Sunday, May 16, 2010

Still 10¢

Apologies for the lack of content here these past few weeks.  As always, real world obligations trump online hobbies.  Hopefully we'll get back on track over the next week or so.

I've been rediscovering of late my love of comics from the so-called Silver Age era.  Here's an advertisement for DC Comics that reminds us just what a dime would buy in those days.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Return of Tom Corbett - and More!

eBooks are quickly becoming fashionable, and more importantly, accessible, thanks to the recent wave of eReader software programs and devices that have become available.  While most consumers embracing the various eBook formats are likely to head to Amazon or Barnes & Noble to download the latest Stephen King or Nora Roberts tomes, I have found myself instead exploring the lesser known but still very notable public domain repositories such as Project Gutenburg, and epub Books.  Their collected resources are quite extensive, and most notably--free.

If you are familiar with these various public domain archives but think they really only house the likes of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, think again.  I recently made a discovery at ManyBooks that was a true Boom Pop! revelation.  There, available in eBook editions were all but one of the Tom Corbett Space Cadet series of books published by Grosset & Dunlap during the early 1950s.  The books were adapted from the well known Tom Corbett radio and television programs and are shining examples of mid-20th century outer space pop culture.  I had over the years managed to collect three of the eight books that were published, so to find four other titles immediately accessible was very exciting.

The Tom Corbett titles available at ManyBooks are:
  • Stand By for Mars!
  • Danger in Deep Space
  • On the Trail of the Space Pirates
  • The Space Pioneers
  • The Revolt on Venus
  • Treachery in Outer Space
  • Sabotage in Space
The final book in the series, The Robot Rocket, remains under copyright protection and is not yet available in an eBook format.

ManyBooks also has an extensive selection of vintage mid-20th century science fiction novels and stories.  You can find some very obscure titles and authors, but also discover material from significant names such as Andre Norton, E. E. Doc Smith, C. M. Kornbluth, Robert E. Howard, Harry Harrison and Lester del Rey, just to name a few.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Weeki Wachee's Biggest Fans

What to Don Knotts, Roy Rogers and rocket scientist
Wernher Von Braun all have in common?

They appear to have been very enthusiastic fans of one of Florida's most famous pre-Disney tourist attractions: Weeki Wachee.  This according to our latest artifact from Tony's Attic, a Weeki Wachee tourist brochure, dating from sometime during the early 1960s.  Bob Hope and Arthur Godfrey were among a few other celebrities who also endorsed the Gulf Coast attraction.  Godfrey in fact called it " . . . one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World."

In early 1964, the world premiere of Knott's feature film The Incredible Mr. Limpet was held in the park's famous underwater theater.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Greetings From - Manhattan's Classic Skyscrapers

It seems that the romance of skyscrapers has diminished greatly over the last few decades.  But that romance was certainly alive and well when the Manhattan Post Card Publishing Company showcased these two classic buildings.  The small print on the reverse side classifies each image as a "Colourpicture Publication."

The captions:

Empire State Building, the world's tallest structure, located at 5th Avenue and 34th Street, rises 1250 feet above the sidewalk.  Observatories are open to the public on the 86th and 102nd floors.

A modernistic Georgia Marble and Indiana Limestone building which rises 1046 feet above the ground to the top of the steel mast.  A truly great achievement of modern architecture.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

You'll Remember the Westinghouse Building as Long as You Live

The Middletons were a wholly fictitious family created by Westinghouse Electric to promote the company and its pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair.  While their most famous showcase was the fifty-five minute commercial film The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair, Mother, Father, Grandma, Babs and Bud also featured prominently in a series of magazine advertisements that appeared throughout the spring and summer of 1939.  This particular installment comes from the July 10, 1939 issue of Life magazine and features one of the Fair's most popular and iconic attractions--Elektro.  A comic strip illustrates A Lesson from Elektro--the Moto-Man.

The text shown on the right side of the advertisement is as follows:
In the Hall of Electrical Living, the Middletons are entertained by Elektro, the amazing Westinghouse Moto-Man. It's lots of fun, especially for Babs and Bud. And the older folks in the family appreciate the serious side, too — how electricity has lightened housekeeping burdens and made more time for living in the modern home. You, too, will enjoy every minute of your visit to the Westinghouse Building at the New York Fair. Be sure to see Elektro, as well as the many other features offered by this "fair within a fair." Don't miss "The Battle of the Centuries," the Microvivarium, the Junior Science Laboratories, and the Television Show. You'll remember the Westinghouse Building as long as you live.
The movie of The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair is especially significant in that it preserves on film an actual demonstration of Elektro at the Westinghouse pavilion.  The film can be found online at the Prelinger Archives at

We will feature more adventures of the Middleton Family at the World's Fair on future Boom-Pop! posts.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Can War Marriages Be Made to Work?

War marriages were very much the stuff of Hollywood romance during World War II.  The most shining example would likely be the 1945 MGM classic The Clock, starring Judy Garland and Robert Walker as a young woman and a soldier who meet and fall in love over the course of a few days and quickly rush to the alter (or in their specific case, a New York City  Justice of the Peace.)

There was certainly a reality behind these whirlwind movie courtships, so much so that the War Department produced a pamphlet in 1944 urging soldiers to demonstrate caution and good judgment when considering any such hurried decisions involving near spontaneous matrimony.  The 32-page booklet was entitled Can War Marriages Be Made to Work? and was classified as War Department Education Manual EM30.  It was part of the G.I. Roundtable series, a series of pamphlets that were also designed to be the basis of potential discussion groups attended by servicemen.

The pamphlet quickly poses the question, "Why War Marriages?"  The answer:
Many war marriages are hasty marriages. Many are made while men are on leave or furlough. Often the time of the marriage is determined by the approaching end of a short leave.
Military promptness and the speed-up of work in war plants tend to hasten marriage. Entrance into service is an abrupt change Of status. Why not, some argue, make an abrupt change from single to married status? If war can change life overnight, why not make the change more complete by marrying? If the Army is going to snatch you away from civilian life, why not strengthen your ties with that life by leaving a wife behind you? And for many a girl who watches the boys going away from the home town, the "dates" of the hectic hours before they go may seem the last chance for marriage.

Courtship, no matter how disguised, is competition. To the soldier marriage offers, among other advantages, a device to ward off the competition of rivals while he is away.
In war nothing is certain but uncertainty. Even an unwise marriage may give a feeling of certainty for a moment. Unconsciously it may seem to offer an escape from doubts and confusion.

Many war marriages come about through loneliness or fear of loneliness. A soldier returns to his home town on leave; his old friends are gone; many things have changed. Or a girl takes a job away from home and is separated from her family and friends. Both to the girl away from home and to the soldier on leave, marriage is an intimate relationship that seems to offer escape from loneliness. Absence makes the heart grow fonder—if there is nobody else. And there may be nobody else in time to prevent a marriage that might never have taken place under normal conditions.
Though very much rooted in the culture of the 1940s, Can War Marriages Be Made to Work? provides some surprisingly progressive advice by way of its concept of the 50-50 marriage:
The "fifty-fifty" marriage, the kind in which neither husband nor wife orders the other around but in which they share equal authority and parallel responsibility, seems to have the best chance of success. There are persons who like to be bossed and others who enjoy bossing. If such individuals happen to pair off, the marriage may be a success. But in general American women are not by temperament or by training inclined to play the role of door mat in marriage any more than American men.

In fact, a couple's attitude toward equality in marriage relationship may be as important as the actual division of authority and responsibility between them. One recent study showed that husbands opposed to rights for women were somewhat less likely to be happily married than those more tolerant on the subject of equal rights and responsibilities for women. Many happily married couples assert that a "fifty-fifty" meeting is not enough—that each must be ready to go more than half way and provide, -in a "sixty-sixty" arrangement, a wide area for compromise.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Upside-Down Map

In this age of GPS, we have lost sight of some of the simple pleasures of highway navigation.

Such as the Upside-Down Map.

Esso produced this particular map in 1964 and graciously provided this explanation:

"Nearly all road maps point North. But we've found that many travelers turn their maps upside down when going South. It helps them to know whether to turn right or left. Naturally it's hard to read anything upside down.  So Esso has designed this special map for the increasing number of drivers who go South each season. Florida-bound motorists need not turn this map upside down — it's pointed the direction they're headed. Town names, route numbers, state names are right side up, easy to read and follow. Your route South is clearly before you.  Of course, when you're heading back North you'll want our regular Esso map of Eastern United States, on which this map is based. Before you start, or along your way, pick up a copy. Put it in your glove compartment. Enjoy Yourself."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Photo Retro! - Fill It Up With Regular

Remnants of old gas stations are becoming rarer and rarer, but a chance glance while driving a North Carolina backroad brought this vintage-era pump to our attention.  Though difficult to see, the price per gallon shown on the pump is a mere 33¢.  This would date its last activity to sometime during the late 1960s, early 1970s.  When I began my short-lived career as pump jockey back in 1977, the price of leaded regular had jumped to around 60¢ a gallon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Straight Shooting with Tom Mix

Sometime in 1944, a young Tony Mangano, to whom Boom Pop! is lovingly dedicated, happily opened an envelope from the Ralston Straight Shooters that had been mailed to him from a post office box in St. Louis.  Inside the envelope was his very own Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters of America Secret Manual.  At the time, Tony was a faithful listener of  "Radio's Biggest Western Detective Program," aka Tom Mix and His Ralston Straight Shooters, that aired every evening, Monday through Friday, on Pittsburgh-based radio station WCAE.
The real-life Tom Mix had little to do with the radio program beyond licensing his name and image to the Ralston-Purina Company, a breakfast cereal maker.  His fictional radio counterpart was portrayed by a number of different actors over the course of the show's seventeen year run.  Selling cereal was certainly a key component of the show and listeners such as Tony were encouraged to collect cereal boxtops that would earn various premium items.  Radio historian Jack French notes that, "The demand for the radio premiums offered on the program began strong and stayed high for the nearly 20 years the series was on the air. Virtually every type of premium was offered: guns, rings, air planes, books, lariats, coins, bandanas, badges, stationery, cowboy clothes, make-up kits, telegraph sets, periscopes, branding irons, etc.  The Ralston boxtops were pouring into St. Louis and truckloads of radio premiums were routed through the postal system into the hands of anxious kiddies."

The Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters of America Secret Manual is an amazing little booklet.  It is filled with many of the standard fan club components: a pledge of allegiance, secrets (as in handshakes, passwords, salutes, whistles and flashlight signals), theme song, and of course the obligatory "Tell Your Friends About Ralston, the Official Straight Shooters Cereal" advertisement.  An almost entirely fictional 17-part  biography of Mix is included, but even more interesting (and no-doubt was especially thrilling for any young Straight Shooter of the era) is the detailed diagram of Tom Mix injuries.

 The special note included at the bottom of the diagram had me laughing out loud:
Note:  Scars from 23 knife wounds are not indicated; nor is it possible to show on diagram the hole 4 inches square that was blown in Tom's back by a dynamite explosion.
But perhaps most compelling was the section entitled "Straight Shooters are Home Front Soldiers."  It distinctly spins away from the western fantasy of Tom Mix and reminds us of the realities of being a child on the homefront during World War II.

Straight Shooters have been outstanding in helping to win the war in many ways:
  1. By buying War Stamps regularly. Every ten-cent War Stamp helped to keep some fighting man supplied with food and clothing and medicines and ammunition.
  2. By collecting Waste Paper ... never letting anyone burn old newspapers or wrapping paper. Straight Shooters have collected tons of waste paper for ammunition packing cases and other vital war needs.
  3. By helping mother save tin cans ... by taking off the tops and labels, flattening the cans, and seeing that the boxful of cans was placed on the curb.
  4. By helping mother save waste fats ... reminding-her not to throw away fats and grease no longer useable for cooking, but to save it in a tin container ... and by taking it to the grocery store.
  5. By not talking about the letters their brothers and sisters in the army or navy wrote home. Those letters might have contained information the enemy wanted to know.
  6. By not wasting anything—food, clothing, electricity. By eating everything mother puts on their plates; by taking care of their clothes and by turning off unnecessary lights.
  7. By being careful! Accidents in the home or in the street may mean a trip to the hospital — and hospitals are short of nurses and doctors.
 The manual provided one other pointed, though still upbeat reminder of the year 1944:
Straight Shooter Heroes have fought on every battle front

More than five million boys and girls have joined the Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters since the organization was founded in 1933.  Today, many of those boys and girls are grown-up and have taken their places in Uncle Sam's forces battling for Straight Shooter ideals of freedom and right and honesty all over the world.
While the youthful Tony Mangano did not personalize any of the places in the manual that called for his name or signature, he did faithfully comply with the page 3 instructions to KEEP THIS BOOK IN A SECRETS SPACE!  Tony kept the Manual secure, still within its original mailing envelope for well over six decades.  His family discovered it shortly after his passing in January of 2009.  He was a true Straight Shooter. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Windows to the Past: The Reality of Rosie

Rosie the Riveter has long been the symbolic icon of women working in American industry during World War II.  This stunning color photograph from June 1942 showcases a real life study of that homefront dynamic.  The unidentified woman in the picture is working at a North American Aviation, Inc. plant in California.  The picture was taken by photographer Alfred T. Palmer who was at the time working for the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection.  

Photo from the Library of Congress Prints and Photograph collection.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Americans! Share the Meat

In this era of Double Quarter Pounders With Cheese (McDonalds) and 2/3 lb. Monster Thickburgers (Hardees), it's interesting to reflect back on more conscientious and certainly leaner times.  This World War II era public service poster was produced in 1942 by the War Information Office and  prepared in cooperation with Foods Requirement Committee of the War Production Board.