Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vocational Courses by Mail (1951)

Good morning!

 With school coming back in at the end of the week, an NPR story this morning about how students are graduating with waaaay more debt than degrees, and my second round of courses for that M. Ed starting up on the 25th, I've had school on the brain all day today! You could see why, then, as I was flipping through a Popular Mechanics from 1951, I took an interest in the last twenty pages or so of advertisements for vocational training by mail. Here, finally, an alternative to traditional four and two year universities! Not really, but I did actually think about how cool it would be to skip sitting through boring lectures and frustratingly obtuse quizzes to instead, in the comfort of my living room, pore over pages and pages of by-mail correspondence on wildly, wildly varied choices for my professional future.

Wanna see some of the weirdies? I know you do! Let's see what we may want to be when we grow up....

Occupation: Meat Cutter
Pro's: According to the ad, the meat industry is "vital". Think of all the fine cuts of meat you could have at at-cost prices! I could eat steaks and steaks and steaks and make money at the same time as either a "meat cutter, supervisor, [or] market manager"!
Con's: This is going to sound completely insane, but my great-uncle James actually did try to learn meat cutting at home once in the 1950's. The concept was not without precedent-- my German family on my dad's side came over in the 1850's to North Nashville and ran a successful butcher shop that did good side business in chitlins. Yes, chitlins. From what I can remember, the shop closed in the forties' after the great-great grandfather died, and the equipment was sold or split between the three brothers (my granddad Buster, great-uncle George, and great-uncle James). Apparently, James got a wild hair to go back to his roots and managed to get a whole, pre-deceased cow from someone he knew, and with only the "M" volume of the World Book Encyclopedia and a set of tools and kitchen knives, set to work on understanding the different cuts of the cow. Can you imagine how SERIAL KILLER his workshop garage must have looked, not to mention smelled? I don't know how it turned out, but suffice it to say it's one of the more vivid of my imagined-family-stories my dad's told me.
My Vote: NO. No, no, no, no. Let's find something with a little less entrails involved, and the heck with my vocational heritage, all right?

Occupation: a) Racket Restringer, b) Baker
Pro's: a) It's "pleasant, profitable work", and you can do it at home with no prior experience. Good, because I have never had to restring a racket. b) Baking is "nearly depression-proof"! People are going to want to eat, you are going to want to cook things for them.
Con's: a) Have you ever heard of anyone being a professional Racket Restringer? No. No, you haven't. Also, outside the Hollywood colony in the thirties' and the Bill Tilden set, how could enough people need rackets re-strung to support a family of four? b) Having to wear a toque, working in high temperature slinging  loaves of bread, etc.
My vote: No to Restringer, Yes to Baking.

Occupation: a) Hamster Farmer, b)Guitarist.
Pro's: a) Look at what I just learned from this ad: these hamsters are from Syria, and are often called Toy Bears. See, I'm a natural at this! Also, how cute are the little guys on the right, hugging up on each other? b) Rock superstardom, as I will obviously graduate from this by mail course (with honors) to sweep the Grammys and change the face of music as we know it.
Con's: a) There's a claim made in this ad that I just don't think could possibly be true, which is that the hamsters are "clean; odorless". I don't personally believe in animals that come without odor. Even sea monkeys smell bad if you don't change their tank like every three hours, so you're telling me a wild rodent would be less smelly? I don't think so. b) I am completely hopeless at stringed instruments and doing more than one thing at a time (i.e. changing chords and strumming at the same time, patting my head and rubbing my stomach, doing any ititeration of the Jerk or the Dougie).
My vote: No to hamsters; No to guitars (to the great detriment of you music listeners out there).

Occupation: "Plastics" (unspecified....plastic salesman? I think?)
Pro's: "I just want to say one word to you. Just one word."
Con's: What exactly am I selling? I like the idea of novelties, signs, lamps, jewelry, toys, and furniture (all things I like to add to my home), but I might need more info. Also, I would feel better if it was a school of salesmanship, rather than a school of plastics. Shouldn't that be for people who make the plastic?
My vote: No, based on lack of information.

Occupation: Electrical Repariman
Pro's: You could fix blenders, toasters, ovens-- other high ticket items that are liable to short out RIGHT in the middle of a luau or cocktail party.
My vote: I think you know what my vote is. I also think you know the face-in overalls that will haunt my dreams tonight.

Occupation: Rabbit Raiser (not to be confused with "rabble rouser")
Pro's: Rabbits are good for "wool, pelts, and meat".
Con's: You're not going to get much time to pet them, as you will be concerned with shearing, pelting, and meating them. Nooooooo.....!
My vote: I'm gonna have to pass. At least you didn't have to think about eating the hamsters!

Occupation: Amateur taxidermist
Pro's: I am the biggest fan of well done taxidermy alive (ha ha, no pun intended). If I could, I would have my living room look Ryan Matthew Cohn's Brooklyn apartment (cohost of the Science Channel's "Oddities" program, all around natural history/weirdnesses fan). If you're into the same, you should read this AMAZING book called Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy about the many facets of business and the collecting of said items.
Con's: Um, actually having to do the dirty work yourself. I don't think if I could stand to have a bunch of Ed Gein-like, except animal-related, death items hanging around the house.
My vote: I'm gonna have to say no. No disrespect to Snappy, but I just couldn't take the gruesomeness. Will I ever find a job that suits me?

Occupation: Dance Instructor
Pro's: I love the ad's saying that they take "Men, Women, 18 to 56". I.e., no grannies, please. Definite pro's of this set-up is WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TEACH ME TO FOX TROT, WALTZ, AND RUMBA? What if Desi Arnaz finally calls me for our Dream Date? I'll be stuck with two left feet!
Con's: Aforementioned two left feet.
My vote: Please call me, 1950's Desi Arnaz.

Occupation: Upholstery Cleaner
Pro's: This business is a "peace or war business" (whatever that means...) and you can clean furniture right in the home! Also, the 'Are YOU the Man?' at the top of the ad kind of makes me feel like "the man".
Con's: I can imagine it would be a tricky business, up there with sorcery, to remove chocolate stains from suede couches. How can you be sure to use the right setting and the right temp every time? You can't.
My vote: Pass.

Ok, you've seen the arguments for and against these occupations: now which one best suits you? What do you think the actual through the mail correspondence looked like? Do you think anyone ever actually started a business this way? Have you ever taken a course by mail (not online, cheaters!)?

Guess I'll have to stick with the job I have for now, haha! Gotta get to it; see you guys tomorrow!


  1. I'm going to start work as breeder of hamsters that I'll instruct in the finer points of the Tango. I'll be swimming in dough in no time!!!

    1. This is if and ONLY IF you don't open your Wacky Tacky eatery. But maybe that could be the floor show in the lounge of your restaurant! ((wheels of imagination keep spinning))

    2. Hamster wheels of imagination!!! hahahahaha!

  2. Mwahhahahaha. I love these. I will say that, compared to other rodents, hamsters are cleaner and smell nicer. The bigger the rodent, the bigger the stink. Paul brought home a rescue rat (as in our skanky neighbors* were going to let their cat have it because they were tired of it) and he smelled really horribly unless his cage was cleaned out daily. Hamsters can probably go a day or two. The actual rodents don't smell bad (they just smell like warm fur), but their cages are pretty gross. Despite the stink, I'm starting to feel a bit nostalgic for our rat. He was kinda cute: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.517323562367.2146940.9607351&type=3&l=df5319d477

    I, too, think taxidermy is pretty awesome, but wouldn't want to attempt it myself. I definitely think dance instruction would be my only viable career path from these ads. I don't want to wake up early enough to be a baker.

    *This was when we were in college and in cheap housing. These horrible people also gave the poor rat lung cancer. I kid you not. Plus, when we got him, he was so stressed out from being in their apartment that his skin was coming off. We had to wash him in baby shampoo twice a day.

    1. I didn't think I would say this, but that is actually a cute rat! Poor little guy; I'm glad he got a home with you guys at least.

  3. Boo! I think the man of your bad dreams may be a riff on "Redi-kilowatt."
    I stole the lab rat in high school. Stuck him in my overalls next to my tube-topped heart. I took him home, where he formed a tight relationship with my father. Daddy liked to take him out for a cruise in the '76 Mercury Marquis, up on the dash. He watched TV with my father. Everytime Daddy would put out his Salem, the rat would take the butt and stash it in the drawer of the Danish Moderne end table.
    He escaped into the neighborhood, and I guess, began making love to all the local lady rats. I would see his spotted children around now and then.



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