Week of March 24, 1947
Beyond the Arctic Circle
The Far North,Unions and The Family
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 March 24, 1947 issue of LIFE Magzine. You can look at some of the images that we refer to but cannot post due to copyright.
The March 24 cover showed a 3 year old Eskimo boy dressed for 40 below zero weather in the Colville River Delta of Alaska. The photo was part of a story about the two year trip above the Arctic Circle made by Harmon and Constance Helmericks who spent their time trudging, skiing and paddling their way through some amazing real estate to produce a coffee table book We Live in the Arctic. They reported that this young man had never been spanked because Eskimos believe that he is the reincarnation of a departed soul, perhaps a friend who would "take it most unkindly if someone were to paddle his caribou-skin padded bottom." LIFE was noted for cultural sensitivity.
The Helmericks went on to write a large number of books about Alaska. In 1972, Harmon wrote a well-received book called "The Last of the Bush Pilots" that celebrated a time and place that was rapidly being displaced by the advance of technology. In 1973, I was a young engineer charged with gathering information about a proposed dam on the Susitna river. I had a fairly grizzled old bush pilot who flew our Cessna floatplane into the most remote areas. Later, in 1987, I returned to the area while I was working on an oilfield development for the Cook Inlet Resources Inc. group that was an umbrella business organization for a number of Native American tribes. I was flown into many of the same areas, but this time we used a helicopter.
"What's Wrong With Marriage Today" screamed the LIFE editiorial for March 24, 1947. Numerous professors and pundits were quoted to assert that "every day our middle class family system has reached its maximum demoralization...if left alone, the family system will break up entirely by the end of the Century." AND this was in 1947 -- a full ten years BEFORE "Leave it to Beaver!"
What were the problems --- in 1947
An un-named sociologist ventured an opinion that a "wholesome family" was a permanent pair of parents withat least three children." Solutions to the "crisis" ranged from draconian divorce laws to tax incentives for the family. LIFE never missed an opportunity to add religion was to the mix. Please see our review of "The Best Years" in or Book section for some amusing details on the Divorce problem. Note, however that many of the concerns expressed in 1947 had vaguely anti-communist themes.
The "Baby Boom" certainly shot argument #2 to bits (possibly due, in part, to argument #3.)
Did the family survive until the turn of the century? In March of 2004, the papers and TV were FULL of stories about large numbers of people crowding the marriage license bureaus and waiting in the rain to get married and adopt kids. A substantial number of them even wanted to join the army. However, in 2004 large numbers of ministers and lawyers were actively trying stop these people from getting married, adopting kids and joining the army! The Family is still a going concern, and it will probably survive for at least a century more.
"Speaking of Pictures" was a regular feature that showed off the tricks of the photographer and recorded images that were noteworthy -- or at least were good material for casual conversation. This week, we were treated to a photo essay on Lucky, a mixed breed dog owned by an ex-boxer named Roy Newman. It seems that Lucky had a lot of skills. He could jump rope in time with his master (and was caught doing so by the stroboscopic flash of photographer Wallace Kirkland. Lucky could also balance a full shotglass on his nose and climb onto a chair without spilling a drop. Not content to perform with hard liquor, Lucky repeated the stunt with a Coke bottle balanced on his nose. He could also balance a ball on his tail and then flip it up and catch it. Our dog Sophie does none of these tricks.
The Books on World War II were slowly being closed. Italy was one of the aggressors and was punished by losing some territory. The former city of Pola on the Istrian peninsula near Trieste was turned over to Yugoslavia. Italian natives -- about 27,000 of them --- migrated back to Italy rather than submit to the Yugoslavs. They could only take what they could carry. On the other hand, this was not exactly unprecedented -- the peninsula had changed hands four times in the past 150 years. After a lot of twists and turns, the city is now called "Pula" and is part of the republic of Croatia.
At home, President Truman, just returned from Mexico, gave a speech to a joint session of Congress on the state of the World. Here is a Transcript of the Speech" which you should read. This became the famous Truman Doctrine that stated that the US would intervene wherever necessary "to support free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." Thus formally began the Cold War and our turn to clean up after the British. The events began with financial and military aid to Greece (remember that funny little Civil War reported in the January 6 Issue?) Meanwhile, in Russia, George Marshall the new Secretary of State was met with an "ominous rumble of protest." The die was cast and a vast drama was acted out all over the world, ending in Berlin in 1989. It is a miracle that we were not incinerated in a nuclear furnace. And it was all just to preserve the remnants of the British empire. What a silly waste.
LIFE also focused on the brilliant Huxley brothers. Julian, the older had just been elected director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and had finall attained a measure of prominence over his younger brother Aldous, the author of Point Counter Point. This is a tale of a family steeped in genius and achievement. They were the product of British class and culture that had a tradition of fostering and forcing intellectual brilliance. They grew up in the shadow of their grandfather, the eminent biologist Thomas Huxley who fervently promoted the doctrine of evolution. (Possibly some of this class structure influenced Aldous when he wrote Brave New World.) Julian planned to devote his service to UNESCO to: "Attack illiteracy, reconcile the philosophies of Communism and Capitalism, and promote the study of Psychoanalysis." (If he had added "I'm a people person," he could have qualified as Miss America as well...) Julian went on to found a school of humanist thinking called the noosphere If you can understand this business, please write and explain it to me.
Brother Aldous was slipping away from the biting social satire ("The sacred Ford chose to be called Freud when he spoke of the mind...") of Brave New World into an unusual form of mysticism, having recently been converted to vedanta, an "obscure Hindu sect" under the direction of Sawmi Prabhavananda. In 1965, the Beatles followed in his footsteps with the Mahreshi, another prophet of Vedanta. "I am he and you are we and they are us together" and "..goo goo goo joob." For some reason, rich Brits always go native when they hit India -- while at the same time using their military might to force the Indians to take tea at four?
Most people lok at the Huxleys and say "Brilliant" which sort of comes out "Brill-yawnt". All I can say is here are two rich, smart guys and the sum of their life and experience is the "noosphere" and "levitation through meditation." Forgive my lack of intellectualism, but I really have a whole lot more sympathy with the Union guys who slugged it out with company goons... and for all the simple guys who had to fight in Korea and Vietnam just because the rich, sophisticated Brits ran away from their world commitments and handed them over to dumb old Uncle Sam.
Labor's "communists" came under fire. The issue was the election of officers for the United Auto Workers Local 600, which at 100,000 strong was the largest such local in the country, representing all the Ford workers in Detroit. The problem seemed to be that some of the leaders running for election were "Communists." Similarly in the C.I.O.'s Mine, Mill & Smelter Union, 49 locals had seceded because of "communist leadership." There was even a photo of an anti-communist candidate dressed up as Stalin to protest the "strings that tie us to Moscow." Things must have been very bad, for LIFE wrote," Although the busy agents of the Communist party seemed to be in trouble in the labor field, only an incurable optimist would predict the end of their influence. At the moment, they control at least 10 big C.I.O. unions with a total membership of 1,250,000."
What followed was a close look at the Local 600 election, with photos and interviews with each camp. The "Commies" were not the least bit shy and let LIFE's photographers in to see what was going on. The fellow in the "Stalin" suit had accused Local 600 president Tommy Thompson of being a "commie", but LIFE printed a qualification, "Tommy Thpompson who, tho no Communist, got his $5,000/yr job by catering to leftists." In general, the accusations were long on Red influence, but short on actual Party Members.
The next page was a photo montage of union leaders from around the country with vague allegations about their "Red" ties. None of the people shown were actual real live card-carrying Communists. Many of them had vaguely foreign sounding names. Of note was Herbert Sorrell leader of the Hollywood studio unions. We have been following a regular series of articles on efforts to break these unions.
And, while the Commies schemed for leadership in the Detroit union, Big George McNear was shot down in front of his home in Peoria, Illinois. Mr. McNear was the tough-minded tough talking owner of the Toledo, peoria & Western Railroad who had built up the line from "two streaks of rust." Big George was a tireless campaigner against union work rules that were popularly called "featherbedding." His fighting with the union led to seizure of his railroad by the Federal government during the War (he refused arbitration and the Army ran the railroad to keep up defense shipments). After the war, he hired strikebreakers and tried to break the picket line with an armored gondola filled with goons; two strikers were killed and more were wounded. McNear caught two slugs from a sawed off shotgun. It must have been Commies...
I have always held that the real purpose of the McCarthyist "red Scare" terrorism was strictly to break the unions. The "accomodationist" unions that conspired with management were the trend of the future.
The celebrated Black Dahlia case was in the news. Elizabeth Short, a woman of questionable virtue, had been found murdered. Actually, she had been killed and then cut in half and then both pieces of her body had been unceremoniously dumped in a vacant lot in a seedy neighborhood of Los Angeles. The police were without clues in the murder. This week, LIFE focused on all the nut-cases that came in to confess to the murder. Also, a number of landlords reported problem tenants, hoping to evict them. The case of the Black Dahlia was never solved, and is the subject of interminable documentaries on the History Channel
LIFE's feature article was on Taxes. It was March 24 and folks all around the country were getting ready to file their taxes. A federal return was due if you earned more than $500 -- and there were 57 million Americans who had to file. In 1938, only 3.5 million Americans paid taxes and the total Federal revenue was $6 Billion (a lot less than the public school budget for DC today) In 1947, the total tax take was up to $39 Billion, with a littlle bitty $200 mil surplus. There was a photo montage showing "4000 years of Taxes" that illustrated the various taxes and tax rebels that had made history. There was, of course the obligatory cartoon of John Q. Public walking around naked, covered only by a barrel. In 1947, 68% of the taxpayers made less than $2,500 (per year), while only 0.02% (that's two one-hundredths of a percent) made over $100,000. Individuals paid about $18.4 bil while corporations paid $7.1 bil. The biggest item of expense was national defense at $11.6 bil; next largest were Veteran's Benefits at $7.3 bil; third in line was interest on the national debt at $5.0 bil. Social security was way down there at $1.6 bil. Things sure have changed!
Ben Hogan, the Tiger Woods of the 1940s was not particularly tall (5' 8") but he was a giant on the golf course. He was the master of the smooth game from drive through putt; he made every game a mental exercise, weighing all the factors of club, wind, and the height of the grass. In 1946, he won $42,000 and was on his way to winning $75,000 in 1947. His major worry was one that still plagues golfers today. For some unknown reason, even the best, most scientific golfers go stale and can't do squat. LIFE assigned a photographer with a strobe light to photograph the famous Hogan Swing in stop-motion. In 1949, Hogan was nearly killed in a car accident, but recovered to make a spectacular comeback. Ben Hogan passed away in 1997.
The residents of Porterville, California, 170 miles north of Los Angeles started their very own radio station. Armed with a FCC license, the citizens began radio station KTIP (the initials stand for "This Is Portersville"). The station featured no big network programs and featured "Porterville Roundtable" a show on local politics and civic affairs, the "Children's Corner" in which a lady acts out fairy tales playing all the parts herself. The "Tip Top Spot" featured popular teenage music. The station had a rnge of about 60 miles. A special favorite wre the frost warnings broadcast to orange grove owners who could set out smudge pots to protect their crops. A program called "Coffee Call" featured drugstore inteviews, but was cancelled whe a waitress accidentally "cussed" on the air (shades of the Superbowl "Wardrobe Malfunction"). There ws a nice photo of kids listening to the "Tip Top Spot" which sent them into a "fevered frenzy of jitterbugging." [This must have been the basis for the plot of the film "UHF."]
By the way, the motto of the City of Portersville (At the Heart of the Most Diversified Agricultural base in the World) is "The Good Life". Today, the initials "TIP" stand for "Talk is Power" and the station is owned by the Mayberry Chain. The folks character hasn't changed much -- the station's web page was featuring photos from the opening of a supermarket.
The Northrup Flying Wing was an advanced aviation concept that offered great promise as a long-range delivery system for the Atom Bomb. The ancestor of today's Stealth Aircraft, the Wing had virtually no radar signature and it had about three times the range of the B-29. Needless to say, it was Top Secret. In the July 8,1946 issue, LIFE printed some photos of the Flying Wing. A clever fellow named Edward Sharp took a look at the photos and made an exact scale flying model of the Wing, accurate down to the retractable landing gear. The Air Force was stunned by his achievement and offered him a look at the real thing. Something very similar happened when the first Stealth Fighter was shown to the public.
A regular feature was photo coverage of a party. This week, LIFE went to Oyster Bay High School (Long Island, NY) when students staged a "Roman Banquet" as part of their Latin Class. The festivities included slave girls, roast pig, gladiators and jugglers. By drawing lots, 29 "guests" were selected and the rest of the class got to be "slaves". The class even rehearsed the conversation for the dinner -- in Latin.
LIFE visted the Palm Springs home of noted designer Raymond Loewy. (Observant readers will note that Mr. Loewy had designed the Coral gables, FL War Memorial Youth Center that was featured on the cover of the March 17 Issue) Mr. Lowey's house was designed as the ultimate getaway -- it could be maintained by only one servant. He made very good use of the desert setting, creating the house around five large boulders on the site. The centerpiece of the house was a big swimming pool. Mr. Loewy and his guests are shown frolicking in the water, with lots of cheescake photos of some of the lovely ladies taking advantage of the water. At night, the guests donned evening clothes to socialize around the pool. The house called tierra caliente is still there and it is a historical monument.
Terra Caliente, Mr. Loewy's house in Palm Springs
In 1971, I had the very great pleasure of visiting Mr. Loewy at this house and swimming a lap in the famous pool.
Christian Dior, yes the real, original Dior had his very first fashion show in Paris. This was a very dignified event, in which he showed 94 gowns, dresses and suits that were scooped up by the buyers almost as soon as the models made their way onto the runway. Dior's motto was: "No fashion is ever successful unless it can be used as an instrument of seduction." This year, his designs were based on "The Figure 8" (with sharply fitted waist and curves) or "The Inverted Flower" with a peplum about half as long as a floor-length skirt. All of these dresses had three quarter length sleeves, something that was not seen in day-to-day ready-to-wear fashion in the US until the 1950s. So, much of the look that seems to say "1950s" or "June Cleaver" is actually high fashion of 1947. Of note, Quali-Craft Shoes must have paid a bundle for a full-page ad just opposite the Dior article; their slogan was "The world of fashion at your feet."
The feature film of the week was Boomerang starring Dana Andrews. This is a very good mystery that is based on a true story about the efforts of a courageous district attorney saves an innocent man from being railroaded for a murder that he did not commit. The real story took place in Bridgeport, Connecticut and the good guy DA was Homer S. Cummings, who became FDR's Attorney General. This film was made entirely in Stamford, Connecticut and used local residents as extras. The story is a fairly scathing indictment of the local police who use high pressure "third degree" tactics to extract a false confession. The DA puts his career in jeopardy when he asks for a "not guilty" verdict. In the end, scientific analysis and some clever coutroom tactics save the innocent man. (Bridgeport was still too embarassed to cooperate with the picture.) Trivia note: one of the suspects in the "police lineup" scene is Stamford resident Arthur Miller, second husband of Marily Monroe.
Ads for the following films were run:
Studebaker had a nice ad for the 1947 "Starlite". This week, they were pushing "the craftsmanship you can trust in every postwar Studebaker." The ad showed a father and son team working together on a crankshaft. They were Stanley Lipowski and his son Stanley Jr. The point of the ad was that Studebaker had a lot of experience and the cars were made by family men who could be trusted to make a good car, "home owning, home-loving friendly townspeople." Presumably this was in contrast to the unionized dregs-of-society who made all the other cars...
Cheerios the breakfast cereal was offering a pair of Real U.S. Army Goggles if you bought two boxes of the stuff. from the photo, they look like really cheap plastic safety glasses, although they are touted to be "just like the GIs wore in combat, made of shatterproof plastic." For a very brief time in the 1940s, "genuine plastic" was a good thing. This did not last very long...
The RCA Corporation was pushing FM Radio they said "It's as though the orchestra were right in the room with you and the roo suspended in the silence of space." And, they had a picture showing Mom and Sis sitting in an armchair somewhere near the Crab Nebula looking at their console radio. This was really swell, but RCA neglected to tell the readers how it had suppressed FM technology and had bankrupted Dr. Armstrong, the real inventor of FM. This wonderful technology was available 17 years before 1947 --- RCA had just waited for Armstrong's patents to expire. This is a special cheap shot...
Jerry Colonna, a regular on the Bob Hope Show, was known for his trademark walrus moustache and wide open saucer-sized eyes. This week, he was pushing lightbulbs for the General Electric Company This was among the first of the "Bulbsnatchers" ads. In order to sell more lightbulbs, GE tried to make it a crime (or at least a social faux pas) if you didn't have a lot of spare lightbulbs in the house. A "bulbsnatcher" was someone who robbed one light socket to fill another. There were dire warnings that someone might even slip and fall if light from the empty socket failed to guide them. The "bulbsnatcher" campaign lasted until the late 1960s. It must have worked. A 100 watt bulb cost 15 cents back in 1947. They cost about 40 cents today, so they have not been affected by inflation, or rather manufacturing efficiencies have kept the cost of bulbs down. That 15 cents would be worth about $3.00 for most goods and services today, so GE was making a whole lot of profit on every extra bulb that was purchased to avoid the "bulbsnatcher" opprobrium.
Techron, a pioneering manufacturer of electric clocks offered a very nicely styled "luminous" model that glowed in the dark. This technology used phosphors, not radium based paint like some "glow in the dark" clocks of the 1920s and 1930s.
Speed it Up!: Sunsweet Prune Juice advertised itself as "A.M. Bliss in a Glass."
Get the Girl Ads: This month Colgate had another failed suitor talking to the girl's kid brother. He says "I'm the guy your sister no's"
Ladies in Undergarments: Gotham Gold Stripe Nylons was back with a pair of their dismbodied legs on a pedestal. Quest-shon Mark Bras, pushing the "bullet bras" that were favored by the new "sweater girl" look said, said "Every Quest-shon Mark Bra keeps its form - and yours lastingly beautiful" Clearspun Nylons offered us a drawing of a lady who was sitting on a stool at a soda fountain coyly revealing the tops of her stockings. Just the thing for the avid girlwatcher... and this in a magazine concerned about morality! tsk tsk
The B.F. Goodrich Company and the Hood Rubber Company jointly introduced a new line of canvas and rubber shoes called the Posture-Foundation or "P-F" line. Thus was born the legendary "P-F Flyer" that set the stage for today's sneaker-based economy.
Who was Endorsing Pens? The Wearever corporation introduced the "Marlboro" model with a 14 karat nib and a matching pencil.
Retire on $150 a month? This week, the Mutual Life Insurance Company had "Bill", a pipe smoking everyman talking with Mr. Meecham, the local grocer. Bill wanted to buy firecrackers in March to declare his own Financial Independence Day because he had just bought an annuity from Mutual Life. Good old Mr. Meecham regretted that he had not prepared for "old age". He was condemned to be a grocer!
There were quite a few letters about the article on The Renaissance in the March 3 Issue. Many were from academics and the University of Tulsa, the University of Portland and the Hagerstown Museum of Fine Arts. All in all, there were 20 letters on the subject. Or, let us say, LIFE published 20 letters on the subject.
The back cover was an ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes that had been run on several occasions before.
The "Farmer" ad for Luckies
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