Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Playtime During Wartime - Toys of WWII

    by Terri Wangard

    World War II required rationing of many things considered critical to the war effort, including iron, steel, zinc, and rayon. The War Production Board prohibited the production of toys containing more than seven percent of their weight in those materials. Already manufactured toys overweight with that content could be sold until June 30, 1942.
    Children were caught up in the war like their parents, but theirs was a different kind of war. They might play war games, nobody died for real, and no battles were lost. They hauled their wagons through their neighborhoods, collecting paper, metal, and rubber to be recycled into war material. Surrendering their metal toys to scrap metal drives was encouraged.
    What were children to play with?
    By 1940, war had begun in Europe and Asia, and America quietly began preparing for war, too. Toys came out with military themes. In 1940 and 1941, they were made of metal. Beginning in 1942, paper became dominant.
    No German planes bombed the United States, and only one Japanese pilot flying a float plane off a submarine dropped incendiary bombs on an Oregon forest in late 1942. Also that year, Japan launched balloons carrying 30-pound bombs; only one exploded, killing six people in Oregon. Nevertheless, over 600,000 people became air warning spotters, including children. Toy makers capitalized, producing junior aircraft warning kits, plane identification charts and cards, and spotting  games.

    Board games tied in with current battles. Milton Bradley's popular target game, Bataan, was based on the defense of the Philippines, depicting on the cover the victorious Americans defeating the Japanese. Most games had the Allies winning, even when forward progress was entirely on the side of the Axis.
The Dave Dawson games, produced by American Toy Works,
was based on a popular fiction series for boys.
         Numerous target games offered the opportunity to bomb the enemy. Many were horizontal dart boards, with bombs (darts) dropped from some device. Others used marbles to knock over targets.
Enemies were depicted as cartoon caricatures that would not be acceptable today.
         Lots of books featuring war heroes were published for boys and girls. Grosset & Dunlap published the Air Combat Series for boys, nine books featuring the Yankee Flyer. Like Dave Dawson, Red Randall was another heroic fighter with spectacular flying skill and unforgettable heroism. Whitman included books for girls in their Fighters for Freedom, featuring such occupations as an army nurse, ferry pilot, or canteen girl.

    Paper dolls emerged with plenty of military and patriotic themes, including paper dolls devoted to growing Victory Gardens or a wedding party which was, of course, a military wedding. Most paper dolls were produced in 1943, with few afterwards.
    Punch-out and cut-out models in heavy paper were sold in kits. (Newspapers also offered the models, but the low quality newspaper stock didn't hold up well.) Parts were punched out, folded, slotted, and glued together. High-end kits sold for one dollar.

    If assembling a model was too precise, picture puzzles covered the full spectrum of wartime themes. Scenes ranged from children playing as young commandos to sea battles to planes flying past by Statute of Liberty.
    Coloring books offered the same types of pictures, and scale models could be made of balsam wood. Wooden toy guns, tanks, ships, and other war vehicles were sold.
Not all offerings reflected war. Wooden stencils came in animal shapes,
flowers, birds, children at play, and religious motifs.

    The paper toys of the war years didn't last well. As the years passed, many were discarded. This happened with my father. Whenever the family moved, things were left behind. He still has two books.

   Do any wartime toys or books remain in your family?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Where's the Beef?

In this age of computer generated advertisements, I find it interesting to look at ads published in the 1920s. I ran across a link Retro Drinks Advertisements with pictures of ads used in that era. Different from our ads today, these were all hand drawn or painted. I'm going to share them with you today. Since the website was from drink ads, several of them are for "adult beverages".

I was amazed at the time and effort put into an ad most likely to be printed in a magazine. The one above is beautifully drawn and painted and probably used several times at most. Since this was before the days of television, it wasn't used on a daily basis for a large audience.

The details in this drawing are fabulous. The corn and wheat are illustrated so realistically-only to advertise a bottle of whiskey. It's almost beautiful enough to hang in an art museum, not print in a magazine only to be thrown out next month.

 I find it hard to believe that this ad is not a spoof. Somehow, I don't think it would sell too much of any product.  Quite an imagination, however.

The artwork in these two is unique. Only to advertise wine or liquour. I can't imagine anyone today spending so much time painting a picture so detailed to be used in an ad.

Alcoholic beverages weren't the only thing advertised with wonderful art. Here ads for two kinds of tea are shown. Both of them make me want to go out and buy some tea so I can look as comfortable as they do. 

That one was probably a real hot seller. I bet the bottles flew off the shelves after it was published.

And here's the one we saw a couple weeks ago to calm you down and make you sleep at night. Click on the link above to see the rest of the colorful advertisements from years long ago.
Which one is your favorite? 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wall Drug or Bust!

Have you ever driven west on Interstate 90 toward Rapid City, South Dakota? If you have, you know what I'm talking about. For hundreds of miles east and west of Wall, South Dakota you'll see billboards talking about Wall Drug, urging people to stop for a free glass of ice water. Today it's a tourist spot with 20,000 visitors daily that includes a mall where you can buy anything Western that you can imagine, eat lunch, have the kids play in the water park and even visit a T-Rex if you'd like - and of course, have a free glass of ice water.

When we were driving to Spokane to see our son a couple weeks ago, we stopped at Wall Drug to check it out. After driving west for hours, we needed to get out and stretch our legs and other necessary activities. My usual curious mind about things historical wondered how this tourist attraction got started.

Back in 1931 a man bought the local drug store in Wall, a tiny town - only 328 people - isolated on the western part of South Dakota. I'm wondering why anyone would think that was a good idea in the first place. Can't be too many people that would need a pharmacist in that neck of the woods - er, prairie.

Ted Hustead and his wife Dorothy worked at his new business for several years, not making much headway. Of course, the Depression didn't help anything, except to expose them to the extra traffic traveling past their store because of all the people moving west to find a better life. But it did no good if people just drove on past.

One hot July day in 1936 Dorothy came up with a solution to their problem-how to get travelers to stop in their town and visit Wall Drug Store. She decided the one thing that would get those travelers to visit them would be a glass of free ice water. Since they had lots of ice and free water it wouldn't cost them anything either.

Her husband made up several road signs, painting a few words on each sign: "Get a soda... Get root beer... Turn next corner... Just as near... To highway 16 & 14... Free Ice Water...Wall Drug". Before he even returned to the store after posting the signs, his wife was already busy handing out the free glasses of ice water. Of course, some people purchased ice cream cones or other things since they were stopped anyway. Business has never stopped since then.

Very soon their drug store expanded to a cafe and then to a shopping center and tourist stop. On our visit there I purchased a nice pair of leather sandals so their merchandise isn't all gimmicky. When you're driving on Interstate 90, it's worth taking a break and checking it out. Have fun!