|Vintage Pulp||May 9 2013|
Not well known today, June Wetherell wrote numerous novels spanning genres as diverse as historical romance and science fiction. Free and Easy was originally published by E.P. Dutton & Co. in 1947 as Run, Sheep, Run, but everything got the pulp treatment in the 1950’s and this sexed up Popular Library paperback appeared in 1959. Of course, only the cover was different. The story was the same. The plot here commences in college in the mid-1930s and extends into the real world and the war years. The main player is a party girl named Pat Reed who ditches her aspiring composer boyfriend Ken Morrison mainly because his economic prospects seem bleak. Later, when both are married to others, she changes her mind and decides to go after him. Ken is unemployed and unhappy, and both remember their relationship with nostalgia and regret, but he’s a moral dude and it’s no foregone conclusion he’ll simply ditch his wife.
So Free and Easy is a love story, but one that reached for serious literary status by virtue of its plot bridging two pivotal points in American history—the Great Depression and World War II. Probably what’s most interesting about it is how the themes resonate so strongly half a century later. Here’s the New York Times blurb inside: “An interesting and disturbingly reminiscent novel. Knowing the generation that graduated from college into hopelessness and economic insecurity, Wetherell writes of them with penetrating sympathy.” Hopelessness and economic insecurity. Sounds like it could have been written about a book published last week, right? Next time you see your parents or grandparents make sure to apologize for those times you told them they just didn’t understand what you were going through. And if you’re very interested in June Wetherell, here’s a blog piece about her as she turned 100 years old.
|Intl. Notebook||Feb 21 2013|
Remember our two write-ups on early 20th Century programmatic architecture in the Los Angeles area? No? They’re here and here. Check ’em out. Oh, and if you’re really interested, there’s another amazing example here with an entire story behind it. Anyway, here’s a new structure to add to the collection. This is the Mt. Baldy Inn, an iceberg-shaped dance hall built in 1927 that was located in the Pico Rivera area of greater Los Angeles. The inn was popular during the Depression, and was supposedly famous for using freshly squeezed oranges in its signature orange freeze drink. We're guessing the orange freeze was basically a non-corporate Slurpee. This would have been during those sad, alcohol aversive years known as Prohibition, but we bet an extra fiver would've gotten your drink pimped out with a shot of whisky. If the booze didn't get you hopping around, the brain freeze would. This image originally came from the Los Angeles Public Library, but we saw it on the excellent architecture forum skyscraperpage.com, so thanks to those folks for doing the hard work of finding this photo.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 24 2012|
Above is a nice little artifact from the Jazz Age, a cover of Paris Plaisirs, numbered 88 and published in October 1929, the month disaster struck when a massive speculative bubble that had built up within the lightly regulated New York Stock Exchange burst and led to a collapse that dragged the world into a global depression. The background pattern here looks like superimposed bar charts, but since it comes about thirty days before the actual crash, we’ll just go ahead call the graphic coincidental. But how eerie. The cover star is a Folies Bergère dancer known only as Eva, and inside you get the usual assortment of flappers, showgirls, art, and photography from Studio Manassé.
|Intl. Notebook||Jun 1 2012|
There’s a story on the wires right now about a neon light that was left burning for 70 years. Found in a Los Angeles restaurant, the light had gotten sealed behind a women's restroom wall during one of the place's many renovations. The owner of the restaurant, who uncovered the light when he recently decided to remodel anew, was shocked to find it plugged in and functioning. He estimates that the electricity consumed over the decades cost about $17,000. All very interesting. But what’s really fascinating about this story is the restaurant itself—Clifton’s Cafeteria.
Though none of the stories we saw mentioned it, Clifton’s was a chain of restuarants that was historically noteworthy for important reasons. The original branch, located on Olive Street, started as a beautiful Spanish revival building but was transformed into a fantastic, jungle-themed, one-of-a-kind example of programmatic architecture. The exterior, which you see below, featured cliffs, working waterfalls, and hanging tropical plants. These sorts of specialized structures that served as their own advertising were popping up all over Southern California, but this was a particularly gaudy and effective conversion. The newly junglefied eatery was named Clifton’s Pacific Seas.
Clifton's adopted a pay-whatever-you-can-afford policy. There was even a neon sign on the front of the building that told customers to “Pay what you wish.” This was during the crushing years of the Great Depression and, needless to say, Clifton’s Pacific Seas became a hot spot,giving away thousands of meals for free each month. The policy continued until the proprietor, Clifford Clinton (not Clifton) opened a place for needy customers called the Penny Caveteria in a nearby basement (he came up with the name by combining “cave” and “cafeteria”).
It’s worth noting that Clifford Cliinton had business acumen. He had calculated exactly what margin of profit he needed to earn per plate to make Clifton’s Pacific Seas viable, and had enough full price customers to maintain that level. His approach would be heresy by today's standards, which dictate that corporations must make the most possible profit by any means neccessary (usually by squeezing workers and dodging taxes). Despite the radical approach, Clifton’s did more than merely survive—it thrived. It went on to become a chain of eateries run by generations of family members, and Los Angeles residents never forgot Clinton’s generosity at that first Clifton’s, and made the other locations popular for decades.
The original Clifton's is now a parking lot, but we wanted to make sure at least one story about the uncovered neon light mentioned the special history of the chain, and paid respect to Clifford Clifton, who was the real light in the darkness. We probably don’t need to point out that nothing even remotely like the original Clifton’s Pacific Seas could happen today, and indeed, we live in such hardhearted times thatif a restaurant adopted a pay-what-you-can-afford policy, it's easy to imagine some loud-mouthed cable pundit excoriating the owner for helping the undeserving or having socialist beliefs. That isn’t a nice thing to believe about modern day America, but does anyone really doubt it’s possible?
|Intl. Notebook||Apr 19 2010|
The other day we posted a note in our history rewind about the giant dust storms that raged across the U.S. during the Great Depression. Those storms—and the dust bowl in general—were a central feature of the pulp age, and after we saw the photos of the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland we were reminded yet again, so we thought we’d revisit the subject today. Above and below you see assorted images of the types of Depression-era dust storms that featured prominently in the works of everyone from John Steinbeck to William Wister Haines, and remain an indelible part of American history. They also remind us that our hold over the environment is tenuous at best and, in the end, we’re but guests on a planet that will long outlast us.
|Sex Files||Sep 1 2009|