Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Years Without a Santa: Pennsylvania Railroad (1943)

Before the war the rich could board a Constellation or Clipper for exotic locals but for the average Joe and Jane it was trains and automobiles and the occasional ocean liner. War changed all that. The skies (and seas for that fact) weren't friendly and even if they were wartime rationing would have curtailed non-military travel.

Still, a the December 1943 issue of Life Magazine Pennsylvania Railroad ran this ad touting its war-effort tonnage. I've started calling this sort of ad "patriotism banking", the hope that touting a company's patriotism would equal dollars in the post-war economy.

So this Christmas, while Aunt Martha is alone on the coast instead of safe in the bosom of her family, just think of all those tanks that made the trip she couldn't.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Years Without a Santa: Stromberg-Carlson (1943)


1943 and reality has come home for Christmas. This realization is shown eloquently in this ad for Stromberg-Carlson radios, morphing from pre-war ignorant bliss to early days "we're going to show 'em how it's done" bravado, to the long bloody trail to the war's end. It is interesting that Stromberg-Calrson hasn't de-German-ed their name, though.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Years Without a Santa: Whitman Sampler (1942)


A spot of color from 1942! While pouring over ads from that year, this one practically screams at you for its use of color. No black-and-white and grim Santa Clause, just a box of chocolates and some holly. In fact the only mention of the war is the admonition not to forget those in the service. Apparently the war hadn't come home to the Whitman company. That would change when sugar rationing hit the US. But, for the moment, they still were selling their samplers in the same way they'd always sold them.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Years Without a Santa: Old Gold (1942)

Another wartime Santa, this time riding a jeep through the sky in spite of gasoline and rubber rationing. Jeep Santa distributes Old Gold Cigarettes and...books...as he flies through the sky. Bad being beaned by a carton of smokes, worse by a dictionary.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Years Without a Santa: Roadmaster Bicycles (1942)


I had a Roadmaster bike as a kid. It was what hipsters would call a 'fixie' - no gears and pedal brakes. I rode that bike all over, it was my first means of freedom. I would have been out of luck in 1942, though, because The Cleveland Welding Company, makers of Roadmaster bikes, was a vital war industry and had switched production. A decade after the war they'd be bought out by AMF and eventually become known for shoddy, low-quality bicycles.

The ad features a somewhat less war-mad Santa. He's not shoving cigarettes or bayonets into the kid's hands. I guess that makes him more the jolly old elf we know nowadays.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Wartime Santa


Remember when a carton of cigarettes was a good Christmas gift? Me either. I certainly remember a lot of smoking during the holidays. I remember coming home with smoker's cough from a long Christmas Eve at the grandparents' house at the age of nine. I can remember lying on my back by the Christmas tree, breathing the cool, clear air, and staring up at the fog-bank of second-hand smoke that hung just a few feet above where I lay. It was like being in an episode of Emergency, only without sirens or Randolph Mantooth.

Anyway, the ad's from 1942 - gasoline rationing had just started, the US had just bombed Italy, and there was a long and bloody road ahead before peace would return. But light up boys, you may be dead tomorrow so why worry about a little lung cancer?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Don't Call Long Distance - 1942


Santa Grinch would like to dissuade you from talking with your friends and loved ones at Christmas time. 1942 was a grim time, grim with war, grim with rationing, grim with ads that shamed you if you had any holiday cheer. Even Santa had turned to a boiled-faced shrew, chiding that the phone lines were too filled with the calls of people more important than you with better things to do that wish your 92 year old granny merry Christmas. Merry Christmas? Bah, any fool who calls to wish Merry Christmas should be buried with their ration book shoved down their throat.

Funny, now practically nobody makes long distance calls. The rise of the cell phone and national coverage plans has nearly eliminated the phrase from our lexicon along with operators and phone books. An entire hipster culture is waiting - the culture for hard-wired, dial telephones mounted in artisan booths with hand-crafted books of phone numbers. Maybe there'll be a Brooklyn eatery where you have to put a dime into a pay phone to call the operator who will connect you to the wait staff. One moment please...

So this year give the gift of a cold shoulder. Santa Phone is watching you and he knows if you're buying black market ration stamps or not.