What A New Year’s Eve This Will Make!

Here are two extremely fun and exciting ideas to make your New Year’s Eve party a – well, a retrospectacular (yeah, I like that word, I just made it up the other day, thought I could use it again here). Even though the visuals are in black and white, you can just imagine the bright and wacky sight that these two party necessities will bring to your house.

Oh yes, they will bring the fun all right! Because really, what else do you need for a fun evening with your guests besides (a) fabulous decorations and (b) a really clever, and sturdy, refreshment area?

You can make a lovely checkered open bar out of cardboard cartons! And the best part is the name that the Popular Mechanics writer thought up for it, back in December 1963. Are you ready? It is called a One Night Stand. I think maybe that writer was making a joke, don’t you? Pretty racy for 1963, eh what?

This certainly is going to be some party!

And wait ’til you see the balloons. You will love them, because you do not stick them on a wall and forget them, oh no. You will be wearing them as hats. This ad is from a 1947 Billboard, by the way, a bit anachronistic with regards to the One Night Stand, but so what, it’s going to be the most amazing party of the year. Of the decade! Or as the Lee-Tex party experts so rightly say – and I really think this sums everything up - What a New Year’s Eve this will make!

Hope you have a terrific New Year’s Eve, wherever you land on the Cardboard-Bar-Balloon-Hat Celebration Spectrum. See you next year (tomorrow) with just one more New Year’s resolution that I don’t think you have even considered. I really am pretty sure you haven’t, anyway…

[If you want to see how to make the One Night Stand, ahem,you can go right over here and have a look.]

You Say You Want A Resolution

Yessiree! It’s time to put down that mince pie and start thinking about Moo Year’s resolutions. I mean, New Year’s resolutions. Elsie the Cow will be delighted to help you. She has a few suggestions:

1. No more eating mince pies while perching on a ladder, sonny! You are supposed to be dealing with the Christmas tree. I’m not sure if it’s being decorated or decimated, maybe both, but either way, it’s no time for snacks.

2. No more jolly chats with imaginary cows, even if you are Elwood P. Dowd‘s farmer cousin. And when you meet Elmer, Elsie’s rageball husband, you will see why this is such a good idea. You really don’t want to get into anything with Elmer, believe me.

3. Oh, and maybe you ought to think about a No Silly Suspenders resolution, too. And No White Socks With Black Shoes. And as for those pants…


Yes, all right. That was lightly amusing. (The Elsie ad is from Life, November 22, 1943, by the way.) But what about real resolutions?

Oh, I have some of those. I’ll bet you do, too. Here are just a few of mine:

1. Say, remember NaNoWriMo back in November, says I to myself? Try and think a-l-l-l-l-l-l the way back to November…oh yeah! Mystery novel, Brooklyn, 1890s, Eleanor Grey, Intrepid Girl Detective? Called Frozen Charlotte. (Not Frozen Eleanor, of course, how could she solve a murder mystery if she was frozen?)

How about writing that second draft. Because it really needs some work. Yessiree! A lot of work. A terrible, awful lot of-

2. …Work! Got it.

Moving on. Literally. Because! Got a pedometer for Christmas, to replace the one I lost because it fell off when I was running and it sort of flipped off and by the time I noticed it was too late. Start using the pedometer again. Yes, now. Now! Now!

…Well, not right now, I am writing this. But you know what I mean.

3. Healthy eating, blah blah blah. Not mince pies, obviously. Good thing I don’t even like mince pies.

4. There are probably some other things but I forget what they are. They go here. I think they have to do with managing stress, but can’t really remember. Too stressed, probably.

So there you go…And now if you go over to Nanny Goats In Panties (which is such a terrific, funny blog, you really should pay a visit even if you don’t have any resolutions) – you can join the This Time I Really Mean It challenge.

Please do tell, what are you going to promise to do (or not do) in 2010?  At this point, you know, we’re just making the resolutions, we don’t have to actually do anything yet, so it will be fun! And just to get in the mood, we can listen a live version of John Lennon’s yes-I-do/no-I-don’t homage to change, Revolution. Notice how he sings “you can count me out” and then says “in.” I think we all know just what he means.


Slymlastik Fantastic

Chili Bouchier* – under whose name I would like to write saucy Hollywood gossip, while wearing a smart little 1930s hat and holding an ivory cigarette holder (all the better to point out scandals from my table at the Stork Club) – has got something very special for you today. It is a beautiful massaging corset made by a woman called Nurse Sinclair.

Nurse Sinclair is never seen in the ad, she is the Wizard of Oz of corsetry, hidden behind the black background, telling Chili Bouchier when to slouch (on the left) and when to stand up straight and suck in her stomach (on the right).

Behold the Slymlastik! 
Which saves you from doing anything gymnastic; 
And that’s because it’s made of supersonic elastic. 
In a word, it is jolly well fantastic.

As you can see. See how much happier Chili looks on the right? She went from Mae West to Jean Harlow in – probably in about half an hour. It takes about that long to wrestle the Slymlastik on.

But why does it take 10 whole days to lose 3 inches? Because the Slymlastik “massages” the fat away. And that is going to take it a few days. Doesn’t that make you feel glamorous and special? As Chili says:

I must certainly advise slender women to try the Slymlastik.

If you are not slender Chili doesn’t know what you are going to do. She’ll get back to you on that one.

Big version here; from British women’s magazine Woman’s Journal, May 1937.

*Chili Bouchier was a famous movie actress in England in the 1930s.

High and Dryskin

This lady is disproportionally excited about Sofskin hand lotion. Since she comes from 1950s Adland, this is not a big surprise. They are constantly worked up about products there.

I had a great uncle who lived in Hollis (it is in Queens, not Long Island as the ad says), which is where this lady comes from. I don’t think that my great uncle (who was exceedingly dry in more ways than one) ever experienced the miracle of Sofskin. She must have been keeping this a secret from the rest of the neighborhood.

Still, her joy is beyond dispute and indeed rather frightening. Ah, such manic glee, such bug-eyed rapture over a bottle of lotion.

But the letdown will come soon enough, just like (oh wait, here comes the tie-in with the holiday season!) – post-Christmas letdown. The slide towards New Year’s, when you’ve played with all your new stuff a lot, and maybe exchanged some of it. And you’re getting real sick of turkey. And maybe even a little bit sick of chocolates (I know it is hard to imagine). Unless that lotion is leaving a residue of diamond rings and $100 bills on your hands, you will get bored by it, definitely.

I’d like to see the letdown version of this ad. She’s just sitting there, going “Meh, Sofskin works, I guess. But I still have to do all these stupid dishes!”

I’ve been thinking about merging Doubletake into Kitchen Retro and making Kitchen Retro into one multi-faceted, multi-dimensional retroganza, so I will be importing the best Doubletake posts here and maybe redesigning things a little to help you all find different categories of retro stuff on the site. I’ll be tinkering with things in the next few weeks, so there may be a little dust and clutter around. So, just like my bookshelves and desk. I’ll let you know what’s happening as I go along.

The Sofskin lady is from the amazing archives of LiveJournal (big version over there, of course) – and  many thanks to the people who post those incredible ads over there!

It’s Fun To Play With Hasbro!

Oh, certainly it is fun. But the potatoes are not included in your Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head set, boys and girls. Your mommies will have to get you some at the grocery store! So let me ask you this: if you take, say, an apple or a banana, and stick Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head plastic ears, nose, mouth and eyes on them, are they not Mr. Apple and Mrs. Banana? Why does the commercial still call them all Mr. and Mrs. Potatoes?

I am also concerned that the real-potato Potatoes will have trouble enjoying their trailer, because of size and gravity issues. They are just too big and heavy, they will crush that thing for sure. Better use little new potatoes, or even blueberries or grapes, if you get the trailer.

The ad is from Dave’s Cool Toys, by the way, where there is also some excellent Potato Head history, if you would like to delve more deeply into this.

The Hasbro commercial goes on to rave about makeup kits and doctor and nurse kits that they have on offer, too. I would have liked those Hasbro play makeup kits as a kid, no question. I saw a non-Hasbro one in our neighborhood candy store* in New York City that I longed for (and finally got). But it was not as fancy as the Hasbro variety. The carrying case was white vinyl with gold speckles (like a kitchen counter) and there was a plastic lipstick in it and not a whole lot else. I was thrilled, though. It was 1966, this was the epitome of glamour in my world!

Candy stores are totally retro New York and I will write about them here, too. They sold candy, of course, and newspapers, magazines, and cheap toys and paperbacks; and there was usually a soda fountain. There are probably a few left, but not many.


Uncle Ned Drops Through

Uncle Ned
The disembodied head
Is one relation
Who causes some consternation
For when he comes to call
He simply bashes through the exterior wall
To hear him confess it, he
Has made a virtue of necessity:
Since a talking head will always be discussed
He feels that a dramatic entrance is a must.

Yet crashing through
is really no disaster:
He never fails to bring
a hostess gift of Rutland plaster;
And Cousin Sue,
though in a rather fancy dress
Is always able
to patch up the mess.

But save some Rutland, Sue!
For everyone knows
Ned also likes to leave a big impression
when he goes.

[Ad from Popular Science, April 1941.]

Everyone’s Present Accounted For

Around the Christmas tree today
These costumed people like to stay
They’re looking for a gift that’s great
I hope they all like Papermate!

Cousin Al thinks he’s a Spanish Dancer
Stomping and olé-ing is his answer
To every tricky situation
And nothing jogs his concentration;

And then there’s Cousin Mary Jean
Her mom calls her The Teenage Queen
She’s hoping for a lot of things
More fancy than our Santa brings;

And please, Aunt Millie, do not sing
We’d rather you do anything
Than prove you are a great Soprano -
Just have another Mint Milano!

Dear Uncle Bob, though no Tycoon
Will tell another story soon
About his clever business dealing
Blind to the doldrums we are feeling;

Dad’s not a Riveter at all
He got that hat down at the mall;
He does not long to hammer and build
Or even mop up drinks he’s spilled.

Grandmother is a tad askew
She hasn’t got enough to do,
So points out everyone’s mistakes
And pokes at all the Christmas cakes.

Some Little Gentleman is Chad!
He quite delights in being bad;
So mind the turkey and the tree
Do not fall subject to his glee.

And here’s a Beatnik in the crowd
He’s bearded but not very loud
Reciting from Jack Kerouac
Hovering somewhere in the back

He might be someone’s boyfriend or
Perhaps just wandered through the door
Reciting his poem “Beat Heebie-Jeebies,”
Fresh from a run at CBGB’s.

Now that we’re all trytophan sedated
I wonder how we’re all related?
We gave them all cheap ballpoint pens.
Thank goodness they look so dazed and dense.

Hope you are all having a lovely day! My coffeecake exploded in the tube pan yesterday, it was exactly like Lucy Ricardo baking that enormous loaf of bread in “Pioneer Women.” I really ought to know better, I’ve seen that episode a few million times. But I think we managed to save it – I dumped it onto a baking tray and now it looks like a free form sort of pie thing. Edible, though. And icing is helpful – especially if you think of it as makeup for baked goods. I know I do.

The Papermate ad is from Graphic Design -TJS Labs, Life, December 14, 1959.


The Annual Christmas Pop-Up

Yes, it does pop up once a year, doesn’t it? Though perhaps not quite like this. It isn’t Halloween anymore, Santa – you’re not supposed to jump out from piles of things and scare people.

Actually this lady just looks bemused, not scared or annoyed (the way I would be if he tried this out on me). She’s probably his wife and has seen him do this many times before. In fact, this is very likely to be the Wembley tie couple from yesterday. She has that pursed-mouth expression down very nicely, all right.

Anyway, I want to wish you all a wonderful and amazing holiday! You might want to put out some extra eggnog, though, because Santa looks like he could use a little sit-down and some refreshments.

[From Life, November 10, 1952.]

Alice B. Toklas and Liberation Through Fruitcake

I am illustrating this with a lovely 1950s ad* for candied fruit. I don’t know why, but I like this ad so much that it very nearly makes me want to go bake something with candied fruit in it. I do have some in the cupboard. But the impulse will probably pass.

I think it will, because I have just seen the recipe for writer/culinary expert/Gertrude Stein companion Alice B. Toklas‘ Liberation Cake. Do you have any idea of what Alice expects us to do in order to make a so-called Liberation Cake? Let me boil down her instructions (which are even longer than the following ten points):

1. The day before, sliver up 1 1/2 lbs citron and a pound of candied cherries. Wash and dry 2 pounds of white currants and then cover them with brandy. Oh, and blanch, dry and chop a pound and a half of almonds.

2. Next day, rouse yourself and cream a pound of sugar with a pound of butter. Add 12 egg yolks, one by one. Drain and dry off the currants. Add them to the citron and cherries. Sift a pound of flour over the fruits and stir it in so they don’t stick together. Then sieve the whole thing to get rid of the extra flour.

3. Take the flour you got rid of – don’t throw it out! – and add: 2 tsps cinnamon, 1 tsp mace, 1 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cloves. Now sift it into the egg/sugar/butter mixture, in small amounts, stirring after each bit. Add the almonds…which she says are now ground almonds although the instructions are to chop them. When did they get ground? Never mind, chuck them in along with a cup of your best brandy and 3/4 cup orange-flower or rose water, whichever you have handy.

4. No, you’re not done yet. Not by a long shot, mister or missy. Now beat up 12 egg whites – oh yeah, you were supposed to save those. Beat them up  – I don’t know for how long, Alice does not say. But fold them into the batter lightly when you think they look OK. Now fold in the fruits.  Chuck the batter into pans that you have lined with buttered brown paper. Oh – you haven’t done that yet? Better get busy!

5. Bake for 4 hours. It doesn’t day how many pans you’ll need but the recipe does make 12 pounds of fruitcake. During those 4 hours, you may want to collapse onto the nearest sofa. Make sure you are awake when the oven timer goes off, though.

6. No, you’re nowhere near being done now that they’re out of the oven. You must put on a full inch of almond paste and then the usual royal icing goes on top of that.

7. You need to have already made the almond paste, buddy. Take 1/2 pound of blanched and dried almonds in a mortar and pound them into a paste. Add to this a pound of sugar and a teaspoon each of vanilla and orange-flower water. Stir over low heat until smooth. This must be done in a heavy enamel saucepan. If you do not have one, stop and go out to buy one. When done, turn it onto a marble slab (if you do not have one, you know what to do) and knead in a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar.

8. OK, I think you’re about done now.

9. Feel liberated, don’t you?

10.That’s why it is called Liberation Cake.

*From Life, December 8, 1952. The recipe for Liberation Cake is from my 1964 Doubleday paperback edition of The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook (first pub. 1954), p. 236.

The Best Tie To Wear In A Blizzard

This here is no ordinary tie: it’s a Nor-East tie! Strong enough to withstand a Nor’easter (in case you happen to out in a formal-dress-only winter storm). It is uncrushable, this tie. Probably made of asbestos, too.

File this gift idea along with the Jade East: the inevitable Christmas Tie! Yes, that’s the ticket. Get him a tie. Guys sure love getting ties, right? You can’t see this man’s face, but I am sure he looks thrilled. The woman looks startled. Maybe she forgot what she bought him. Maybe she’s stunned that he actually likes it.

I’m stunned that Wembley thinks a tie needs to be strong enough to withstand being crushed and stamped on and twisted up by a pro wrestler and knotted like a rope on a commercial fishing boat. I mean, you put on a tie, it just stays there, right? The most trauma it ever gets is the odd splash of tomato sauce from those three-martini business lunches.

If you get a guy two ties you can reenact the old joke where the mother gets her son two ties.  He wears one the next day. She gives him a look and sighs: So – I guess you didn’t like the other one.

[From Life, December 8, 1952. Larger version over here.]