Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Smile! - 1930s Style

by Connie Cortright

Last week an event in my office triggered the idea for my blog post. Today it's even more urgent. I decided on this week's topic after a dream I had. In my dream, I was sitting in a college class (a common occurrence in my dreams). A research paper (also a common dream theme) was being assigned and the topic that landed in my lap was photographic equipment of the 1930s. So it was decided then and there (I actually woke up at that point) that I'd do a bit of digging into cameras for this era. (I certainly have been doing this too long if I'm now dreaming in 1930s topics.)

Now, cameras were nothing new in the 30s. In fact, the first inexpensive ones were sold to the masses in 1900 by Eastman Kodak Company. They named their $1.00 cameras "Brownies" after a cartoon character that was popular at the time created by Palmer Cox. Before this time cameras were owned only by the wealthy, but the Kodak Company found a way to mass produce a box camera made out of cardboard that used film-on-a-roll.

By the 30s "Brownies" were still just box cameras,  but they were manufactured with a rigid case made out of Bakelite and aluminum for more durability. Later in the decade, color film was introduced for the Brownie cameras.

A Brownie required no photographic skill to use. Held at the height of a belt buckle, the photographer looked through one of two view finders to locate the subject. There was no way to focus the picture. It was truly a "point-and-shoot" camera without the modern advances of today. The shutter opened and shut when the lever was lowered.

The roll of film had to be forwarded after each picture or the photo would be ruined by double exposure. A small window in the back of the camera told how many pictures there were left before the film was full. In the 30s all pictures had to be taken in daylight since there were no flash bulbs attached to the camera - at least not on Brownies.

Of course, there were other options for cameras, especially for professional photographers or newspaper photographers. But the Brownie was the go-to camera for the everyday person in the Midwest.

In our day of instant pictures, I don't think my grandchildren would understand the concept of having to wait until the whole roll of film was finished before taking it to a store and waiting another week for it to get developed. I'm sure cameras sat around many months before some pictures ended up getting developed, long after the photographed event took place.

Cameras were readily available during the Depression, but I wonder how many of them--purchased during the Roaring 20s--sat on shelves because there was no money to purchase film or get it developed into pictures. That must have been a common occurrence back then when money was so scarce in for so many.

Do you remember a Brownie camera from your childhood days?

Information taken from Wikipedia/Brownie and eHow - Cameras from the 1930s.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ads You'll Never See in 2015

by Connie Cortright

Someone posted this retro ad in the kitchen at my office. I immediately thought of my blog since it looks like it was originally from the 20s or 30s. My co-worker purchased it as a joke for our kitchen, but my thought was to make this into a blog posting. Guess I've been doing this too long.

I decided to add some other early twentieth century advertisements that would never be published today to round out this post. I hope you enjoy them.

I don't think we'd use Santa Claus to sell cigarettes these days.

Children would never be allowed to play with a gun today. Parents would be shot if that happened.

Which of you men would say this to your wife? And live to tell about it at least!

Rather sexist wouldn't you say???

I don't think my daughters-in-law would agree with this one.

Does this ever happen in your neighborhood?

Was this on your Christmas wish-list this year?

Political correctness certainly has changed our world!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Nautical Meets Naughty

by Connie Cortright

Last week we touched on the topic of Betty Boop, but there's an important aspect that wasn't mentioned. In 1933 Betty Boop introduced someone to the world of cartoons and made him famous. Popeye the Sailor Man appeared in a Betty Boop cartoon titled "Popeye the Sailor". (What an interesting title!!) It was sold as a Betty Boop cartoon, but she only had a small part in the feature. Max Fleischer produced both Betty Boop and Popeye and used the popularity of Betty Boop to get his next creation off the ground.

In the film Popeye takes his girlfriend Olive Oyl to the carnival where Betty Boop is on stage dancing a hula - in a grass skirt and lei (covering certain parts). Popeye ends up on stage dancing with Betty Boop while the evil Bluto kidnaps Olive and carries her off, tying her to the railroad tracks. (Sound familiar?) Popeye finally eats his spinach and saves Olive by stopping the train cold. If you'd like to see the feature take a look Popeye the Sailor and Betty Boop

Popeye became more popular than Betty Boop in the later 30s after Betty Boop changed her ways with the new federal laws (see last week's blog post). By 1938 Popeye was the most popular cartoon character, passing up Mickey Mouse and others. Besides Olive Oyl, this cartoon also introduced Swee'Pea and Wimpy (I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today).

The most important "character" to this cartoon was Popeye's ever present can of spinach. Whenever he was in trouble, out popped the can of spinach which he opened by squeezing it with his bare hands. Most often the can of spinach was gulped down in one bite - or even inhaled through his pipe to give him the strength to overcome the bad guys and win the day. Popeye's use of spinach boosted sales of the vegetable, and consumption of vegetables in general, among children in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. My brother-in-law (it's reported) carried a small can of spinach around in his pocket all the time - although it was never consumed. I guess we have to assume that he never encountered a bad guy and needed the extra power of spinach, then.

Popeye was so famous that there are cities in our country that still celebrate this cartoon character. Crystal City, Texas has a statue of Popeye in front of city hall because it's a spinach-growing area of the country. Another statue resides in Chester, Illinois, the hometown of the creator of the cartoon. That city celebrates its "son" each year by holding a Popeye Picnic on the weekend of Labor Day. That might be something to check out next Labor Day.

Popeye cartoons were very common in the 1950s on television and many of us grew up on these shows. Popeye's nemesis was known then as Brutus instead of Bluto since the latter name was copyrighted and couldn't be used by King Features Syndicate who commissioned the cartoon series in the 60s. Many a cartoon was spent with Popeye fighting the Sea Hag and other goons which were an invention of the later cartoons.

Besides cartoons, Popeye appeared in comic strips, comic books, and even a radio show in the late 30s. During World War II the writers of the features wrote with WWII themes in mind. Popeye could be seen fighting the Nazis or Japanese soldiers during these years. He surely has adapted over the years to fit the changes in the world around him.

What do you remember most about Popeye cartoons?

Information taken from Popeye