Gazing wistfully at old magazines…

Now this isn’t about photography, though I guess it was driven by a nostalgia for the great picture magazines of the 1960s. Leafing through a 50-year-old copy of Look magazine (May 22, 1962) this morning, I became absorbed in a pictorial essay about Lenin, “The true story of the evil genius who launched the global Red threat”; then I put off the photo-editing chore that I had schedule by getting stuck in an op-ed piece by Senator Hubert Humphrey, “Big Business; Is it Too Big?”, and then procrastinated further with an article about a “secret” cure for arthritis (what happened to that secret cure?).

From the perspective of 2011, the cold-war dominated take on communism was fascinating; in hindsight Humphrey’s take on big business being the engine room of a healthy democracy (well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?) seems merely wishful thinking, in the aftermath of the recent financial crisis…and the one still looming.

But to me, the most absorbing aspect of this time-machine was the Madison Avenue, Mad Men style advertising of the day. The 1962 model Valiant marketed with a headline that reads, “Valiant-owned and operated by 364,000 independent Americans”. Motown magic! “Enjoy Life with Miller High Life; same good taste everywhere because it’s brewed only in Milwaukee…naturally“. Campbell’s Soups, “Why our soups look as good as they taste. They’re color-planned all the way from seed to simmer”>

However, the copy line of one ad just grabbed me by the throat for its lyrical quality. I must confess, this line has stuck in my head, ever since I bought the magazine in the St Vincent de Paul op shop in North Hobart, a year or two ago. I guess this is what good copywriting should do. But one has to wonder whether it resonates because of a filter of fifty years.

Pontiac ad, Look Magazine, May 22, 1962

Has copywriting ever aspired to such poetry? Who wrote this? An enthusiast of haiku? Did it sell Pontiacs? Did its author stick to his craft? Or move on to write the Great American Novel? Was he a she? So many questions…while I

Gaze wistfully

at passing Pontiacs

no more!

Now I reckon that’s powerful good copy And beautiful too!


Filed under art, Opinion

7 responses to “Gazing wistfully at old magazines…

  1. I have a great collection of these old posters and adds I picked up in Istanbul. So politically incorrect for these days. I love the old cigarets and car adds.
    I also did my time working for Rupert, Fleet street in the 80s and the Herald Sun in Melbourne

    • Hi Phil…we probably have acquantainces in common. I think the non-PC aspects was what was so attractive about the Mad Men TV series. To the good health of its current practitioners, journalism ain’t what it used to be.

  2. They are great those ads and the cars. My mother who is 80 was much in demand as a date in the 1950s. (She once dated David Jones, I mean the actual David Jones heir). She could spot her beau’s car from down the street. Each car was completely different and had its own status. She’s always complaining that the cars of today look all the same and have no character and I thinks she’s right!

    • I must confess, I too, have a soft spot for those great big gas-guzzling tanks, Debbie. I can just picture your mother being picked up on a date by DJ. I’ll bet she wore while gloves:-)

      • I think she probably did. And you know it was the days of GI (not the Americans) but a new man who was wonderful but unfortunately GI (geographically impossible) lol.

  3. Just discovered you site and wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. Your photos are true art. Thank you for sharing your wonderful work.

    • Thank you, Karen. I hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as I enjoyed the recipes on your blog:-) With a Chinese/Italian vegetable gardening wife, I live in a fiairly food-oriented household:-) Your blog has me well-primed for lunch on this Tasmanian winter’s day.

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