Vintage Pulp May 9 2013
HEAVY WETHERELL
Free and easy? You heard wrong on both counts, buster.


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.

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Intl. Notebook Feb 21 2013
TIP OF THE ICEBERG
Better dance fast—it’s freezing in there.

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.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 24 2012
HIGHS AND LOWS
So if you'll all glance behind me, you'll see I've prepared this helpful chart to represent our current dilemma.

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.

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Intl. Notebook Jun 1 2012
LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
Neon light glows in Los Angeles restaurant for 70 years, but not as brightly as the chain's former owner.

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? 

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Intl. Notebook Apr 19 2010
DUST IN THE WIND
Nothing lasts forever but the Earth and sky.

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. 

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Sex Files Sep 1 2009
TIJUANA CRASS
Mexicans got the blame, but only Americans could have done this.

We stumbled across a collection of Tijuana bibles and just had to share these things. For the uninitiated, Tijuana bibles are dirty booklets produced starting in the 1920s, but which reached their zenith during the Great Depression. The booklets depicted sex between well-known figures of the time—everyone from movie stars to cartoon characters, all rendered in low rent art, but with the gynecological precision of kama sutra diagrams.
 
Obviously, they were sold on the down-low, in drug stores, barber shops, speakeasies, or from the backs of cars. The time frame during which these were popular might seem to make their no-holes-barred explicitness amazing, but the Depression was an era of loosened morals, during which most Americans were actually hitting it before marriage.
 
Nobody can say why they were called Tijuana bibles. Perhaps the name was chosen because the pages showed perversions that were presumably available only south of the border, or, equally likely, some smartass simply thought it was funny to blame Mexicans for something they hadn’t done. In any case, Mexicans clearly didn’t make these, because Americans are the undisputed kings of manufacturing smut, and always have been. Yeah baby. U.S.A! U.S.A! More bible covers below, followed by a small selection of the tamest interior art we could find.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 10
1969—Manson Followers Continue Rampage
A day after murdering actress Sharon Tate and four others, members of Charles Manson's cult kill Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Manson personally orchestrates the event, but leaves the LaBianca house before the killing starts.
1977—Son of Sam Arrested
The serial killer and arsonist known as Son of Sam and the .44 Caliber Killer, is arrested in Yonkers, New York. He turns out to be 24-year-old postal employee David Berkowitz. He had been killing people in the New York area for most of the previous year.
August 09
1945—Nagasaki Destroyed
The United States detonates a nuclear bomb codenamed Fat Man over the city of Nagasaki. It is the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan. 40,000 to 75,000 people are killed immediately, with tens of thousands more sickening and dying later due to radiation poisoning. The U.S. had plans to drop as many as seven more bombs on Japan, but the nation surrendered days later.
1969—Manson Followers Murder Five
Members of a cult led by Charles Manson murder pregnant actress Sharon Tate and coffee heiress Abigail Folger, along with Wojciech Frykowski, Jay Sebring, and Steven Parent. The crimes terrify the Los Angeles celebrity community, and even today continue to fascinate the worldwide public.
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