Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Being Teenagers (1950)

Good morning!

I remember a while back I told you guys about a book I found at an estate sale on Fairfax Avenue in Nashville, specifically relating that it had a whole slew of Pat Boone advice columns from the fifties' carefully clipped and saved in the front cover. Well, I finally got around to scanning said book, and thought you might get a kick out of "Being Teen-Agers", 1950 health and etiquette manual for the growing adolescent.

One of the things that most appealed to me about this text was the weird mix of cartoons and photographs to illustrate the accompanying advice. Usually, I feel like teen wellness books either adopt one or the other and run with it...Being Teenagers  couldn't decide and mixed it up with these cute late forties'-ish doodles, sometimes on the same page as realistic photos of kiddlings in action. Take a look at the cartoons first:

The guy at the breakfast table looks so grown up! "Well, Father, I was hoping I could get your opinion on some stocks I was considering..." Also, I think I've been in the jalopy at the bottom on more than one occasion. Do you remember how difficult it was to get home before curfew back in the day? One particular gentleman caller and I, in a Suzuki Samurai that was the vehicular equivalent of a lawnmower with a car battery, would inevitably be hurtling down I-65N only to hit some kind of traffic and be put what seemed like eons past the time I should have been home. Every. TIME! And no cell phones, of course. "I could take side roads, but I'm telling you, it would only give us the illusion of movement," said my seventeen year old aesthete of a beau would posit. "I DON'T CARE. I WANT THE ILLUSION OF MOVEMENT," I would yell over R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People on the Suzuki's tape deck. Young love.

I love the phrase "gone soft in the head" and intend to use it more often. Even the dude with the bowtie is clued in to chasing girls as a hobby over model airplanes...why stay behind in the dark, teen at left?

Teen body dysmorphia, seen from the guy's side! Do you see yourself as more of a Quagmire or more of a James Bond figure? I love that the guy pictured is of course closer to 007, but probably thinks of himself in terms of the other. Also, how did they know my troubles look EXACTLY LIKE THAT. Like a mascot from an eraser company ad, except more surly. "Get outta here troubles! Get!" Trouble: "All right already, I hoid ya the foist time!"

Isn't this how I still enter any home with a second story? Up the stairs at a barreling pace, just like the dingo I know I am at heart? Note that the women in that illustration arbitrarily have legs that diminish into pin-points, but no feet (I want to see the shoes that go with that hat, because that is quite the hat!). In the bottom picture, I feel bad for the little guy on the right. Look at his completely downward turned mouth! Why can't he make the same hit as his more popular counterpart?

And my favorite illustration of did they get wind of my real-life exercise regimen?

Now, to the photograph segment:

The girl on the left had dutch braids AND  a dirdl! She may actually be of Teutonic extraction. What I love about this and all the other photos is how uncommerical they look-- poorly reproduced, not-at-all-staged, and totally of-the-moment! What more could you ask for? Look at all the glass bottle cokes everywhere.

The guy in the knit ducks sweater is KILLING all y'all other kids in the clothing department. Yowza! I love the aspect of introspection that a lot of the text has. It's something I think we can still use as adults-- look at yourself and assess your faults and strengths, and then change accordingly. What could be easier? I love "Are you friendly? If you could meet yourself coming down the street, would you say, 'Now there's a friendly person?' " I wonder!

I really want to go to the kind of school where children play accordions and banjos in the hallway and dressed-to-practice-law-in-the-forties' male instructors stop to take a gander at the ensuing jam session:

Here's a girl literally taking a look at herself. How do you like the hazy cutout around her? Also, give me your neckerchief and your dachshund and no one gets hurt.

I think to this day one of the hardest and yet most useful pieces of advice you can receive is to "be yourself". I can't even imagine trying to tell that to my poor teenage self, yet it's really the SOLE PIECE OF ADVICE that works in almost any situation. By all means, make a good impression and worry about making a good impression-- but do so by presenting your real life, honest-to-Garshen personality, and you pretty much can't lose. I love the expression of the guy in the second panel, after he's gotten comfortable. Why has the girl put her coat back on?

Last but not least, a COMBINATION of photography and illustration-- the only one like it in the whole book, for some reason!

Yeah, supposin' if you do join the camera club! You would get to take a picture of this puppy float, and all I'm saying is, that might be about the coolest thing you get to do in the course of the year. Just sayin'.
Which one of these teen illustrations is your favorite? Did you have a "how to be an adolescent" book when you were in your teenage years that shaped your young mind into what it is today? What piece of advice would you give teenage you with the present benefit of all your worldly experience?

Have a G-R-E-A-T Thanksgiving! I'm taking a day or two off to cook, eat and hibernate (in that order), but I'll see you guys next week (or sooner, if I get bored)!


  1. These are the kinds of text books I LIVE for. I need to scan some pages from a teen hygiene book. You can't beat the mix of whimsical illustrations, camp, and sincerity in these tomes. :D Have a happy Thanksgiving, lady!

  2. i think my favorite is the guy being himself on the couch. that hand behind the head pose really shows relaxation and relatability. i remember watching a movie about what happens when you are a teen, and it was narrated by howie mandell! it was more the pimples and boners kind of advice though. haha, i remember him saying "sticky sheets!" haha, so hilarious to pre teens in school! pretty hilarious still.

  3. I love the glass Coke bottles. My Grams would only drink one Coke a week because Coke gives you pimples.
    But she was an all around girl, though, so people would have liked her anyway.

  4. Carol and I were enjoying your article while at the "periodicals" desk. Thanks for a bright moment!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...