Time Warp

Source: University of Illinois Libraries

So who’s up for a surf and turf dinner at the Elk’s lodge next Friday evening? Aw come on, you know want to. It’s $3.00 all-you-can-eat. But there is a catch, so to speak: you have to find a portal back to 1965. Lucky for you, I’ve recently found one. So, men, shine up those penny loafers. And ladies, get those “Cuddle Curls” set the night before. Let’s hop into our Pontiac Tempest and head back in time…

This is me of late. My head is completely into the rhythms and realities of mid-sixties suburban Detroit. For the last several weeks I have been time-traveling back to my hometown, courtesy of its public library’s website. The library is offering full access to the local newspapers of my childhood via scanned images of the “original” microfilm. So no black newsprint on my fingers, nor having to use one of those clunky reels of microfilm. Our portal is simply my laptop.

My mission is a personal research project that I have been wanting to attempt for a long time now. I had always assumed that I’d literally have to travel back there to find the information. But thankfully, the years of coverage I need are available online and also freely accessible at no charge.

I am trying to locate information about a parent of mine who briefly served on a local city commission during the 1960’s. The minimal facts told to us as children were that our parent made a principled stand over an issue, and it unfortunately descended into a bit of finger-pointing during some contentious public meetings. We were also told of anonymous phone calls made to our home, the tone of which were apparently alarming. My parents made a quick decision that it would be best if a resignation was tendered to the commission. Public service had it limits.

The events were only ever brought up in passing a handful of times in my family; it was understood that neither mom or dad ever wished to discuss it. Even my sibs and I rarely whispered anything about it to one another. It was considered off limits.

Eventually it faded from our collective memories, though not completely for me. At some point in my late twenties and early thirties, I made a mental point to someday try to find out on my own what transpired. It’s never been a burning issue, but to the extent that our family had any great secrets this one was it.

Recently while looking for something completely unrelated, I came upon my hometown’s public library page. I took note that they offer full-text archival access to the two local papers which were published back then. Bells began ringing in my head that this might be the key to learning more about that hush-hush family matter of ours. It took a few days, but I eventually stumbled into the right time period. The search functionality on the site is so limited, though, that the library recommends not using it; so I am going through every single issue of both newspapers over a three year period. It is time-consuming.

Both papers thankfully kept to a reasonably consistent format. But in that era of manual page editing and formatting, stories could jump much further into the paper with related stories not necessarily placed nearby. So other than the classified ad sections (which are a joy to peruse), I’m looking over each page of the paper in order to be complete.

And that, dear reader, is the real purpose of this post. While looking for information pertaining to my own mission, I am constantly distracted by other things that were happening during that period. “This stuff must be shared on the blog!,” a voice inside my head said (yes, I know: bells and voices in my head — I promise to have this looked at soon).

For instance, I see references to families that I knew personally, places my family visited, restaurants we patronized, schools my sibs and I attended, fashions, movies, music, etc., etc. Perusing each page ends up being a virtual visit down memory lane. Day after day of this, it can feel like it’s all happening in real time. An event gets reported one day, a follow-up on it is printed a day or two later, and then the very next week there’s usually an editorial or columnist weighing in on the matter. It all happened over a series of days and weeks, of course, but I’m reading everything at once. What should take perhaps ten minutes at most to go over one issue, I sometimes end up studying for 20, 30, even 40 minutes at a time. When I leave the computer for the rest of the day, my head remains back in the 1960’s.

Another thing I’m noticing are the many service organizations that were active at the time. Many of them are still with us today, but some seem less visible than they once were. Local communities in the sixties benefited from the work of the Jaycees, the Elks, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and the National Council of Catholic Women, to name just four. They were invaluable in helping to raise money for local institutions such as public libraries, animal shelters, amateur sports leagues, etc.

A different kind of organization also caught my eye (see below). A quick Google search told me that this “Belles” organization is no longer active. Weight loss got much more sophisticated once Jean Nidetch started Weight Watchers.

Still, I do admire Mr. Fisher here. He didn’t let gender get in the way of pursuing a healthier life.  It’s just a pity he received the consolation prize, don’t you think? I’d have wanted that Teflon fryer!

And then there are the ads. I’ve been finding them wonderfully distracting, so I can’t help but share a few of them with you. Each below are set to open in a new tab, so enjoy to your heart’s content if you wish to take a closer look.

We’ve all occasionally looked at old ads for grocery stores from the fifties and sixties, and so I didn’t bother including any of them. But it has been interesting to look at items such as Saltines in a one pound box for 19¢, a dozen grade A eggs for 49¢, or whole chicken fryers at 23¢ a pound. I see lots of grocery ads and can get engrossed in them for too long.

Or how about movie theater prices? Matinees were generally 50¢, feature shows $1.25 on Mondays – Thursdays, and shows on weekends and holidays were $1.50. I can recall in later years how alarmed we all were when features went up to $5.00 a show. The nerve!

Home appliances also get my attention. For instance, we currently need to replace our dishwasher, and so I was curious how much they were back then. I didn’t bother capturing the ad to show you, but a 1964 GE “Mobil Maid” was $188. Of course, the ad also stated at the bottom that there are only three at that price. I always miss out.

Some ads are quaint and definitely throwbacks for the time period. I never heard of Scotch Doubles. Well, I have, but just not for bowling…

It seems there must have been a beauty shop literally on every corner. I’m not sure what I like more in this one: the idea of “cuddle curls” or Jean herself. Love those sixties-era glasses on her…

Back to prices for a moment: how about the cost of a meal at the Hitching Post? How can you pass up a $1.00 all-you-can-eat fish fry? Probably my mom come to think of it. But that’s another post entirely.

And speaking of restaurants, check out this early incarnation of KFC. Or as it was known back then, Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was apparently licensed to be sold in this privately owned, unrelated restaurant. I bet it actually tasted back then like, you know, chicken.

Who among us didn’t have an aunt or grandmother (or maybe even our own mother) that didn’t put plastic on the living room furniture? Good G-d that stuff was uncomfortable, especially on a hot day. I want to know is who out there is still covering furniture with this today? Don’t be shy, speak up! I promise we won’t mock. Well, not publicly anyway.

As long as we’re on the topic of discomfort, this was also the era for all those weird polyester creations in clothes, particularly for men. Remember Dacron? Ah yes, sold at only the finest places. Who can argue with a button-down for only $1.97? I’m sure I’d have been especially handsome in one while playing in the father-son bowling league. Or maybe a Scotch Double match. Or having a scotch double. Oh, never mind…

A couple of bank ads caught my attention. Look at that savings rate back then! This is when having a savings account actually gave you a fairly decent return. Yo, Fed Chairman Powell: Ahem!

And look that they actually had “vacation loans” back then too. If I tried asking for one at my Wells Fargo branch now, they’d smirk at me until I slithered out the door in total embarrassment.

There’s a whole generation that has no idea just how hard it was to watch TV before cable, isn’t there? In our 1960’s house, I was always tasked to just stand there and hold the antenna for 30 minutes if it meant the reception could be improved. And, of course, there were those people who put foil on their antennas thinking it would help. It didn’t.

Just one more, sorry. I saw this ad and immediately was taken back to how everyone once used the phone. We dialed.

These are just the ads, of course. I’m far more distracted by the articles and the topical narrative of the time period, and they only take me further and further from my stated mission. At this rate I don’t expect to find my answers until late spring.

Eventually I assume I’ll at least partly resolve the great mystery of my family. The conundrum I’ll have at that point is whether to share any of it my siblings, or just keep it to myself. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. For now, though, I’m blissfully happy in my time machine.

Until next time…

 

 

34 thoughts on “Time Warp

  1. We did a tour of Ybor City yesterday and heard all about the “Social Clubs” back in the 20’s. Each social club had a theater, ballroom, clinic, and many taught ESL for immigrants. They had regular dance parties and folks did a kind-of pub crawl from club to club, mixing and mingling. There’s something to be said for the rituals and products of the past.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh…we had the foil on our antenna! That was we as in me and Loser.
    We never had cable until our children went off to college.
    I found an old ad that promoted “cocaine tooth drops.” Yay! No wonder everyone acted so strange back then! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes it was. Some happy campers out there!
        I remember my grandfather giving me a dollar, and sending me to the little store down the street.
        I brought back a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, a pack of cigarettes…and change. 😊
        P.S. I published my autobiography.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The year was 1989 and I was selling a house. A middle aged couple came in to look. They told me that they had white upholstered furniture. Intrigued, I asked how they kept it clean. They said plastic covers. I thought those went out in the 50’s. Fortunately my mom never did stuff like that! She did, however, wear those goofy glasses.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah, The Detroit Free Press, The Detroit Tribune and The Windsor Star! How I miss those newspapers (less so The Windsor Star). Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Yes, my grandmother covered all of her living room furniture in plastic. It was sticky and uncomfortable….especially in summer!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Blast from the past, Marty. I remember microfilm along with shorthand and doing Math in my head. Very funny on the scotch doubles. I may do some time travelling now with the portal laptop. Good luck on finding the information. I look forward to hearing more!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dacron polyester! I remember that as being a big selling point for clothes. And the bowling ad! Oh I remember those and wanting to go to the bowling alley– much to my parents’ horror. So fun to stroll down memory lane with you today. Great finds, albeit accidentally but great nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We did have this one Aunt who had those plastic furniture covers back in the day. OOPS, that is to say, she actually still has the same furniture covered (not sure if they’re the same covers, tho)!
    It’s a laughing point for all but those in her immediate family and her kids that are my cousins by her and my Uncle.
    I’ve since realized that the particular furniture set in question was from her home country and was valuable to her in more ways than any of us realized at the time.
    How cool that you have such easy access to those back copies of newspapers without having to ‘pay’ for the privilege. And that you might even understand the significance of the ‘microfiche’ reader for flat microfilm as being an even more advanced form of the plain old microfilm wheels! HA!
    Enjoy your blasts from the past – I’m enjoying your reports here in the 21st century.
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Laura. Yep, all those years helping library patrons having to use those machines made me a bit of an expert — whether I wanted to be or not! I think I had a grandmother who protected her furniture with the plastic, but I’m not positive. But for sure some of my friends’ mothers did. Ugh. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Good luck with your research. I hope you find what you are looking for – although it sounds like you are being greatly entertained along the way.

    I went through a similar exercise with the local paper in my hometown a number of years ago before I became a blogger. Unfortunately the library where the archives were kept was still in the ‘dark ages’ and I had to carefully handle actual newsprint wearing gloves. Some of the very early editions from the early 1900s were so fragile they would rip with little effort. I can’t believe they actually let me handle it.

    Although I didn’t find what I was looking for, I too was greatly distracted by a lot of other goings on in my hometown long before I was born.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, I can’t believe they let you handle those print editions either, Joanne. That sounds cumbersome and complicated to say the least. It’s been an interesting process so far, and luckily that I’m enjoying it makes it feel as if it’s not work at all. I know that even if there’s no mention of what I’m looking for, I do have an end-date by which I know I can stop looking. So thankfully this won’t go on forever.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I guess you weren’t a bowler back then!! I was and I do know what scotch doubles is. Not sure if I ever participated but I know it was a big thing.

    I love looking back at old stuff and getting all nostalgic. I loved growing up in those times and wish we still had some of that easier way of life. I say that, but I also like the “luxuries” of today and don’t know how I could live without them again. But it’s fun to think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, I was hoping someone would shed some light on Scotch Doubles! I did bowl, but was pretty pathetic; I could never figure out how to keep score. 🙂

      I totally agree, it was a much simpler time. It’s nice to get my head back in it, albeit briefly. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

  10. Stumbled on your blog and so enjoyed this post… love how you got so diverted by so all the interesting tidbits from your community. It did make me think of my childhood and how we grew up with four teenagers, two parents and ONE phone for all of us. No call waiting either… Haha.

    It is wonderful to have access to that kind of information so easily and I can see how one can easily spend hours poring over it, especially because it has such personal relevance to your family and also your community.

    Fascinating. Thanks

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Peta. Thanks so much for reading my post and also commenting. It is amazing how we “survived” back then, isn’t it? Our family dynamic was the same as yours: four kids, two parents, and one phone. I was the only boy, so the three girls all had to share one room as teenagers — it didn’t go well. 🙂

      It’s been fun getting diverted by all of this, which I understand will make my quest go even longer. But I’m not complaining

      Thanks again for your nice comments. – Marty

      Like

  11. You have really opened up a time capsule, Marty. Something like this can probably only be found in the dust-covered nooks and crannies of a old public library. I kept hoping for an ad from Floyd the Barber or Gomer’s Garage. I also have to wonder if Mrs. Frank Dyke put the pounds back on after putting into use her new electric teflon frying pan. Thanks for all the great stuff, and I’ll see you for surf-and-turf at 6:00. Joe

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Fun stuff! I recently went to Palm Springs for Modernism Week and that was also a time warp of architecture, furnishings, fashion and other cultural stuff. Looking forward to learning the rest of the story on your parents!

    Liked by 1 person

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