Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gardening for Victory!

"Every town, city and suburban family with a plot of sunny, open space of suitable soil, or access to a community or allotment garden, can make an important contribution to our national food program and our war effort by growing a victory garden."

So declared then Secretary of Agriculture Claude R. Wickard in early 1943. Thus, the Victory Garden became not just a means of supplementing food supplies and alleviating the need for extensive food rationing, but also emerged as one of the more pronounced aspects of World War II era popular culture. In the same statement, Wickard went on to say:

"This year we need more food than ever before in history. We need it for our men at the battlefronts, and those in training. We need it to keep the folks at home healthy and strong.

"Farmers broke all records in food production last year for the third time in succession. They are ready to do their level best to produce even more this year. All they can possibly produce of most foods will be needed. In many cases, more than can be produced on our farms will be needed. We simply can't get too much of some kinds of food. Every farm family, of course, will be expected to have a garden for home use and, if possible, to provide extra supplies of vegetables for nearby markets.

"The entire national food situation will be tremendously helped, and our total food needs more easily supplied, if those who have suitable ground will grow all the vegetables required for the family. Special attention should be given to green and leafy vegetables, yellow vegetables and tomatoes, because these kinds bring valuable vitamins and minerals right to the family table."

Shortly after the Secretary made his pronouncement, Time Magazine noted:

"This year Victory gardens have the Agriculture Department's blessing: Secretary Claude Wickard wants 12,000,000 in cities, 6,000,000 more on farms. The Department has arranged for production of a special Victory Garden Fertilizer and is ready with all kinds of free advice and pamphlets. Seed companies have keyed their advertising to Agriculture's campaign. From almost any catalogue, neophyte gardeners can choose a victory garden combination ($1 and up) with full instructions how, when and where to plant it. With a little luck and work, they will have fresh vegetables on their tables all summer. With a normal dose of inexperience, they will also waste a lot of seed and fertilizer.

"If Claude Wickard gets his 18,000,000 Victory gardens, food rationing will have much less sting this summer. The Agriculture Department estimates that every city garden will produce at least $10 worth of vegetables, every farm garden at least $50. At these figures, Victory gardens should yield a $420,000,000 crop."

Americans rose to the call. Nearly 20 million Victory Gardens were planted and tended in 1943. They grew out of farm plots, back yards, vacant lots and building rooftops. It was estimated that those gardens produced closed to 40% of the country's food supply that year. The initiative was so successful that public figures worried that a restored food supply would cause complacency among the new found Victory Gardeners and they would lay down the shovels and hoes the following season. Hence a "Dig More in '44" campaign was launched to insure continued participation and bounty. An article in the April 1944 issue of Modern Mechanix noted:

"Canned goods have recently been so plentiful that a few people, watching the points go down, have, like the grasshopper in the fable, questioned whether they should work a garden this summer or not.

"The answer to these slightly disillusioned persons is that they mustn't be fooled by any temporary signs of a food surplus, for this is more apparent than real. Food officials in Washington and authorities everywhere are really concerned about the needs for food that lie just ahead. after the invasion starts.

"The prudent householder will, therefore, garden this year as ardently as in 1943 and on as extensive a scale as his facilities, time and energy permit."

The Department of Agriculture produced numerous materials to promote Victory Gardens. Posters, pamphlets and extensive instruction manuals were readily available to an eager populace. Seed companies and hardware vendors were quick to also promote the effort for commercial as well as patriotic reasons. A booklet entitled ABC of Victory Gardens and sponsored by the Paragon Oil Company of New York, proclaimed to its readers:

You may not be able to carry a gun or drive a tank, but you can grow food for Victory! The scarcity of food is no longer something that may happen--it is here RIGHT NOW! Canned, dried and frozen vegetables have been rationed. Some experts estimate that we will receive about 70% of the amount that we had last year. WHY NOT RAISE YOUR OWN? Have as many of them as you want! Have the finest tasting vegetables a king could have, gathered fresh from your own garden.

Numerous Hollywood movies and cartoons made reference to V-Gardens. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson cultivated one in the movie What's Buzzin' Cousin? Numerous cartoons released in 1943 featured Victory Garden storylines. Popeye grew a beanstalk out of his Victory Garden in Ration for the Duration. He climbed it, only to encounter a giant who was hoarding not treasure, but valuable war rations. Both MGM's Barney Bear and Walter Lantz's Andy Panda starred in Victory Garden cartoons, and a Victory Garden was employed as a gag in the Warner Brothers short A Tale of Two Kitties.

When the war ended in 1945, Victory Gardeners prematurely abandoned their vegetable plots, causing some food shortages well into the following year. In the post war years, Victory Gardens became little more than memories of home front resourcefulness and patriotism.

Be sure to visit 2719 Hyperion to discover Disney's Victory Gardens.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Windows to the Past: Hot Rod Reality

Hollywood has often glamorized illicit hot rodding by teenagers, notably in films such as Grease and American Graffiti. The reality of that dynamic is pictured in this photograph from 1954. This teenagers were arrested for racing on Artesia Street in South Compton, California. A photographer from the Los Angles Examiner captured this window to the past.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's Easy Fred, Once You Get the Hang of It

Though I don't doubt for a minute that there are youthful taxidermists out there in the world, I have never encountered one in my many years on the planet. So I was more than surprised when I found this advertisement for the Northwestern School of Taxidermy in a 1957 issue of Boys Life magazine. The ad poses some interesting questions:
  • Can you really learn taxidermy by mail in your spare time?
  • Is there really a market for stuffed and mounted pigeons?
  • Do taxidermists actually make frog clocks like the one pictured in the ad?
Ah, if we could only get our hands on the FREE BOOK with 48 pages and a hundred highly interesting pictures . . .

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Reception Committee

World War II veterans returning home were greeted by numerous post-war archetypes, so much so that many of these characterizations became part of the popular culture of the era. Numerous movies employed such characterizations, most notably the 1946 Oscar-winning The Best Years of Our Lives. This magazine advertisement from 1945, produced by War Advertising Council and sponsored by Bristol-Myers, satirically described the various types of personalities returning soldiers were likely to encounter.

THE GREETER. He's a one-man brass and when it comes to welcoming a veteran. "Nothing's too good for Our Boys!" he always says. And that's exactly what he gives them. Nothing, except a big hello and empty words. Help? That's the Government's job. "Don't vets have bonuses?" he asks, "Pensions? Job agencies?"

THE CLUTCH. One like her in every town. Always leaping to help some disabled veteran over a pebble. Practically blubbers at him while she's doing it. Succeeds in making the veteran feel as if he's ruined for any normal life. Or career.

THE BLOODHOUND. "It's OK, Sailor, you won't shock me!" This shock-proof stalwart is after the details. How does it feel to be bombed? Ever knife a Jap? The War's just one big adventure to him. But it hasn't been for the sailor. He wants to forget it— fast. Not talk about it.

THE PATRIOT. He's practically winning the war single-handed. Always talking about all the things he goes without, all the War Bonds he buys. Talks as if he were doing the Government a favor, when he's really making the best investment in the world. Veterans (who've been buying plenty of Bonds themselves) love this kind of talk. Makes them wonder whether we had the right people in the front lines.

THE ROCK. He's nerveless. The Iron Man. War hasn't affected him. Can't understand why discharged veterans are allowed 90 days to relax before going back to their old jobs. Can't understand why they should need time to get over the War. He doesn't. Combat Officers would love to have this type in their care for a while.

BLUE RIBBON CITIZEN. Like all good people, she asks no questions, weeps no tears, doesn't stare at disabilities. To her, a returned veteran is an abler, more aggressive and resourceful citizen than the boy who went away. She's proud of him, proud to know him. Anxious to be of real help to him. She's the kind of person we should all be.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Windows to the Past: Window Shopping 1936

Newsboys in 1936 window shop at a sporting goods store in Jackson, Ohio. Thoughts of hawking newspapers are lost amidst dreams of fishing reels and other assorted pieces of angling equipment. The scene was captured by photographer Theordor Jung. The photograph is part of the FSA-OSI Collection at the Library of Congress.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Science, Sputniks, Space

The state of American education as observed in the 1959 World Book Annual Supplement:

EDUCATION won an economic "shot in the arm" in August, 1958, that will affect education from the elementary school to the most advanced college level. Congress passed the $861,000,000 National Defense Education Act, a sweeping four-year program that makes federal grants to deserving students and schools. In this way the law seeks to promote science, mathematics, and foreign-language instruction. It also tries to improve testing, guidance, and counseling; to extend audio-visual techniques; to broaden vocational education; and to finance fellowships and loans for needy college students. But it allows no funds for teacher salaries or school construction.

The plan's cost for the first year is estimated at $200,000,000. Congress authorized $661,000,000 to be spent from 1959 to 1962. The loans will be administered by various colleges, and the rest of the plan will be managed by state departments of education.

Soviet Impact. The technological success of the U.S.S.R. continued to challenge the interest of American educators. A delegation led by U.S. Commissioner of Education Lawrence G. Derthick spent 3o days visiting Soviet schools. After returning to the U.S., Derthick said, "What we have seen has amazed us ... everywhere we went we saw indication after indication of a ... total commitment to education."

The impact of Soviet educational progress prompted educators to strengthen mathematics, science, and foreign-language instruction further. Some school systems decided to cut out "nonessential" courses, such as driver-education courses, and tighten school discipline. Perhaps the most visible effect was the increase of Russian-language teaching in high schools and colleges. Early in the year, only 18 high schools in the nation were known to offer Russian. By the end of the year, the number of high schools teaching Russian had tripled, and universities were adding Slavic studies as fast as the supply of instructors and textbooks permitted.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sincerely, Superman

This very cool war-era Superman postcard dates from 1944 and is currently up for auction at Hakes.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Windows to the Past: Ernest Debs' Comic Book Collection

I would say that it is very unlikely that Los Angeles City Councilman Ernest Debs is showing off his personal collection of EC Comics in this photograph. The picture was snapped in 1954 and was likely connected to the outcry over comic book content that was incited by the publication of the book Seduction of the Innocent by Frederic Wertham. That outcry ultimately led to to Senate Subcommittee hearings during the spring of 1954 that examined closely comic book content, especially within the crime and horror genres. As a result, the comic book industry voluntarily adopted the Comics Code Authority.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Architecture of Las Venus

Las Venus represented an over-the-top interpretation of Las Vegas when it appeared on an episode of The Jetsons in 1962. The show featured three different casino-hotel resorts:

The Supersonic Sands.

The Flamoongo.

And the Las Venus Venus (whose headline act was Dean Martian.)

Though retaining some of the Googie characteristics of other Jetsons architecture, the Las Venus resorts were more in the nature of programmatic design, with the buildings taking on the forms of oversize gambling props such as poker chips, dice and a roulette wheel. The Supersonic Sands and the Flamoongo were send-ups of actual Las Vegas establishments: the Sands and the Flamingo.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wake Up Wichita! Before It's Too Late!

Cold War paranoia could also be fun and entertaining! Employees of the Orpheum Theater in Wichita, Kansas, pose in costume to promote the release of the 1953 movie Invasion U.S.A.

Invasion U.S.A. opened at the Orpheum on February 26, 1953.
The theater borrowed one of Wichita's air raid sirens to display in the lobby. The accompanying display warned "Wake Up Wichita! Before It's Too Late!" The theater's management took the advice of exhibitor's promotional material which encouraged them to "Work out if possible, a 'siren' opening of your film--a test 'alert' for civilian defense workers." They also arranged for a Civil Defense Rescue Service truck to be parked in front of the theater's entrance. An exterior promotional display indicated that Invasion U.S.A. was shown at the Orpheum on the same bill with Walt Disney's Color Cartoon Revue. Just imagine, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck followed by the atomic annihilation of the United States.

As for the movie itself, according to the web site CONELRAD--

Shot in seven days in April of 1952 on a budget of $127,000.00, veteran director Alfred E. Green (THE JOLSON STORY) managed to combine a number of wildly disparate elements into this 74-minute tour de force of "atomic" filmmaking. The formula for Invasion U.S.A as accurately as can be determined is 30% stock footage, 20% staged newscasts to explain the stock footage, 30% intense and mostly nonsensical propaganda and 20% inappropriate romantic melodrama. Blended together the movie plays like a Joseph McCarthy fever dream.

Photos courtesy of Wichita Photo Archives.

Windows to the Past: Get in the Picture

Children gather around an elaborate display promoting the 3D movie The Charge at Feather River at the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham during the summer of 1953. Posters nearby also advertise the Robert Mitchum-Susan Hayward thriller White Witch Doctor. The photo is from the archive of the Birmingham Public Library.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Future of the Family - 1946

The hopeful idealism of of post-World War II America can be seen in this 1946 U.S. Treasury poster promoting U.S. Saving Bonds. The parents and children depicted are together a perfect example of the family archetype that would come to symbolize post-war society and the beginnings of the Baby Boom. A classic image from a classic time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fair-Going Flintstones

Though Walt Disney has quite famous connections to the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, rival cartoon makers Hanna-Barbera also made their presence felt by way of their then very popular Flintstones characters. The stone-age family was featured in an Official World's Fair Comic Souvenir titled The Flintstones at the New York World's Fair. The stories in the book featured cameo appearances by other Hanna-Barbera cartoon stars including the Jetsons, Yogi Bear, Top Cat, Snagglepuss and Huckleberry Hound. The stories took place throughout the fairgrounds at Flushing Meadows and many of the Fair's more famous landmarks were highlighted:

The U.S. Royal tire-themed ferris wheel.

The Tower of the Four Winds sculpture at the Pepsi-Cola pavilion.
The pavilion also played host to the Disney-created it's a small world attraction.

And appropriately enough, Sinclair's Dinoland.

The Fair was also featured in episode of The Flintstones television program that aired during the show's fifth season. Originally broadcast on January 15, 1965, the episode "Time Machine" preceded the Fair's 1965 season. In the episode, Fred, Wilma, Betty and Barney attend the Bedrock World's Fair where they discover, appropriately and amusingly, an empty Hall of Science. The building's only occupant, an eccentric bespectacled inventor sends the two couples into the future by way of his newly invented time machine. After a series of adventures through time, the four end up at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Windows to the Past: Star Trek Fans 1968

Trekkies sure looked different in the early days. Identified as students from Caltech, these fans of the original Star Trek television show staged a protest of the program's rumored cancellation in January of 1968 outside of NBC Studios. The photo is part of the UCLA Digital Archives and was originally published by the Los Angeles Times.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hey, Got a Nickel, Mack?

A Hare Grows in Manhattan - 1947

"It was once the world’s largest restaurant chain, serving 800,000 people a day. It was Horn & Hardart, and its cavernous, waiterless establishments represented a combination of fast-food, vending and cafeteria-style eateries. These restaurants, with their chrome-and-glass coin-operated machines, brought high-tech, inexpensive eating to a low-tech era. Making their debut in Philadelphia in 1902, just up the street from Independence Hall, and reaching Manhattan in 1912, Horn & Hardart Automats became an American icon, celebrated in song and humor. With their uniform recipes and centralized commissary system of supplying their restaurants, the Automats were America’s first major fast-food chain."

Carolyn Hughes Crowley
Smithsonian Magazine, August 2001

"Horn and Hardart believed that the cafeteria-like eatery would be a success if they could provide quality food inexpensively and conveniently. Customers could drop a nickel into a slot next to chrome and glass displays, choosing a hot meal for five cents. The company instructed employees to be especially friendly—anyone, despite the amount of money they spent, was welcome in an automat and could stay as long as they wanted. Some customers, unable to afford the nickel meals, were welcome to make tomato soup out of hot water and ketchup for free. In the 1930s automats appealed to both the working class because of their prices and to the upper class for their quality food. During the Depression, the automats flourished with their inviting atmosphere, excellent food, and bargain prices."

Catherine Finn
Preservation Magazine, Jaunuary 2007

"A kiss may be grand, but it won't pay the rental on your humble flat,
or help you at the automat."

-from the song Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend,
as performed by Marilyn Monroe in the film
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Windows to the Past: A Fun Evening in 1949

Eight southern California teenagers gather for a "television party" in March of 1949. The photo is part of the UCLA Digital Archives and was originally published by the Los Angeles Times.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Building the World of the Jetsons

There is little in mid-20th century popular culture that epitomizes happy retro-futurism more than the original twenty-four episodes of television series The Jetsons. One of the defining characteristics that creators Hanna-Barbera infused in the show was an architectural style heavily influenced by the Googie designs of countless commercial buildings and establishments that were popular throughout the 1950s and early 1960s.

According to Wikipedia, "Features of Googie include upswept roofs, curvaceous, geometric shapes, and bold use of glass, steel and neon. Googie was also characterized by space-age designs that depict motion, such as boomerangs, flying saucers, atoms and parabolas, and free-form designs such as "soft" parallelograms and the ubiquitous artist's-palette motif. These stylistic conventions reflected American society's emphasis on futuristic designs and fascination with Space Age themes." Two of the most prominent surviving examples of Googie are the Seattle Space Needle and the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport. The designs of those two structures in particular inspired much of the background architecture found in The Jetsons.

As an ongoing feature here at Boom Pop!, we are going to showcase many of the clever and fun retro-future designs found in those original episodes of The Jetsons that aired during the 1962-1963 television season. First up, two buildings representing the business side of television itself.

Asteroid TV Productions appeared in the episode "Elroy's TV Show."

The home of station KLMN was featured in the episode "Elroy's Pal."

Both structures have a base drawn very directly from the aforementioned Theme Building. The sign for KLMN is distinctly reminiscent of Googie-style signs used frequently by shopping centers, motels, restaurants and bowling alleys.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Greetings From Grauman's Chinese Theater

Here are two vintage postcard views of the now iconic Grauman's Chinese Theatre during its golden age of Hollywood heyday. Showman Sid Grauman built this elaborate movie palace with the help of investors Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Howard Schenck. It opened on May 18, 1927 with the premiere of the Cecil B.DeMille film The King of Kings. Grauman had previously built the equally elaborate but less famous Egyptian Theatre a few years earlier.

Grauman's Chinese Theater has achieved its legendary status primarily due to its well known forecourt where movie stars and Hollywood celebrities have long been immortalized via cement block footprints, handprints and signatures. Grauman explained how he literally stumbled upon the idea for his Walk of Fame on a Lux Radio Theatre program in 1937. "I walked right into it. While we were building the theatre, I accidentally happened to step in some soft concrete. And there it was. So, I went to Mary Pickford immediately. Mary put her foot into it." Partner Douglas Fairbanks quickly followed suit and thus the famous Hollywood tradition was born.

Jump over to 2719 Hyperion where we document all the Hollywood personalities that appeared in the Mickey Mouse cartoon Mickey's Gala Premier. The 1933 short took place at Grauman's Chinese Theatre and features a caricature of Sid Grauman.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Windows to the Past: Gasoline Prices 1938

Seventy years ago this month, renowned Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange took note of gasoline prices at a service station in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The photograph is part of the FSA-OSI Collection at the Library of Congress.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Freeze Frame! - Henry and Leon

Over forty Hollywood personalities were featured in the 1941 Warner Brothers cartoon Hollywood Steps Out. Among the celebrities caricatured in that particular Looney Tunes short were Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and Mickey Rooney, just to name a few. Sitting at a reserved table in the then famous Ciro's nightclub however, were two gentlemen who would have likely gone unrecognized by audiences even back in 1941. The two individuals (left to right) are Henry Binder and Leon Schlesinger. Schlesinger of course was the producer of the Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies cartoons. Binder, less well know, served as Schlesinger's assistant.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Windows to the Past: We Are Ready - What About You?

The second world war was very far away from these young men in rural Texas. Yet reminders were always ever close as reflected in the poster on the wall behind them. This moment in time was captured by photographer John Vachon at a school in San Augustine County in 1944. It is part of the FSA-OSI Collection at the Library of Congress.

Special thanks to Viewliner Ltd. for pointing us to the collection.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The World of Tomorrow: The Heinz Dome

We will be touring the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair here at Boom Pop on a regular basis. Our first stop will be in the Food Zone to explore the Heinz Dome. Our handy Official Guide Book provides the following description:

H. J. HEINZ COMPANY: Inside the Heinz Dome, a sculptured group symbolizes "perfection" and the securing of food from all over the world. The interior (Skidmore & Owings and John Moss, designers) contains displays representative of the company. In a scientific laboratory, tomatoes growing on vines ten feet high derive nourishment from a chemical solution containing nutritive elements ordinarily found in the soil. The animated Heinz figure, the "Aristocrat Tomato Man," sings, nods his tomato head, smacks his lips, etc., and a series of six plaques depicts the company's progress in the preparation of its food products since grandmother's time.


Heinz Dome is centrally located on Constitution Mall at the intersection of the Esplanade and Rainbow Avenue. Decorating the exterior of the 100 foot high Dome is the Mural of Harvest done in relief by the well-known master, Domenico Mortellito. One side of the mural depicts the gathering of raw materials and winnowing of spices in the eastern hemisphere. The other side dramatizes agricultural activities of the western world.

Through the Looking Glass

Part of the interior may be viewed through invisible glass windows and part through an ingenious system of preiscopic mirrors.

At the Sampling Stations within Heinz Dome you meet old favorites, make new friends among Heinz 57 Varieties. Attractively uniformed Home Economists serve free samples of many different kinds of Heinz Homestyle Soups, Oven Baked Beans, Spaghetti, and Macaroni—all piping hot; also Pickles, Spreads and chilled Tomato Juice.

HEINZ LOOKS TO THE FUTURE ... Scientists of the House of Heinz are constantly searching for new and better ways to prepare fine foods for your table. At the Heinz Dome, visitors can view interesting experiments in chemiculture—the growing of experimental tomato plants in chemically-treated water and in pure white sand. These plants grow more than seven feet tall, producing four crops per year. Heinz "aristocrat" tomatoes are not at present grown in this manner. But experiments of this type offer valuable information as to the ways in which nature and science may combine for constant improvement in types and flavor of tomatoes as they are grown on the farm.

Heinz animated Aristocrat Tomato Man does a singing-talking act which is one of the most popular features of the Fair—especially with the youngsters. He tells his own story in his own way—with gestures.

One whole section of the Heinz exhibit is devoted to the youngest generation. Here one can obtain latest scientific information on special Heinz foods for children. On a large plaque depicting a Day with junior, is an animated show-within-a-show telling the story of Heinz Strained Foods and Heinz Junior Foods, and a 24 inch "snowstorm" ball in which is enclosed a replica of the little home in Sharpsburg where the House of Heinz began.


The interior of the Heinz Dome is spectacular, spacious and impressive with notable examples of sculpture, interesting murals done in a modern manner, a great center fountain and dramatic lighting effects. Here are 20,000 square feet of exhibit space, providing many different types of entertainment for the visitor.

The Largest Sculptured Group at the World's Fair

In the center of the Dome rises a gigantic column 65 feet tall—the work of Sculptor Raymond Barger. The column is crowned by the Goddess of Perfection, a large allegorical figure in a kneeling position who holds in her hand a luminous sphere—symbol of perfection. Twenty-two golden sculptured figures encircling the column represent the contributions of various lands to the making of Heinz famous 57 Varieties. This tremendous sculptured group rises from a sunken pool and emerges from an overhead waterfall which flows over a glass saucer measuring 36 feet in diameter. Visitors may walk beneath the waterfall and view the Goddess through a mirage of colored lights. This is one of the most unusual and interesting sights of the World's Fair.