Friday, December 14, 2012

Photo Friday: Theta! Omega! Ra, Ra, Ra! Edition (Vintage sorority scrapbook, 1950's)

Good morning!

Yesterday, I was doing my usual wistful Craigslist fantasy shopping when I ran across a photo that caught my eye at the image preview to the left of the listing for vintage scrapbooks of sorority paraphernalia. Nashville interest, fifties', a;;-American lookin' gals in OH MY GOD THEY'RE SO CUTE swimsuits, perched on what appears to be a mid century Chevrolet, the kind with the fins that made them look they were more suitable to moon than highway travel. Ay yi YI. In spite of the photo-of-a-photo glare on the image, I was intrigued!

The accompanying ad read like this (could you actually hear the air go out of the tires in my dream Chevrolet as I see the $3000 price tag?) :

Here's where the grandaddy cussing starts: "I ain't got no DADBLAMED THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS, what in the HELL do they want that much money for it anyway for a cotton-pickin' picture album, they musta done LOST their MINDS." Of course, when you think of it on a purely photo-by-photo basis, based on the description, $3,000 is probably fine. Also, it's sorority and Nashville-history based, so again, cash register sounds are not inappropriate. However, coming from the world of digging photo albums out of moldering bookshelves in dusty attics where such an item might cost $25, and that's a high-as-the-ceiling price estate sale wise, I was understandably a little shell shocked. And hearbroken. How much fun would I have going through all these photos?

As I'm trying to be more positive about things lately and resist that devil, naysaying, negative little mind of mine as a kind of pre-New-Years'-New-Years'-Resolution....instead of eating my little heart out and gnashing at my knuckles in frustration, I'm going to instead be thankful that the seller posted a bunch of sample photos on his ad. Jubilation! Let's get a look at them while we can, huh?

I guess a lot of what you would do in 1950's Nashville in the summer was go swimming! This may be down at one of the community pools or it may be at a country club (it is a sorority, after all)...what I do know is these swimming suits do not stop being adorable. And look at how tiny their little pre-Big Mac bodies are. These are the figures for which all those 24'' waist chiffon gowns I can't even get over my neck must have suited in their original use!

Now I love photographs, and I love ephemera  but the one thing I love more than either individual photographs or ephemera? THE TWO TOGETHER. My very most prized possession, vintage-wise, above all my clothes and hats and books and records (I know, I know, it's hard to imagine the concept of me loving something more than my clothes and hats and books and records, but bear with me), is a "Girl's Commencement Album" that I bought in 2003 upon graduation from high school. Did I tell you this before? It's filled cover to cover with photos, mementos, autographs, and sardonic little collages by Grace Peterson, an extremely tall, Teutonic looking gal (ring any bells?) who graduated high school in Minnesota in 1918. The book is a kind of history of her senior year, with scratched out photos of old boyfriends, a menu from an Edwardian Chinese restaurant in Minneapolis (??), ticket stubs from the theater (and a silent Doug Fairbanks, Sr. movie program!), even the stub of a Camel cigarette of a boy she had a crush on. It's just like magic being able to see that intimately into someone's very vibrant life, at a time which seems so remote and distant from our twenty-first century world.

Party invitations? Don't mind if I do. Doesn't this look like a sketch from forties' Harper's Bazaar?

Think of all the material here! You could actually write a little book about it. Here are some note-cards and scribbles from the ladies of Theta Omega; again, in terms of ephemera, how cool is it to have all these meticulously saved, formal stationery correspondence from the sisters of the group and back again? In my 1918 book, one of the best pieces was an envelope taped onto one page, which was labelled "the fatal letter". Inside was a card from a former boyfriend about his life in a new town, ending with something like "maybe we can visit each other some time if we can do it without fighting, but I guess we can". How personal! The giddy little vintage voyeur in me was tickled pink. I wonder what these notes say!

Look at their formal dresses! Oh, do not look away! I'm dying over the hoop-skirt looking confection in the middle on the left, and the black evening gown a dress or two to that center lady's right. Ah!

What do we address first, the "don't be a square" sign, or the undeniable pertness of the tiny beanie hats the girls are wearing with the first initial of their sorority proudly stitched at the top? How about that third girl from the left's spit curls? Please note that they are once again at the pool (see the water just behind them?).

"Here's to us, Gail! Here's to us!" say the girls in unison, toasting themselves in front of their little beaux, the one on the right of which looks like a more slick Steven Weber from Wings.

I think the sign in this picture pretty much speaks for itself. AND AGAIN WITH THE SWIMMING POOL.

I tried to figure out if Tommy Knowles was a crooner of any repute, but I'll settle for his cool looking microphone and his great, great hair in the absence of any Google info about him. See the assembled girls' beaming expressions?

Southern belles..I am impressed by the sheer froth of those gorgeous skirts. You know they looked just like camellias floating across a dance floor that evening.

Who's gettin' married! One of the sorority sisters, I guess! These books have everything!

Best for last...not only "Go theta".... do you see the sign? "The Long and Short of It" features a dachshund little guy in the middle of it. I give up! I wanna pledge! Too bad it looks like the gal group isn't still around. If you know any different though, do tell me when RUSH week is!

Were you ever in a fraternity or sorority? They were a big deal at the University of Tennessee campus during my tenure there, but I wasn't ever interested. The closest I got to Greek life was a Tau house party, the location of which (their frat house), was eventually reclaimed by the university to be repurposed as a student life center and advising location. I was like "I drank beer in their basement once!" whenever I subsequently passed it.

Which sorority picture do you think looks like the most fun? Is $3,000 crazy cuckoo nuts for a price tag, or can you see the wisdom in it? See the original ad while it's still up.

That's all for this week-- thanks for being such good readers and commenting when you can! I really get a kick out of your take on the photos and clippings I end up posting here. Have a GREAT weekend and I'll see you on Monday!


  1. What an incredible collection! Yeah, I think that $3000 is waaaaay too much for those - maybe a few hundred? They're really cool though.

    1. Right? I was thinking that was sky high, but then if you priced the pictures individually...BUT STILL. One less zero, and then divided by three, and I'd be all in! haha

  2. Girl, $3,000 is crazy on the half-shell. Puts me in mind of the $3,000 Hoosier cabinet in the booth around the corner from my booth at the antique mall (not even slightly a good example of a Hoosier, either). I just...I don't even know! The pictures ARE super-cool, though...and you are right about pre-Big Mac times. Sheesh. It is a big change to see groups of young folks from then compared to now. Also, these pictures make me want to go to an awesome pool party where everyone wears killer 1950's swimsuits. Except I bought a repro Esther Williams swimsuit a few years back and it was lined with the boning inside...and when it got wet, it weighed about 35 lbs and took three days to dry. Worst swimsuit ever.

    As for sororities, I was a member of one at Trinity University in San Antonio. And thanks to Facebook, I'm still in contact with all my sisters even though we are old now. Sororities are corny and a pain-in-the-ass, time and money-wise, but your friends there really are forever.

    1. Oh wow! I saw those EW swimsuits online and almost got one last year, but the website was so weird and out-of-date I was worried about what I would actually get once I sank the money in. I bet it looked cool pre-getting-wet, though (which...I guess defeats the purpose of the swimsuit, but still). How neat that you're still pals with your sorority sisters! After looking at these pictures, I kinda wonder what all fun I missed by not trying out for one.

  3. Positivity is definitely a good thing! But this price tag does smack of craziness -- what kind of person with $3000 to spend on historical paraphernalia looks to Craigslist for the thing to spend it on?! But the preview pics do make it look pretty darn fantastic, I'll give you that. The sisters in their formal gowns! Frothy for sure. :)

    1. Can you imagine trying to fit through a doorway (or, even worse, into your date's souped up coupe) in those skirts, though? Where there's a will, there's a way!

  4. Wow that is seriously amazing...though wow, quite the price tag. Maybe some crazy person will come along and purchase it.


    1. I hope when said crazy person gets a hold of it, they let me look at the rest! Two feet by two and a half feet big...who knows what all other stuff is in there?

  5. oh wow, i'm so glad you snagged the pics and posted about them because those books rule! but yea, 3000 is CRAZY! I think I paid almost 50 total for my three ethel smith albums with her trips around the country (maps and diary and labled pictures and all!) and i knew that was high. But i had t have them! i would LOVE to flip though those books! I wonder what he would charge for an afternoon of flipping through.

    1. I think those albums you got, though, are FAN.TASTIC. Sometimes you have to pull the trigger when it's that once-in-a-season estate sale find! We should ask him what the hourly rate is-- I just want a peek!


  6. $3000? Completely insane.



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