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Pandemic provides time to find historical treasures in 1945 magazine issue

Pandemic provides time to find historical treasures in 1945 magazine issue

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The cover of Life Magazine — dated Jan. 15, 1945 — shows a smiling Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

This pandemic has provided plenty of time to catch up with overdue reading, and to thin my overstocked reading material.

One magazine was not thrown away. Its cover caught my attention — Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. — smiling! That issue of Life Magazine was dated Jan. 15, 1945. Did I mention about being overdue in reading?

At that moment, while Patton had been victorious in Africa, Sicily and France, his soldiers were in the largest battle of the war — the Battle of the Bulge.

If I caught that issue in its day, it would have been at the school library. The iconic magazine was 10 cents in 1945 or $4.50 per year, more than my dad thought we could afford. Whoops, Freudian slip — our school did not have a library.

Very few passenger cars were manufactured during World War II, but Studebaker had a full-page ad on its military personnel and cargo carrier known as the weasel, “Featuring rubber-padded tracks that will climb imponderable grades.”

Studebaker advertised that it manufactured the Wright-Cyclone engines which powered America’s B-17 flying fortresses. That’s a giant step from the farm wagons on which Henry and Clement Studebaker built their company.

Chrysler announced its new fluid drive transmission, “The greatest driving improvement since automobiles were invented.”

Free copies of “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre” were offered if you joined the Book of the Month Club — or you could join by purchasing Ernie Pyle’s “Brave Men” for $3.

Truth in advertising took a hit with the Wildroot Cream-Oil ad, “Your hair can look like this!” It did not work for me.

News-wise, Pope Pius XII spoke at Christmas to 75,000 folks in liberated Rome.

Dog owners were reminded, “Big dogs, little dogs — all are better dogs when every meal is nourished by Gaines Dog Meal.”

Life Magazine historically spoke more through photographs than verbiage. That paradigm worked perfectly with the feature on Madison Square Garden’s Poultry Show. I learned why the White Plymouth Rocks had been my childhood favorite. They were dual purpose chickens, valuable for both meat and eggs.

This issue did not show off Betty Grable’s legs, but it showed off everything she carried in her purse: house keys, car keys, manicure equipment, vanity case, chewing gum (Dentyne), cigarettes (Chesterfields), cigarette holder, cigarette holder filters, family photos, combs, sunglasses and several $2 bills.

Claudette Colbert made honorable mention, “She keeps comparatively little equipment in her roomy handbag.”

There were more advertisements on liquor than any other product. One company spoke of its whiskey, “There’s always a best of everything.” A competitor claimed, “Be right, drink light.” Still another recommended, “For unhurried moments — the unhurried whiskey.”

Tobacco had its share of ads. “Smoke Briggs Pipe Mixture (P. Lorillard) when a feller needs a friend. Briggs is aged in casks of oak for years.” Or, Bond Street and Revelation Pipe Tobacco (Reynolds), “Which take the bite out and flavor in.” While Camel cigarettes took the entire back cover, another cigarette brand was short and succinct on an inside page — “Why, sure! LS/MFT.”

Life photographers featured a full-page photo of granite stone blocks stacked, “Somewhere in Sweden.” The huge blocks were ordered in 1938. In 1940, the purchaser requested early delivery. In 1944, the order was placed on hold.

For the rest of that story — the blocks were ordered for Hitler’s Victory Monument. It was to be a magnificent structure — 4,500 feet long, 2,500 feet wide, and 1,000 feet high.

After the war, the blocks were cut up and made into gravestones.

Speaking of Sweden, there was a nice piece on Ingrid Bergman, star of “For Whom the Bells Toll” and “Casablanca.” Described as tall and athletic, she earned $2,500 per week and had recently purchased a $65,000 mansion in Benedict Canyon.

There were several radio program ads. The Army Hour was on every Sunday afternoon, Jack Benny on Sunday evenings. Through the week, entertainment was offered by Abbott & Costello, Amos & Andy, Fibber McGee & Molly, and the Great Gildersleeve.

There was a common thread in practically every advertisement — Buy War Bonds!

Thanks to Joey Godfrey for sharing this treasure with me. His father recently passed away and the magazine was among his treasured possessions.

Harry Thetford is a retired Sears store manager and author of “Remembered,” a book about 99 former students of Greensboro Senior High School (Grimsley) who were killed in World War II. Contact him at or 336-707-8922.

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