You walk outside at noon and you almost melt with happiness: the warmth has returned like a girlfriend in college who broke up with you but missed you and showed up one day, ready to twist your heart like a wet towel for a few weeks before deciding “no, I was right the first time,” and all her friends agreed, because it’s more interesting to talk about new affairs.
I fell for that a couple of times. In retrospect, it all worked out; fool me once shame on you / fool me twice at least I got some action out of it. But at the time it’s the height of Passion Rekindled followed by the most miserable crash - all the pain of the first break-up combined with the sour ash of certainty. “Love” is why I don’t wish the Twenties on anyone.
In both instances of college girlfriends who broke up then showed up at the door again after I’d written them off and could only imagine a mile-long stream of lifeguard swains outside their doors holding flowers and spiritous liquors, awaiting their turn to pitch woo, the city of Baraboo was involved. In the first instance the girlfriend went to be a camp counselor at Baraboo, and was duly counseled. (By a lifeguard.) In the second instance I received the news that the bond was frayed in a bar in Baraboo. I’ve told this story. Have I told this story? No? Well, prior to this particular lass decamping to NYC for a summer internship, I had come to suspect that she left open the option of gentleman callers out there, and the general message that entailed sailed right over my head. Surely you resist the cozening words of some charismatic East Coast money-man or adorably rumpled artist, no? Well, no. This worked its way into my subconscious until I had a complete and total panic attack while we sitting at the Cooper theater watching the newly-restored print of Vertigo.
That’s right: I had my first panic attack in a movie about panic attacks.
I went to the bathroom, tried to calm my racing heart; eventually succeeded, went home, called the University hospital hotline, and a bored and amused nurse said “you had a panic attack. Lay off the coffee.”
I didn’t have many that summer, but on the way back from getting the news in Baraboo - and I remember exactly what was on the radio: Panama, by Van Halen - I encountered heavy traffic on the freeway. It was reduced to one lane for construction. I was in the middle of a National Guard convoy, somehow. Creeping along. Trapped. TRAPPED. My hands went numb; my jaw went numb; my solar plexus went numb; my heart rate tripled. Total absolute anxiety overload the likes of which I’d never experienced, and never have since.
Drove the car on the shoulder, got out, and decided the only way I could hasten blood to my numbed limbs was to do jumping jacks. The National Guard trucks with their troops in the back drove past slowly as I windmilled my arms and legs. It was something the lies of which they’d never experienced, and probably never have since.
Well, I learned something from all this. Both women probably left me because I was a needy smothering quilt made of sponge, came back because of a few redeeming characteristic, then split when presented with the Right Thing. I hope they’re happy; I know I am. But when I made the split with a chick whose scene I no longer dug, daddy-0, it was, like, Permanent City. Except for one gruesomely attenuated breakup that was dealt a sudden sharp clarity when A) she took up with a poetical English Teaching Assistant, and B) I met a fan of my column who was about six feet tall and was the Belle of the Spring because she rollerskated everywhere around the U.
Oh, and there’s a story. There was a boyfriend of indistinct status in the margins - and by “margins,” I mean he was Weekend Lad, I was special Tuesday Guest Speaker - but I’ll never, ever forget going over to her place for the obligatory Cornish Game Hen supper, and she put on Elvis Costello because she liked Elvis and I liked Elvis. “Get Happy” was the album. The needle reached the song: “Gettin’ Mighty Crowded.” Too crowded for me.
She grinned and apologized and got up from the table, said “maybe not the right song” and flipped the disc over.
Anyway, it was warm. Autumn softened and relented, and when you turned your face to the sun it felt like you were being drenched in something wonderful, something you’d given up hope of feeling again. That’s a mistake. Whatever it is, you’ll feel it again. Last night I dreamed I backed up a semi-trailer off a bridge, and as I fell backwards I thought “well, I’m dead.” When I woke I realized it had been a long time since I had a falling dream. The sensation is never less than terrifying -
“But it’s sooo good to wake up and it’s not true,” said daughter over breakfast. And by “Breakfast” I mean we’re talking while she curls her hair, and she’ll grab a Grain Bar as she heads out the door to trot down the hill to catch the bus.
She’s right. Except in my dream I edited the story. I rewound it. I was back on the bridge. I hadn’t fallen. I reached out to readjust my rear-view mirror, and discovered it was so flexible it showed everything for miles beyond.
That’s when I woke up.
It’s Product Tuesday, where we learn about the aesthetics of 50s packaging - and the stories behind the brands.
That would be my pitch to a TV show exec, anyway.
Nothing like a waffle made from pancake mix:
That’s it? That’s all the butter I get?
Aunt Jemima: She was first introduced in 1889, and the name would have been familiar; vaudeville shows had an Aunt Jemima character. Wikipedia suggests that the flour-mill owner who named the character based it on a man who performed in blackface AND drag. He was also German. Named Pete.
Eventually they hired a real person, a former slave named Nancy Green, and introduced her at the 1893 World’s Fair; she was replaced in the 30s by Anna Robinson, who was introduced to the world at the 1933 World’s Fair, also in Chicago.
Early ads showed her family: husband Rastus, of course, and four kids: Abraham Lincoln, Dilsie, Zeb and Dinah.
The line-up in 1958:
searching for the current versions, I find they don’t make spices any more.
Here’s the story on French’s, from their website. Mr. French had a ream:
"There is no condiment like I have in mind on the market, and I'm sure that such a mustard, even if it costs $10 a gallon, would have a ready and wide sale."
This was 1904. Teddy Roosevelt had just started working on the Panama Canal. Radio and film were still brand new forms of entertainment. The few automobile owners out there were limited to twenty miles per hour. In fact, the ice cream cone had hardly even been invented yet! If Americans wanted mustard, they had to make it themselves.
Yes, and Al Capone was doing the Charleston on a flagpole and Joe Piscopo was cracking up the nation. Makes it sound like Teddy was down there digging with his hands.
The company used to have facility in Rochester, NY . . . on Mustard Street.
. . . only because the artist isn’t credited. I’m reasonably sure it’s William Steig; I recognize his line in the wife’s mouth. If you haven’t heard of Steig, well, you have. He died in 2003, but lived long enough to see one of his kid-book creations come to life.
That’s the perfect 1956 hula-girl archetype:
This ad was in the middle of Libby’s big 50s expansion. The jingle, of course, is famous:
The VO will be familiar to anyone who remembers the jingle; that’s John Batholomew Tucker. He was all over ads in the 70s and 80s, with that warm folksy crackin’-just-a-bit voice. When you couldn’t afford Mason Adams, you got Tucker, and probably got more for your money.
Finally, just what you think about when you think about frosting:
Hey, if you like this, fer heaven's sake, bookmark that Lint: Tumbler thing over there. That's every day M-F on the Tumblr. It's the official weekday feed of the Institute of Official Cheer.
You might also like the NOON: STRIB BLOG thing right now, if you didn't hit it yesterday: thoughts on the Jetson's 50th anniversary.