I’m getting ready to host my annual Easter get-t0gether this weekend. I’ll probably have 17 at my home this Sunday for dinner with 5 adults and an infant staying with me from Friday till Monday morn.
While preparing this week I went into a closet for sheets and blankets and came across my copy of Life Magazine from the week I was born. It was dated September 7, 1942. On the cover a picture of a pilot siting in a glider – one of those flying coffins with no engine.
So this afternoon after shopping all morning I flipped through it again, reminding myself of life the way it used to be in the first year of American involvement in World War II.
I am always struck by the number of ads for deodorant. One can only assume that usage of deodorant was not commonplace and the ads were designed to get folks to use the product – deodorant “creams”.
“A dab a day keeps P.O away!” Perspiration odor. “Positively stops underarm perspiration odor as proved in this amazing hot climate test!”
Cigarette ads were commonplace. “Smoking means inhaling. Inhaling means you need what Philip Morris has to offer! No worry about irritation!”
Florsheim shoes. As a child I thought it was “Floor Shine”
“As conservation becomes America’s greatest need, Florsheim quality takes on more importance than ever – the best way to make shoes last longer is to buy better shoes.” They cost $10 – about twice the price of other shoes.
There were plenty of articles for the home front – especially women making their own clothes.
The nation was at war. The Germans were approaching Stalingrad but the bulk of Life’s distain was reserved for the “Japs.”
“The Japanese language is a national secret code, perfect for hiding facts or saying what you don’t mean.”
The daughter of an American diplomat in China who spent a few months in the Santo Tomas camp in Manila before being repatriated with American diplomats in exchange for Japanese diplomats held in America wrote an article.
“Then I saw my first Jap soldier face to face. A general. I was mortified he was coming to inspect us. My room mates and I prepared by sitting bolt upright, scared stiff facing the door. First we heard shuffling down the hall. Then the general, with a three day growth of beard, shuffling in Jap slippers; he had on dirty jodhpurs, a filthy open shirt and a tooth pick in his mouth. We were terrified. He blurted out “Yankee girls!”, shuffled through the rooms and exited laughing.”
The Japanese Americans, both citizens and not, were already in the camps.
Overt sexism and racism is on full display in the Life of 1942.
An article tells of how a young wife took over her husband’s machine shop business after he was called to active duty.
“Red headed Mrs.Harrison had been a milliner, designing exclusive hats for the local elite of Peoria. Putting on her smartest hat, she went to the local WPB office, wowed them with her red hair and got a contract. Undaunted by the challenges of a man’s world, she learned to operate a machine lathe all by herself.”
The overt racism within the pages of Life Magazine was palpable:
And that’s the way it was as Walter Cronkite used to say each evening.
What else was going on?
Tom Dewey was re-nominated by the GOP as Governor of New York.
There was an article about the “Boy King of Iraq” – Faisal II, age 7. He was propped up by the British and under the thumb of his uncle’s regency until he would come of age. He would be murdered in 1958 along with numerous members of his family after the revolution which brought the B’aath Party to power. The family had surrendered and were machined gunned in the palace courtyard.
Theodora Roosevelt, granddaughter of Teddy made her debut as a danseuse in a Rio night club in front of Brazil’s elite social set. Her performance was “coolly but politely received”.
Oh and Toritto was born that week.