Sam Bauman: Magazines are a colorful trip through past
June 24, 2013
Seniors know well how sometimes a “time capsule” will be opened in their lives. It could be an old movie on late-night TV, or a song from the 1960s on a Sunday night PBS program. I recently came upon a dozen or so old magazines from my niece in South Lake Tahoe, magazines her late father had collected over the years. All are collector items.
One was a book-like magazine by Wendall Willkie, GOP candidate for president against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He lost, obviously, but FDR asked him to make a swing around the world and report on what he discovered. The magazine is titled “One World,” and in it Willkie (I always thought it was Wilkie) writes of meetings with dignitaries such as Briton Gen. Bernard Montgomery, who was busily defeating Rommel’s Afrika Korps in Egypt. Willkie finds him a determined Empire defender.
He meets Soviet leader Josef Stalin and is treated royally, and talks with Russians about economic systems without rancor. Stalin comes across as a stern but easygoing uncle.
Willkie made the tour in a refurbished B-24 bomber during World War II. He was joined by several military types as well as an experienced foreign correspondent.
Surprising thing is how Willkie writes about how American imperialism is a danger to the world, and he touches on racism in the U.S. Nobody was talking about Jim Crow in those days, certainly not in Congress.
Much of what he writes would not get him nominated as dog catcher by today’s GOP. I remember Willkie well from childhood headlines but knew little about him other than that my father had voted for him.
Then there’s Eve, a magazine “for the woman of 1958,” and it was mild in its approach to sexism. No women’s lib here and very mild in urging women to become pols.
Liberty magazine I remember quite well; I tried to sell subscriptions at one time. The copy I got was from summer 1971, with H.G. Wells writing about how America would be 50 years from 1971. He wasn’t very astute in his predictions. But consider the writers in this issue: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Benchley, Mae West, H.L. Mencken, Benny Goodman, G.B. Shaw, Leon Trotsky, Greta Garbo, Mahatma Gandhi (on his sex life!), Benito Mussolini, Shirley Temple.
A really different magazine that some seniors might remember (no confessions, please) was Intimate Detective. It was lurid but not very intimate and featured an “exclusive” article, “My Life With Winnie Ruth Judd.” Only seniors would remember the story of Miss Judd.
Show magazine hit home for me; I remember in my acting phase how I would read all about the New York theater by such as Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Al Capp, Virgil Thompson. This was an October 1961 edition, and it included a piece on Monica Vitti. That really brought back the past. I had spent a week on the island of Ischia off Naples, where Vittorio de Sica was filming and Vitti was visiting. We talked and I included her in the article I wrote. Such were the days.
Another page from the past was Status magazine, edited by Igor Cassini, whom I had interviewed in Europe once. Inside was an article by James Baldwin, another tie-in. He worked for the European Stars and Stripes a year before I did.
Finally, there were two Life magazines. One was slugged Extra, New York Edition, newsstand only. It was created in a hurry to bridge the gap when all New York newspaper printers went on strike in December 1962. There were 11 newspapers in NYC then.
The other Life was slugged The Year in Pictures 1972. Pictures were what Life did best, and the editors sure did in this edition. Included were photos of President Richard Nixon in China and the USSR, and a note to subscribers telling them that they would get a letter advising them on what credit they would get given that Life was ceasing publication.
There was a time in the United States when many homes had a stack of National Geographic magazines stored in the attic. Most seniors will recall those days, and maybe how sometimes as kids we would go to the attic to leaf through those world expeditions, including the topless natives from wherever.