It was a breezy fall day. My chores were done. I had some free time.
Having moved our box of old magazines when I swept the garage, I wondered what people were thinking, and reading, this time some years ago. I looked through the magazines until I came across the Oct. 19, 1965 Look magazine, almost exactly 52 years ago. I was 12 years old then, a sixth-grader in Mrs. Lake’s class. Dad would have been newly 36 years old, Mom 33, my sister Anne 9.
The Look cover announced the highlights of the 170-page weekly magazine. “Kennedy: The final chapter of Sorensen’s great book,” “Peyton Place: Tales of the TV town where virtue triumphs,” and the lead article: “THE TENTH ANNUAL PREVIEW: THE 1966 MODELS IN COLOR.”
Letters to the Editor discussed prior articles about how right wingers (John Birchers) were trying to take over the national PTA. (“If the left wingers have had the PTA for a long time, it is the right wingers’ turn.”) Regarding an article, “19-year-old Marine in Vietnam,” a reader wrote, “Your article is one of the most touching stories I have ever read. It makes a person realize that the thousands of men fighting in Vietnam are no longer one large number, but individual men, fighting the spread of communism.” And there were multiple letters squabbling with the magazine’s college football forecast.
Ads, of course, were what I wanted to see. A Bulova Goddess of Time wedding ring in 14kt gold for $59.95 — “Perfect with everything from tweeds to chiffon.”
The flameless electric clothes dryer — “adds so much to the joy of total electric living” and makes “all of your clothes come out sunshine fresh.”
There were cigarette ads with competing messages. “Camel’s real taste satisfies longer.” “Newport tastes fresher!” “Look around and see how many people are particular about taste.” (Pall Mall). And, of course, “We Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch.”
There were ads for color TVs; “a new kind of stocking that fits your leg like make-up fits your face”; how to save yourself 76 miles of walking a year by having an extension phone; why you should buy a life insurance policy instead of investing in oil; “Gay Circus scenes” (showing very cheery circus animals); and, consistent with the issue’s theme, tens of 1966 car ads featuring gorgeous models atop propaganda about the new vehicle’s engine size and mobility.
And there were serious articles. How the Chicago Police Department was becoming less corrupt (“He is blue-eyed, cool, tough, sophisticated. He can command, cut crime, temper and racial tension. He functions on good terms with a 1410 computer …”); Mickey Rooney’s multiple wives; the danger of being an NFL quarterback (“Operation Meat Grinder, [where] scramblers get scrambled”); and “The growing tragedy of illegal abortion.”
A somewhat odd four-page story, “Hunt breakfast,” gave guidance to the perfect cuisine after an American fox hunt.
Fifty-two years later, how would our magazines compare?
There are Letters to the Editor about our soldiers fighting to defend freedom — this time to fight the spread of ISIS.
Undoubtedly, a reader would opine that the nation’s institutions are being taken over by the far left or right.
No football forecast would go uncontested.
Persuasion to buy particular appliances, investments, food and vehicles exists now as then.
Stories about cleaning up corruption, abortion, and some star’s marital history would be common.
Only the ever-present cigarette ads have disappeared. And apparently there are fewer fox hunts now than in the mid-1960s.
Much has changed over the last half century. The world seems so different. Yet, when we look back, many of the same issues impact our lives. My hope is that 52 years from now, my grandchildren will look back at a 2017 magazine and see old news that doesn’t then impact their lives. At least, I’d hope there will be no stories of soldiers fighting to stop the spread of anything, or of corruption in our national institutions.
So much changes. Yet, looking back, more than I would have guessed remains the same.
— Jeff Tolman is a Poulsbo lawyer, municipal court judge, and periodic contributor to the North Kitsap Herald.
Copyright Jeff Tolman 2017. All rights reserved.