A Cheap Salt Trick

In the Depression years of the 1930s there were a lot of ads about saving money – and wasting it. Usually the husband would complain about the bills and the wife would find some amazing product that was also cheap and emerge, in the final scene, triumphant.

But perhaps in real life people weren’t arguing about the price of salt, exactly. As opposed to all the other things on the grocery list. But here we have a rather charming Morton’s Salt ad in which the wife gets her own back by purchasing Bargain Salt.*

You see, when the guy thunders that she must cut down! he probably means get cheaper cuts of meat or fruit that’s in season, things like that. She focuses instead on the salt. And she buys Really Cheap Salt.

In scene 2, the husband is horrified and upset about salt clogging the salt cellars. What in tarnation! Well, dear, you said to cut down on spending. I love the look on her face – she is absolutely chortling. “Don’t complain dear,” she says, barely holding back the giggles. “It’s a new kind that saved me a couple of pennies!”

And after that, she goes back to the store and spends money on a second container of salt – Morton’s, of course, this time. And in the end the wife triumphs, thanks to Morton’s. Although the husband gets to deliver my favorite line, “Now this is salt that is salt!” Yes, sir, that’s exactly what it is.

She also seems to have turned into a giant Disembodied Head, grinning and feasting mentally on her salty revenge. Ha! He’ll never call her a Waster again, will he? He wouldn’t dare, not with that gigantic head chuckling at him as it hovers over the dinner table.

From Vintage Ad Browser.

Wastin’ Away Again In Wheatenaville

Alone at last, the newlyweds pledge their love anew – undying, ever-faithful, etc., etc.

So the first thing on her mind is what cereal to plonk down on the table at breakfast. Well, that’s a little strange. And his response? If he doesn’t like it, he’ll go straight home to Mother.

Oh, this is going to be a fun trip, is it not?

Now as the ad points out (and don’t you love that it says “Advertisement” at the top, just in case you thought it was a feature story?) – you can’t live on love alone. And that’s where Wheatena comes into it! It’s the Hot Brown Wheat Cereal everyone can agree on, and all that.

Now while I have never cooed over it, I will tell you that it is pretty good. I had it when I was a kid and according to my mother, it was the culinary specialty of her father. He didn’t tend to get anywhere near the stove, except on winter mornings. And that was when he liked to get up and cook up a pot of Wheatena. Why? I have no idea. I guess he just really, really liked Wheatena.

Incidentally, he wouldn’t have dared to run home to his mother if he hadn’t liked the cereal my grandmother selected – even if she hadn’t bought Wheatena. He was a quiet sort who was just glad to stir up hot cereal, not trouble.

Here’s the fun history part of this post: Wheatena was invented in New York City (yay!) around 1879 and it is made (you won’t be fainting with surprise or anything) out of toasted ground wheat. When they moved the company to New Jersey in the early 1900s the plant was called, rather charmingly, Wheatenaville. What do you want to bet that this 1930s era couple is going there on their honeymoon?

Random pop culture stream-of-consciousness moment: Wheatenaville made me think of the 1977 Jimmy Buffett song:

Wastin’ away again in Wheatenaville
Searching for my lost cereal bowl
Some people claim that toasted wheat is to blame
But I blame the iced cinnamon roll

[I'm not sure what that means either....I know, it's surrealistic. It's a meta-parody. Yeah, that's it. ]

The League of Canned Meats

Vintage Ad Browser

Perhaps the name Babsie is supposed to tell us that the heroine of today’s offering here is – well, a frothy, nightclubbing, good-time sort of gal. Otherwise she’d be named Betty, as in Betty Crocker. Gals named Betty know about how to save money while wowing company with their amazing dinners. Babsies, alas, do not.

Oh yeah, you might be saying here, what about Betty Boop? The exception that proves the rule, of course. Furthermore, her surname is a clue to her lack of practical skills. Crockers know about – well, crocks and pots and things. A Boop, on the other hand, does not. Babsie is probably a Boop. Or at least a Boop-in-law.

Anyway, Babsie’s husband Eric is greatly annoyed about the high food bills. You got some ‘spainin’ to do, Babsie! But the day (and evening) are saved by Babsie’s friend who signs her up for the League of Time and Money Savers. Instead of the League of Women Voters* – get it? Yeah, that’s swell. We get it.

Babsie also gets a boatload of Libby brand canned meats (Libby is another Betty-like name, very sensible) and serves them sliced on a plate for her next fancy dinner. Surprisingly, this is a tremendous success. Wow, Babsie, you are an incredible cook! I guess she made those lettuce cup thingies, though. What on earth is in them, though? Cottage cheese with an single olive for an eye, it looks like. Cyclops Cups, yum.

And also assisted by Babsie!

“You’re a clever woman, Babsie,” says one of her guests. If that’s clever, I guess we’re all total geniuses, right? I feel better already. Or I will as soon as I stop looking at that plate of pink sliced canned meats.

* Founded in 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt and many other suffragists of the era…Fun distant-cousin fact: My great uncle’s cousin (yeah, I know, that’s about six times removed from me - but still!) was one of the founders of the League of Women Voters in New York State. Here’s a New York Times article about the League in New York.

Free of Fuzzy Tongue

I found this in my archives and I’m pretty sure I haven’t written about it yet. If I go back too far, I probably have done a post on whatever ad it is, and just forgot it. That’s what happens when you’ve been at the retro ads since 2008. I do have other retro things to show you, not ads, but I’m trying to sort out a main character today (it is going to take more than a day, I think) and some plot stuff…Maybe I need that writing blog after all. I just worry that I’d spend more time writing in the writing blog than wrestling with my writing, you know? Anyway, on to the perils of Fuzzy Tongue:

Wife: Why, Ben! Are you making faces at me? Or are you just choking with rage?

Husband: Silence, woman! My tongue is just fine! I’ve been paying our bills and licking envelopes – fifteen of ‘em!

Wife: Just calm yourself, angel, and see what your wife has discovered. These wonderful new envelopes seal themselves!

Ben’s wife has to show him – in some detail, it seems – just how the Self-Seal envelopes work. Then maybe he will stop making horrible faces. That is another benefit of the Self-Seal envelopes that this 1940 ad does not mention, but it is significant.

Unfortunately, the new envelopes will not cure him of saying things like “Silence, woman!” And that kind of invalidates the title, because Ben’s wife is not free of Fuzzy Tongue at all – he’ll be bellowing and making faces no matter what kind of stationery he’s using.

Wives Can Blame Themselves!

Duke University Ad Access

Wearing a gorgeous “She Learned Her Lesson” necklace (something we’re all NOT putting on our wish lists for Christmas this year, or ever), the taut-faced Palmolive pusher in this charming 1930s ad wants us to know where to put the blame. Put it on yourself, that’s where! Listen to this stellar dialogue from the cartoon characters on your right:

And, Mother, he never takes me out any more! Sometimes I think he’s ashamed of me!

Do you think it could be your complexion, Nell? You used to have such a lovely skin, and now…

…And now you have to listen to trailed-off, unspoken insults about your mummified complexion – from your very own mother!

Thanks a lot, there, Mom. That’s just exactly what Nell wants to hear. It couldn’t possibly be Bob’s fault, now, could it? I’ll bet Bob’s complexion isn’t exactly the same as a velvety summer peach. And maybe he doesn’t want to go out because he’s tired and stressed and busy at the office. Or – wait, I know! – maybe he needs a dose of Eno’s Fruit Salts. Constipation can make a person look furtive and not want to go out on the town, you know. I thought all advertisement mothers knew that.

[Also, Dr. Dafoe needs to learn how to spell, because he's turning up at the Quins' house and they don't know who he is. The Dionne Quints, who do know, probably don't miss him that much.]

Men Like Peppy Food

LJ Vintage Ads

Dear Diary,

I have some simply marvelous news to tell you!

There’s a new bride next door. I don’t know what happened to the old bride, but I think maybe she sneaked away in the old laundry hamper when Hal Jalapeno (he’s the groom, I suppose) insisted on redecorating everything last week.

This new bride is called Sally and she cries a lot. She told me that Hal said her food was “tasteless.” I said that my husband thinks my dropping in on people and listening in at their windows is tasteless but I never let that stop me. Sal said oh, she wondered why there was a purple feathered hat bobbing just under the dining room window.

“Yes, that was me,” I beamed. “Just making sure everything was A-OK with you, dear.”

Then I told her that her problem was not knowing the one fact you must know about menfolk:

Men like peppy food!

Especially my patented Glazed Onions! The ones loaded with Colman’s Mustard, and paprika, and 4 big old teaspoons of sugar. That’s to make the men sweet-tempered, you see, I told Sally. This recipe has everything! Pep, sugar, onions. That’s all you need to know.

Sally’s eyes were starting to glaze over like – well, a couple of pearl onions. So I hustled into her kitchen and whipped up a batch of my special spicy mustardy onions.

And you know what, Dear Diary? I think I saved Hal and Sal’s marriage, I really do. Hal loved those onions, I know, because when I hopped over the picket fence and peeked into the dining room window, I heard him choking and asking how much damn mustard was in these onions, anyway? And later he asked how much Colman’s Sal put in the tapioca pudding. And then finally he told her they really ought to redecorate.

Yours truly, Jane

Letting Their 1959 Freak Flags Fly

So you married a cartoon figure who likes to travel around town by standing on your head and hoping you’ll drop by his office. OK. Not going to argue with these two. They are probably deranged. Because look what they are carrying all over town, while dressed in their 1959 finery: enormous men’s granny (grampy?) pants.

Meanwhile there are these cartoon guys standing right on their heads. The violinist on the left is all right, I guess. But the construction worker on top of the right hand lady’s head is drilling into her head with a pneumatic drill. And she doesn’t even seem to notice. How can she not notice?

What is that supposed to be about? I guess we’re not supposed to be analyzing underwear ads too closely. They must have been counting on that.

And how are those jumbo pants supposed to fit the cartoon guys? If they are for other guys, who are the cartoon guys? Are they all bigamists?

If there are “two kinds of husbands” (presumably, musicians and construction workers, which is at best simplistic) then there are also two kinds of wives: the kind that walk around in public comparing their husbands’ underpants, and those that don’t. Are all of us who don’t (and who never even thought of doing such a thing) supposed to be aspiring to this sort of behavior? Hanes, please. It’s 1959, a good eleven years before anyone was supposed to be letting their freak flags fly.* And I really don’t think that this is what Crosby Stills and Nash meant. Let’s hope not.

*From their 1970 song, “Almost Cut My Hair.”

Jack’s Catfit

Big version here

I just can’t get over how pleased this gal is about Jack having a – heh – catfit. Gee, that was terrific when his head swelled up like a purple balloon and he shouted so loud the pictures fell off the wall! Tee hee, I laughed myself silly!

You probably can tell what a catfit is just from the sound of it, and the context. But I must tell you that The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “catfit” as “a conniption.” And a conniption is indeed one big ranting, raving, screaming session, usually brought on by having spent three hours in a Wal-Mart on Saturday afternoon or when something gets stuck in the VCR. Ah, modern life! But this is the 1930s Jack is coping with and his problem has to do with the oil his gal has laughingly put into their car. 

He ranted around about me being the ruination of our new car – if I didn’t stop buying every new bargain oil that came along.

 Where is she finding all these bargain oils? In the grocery store, perhaps. Still, it is always best not to Rant Around. This makes Jack seem like the personification of that retro bovine rageball, Elmer the Bull. Now, Elsie the Cow would just hand Elmer a piece of pie* and tell him to stop bellowing. But Jack, after tiring himself out with his catfit, “trotted out the atlas and gave [her] a lecture on Pennsylvania Oils with the emblem.”

Yes, Jack, that’s fascinating. From now on, I promise to buy oil with the little emblem you like on it. Now please shut up! Look, here’s a piece of pie. Our new next door neighbor Elsie made it.

*Yes, I’m going to write about some Elsie ads pretty soon. There are a lot of them and they are just the sort of thing for Kitchen Retro.

A Wild Tonic in the Drain

LiveJournal Vintage Ads

“The exhilarating sound of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

It’s almost time for some fun retro Thanksgiving ads, but this one caught my eye this morning: one of those dramatic 1930s ads with a Can-This-Marriage-Be-Saved? storyline. “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” is a Ladies’ Home Journal column, still running today, that I used to read avidly back in the 60s when I was little. I read all kinds of stuff back then. I’m not sure my mother was aware of it, exactly.

But I never came across a couple who were having problems because of the bathroom drains.

Having said that, one problem here is that he’s “a man who doesn’t talk much” and just glares at you when something’s the matter. And when the drain is a little bit slow, his eyes shoot out daggers! I think he’d have a little problem here because our house is old and so are the drains and, well – you have this happen sometimes, too, right? It’s just one of those things.

Just grab the Drano, sir, and pour it in. It really isn’t anyone’s fault. Maybe your wife has to use a lot of starch on your shirts and that clogs things up (OK, I have no idea what I’m talking about, but bear with me). Dressing up like F. Scott Fitzgerald every day takes a toll on the sinks – all that washing and using hair pomade and so on. You never saw Zelda using Drano. Not even in the fountains she and Scott were dancing in every night.

Nevertheless, just one little tablespoon of Drano gets the drains “open and fast flowing.” Too bad it can’t get Scott here to be open and – well, not fast flowing. Maybe to give everyone a little smile. A half smile? Even a smirk would be a vast improvement, sir.

In the end, I really don’t think drains are this couple’s worst problem.

A Round of Woodbury Cocktails

Bigger version here at Ad Access

So it’s Friday and that means Friday evening is almost upon us. And that means it is time for a delicious retro cocktail, right? Ooh, how about a Woodbury Cocktail? Ever hear of it?

There’s a good reason why you haven’t. Read on and see why:

So many relationship problems can be solved with one cake of soap! Do you believe that? No? Well, just take a look at this thrilling story from 1949 (the big version is at the link) – and if you don’t want to click any more, I’ll just fill you in a little. We’ve seen this before, after all. The soap and shampoo ads go for this plotline:

Here we see Dot whining to her friend about how Jack has been cutting a rug with Marcia all evening (dancing, in other words). How could he be so mean?

The friend knows why Jack has hit the road. Because Dot has dull horrible skin! They couldn’t possibly have had any other problems. Nope! Dot is perfect, except for that stale-cupcake complexion of hers. And Jack, well, he’s perfect too. Not – you know – shallow or anything! Dot definitely needs to get on this with a few cocktails.

Oh goody, you might think, now we’re talking. (I did). But the friend does not mean cocktails as in delicious White Russians or Whiskey Sours. Today the letter W is brought to you by Woodbury Cocktails (you’ll be sending it right back in a minute). The Woodbury is made by rubbing your face with soap suds and rinsing them off. Oh, Dot honey, that’s not a cocktail – that’s ordinary hygeine.

But it works out for Dot. Even though she didn’t even know how to wash her face until recently. I mean, she gets Jack running back to her and everything. And they are probably getting married. She’ll have a soap-themed wedding, of course. Woodbury Cocktails all around – and hotel-size soap appetizers. And what will she be carrying? A Cashmere Bouquet.

Extra Bonus Recipe! I have just learned that the Black Russian cocktail (vodka plus Kahlua) was invented in the same year that this Woodbury Soap ad came out – 1949! That’s some kind of kismet. I don’t know when people started pouring cream into Black Russians, but it was probably in the 1950s or 1960s.

And that’s enough for me to post a White Russian recipe, anyway: combine 50 ml of vodka and 20 ml of Kahlua (or any other coffee liqueur you have lying around) and put them in a glass. An Old Fashioned glass is ideal (as in the picture, above). Then pour in 30 ml of cream and let it float on top. And if you get any cream on your upper lip trying to drink it, you’ve always got Woodbury’s.