Week of February 10, 1947
U.S. Occupation of Germany
Sumo Wrestling in the other occupied country
I was very fortunate to find a set of bound volumes of LIFE Magazine for the year 1947. Since 2004 is just beginning, I thought that it would be appropriate to meander through 1947 one week at a time to see how things have (and haven't) changed in 57 years. By the way -- the bound volumes came from the library of Bridgewater College (in Bridgewater, Virginia...) Can anyone tell us more about this august institution?
We would LOVE to hear from you if you have some observations,ccomments or direct personal experience with any of the subjects treated here. Contact us by clicking here.
Click here to see excerpts from other LIFE magazine issues during 1947
Thanks to Google Books, you can click here to read the entire February 10, 1947 issue of LIFE Magzine. You can look at some of the images that we refer to but cannot post due to copyright.
The February 10 issue had a photo of S/Sgt Everett M. Bennett of Spencer, Va. He was 19 years old at the time and never served in combat, having entered the service after Germany had surrendered. Today Sgt. Bennett was manning an out-of-the way checkpoint. He did not have to put up with suicide bombers.
In 1947, the USA was in the middle of occupying and democratizing both Japan and Germany. In 2004, we have troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, and scads of other places, once again trying to bring the blessings of democracy to former enemies. Things haven't changed that much, have they? Well, there are a lot more similarities. In 2004, we have caught 48 of 55 bad guys; we never even came close to that record in Germany (or Japan for that matter).
The NAPSTER of the 1940s! LIFE previewed an invention called the "Soundmirror" which was a very early audio recording system. The system used paper tape covered with iron oxide; this process was much more economical than the wire recorders that had been developed immediately prior to World War II. This was also the first recording product that was specifically targeted at the home consumer. "A music lover can economically build a huge library of symphonic and jazz recordings equal to that of the best phonograph at about $2.50 for a half hour of music" The system was vehemently opposed by both the phonograph and radio industries. Alas, the system cost about $300 putting it beyond the reach of the masses. Of note, the article stressed the ease with which commercials could be edited (by cut and paste) from a recording. You will be relieved to note that neither the recording nor radio industries died as a result of this technological innovation.
Another step toward the Cold War: World War II started over the territorial integrity of Poland. Hence, the British had a very big interest in keeping Poland out of the Soviet sphere of influence. Since there were "more Poles in Chicago than warsaw", Presidents Roosevelt and Truman also had a big interest in keeping Poland out of Russia's hands. Free elections had been a big part of the ill-fated Yalta conference. In February of 1947, Poland held the "elections" that were required by the agreement, but they were far from "free". Ballot boxes were watched and any opposition was thoroughly intimidated. Alas, the US and Britain were in no position whatsoever to do anything about it. Britain was exhausted and broke, and the people of the US wanted no more foreign wars for a while. Our army was up to its eyeballs trying to occupy Germany and Japan, so we let Poland slip behind what was to be called (very shortly) the "Iron Curtain." It took nearly 40 years for the Poles to get their independence back.
Our occupation of Germany went along in fits and sputters. If you are too young to remember, the victorious allies split Germany into four parts: The British got the West, the French got the highly industrialized Ruhr Valley, The Russiand got the East and the US got the South, principally Bavaria. Goals for the occupation were varied: those who had been conquered by the Nazis wanted an impotent agrarian Germany; the US wanted a neutral self-governing democratic version of the dynamic industrialized Germany before the Nazis. Each of the occupying powers was territorial and for the time being each of the four sectors or "zones" was almost a separate country. The only "universal" in the Germany of 1947 was that the American cigarette was accepted everywhere in lieu of currency.
American goals were to De-nazify and Rebuild, something that we did. 200,000 Nazis were brought to trial, and some 60,000 actually served time. Of course, many of the "big fish" managed to get away, and a few (like Werner Von Braun) were brought to the US to serve our military needs. The Russians did the same. Today, our goals are to "De-Baathize" and Rebuild Iraq. Back in 1947, LIFE took our soldiers of occupation to task, accusing them of inexperience, rowdyism, black marketeering, and excessive levels of VD. (It should be noted that problems with the Occupation would loom large in the 1948 presidential election to come, just as problems in Iraq are probably being maginified in the 2004 election)
LIFE did a little profile of a married couple serving in Germany. Since they were paid in American dollars (Young people take note: American money used to be worth something...), and had access to the PX, they were able to live at a much higher standard than they would have in the US (Nice house, servants, vacations, etc). Similar stories were reported from Japan. This aspect of occupation has not yet emerged in Iraq.
Under the Americans, the arts flourished. LIFE was able to report that the Bavarian State Opera managed to get back in full gear, better than before the war because a whole lot of talent had fled the Russian zone which included a big chunk of Berlin. The land and infrastructure were devastated by the war and the people faced food and coal shortages. LIFE reproduced a cartoon from a German weekly showing Satan shivering in the cold, with a sign on the door to Hell saying "Closed due to the coal shortage." Even with this, basic German ingenuity was coming to the fore and industrial production was beginning to rise especially in the American zone.
LIFE commissioned the eminent historian John Kenneth Galbraith to discuss US Policy in Germany. In 1947, everyone's prime goal was security from Germany. Everyone was scared to death about what a unified Germany armed with atomic weapons might do. Galbreath made one big mistake when he wrote: "While few Americans would relish entering into partnership with Germany, none want it to become part of the Soviet empire." Only a few years later, the US and a reurgent Germany would be major allies and partners (although the US has never given up its military position inside Germany) Germany was a key strategic country in our struggle with Communism, and the US did what it had to do to stay there. Iraq is a key strategic country in the geopolitics of the 21st century; Whether led by Republicans or democrats, the US will stay there, too
There was a lot of interest in reparations or payments from Germany to rebuild the destruction caused by Germany. This was a lot of talk; the need for Germany as a bulwark against Communism meant that the German people could not be alienated by punitive reparations. In fact, the US and Britain rebuilt Germany. The same logic holds in Iraq -- it would be tempting to take the country's oil resource as payment for the War and Terrorism, but the need for the US to have a major footprint in the Mideast will mean that we will eventually rebuild Iraq just like we rebuilt Germany and Japan.
Now it can be told... The Royal Air Force declassified one of the Lesser known facts of World War II Winston Churchill was old and in rotten shape and was advised by his doctors to avoid flying at altitudes above 8,000 feet. In order for him to travel to the far-flung parts of the empire, engineers built him a one man pressure chamber that looked sort of like a big clam shell. He could talk on the phone, sleep, and even smoke his famous cigars.
LIFE went to Mexico to follow some indians on their way to the marketplace in Toluca. These people (men and women) are shown carrying huge burdens some 50 miles -- one photo shows a guy carryng 24 full sized chairs on his back. Many carry over 300 pounds using something called the "Coyote Step" These are remarkable pictures!
In what has to be the most questionable taste ever, opera star Grace Moore and Prince Gustav Adolf of Sweden died in a plane crash. LIFE showed photos of the badly burned corpses. This generated reams of Letters to the Editor.
Sumo wrestling in Japan was profiled. Apparently food shortages had resulted in drastic slimming of some of the big guys and fans were volunteering their meager rations to keep their favorite stars in "shape". LIFE offered an opinion that Sumo was in decline and that the Japanese were adopting "American baseball" instead. While it is true that the Japanese have mastered baseball, probably playing it much better than we do, it is also true that in 2004 Sumo is bigger than ever in Japan.
Rocky Graziano (real name Rocco Barbella) announced that a gambler had offered him $100,000 ($2 million today) to "take a dive". This prompted LIFE to look into sports betting scandals once again (corruption in sports was a favorite theme at LIFE) It seems that fixers were everywhere --- even the Secretary of the Treasury had reported a bribe offer to fix the dail government balance figure that was the basis of the "numbers racket" or the illegal version of today's Power Ball lottery. Amid the hoopla, there is a good picture of Rocky, clad only in shorts, talking on a very nice WE-300 telephone (with cloth cord) just like the one on our Telephone Page. For you vintage clothes enthusiasts, there are also some great pictures of 1940s "Sharp Dressers" taken at Sillman's Gym, said to be the epicenter of the fight fixing racket. Also of note is the picture of one Ida McGuire, a professional contortionist, who was said to have been one of the "inducements" offered to a pair of New York Giants football players. Hollywood couldn't have cast this scandal better. It turns out that Ms. McGuire actually was a Hollywood bit player having appeared in the film Boomerang
Speaking of corruption, Al Capone died in Florida. Yes, Big Al did his time in Alcatraz and was paroled because he was thoroughly brain-damaged from the effects of Tertiary Syphilis; he was 48 years old. Of all things, Senator Andrew J. Volstead who lent his name to the law enacting Prohibition died aon the same day at virtually the same hour; he was 87. LIFE editorialized on both men and provided a fairly accurate account of Capone's rise to fame. The article was very clear that guys like Capone derived their strength from supplying the needs of the public -- and that they could not exist without massive corruption in government. While LIFE correctly saw the corrupting evils of Prohibition, it could never ever make the same connection with Drugs. All in all, this was a very perceptive and fair article. It is accompanied by a photo of Al's brother Ralph bringing four bottles of beer to a group of death-watch reporters waiting outside Capone's Miami house in a spectacular 1938 Oldsmobile Woody station wagon.
Winter was hard upon the US. A 20 inch snowfall buried downtown Milwaukee while an enterprising soldier took a length of rope that had frozen and staged a photo where it looked like an Indian Rope Trick. LIFE was famous for these kinds of pictures...
Author Stefan Lorant developed an interest in Abraham Lincoln while he was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. He emigrated to the US and threw himself into the study of Lincoln's life. By 1947, he was a recognized expert on Lincolnia. The article attempts to use words and photographs to create an intimate personal profile. The article is very well done. LIFE devoted five partial pages to this high class look at Lincoln (i.e. the text took 1/3 of the page while ads were on either side) Contrast this with the review of "Duel in the Sun" below.
Bob Meservey and Patti Hill were married. They did it on skis. Theyt were both, of course, avid skiiers. There is a charming photo of the two exiting the church under an arch made by the poles of fellow skiiers. Patti was an "Ex Powers Model" You will find LOTS of Powers models in the pages of LIFE, since the various photographers who worked for the magazine were acquainted with them from other photo assignments. Publicity in LIFE was sort of one of the perks of being a Powers Girl.
I don't know where this goes or what possessed LIFE to do this, but in conjunction with a couple of quack doctors, they stuck a tube into the stomach of a poor helpless dog and published photos of the stomach in action, including a slow-motion photo of a "belch" I have NO IDEA whatsoever of what kind of mentality thought that this would be in good taste...they even had the bad taste to run this back-to back with a full page ad for Pard dog food.
A regular feature was photo coverage of a celebrity party. This week, LIFE went to Philadelphia to attend a coming out party for Ella Anne Widener. The event was held at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel which was one of the most revered hostelries in the country until its demise in the mid 1980s. The party cost about $100,000 (about $2 mil today). Indeed, the blood was very blue at the party - Vanderbilts, Kents, Wanamkers, Drexels, Biddles, and a variety of less common names like Prince Kyril Scherbatow came, stuffed themselves and emptied the hotel's champagne cellars. The Wideners gave a large library to Harvard, an enormous art collection to the National Gallery and built Hialeah Race Track. How about that!
This week, LIFE focused on actress Ina Claire who was a legendary figure on the stage who brought charm and wit to everything she touched. Beginning with the Ziegfield Follies she made a career of playing strong women who are not afraid to defy convention. She was married three times and was an international fashion plate
LIFE devoted six full ad-free pages to a reveiw of a new film called Duel in the Sun with a heading that began "The low moral tone of Selznick's spectacular and sexy western heads it into trouble with the censors." They compound the "low moral tone" by showing a cheesecake still of Jennifer Jones clad only in a serape showing a little thigh for the high-minded readers of LIFE. Gregory Peck plays a cad who plays a character named "Lewt" who has frequent "hot love scenes" with Jones/ caharacter, but "refuses marriage". Of all things, a corrupt minister is also portrayed. (This was like waving raw meat in front of a hungry lion) The DAR, the American Legion, the Girl Scouts and everyone else came out against the film. Moviegoers flocked to it. It was a real stinker.
Not only did LIFE devote a lot of COLOR photographs to the film ( a real rarity), but they gave a few pages to Selznick's $2 Mil (like $40 mil today..) campaign to publicize the film, including lots of leggy models in tee shirts and the dropping of thousands of little parachutes during the Kentucky Derby with promotional materials. Even the Governor of Texas was induced to declare that "every theater showing the picture was officially a part of Texas and able to fly the Texas Flag". They even had a model go around to newspaper offices to model some of the lingerie used in the film. This certainly was an exercise in bad taste...
While pushing another turkey named I'll be Yours, young actress Joan Fulton took a leaf from Assuntina's photos in the February 3 Issue. In this spread, she shows a lot of leg prortaying common objects ("a jacknife") and colors ("blue"). She isn't hard to look at..
The inside cover is a full page ad for the Kelvinator "automatic cook" electric range. This ad shows a contemporary kitchen with bright red and white plaid wallpaper. The floor is black linoleum with a red accent strip. The housewife is shown enjoying her newfound leisure while feeding a saucer of milk to a cute little white kitten. This is a very bold design statement for the postwar young moderns.
The General Electric company had a full page ad that was a quiz about vacuum cleaners. It turns out that you just could not go wrong buying a GE vacuum, some for less than $50 (that would be $1,000 today! There has been no inflation in vacuum cleaners). Not only that, you got a "special condenser" built in to the mmotor that would prevent static on your radio -- for those who wanted to listen to the radio while vacuuming. (I will be willing to bet that there are readers who have never heard static...
The Bendix Launderette system began to offer coin-operated washers to enable busy women to "shop while they do laundry", extending this privilege to those without the space or resources to own their own washer/dryer machines. Bendix Launderettes were operating in 43 states
The Western Union company was fighting for its life with a full page ad that urged readers to send a telegram to mark a special occasion. Of all things, they made it easy to use the telephone to send a telegram. That is very strange, but there it is in a full page ad. Of note is a little box inset that shows all the nifty microwave towers that were springing up for the purpose of sending telegrams. Yes, that is the same kind of microwave that handles your cell phone. The technology was just getting started, of all things to help a totally obsolete technology (telegraphy) survive for a few years. How about that?
The Book-of-the-Month Club was pushing a beautiful four volume set of "all the comedies and tragedies of Shakespeare", the one indispensible asset of the home library. It was handsomely bound. The selections for this month included two books that are worth reading. "The Egg and I" by Betty MacDonald and "The Hucksters" by Frederick Wakeman. In addition, both books were brought to the screen in excellent films.
It was time for another one of the Kinsey Whiskey calendars that offered 28 good reasons for taking a drink during February of 1947 including Thomas Edison's birthday (Feb 11,1847), the "Maine" tragedy in Havana (Feb 15, 1898) and Groundhog Day.
A very small ad (1/16th page advertised the new Crosley, a compact car that was very, very much ahead of its time. Promising to seat 4 and get 50 MPG, the little Crosley was a very nice car. They were quite well-engineered and looked pretty snappy, much like Crosley's other ventures in plastic radios and appliances. They are very collectible today (like anything with the Crosley name). However, nobody wanted one in 1947.Gillette Blue Blades had one of those well-drawn Frank Williams sports ads, this time celebrating bowler Ned day, who Looked Sharp, Felt Sharp and Was Sharp. During Day's career, he rolled 27 perfect 300 games and in tournament play rolled 33 strikes in a row.
Speed it up! Sunsweet Prune Juice advertised that prune juice was great in the morning an "P.S. it keeps you regular..."
Get the Girl Ads: In a rare "reverse", Fresh deodorant indicated helped the girl catch the boy! The ice-skating whiz "cut no ice with her" until he used Colgate Dental Cream Meanwhile, the Du Barry Success Course promises "more dates and more fun" to folks who took their training in healthcare, make-up and diet; their book "Your Face, Your Figure, Your Future" promised that any young lade could "make herself over", the beginnings of today's zillion dollar self-help industry.
Ladies in Undergarments: Cannon Nylons showed a fully dressed lady (hat and gloves...) adjusting her stockings in public. Gotham Gold Stripe nylons showed a pair of disembodied legs on a pedestal. Trushay Lotion offered a full page ad with cartoons of "Ellie the Eyeful" in her underwear. Clearspun nylons also offered a peek-a-boo photo of a lady in nylons.
Who was Endorsing Pens? This week was the low end of the pen chain -- Wearever was the only pen ad and they were pushing their economy model.
Retire on $150 a month? This month they combined the lure of steady cash with social success. "My daughter marry a bank robber?" begins the headline as jovial Dad (with pipe and smoking jacket) grills the Prospective Son-in-Law about pie in the sky dreams of retiring at age 60. Clearly this was beyond the reach of anyone but a stick-up artist. Then the Phoenix Mutual comes to the rescue. Dad gave his blessing, having assured his daughter's future for the next 40 or so years. No clue to what this guy was smoking in his pipe either...
The article about fashionista Slim Hawks (January 20) generated some comments and revealed that she has 18 pairs of nylons, 18 hats (that she never wears) and 20 nightgowns, but sleeps naked. Very racy!
The article about Claude Marsan, the Gallic lover (January 20) yielded seven letters. One came from a cartoonist who illustrated some rejoinders ("He sings gay ditties while she does the chores", "She asks for money to buy shoes and he admires her lipstick.") Five others were from American husbands in various states of anger. The last was from a bachelor who wrote: "Read your article on Friday afternoon. Had a date on Friday night. Thanks."
The back cover is one of those glorious Coke ads featuring happy, All-American teenagers having sitting at the local soda fountain, conveniently decorated with appropriate pennants. "Everybody's club - admission 5 Cents..." Wonderfully clean and scrubbed teenagers are shown having the time of their lives listening to a portable radio while sipping a Coke. (One especially cute redhead is actually showing just enough thigh to catch the attention of male readers... This ad went out of its way to make sure that you did not confuse Coca Cola with a controlled substance. The ad says:
Coke = Coca Cola
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