Thursday, March 7, 2019

A Look Back at Life Magazine March 7, 1949

Ever since Gilda retired two months ago our lives have changed in obvious and some not so subtle ways. We no longer wake up before 6 am to get Gilda to work in Manhattan. We often can stay in bed past 9 or even 10 am, and I am talking weekdays! With eight hours or more of sleep I believe my apnea is diminishing. 

I won’t bore you with more details (maybe in another post) except to say that her retirement meant we were able to celebrate my 70th birthday together all day Wednesday. Truly enjoyable. 

But to return to my opening comment about changes to our lives for one more example, Gilda has embarked us on a decluttering crusade worthy of Marie Kondo. Having tackled our attic in pre-retirement mode, she thrust her shovel into the detritus of our children’s former bedrooms and the living room. Marie Kondo says jettison anything that doesn’t give you joy. Of course, that presumes joy is shared, or not, by both partners. As a mild hoarder I can attest that I find more joy in our miscellaneous possessions than Gilda does. 

Which brings me to the central theme of this blog. Gilda wanted to throw out a collectible issue of Life magazine dated March 7, 1949, the day after I was born. Now, I know many people collect facsimiles of a newspaper front page of their birth day, not realizing that the stories reveal what happened the day before their birth. 

Life magazine was a weekly back then. Each issue costs 20 cents; yearly subscriptions $6. 

Leafing through the edition I retrieved from the disposal pile, I paused to read interesting editorial and advertisements as current back then as they are today.  Israel was a topic of debate in 1949, the year after its founding. A letter to the editor from Walter Fried of New York, N.Y., stated “I am glad to see that your attitude toward the new state of Israel has changed” from being against the formation of the new state “or rather you were against the way in which it was formed.”

Turning the page I came across an ad for an Anglia economy car built by Ford in England. What intrigued me was the gas mileage for the 4-cylinder two-door vehicle—up to 40 miles per gallon! Most cars today cannot match that efficiency. 

Bryce Harper just signed a 13-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies for $330 million. It is part of free agent legacy in baseball attributed to the actions of Curt Flood in 1969 and later by Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith in 1975. But how many of you know about Danny Gardella and his 1949 battle to invalidate the reserve clause that bound players to their teams even after their contracts expired? Read more about Gardella’s bid to crack the reserve clause by clicking on this link:

Presidential pique with journalists as well as presidential cussing did not begin with Donald Trump. Or with Harry S. Truman. Life noted his displeasure with Drew Pearson, reporting, “Pearson approached the President face to face after a press conference—and some observers had the impression Truman would gladly have taken a swing at Pearson if a Secret Service man had not moved in.” 

Jim Acosta of CNN, are you paying attention?

Life further noted that Truman used the term “s.o.b.” in public, a rare display of vulgarity by a president back then, but apparently not in the age of Trump. 

A few weeks ago the military was chastised for the poor condition of housing for servicemen and their families. Here’s a headline from Life: “New Army Has a Housing Scandal. It finds that Fort Dix GIs live in shacks and even a chicken coop.”

Inside Life’s 138 pages fashion was presented, as well. The big trend of the day—“Slit skirts, they show a little more leg.” The slits could be from four to nine inches long, in back or up the side of the skirt. 

“The new style has an interesting by-product: under the right conditions of light and motion a spectator can catch a fleeting glimpse of the long-veiled upper calf and knee.” 

Sacré bleu! Can nothing be left to the imagination!?!

With the failed Trump-Kim Jong-un summit in Vietnam fresh in mind, here’s Life’s March 7, 1949, nine page report, “Indo-China: It is rich, beautiful colony which France may lose.”

The prescient series of articles came five years before France withdrew from Vietnam after its defeat at Dien Bien Phu and 26 years before the last American died in a war that took 58,220 U.S. lives and some 3.2 million Vietnamese from the North and South. 

Life ceased weekly publishing in 1972, the year I began my career as a journalist.