Gypsy Creams

A box of old magazines, a scanner, and some server space.
Gypsy Creams is lovingly scanned and written by Tanya Jones.

A Man in Your Position

Men Only / September 1951

Sitting up straight is not mere vanity, it’s true. I’m not convinced that a humble belt would help all that much, though.

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A Cover Comparison

So far, I’ve posted lots of ads and some features from my collection, but I haven’t posted any covers of the magazines referred to. Which is a shame, as there are some stunning examples of composition. Whilst gazing on various covers, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to compare 1960s covers to present day ones. So here they are!

The first point I should make is that, with the exception of Woman’s Weekly, the modern magazines are smaller than their 1960s counterparts. Woman and Woman’s Own were around an A3 size, whilst Woman’s Weekly seems to have always been around an A4 size, which, judging from a 1970s Woman I own, became something of an industry standard after the 1960s.

The obvious difference, however, is how BUSY modern magazine covers are. Whilst large photographs of models, professionally framed, grace the 1960s magazines, the modern covers are dominated by at least one photograph (or illustration, in the unusual example of the Woman’s Weekly), of a celebrity. My 1950s & 1960s collection rarely feature a celebrity, and the only example I can recall is Woman’s Own, with a rather fawning feature on Princess Anne and a celebration of Prince Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales. Obviously, these magazines reflect the times in which they were produced, so although Britain still seems obsessed with its royal family, it’s also now obsessed with celebrity, which I probably didn’t really need to point out.

However, there’s another trend which wasn’t quite as prominent in the 1960s; greater competition. Although the outlook in 2014 is not particularly positive for print media, it’s fair to say that print magazines still reflect the explosion in titles that came about in the 1990s. With the advent of cheaper professional level production, it became more difficult for well-established magazines to retain readership, what with cheaper titles coming onto the market. I certainly remember something of a bonanza on free gifts around that time, such as pens, diaries and clipboards. What with a generally hostile attitude from newsagents to their customers dipping inside magazines to check what was on offer, the obvious tactic for magazines was to advertise as much of their content as possible on the cover.

And so we come to what I consider a horrible mess. Cheaper production costs and declining revenue seems to have produced what looks like thrown-together covers, full of celebrity gossip and lurid features. I’m probably not their ideal customer, but those magazines make my eyes hurt on the newsstand. I do understand commercial pressures, but I do wonder just how wise it is for Woman and Woman’s Own to try and chase down the audience for Take A Break and their ilk, when they’re already catered for. Woman’s Weekly has, by necessity, long abandoned their dressmaking patterns for what seems to be a mature audience, but all of this highlights a sad fractioning of the market. After all, I’m a woman in my 30s, who ought to be a prime customer for womens’ magazines, but I’d bite someone’s hand off if they offered me a magazine with a cover like the 1960s Woman’s Own featured here, because it suggests a quality product with thought behind it, rather than a photo collage of Loose Women presenters with lurid celebrity stories. I’m hardly a snob (my TV watching habits would horrify The Guardian), but I do appreciate a magazine written by people who have an interest in what they’re talking about. I never thought I’d start wearing make-up until I started reading Sali Hughes’ Guardian columns, for example. There seems to be very little for me on the newsstands.

But what do YOU think, my wonderful public? Let me know!


Time You Joined the TA

Men Only / September 1951

Given recent events in the Crimea, this feels oddly timely, but of course it’s another part of the campaign that this ad comes from. By the way, I think the illustration is of hand grips on the Tube stock of the day, but it took me a couple of minutes to work it out!

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The Entertainers Entertain

Woman's Own / 17 August 1968

Don’t say that I’m not good to you. Here, we have a real treat; major stars of the 1960s give us an exciting glimpse into their lives via their cooking. Nowadays, this sort of feature is commonplace, especially on TV, although the ‘celebrity chef’ phenomenon had just about begun, with Fanny Cradock already an established star. However, the more relaxed approach was gaining popularity, as we can see in this feature, and it’s worth considering that The Galloping Gourmet was soon to become well-known in the UK.

For me, the use of the word ‘pace-setter’ in a pop culture sense, the explanation of brunch, and the definition of gazpacho as a cold soup is a lovely sign of the times, (although the serving of mixed salad as a separate course is still not common in the UK), and the whole feature is topped off with the phrase “NEXT WEEK: Supper with Engelbert Humperdinck and lunch with Dilys Watling.” What a hectic social calendar!

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Your topical cartoon of the week

Men Only / July 1950

Some UK politicians have made a great fuss recently about foreign nationals visiting the country and benefiting from free healthcare provided by the NHS, but it may interest you to see that these were mainstream fears a mere 2 years after the NHS’ formation. This article from the Independent explains that foreign visitors are more likely to pay to use NHS services than to have them for free, but the total cost from foreign visitors using the NHS for free (e.g. acute, unplanned care) is far less than the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt would have voters believe.

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Take Up Pelmanism

Men Only / July 1950

No, I don’t know either. But the discount for ex- and serving forces members is very canny, given the time of the ad. Another thing I don’t understand is the shoe polish ad. Is it trying to sell to women by making them paranoid about their shoes, or support men judging women by their appearance, therefore getting an indirect sale? It’s all too complicated for this woman, frankly.

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Men Only / July 1950

Here, dear readers, is the precursor to the UK’s ‘flag carrier’ airline, British Airways. Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia has an excellent summary of BOAC’s history, but the main topic of interest for this site are the old names for what were, in some cases, still parts of various countries’ empires, or newly-independent countries. Perhaps the thing that strikes me the most is the blanket terms for huge areas of Africa, something which Westerners still do without really realising, and was clearly just one of the reasons why independence movements were in full swing in so many areas of the continent. Frankly, just thinking about the Horray Henrys that this advert was aimed at jauntily shooting and patronising their way across Empire makes me feel a bit ill.

Anyway, it’s also notable for the alliances mentioned with Qantas Empire Airways (now just Qantas), South African Airways (still operating under that name) and Tasman Empire Airways (forerunner of Air New Zealand). These alliances presumably were to ease long-haul journeys to these countries, as BOAC were the first to enter the jet age in 1952, two years after this advert was published (the De Havilland Comets are fascinating in themselves). Not only were Horray Henrys the only people able to afford foreign travel at this point, they were also the only people with the time available!

Fun fact: BOAC became British Airways just before the operation of Concorde, with the first Concorde delivered to British Airways having the registration G-BOAC.

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Men Only / July 1950

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An unusual TA recruitment tactic

Men Only / July 1950

Ah, nothing like a bit of emotional blackmail to help a government hedge its bets in a brave new post-WW2 world.

The Territorial Army is the official reserve armed force for the UK, although the situation in 1951 was complicated by the fact that conscription into National Service for 17-21 year olds wasn’t to end until the early 1960s. However, the advert here is aimed at men who served in WW2 and had been sent home after the war to either continue to support their families, or to start one. Given that some conscripts weren’t sent home until 1949, it seems rather unfair to immediately haul them back, just because Britain wasn’t getting its own way in the post-WW2 world.

But then, for men brought up on the idea of British Empire, the early 1950s would indeed have been frightening; the various conflicts related to the Cold War, such as the Korean War lasting from 1950-1953, the Malayan Emergency lasting throughout the 1950s, and the chaos of Indian independence in 1947 would have all contributed to a feeling of the world order as most Britons knew it falling apart. No wonder some feared that they’d have to go through it all again.

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Men Only / September 1951

I think the copywriters might have sunk several pints themselves in the sun, because this advert has many words, few of which make any real sense. The comment referring to ‘womanlike’ is very confused, and it’s hard to make out who is actually being sold to. Perhaps this is the sort of rambling mess these ad men offered their own wives when stumbling back from a long liquid lunch.

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