A window into yesterday, today


My oh my, how things have changed. And while that is something we all know, it always is a bit of a shocker to see the evidence of just how much things have changed.

My uncle sent one of those emails to me the other day, you know the ones – they make you laugh or think and you send them on to all your email friends to share the laughter, or the thought-provoking whatever, with them.

This particular email contained old ads. Some made me laugh and some made me think that things have changed so much since whatever was being advertised at the time. Some of those advertisements would today have all kinds of organizations and citizens up in arms and someone likely facing some charges.

For instance, there were three cigarette ads in this email. The Lucky Strike ad prompted women to smoke to maintain a slender figure.

“Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet,” it read.

The other cigarette ad has Santa Claus puffing away on a Pall Mall. The caption was “guard against throat scratch,” whatever that is.

The third ad’s cigarettes were to treat “asthma, hay fever, foul breath, all diseases of the throat, head colds, canker sours, bronchial irritations.” And while this cigarette seems to be quite the cure for a number of ailments, it is only for those over the age of 6 years old, according to a recommendation at the bottom of the advertisement.

Another ad, sporting a gal in a swimsuit, says she gets all the dates she wants now that she is no longer “skinny.” Apparently, she put on 10 pounds and that made all the difference, and she did it “this new, easy way” (Shoot, putting on 10 pounds is super easy, if you ask me. I could do that in a day without even trying.) By the way, that “new, easy way” of putting on “beauty-bringing pounds” and gaining clear skin and “pep” was with an ironized yeast product.

I have a nice vacuum cleaner at home. We’ve had it for 12 or 13 years and it does its job well. When we bought it, I didn’t moon over it. It’s a vacuum, not made out of chocolate or anything. And my husband is a lucky fellow that he didn’t try to pass this vacuum off as a gift for me. That, I can tell you with absolute certainty, would not have ended prettily for him.

But there’s an ad for a Hoover. A pretty brunette is laying on the floor in her voluptuous dressing gown and with a very pleased look on her face as she reads the card attached to the Hoover (with a pretty green bow), presumably from her dearly beloved.

Another ad shows a husband with a measuring tape taking the length of his wife’s leg. The caption on the ad reads, “How to measure your wife for an ironing table.”

Um, did any of that EVER really happen? Were wives really so eager to get these housekeeping items?

I realize ads such as these are likely more the product of a male-dominated society than any real joy for housekeeping. It was a very different time, and it was a time when most women were housewives. Things have changed there, but only in that women still typically perform the same duties at home and go out and earn a paycheck, too.

That, perhaps, is for another column.

But on one more thing relating to the perception of women by society, a Del Monte Ketchup bottle and a woman looking surprised is another ad. The caption here is a real winner: “You mean a woman can open it?”

And the Coca-Cola ads, all probably from the times when this magic elixir contained actual cocaine, are scattered through the email. At least I have always heard it once contained cocaine. It was the cure all, you know.

Supporting that theory, one of the ads is selling cocaine toothache drops.

A maternity corset is featured in another advertisement. A what? I cannot even fathom the reasoning behind that one.

The ad is filled with fine print much too small for my eyes to make out, but the sub headlines say things like “Conceals Condition” and “Childbirth Almost Painless.”

That last one made me laugh out loud.

It is always interesting to look back on things like this and to make the subsequent connections to modernity.

Those ads, simple as they are (alarming, hilarious, etc.), are a window into yesterday, and even into today.

Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.


By Angela Shepherd

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