated 1949, from Duke University Digital Collections: Ad Access.

The Amazing Blaxide Tube

What the heck is blaxide, and why is it so amazing? That’s my first question.

But I have more. Check out this 1950 television ad and see if you don’t have a few, too.

Why is the TV screen round, like a porthole?

Is this how these people dress to watch television?

What exactly is the relationship between the couple and the strapless-green-satin dame posing in front of the TV?

What, pray tell, is that leafy thing on top of the TV? It looks like Carmen Miranda’s nightcap.

Why isn’t anyone even watching the TV? That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?

Image from the spectacular Duke University digital collection, Ad Access.

Out Of The Shadows

Another still from a film noir movie that never was…

When it’s 1951 and you’re the eternal star of The Constant Bridesmaid, it’s time for Drastic Measures.

That smirking bride thinks she’s the Queen of the May – just because she doesn’t have any zits. She’s been making her supposed best friend run errand after errand. Boring her with long stories about the sweet things Albert does for her. What he says about her complexion. The presents he’s shelling out.

And after all that, when it’s photo time, she tells Alice to stand back in the deep background. Smile for the birdie, everyone.

Alice is tired of those shadows. Look at her, you can just tell. And soon, thanks to Camay, the Soap of Beautiful Women, her fiendish masterplan will be implemented. She will use that Camay somehow – somehow – to overthrow the bridal monarchy.

And then she will be triumphant. She will be the one wearing that veil with the strange butterfly thingies over her ears.

The Emperor’s New Zipper

An intriguing little sewing notion from 1967, is what we have here – the Lightning Zephyr, it’s called, which is more what you might want to call a train or – or a plane. Or something in the transportation line. Although it is not bad to have a zipper that works so – so quickly. Ahem.

A stuck zipper is the fastest route to a bad mood – so goes the Zen koan. Well, or so it would go if they had had zippers in Zen monasteries.


The most intriguing attribute of this zipper is that it remains when the rest of the garment has disappeared:”it will outlast the garment you put it in.” Imagine opening the closet door and seeing – instead of your nice sweater or dress or pants – a triumphant, though forlorn, Zephyr zipper depending from the hanger.

Furthermore, I do not think that one should ever forget a zipper. Sew it in and forget it? Bad idea.

It is good that it won’t “snag, or bite, or bulk.” After the vicious false teeth earlier this week, I certainly don’t want a zipper that bites and snags. It’s getting so it is dangerous just getting up and getting ready in the morning.

And whatever a zipper does when it bulks (a verb I have never come across before, though I do know what they mean) – that doesn’t sound too good either.

That must why it outlasts the clothes! It eats them and bulks up, as if on some sort of fabric-based steroid. And as for it not glaring – all bets are off now!! I think it may glare after all. Watch out when you open the closet door.

And now for something completely different…I don’t know where else to put this, so cue the non sequitur. You may have seen the NaNoWriMo widget over in the sidebar. Or not. Anyway, there it is – and if that sort of thing interests you, I wrote about it over on my other blog. And am too lazy to write something over here, it seems.

Kitchen Retro will carry on as usual in November, by the way – so the only difference will be the widget, and the caffeine levels in me. Which might prove interesting.

The Wallet Wardrobe

In Retrogirlworld, there is no end to the matching that has to happen – and I’m not talking about matchmaking. This matching business is, if you will, the prerequisite to the matchmaking.

Because in order to look your absolute kickiest most fabulous best, you just have got to MATCH. Match the dress to the shoes, the shoes to the hose, all that stuff to the purse, the legbone’s connected to the hipbone…All that.

But most importantly, your wallet has simply got to match all that other stuff. If people notice that your wallet is Revolutionary Red, or Cosmic Purple, or Boring Black – why, there’s no telling the consequences.

And you certainly won’t be in fashion. Oh the horror.

I notice that girlfriend in the picture up there has a pretty unmatchy dress thing on, though. I do see a little yellow in it. But it is busier than Times Square on New Year’s Eve. And the lime green vest! That doesn’t match. It clashes! It all clashes! Why contradict the basic premise of the ad? She might as well have some accessories in Revolutionary Red.

Do not make this mistake. Retrogirls of the world, unite! And please, please take note of the very matchy, very yellow Wallet Wardrobe above. Wardrobe is an interesting choice of words. I don’t suppose you’re supposed to wear the wallet on your dress – are you? Or make the dress out of the wallets?

Mind you, that could be interesting. And at least it would all- well, you know - match.