grocery store pin up cartoon style falling oranges

Original Artwork by Jason Snyder. “Clean-Up in Produce!” This is a colorful digital pin up design of a dark haired beauty having a bit of an accident in the fruit section of her local grocery store. Featuring the classic styling of 1940s and 1950s pinups combined with a cartoon / comic style, similar to Archie Comics and Betty Boop.

The character style was inspired by a variety of mid-century art styles. Archie Comics artist Dan DeCarlo certainly is a factor here, as he is one of my favorite comic creators. The risque comics of Playboy Magazine and the naughty pin ups of Art Frahm also provided some of my spark. I don’t think I can go quite as risque as Art Frahm though.

This pin up is available as a printable digital download on Etsy.com. If you’re interested in framing it and hanging it on your wall somewhere, here’s where you can get it! It’s only $5 dollars, and you’ll receive access to five high resolution digital download sizes. You can print it yourself, or have it professionally printed and framed. You can even use it as wallpaper for your PC or phone.

galaga pin up pinup
This is one of my earliest pin ups. I recently looked at it with fresh eyes and realized it needed a few tweaks. So we’ll call this “Galaga Girl” Version 2.0. Its formal name is “Single Credit Galaga Queen”. This dark but colorful pin up art print was inspired by 1980s pop culture. My pin up subject is a wiz on Namco’s Galaga. She’s filled the high-score screen with her initials, but don’t bother asking her name. She’ll never tell you. This is a love letter to my favorite game, and my favorite place to be growing up.

This pin up is available as a printable digital download on Etsy.com. If you’re interested in framing it and hanging it on your wall somewhere, here’s where you can get it! It’s only $5 dollars, and you’ll receive access to five high resolution digital download sizes. You can print it yourself, or have it professionally printed and framed. You can even use it as a Windows wallpaper for your PC gaming rig, or your phone.

Fashion Square Mall Sears is closing. This is Sears on East Colonial Drive. Today was the last day. Soon, it’ll be demolished to make way for something new.
sears_fashion_square_2016_07_small
I’ll always have a soft spot for Sears and Roebuck. My mom took me there often when I was a kid. My Sears was at the Cutler Ridge Mall, back in the 1980s. This Orlando Sears very much reminds me of that one from my youth. Same basic floor plan, although this one was built earlier, back in the early 1960s. Since moving to Orlando in the early 2000s, THIS store has been my Sears. It makes me nostalgic for a variety of reasons.

Read more

Sometimes it’s hard to believe there was a time when the Adobe Creative Suite didn’t exist. Prior to the late 1980s, if you were creating an advertisement or illustration for a magazine, cover art for a video game cartridge, a movie poster or a book cover, you did it the way it’s been done since the dawn of the retail age:  ink, paint, X-Acto knives and airbrushing. This article deals with the airbrush, in particular, airbrushed video game art.
The early 1980s were the glory days of the airbrush in commercial video game art. This is partly because many of the games were so simplistic that just showing a screenshot of the game wasn’t going to turn many heads. Marketers needed a piece of art that would tell a story. A detailed piece of fantasy artwork could convince digital adventure seekers to shell out their hard earned cash or allowance. Using an airbrush enabled the artist to create art that was cutting edge, sharp, crisp and dare I say, like it came from a computer. Or whatever people imagined a art from a computer would look like. No other tool gave you the ability to quickly create sci-fi and fantasy settings with all the dimensionality, shadow, shine and glow that made it pop off the page.
Of course the airbrush wasn’t limited to paper media. The movie “Tron” took place almost entirely inside a computer video game and was limited by the same constraints as print media. Only a few seconds of actual computer animation made it into the film. The rest relied on analog technology and heavy use of airbrushed matte paintings. The airbrush made it seem otherworldly. Like it hadn’t been created by hand but had been imagined into existence by some artificial intelligence.
I may be overstating it. What you will see below is a mixed bag. There’s some excellent airbrushed art here, but some is downright amateurish. Given the limited budget some of these independent game publishers were dealing with, I imaging there were a lot of brother-in-laws, cousins and interns creating ad art when they weren’t quite up to the task.
By the way, click the images below to see the full pages they were taken from.

Airbrushed Video Game Art Cool Dude
From Electronic Games Magazine, issue 10, 1983.

Read more

The Flying Saucer Movie Title CardGreetings popcorn nerds, Jetpack Jason here. This is a first installment of a series of Golden Age Sci-Fi Cinema Reviews. Today, I’m reviewing “The Flying Saucer”, released in 1950 and produced by Colonial Productions. For the time being, I’m going to be focusing on the venerable alien come to Earth genre. These films typically take place on Earth during the 1950s, usually feature a flying saucer, alien or robot, and a huge helping of Macarthy level paranoia! As you might guess, I’ll be skipping some classic Science fiction films from the time period because they don’t quite fit into the mold I just described. Have no fear. I’ll be covering other sci-fi genres in the future.

The Flying Saucer – 1950

“The Flying Saucer” is often called the first film to depict a flying saucer on screen. If that’s true, it’s a good first film to review. Sure, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers dealt with spaceships and beings from other worlds, but those were serials which took place in the future. For now, we’re sticking with alien invasion stories set in a nuclear capable America with a sticky red coating of cold war paranoia.

“The Flying Saucer” was written, directed and produced by Mikel Conrad who also starred. Spending the late 40s playing small characters in B-movies and having never written or directed before, Mikel somehow scraped together the cash to produce this film. With Roswell making major headlines a few years before, and a growing curiosity about UFOs in the US, it was high time for someone to exploit the subject matter.  

The film opens with acknowledgement text reading, “We gratefully acknowledge cooperation of those in authority who made the release of the “The Flying Saucer” film possible at this time.” When I first read this, I assumed it was written in gratitude to the US military for granting access to film government buildings or something. That wasn’t uncommon in the 1950s. But the more I think about it, I feel like there was another intention here. The wording makes it seem like they’re referring to actual shots of a flying saucer in this movie. The implication is that certain people in authority allowed the use of actual flying saucer footage in this film. Okay movie, I like this little game we’re playing but we’ll come back to that idea later.   

The Flying Saucer

We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of those in authority…

The credits are accompanied by a bombastic and suspenseful score by Darrell Calker. His film work had consisted primarily of Westerns and animated shorts for Walter Lantz up to this point, but he’d go on to score several more sci-fi movies in the 1950s.  

After the credits, we find ourselves overlooking a dark tree lined valley with mountains in the distance. After a few moments, we hear a low pulsing sound before the titular flying saucer zooms by for a low level pass. It’s actually a decent special effect, given that nobody had ever put a saucer on screen before. There’s no dopy strings, no wobbling. The pulsing sound effect was held just long enough to build suspense before the ship passes the camera. I think this was nicely done.  

Flying_Saucer

The flying saucer from “The Flying Saucer”.

This leads straight into that classic chestnut of 1950s sci-fi: The paranoia montage!  Newspapers spiralling onto the screen. Extra Extra! Saucer seen over Miami!  Nervous people looking and pointing up. More sightings! A woman screaming in terror! Perfect, we’re hitting all the right notes, so far!

flying_saucer_04_paranoia

Paranoia montage!

We cut to the office of Hank Thorn, an officer for some clandestine US intelligence agency. It’s here that we meet our *cough* hero, Mike Trent, played by Mikel Conrad with all the subtlety of a Cadillac Salesman on President’s day weekend. Mike is some kind of agent for the aforementioned intelligence agency. Hungover, self-entitled and lazy, Mike is none to happy when Hank orders him back to his home state of Alaska to investigate the latest Flying Saucer sightings there. He’s skeptical and frankly doesn’t want to leave his posh lifestyle in New York. His outlook changes when he’s introduced to Vee Langley, the sexy female agent who’s going to be posing as his nurse. See, the cover story for Mike is that he needs to ‘dry out’ after living too rich in New York. You know, I want to work for a government agency where even the idea of living like a lout can be rewarded by sending me on paid vacation with a gorgeous nurse. Yeah, that’s not the slightest bit conspicuous. Vee was played by Pat Garrison, whose career went pretty much nowhere. She does a pretty decent job with what she has to work with here.

The Flying Saucer Mikel Conrad

Our her0, Mike, in his favorite defensive posture.

Before leaving, Hank suggests that there might be a team of Russian spies after the flying saucer too, so be on guard! Mike and Vee make their way to Alaska, and we start to see that poor Nurse Vee is going to have her hands full. Mike makes a break during a layover in Seattle, his drunken frame carried back to the ship by sailors. On the boat ride, we get a full five minutes of scenic Alaskan beauty. Get used to it folks. This movie spends a lot of time sight seeing.

We finally arrive at the lodge, a wood cabin owned by Mike’s dad, just north of Juneau. We’re greeted by Hans, a beret wearing groundskeeper who could be French, German, Lithuanian, generically European, who knows. What we do know is that Hans doesn’t seem suspicious, AT ALL.

The Flying Saucer Creepy Guy

Hans and his beret.

For a while, we’re treated to lovely outings in the wilderness as Mike and Vee traipse across the country side. Mike’s clearly smitten by Vee. After one glowing afternoon, they arrive back at the lodge, and following a playful game of catch the knapsack, Vee leans in, allowing the hungry Mike to steal a smooch. I hereby judge that she has terrible taste in men. Their kiss is interrupted when the leering Hans moves in to return Mike’s thermos. Your ruin everything Hans.

flying_saucer_07_glacier

An icy romance.

That evening, over a romantic game of solitaire, Mike makes another move and they kiss. AND… he totally makes a grab for Vee’s boob! She stopped him of course and there was no contact, but man, that was blatant for the time. I don’t know if it’s because this film was made semi-independently, away from the studio censors, but it was hard to get away with that kind of stuff back then. This is at the height of the Motion Picture Production Code, and while it’s relatively mild, I’d guess it would still be red stamped if Joseph Breen had gotten his eyes on it.

The Flying Saucer Attempted Boob Grab 1950 Mikel Conrad

Mike tries his luck with Vee (and Joseph Breen) as he tries to cop a feel.

Anyway, Mike gets all pissy when Vee rejects his groping. “Oh, I get it. We’re not humans beings anymore. We’re just Hank Thorn’s stooges!” Mike’s emo whimper session is interrupted by the sound of the flying saucer outside. Finally, 25 minutes in, we’re going to get some hot saucer action! Nope. It ends as quickly as it started, but at least Mike now believes the saucer is real. He proposes going down to Juneau where he can look up some of his old drinking buddies to see if they have any intel. Vee, sees right through this and puts the kibosh on that idea. See, Vee’s kind of incharge. Very progressive, 1950!

That doesn’t stop him though. The next morning, while Vee’s out on a hike, Mike grabs the boat and heads to town!  Shortly after, Hans shows his true colors by grabbing a gun and stalking Vee in the forest. What is this duplicitous beret wearing, German named, and likely Russian aligned creeper up to? It’s a pointless few minutes of suspense though, as Hans decides not to take the shot, assuming that a nearby bear will do his dirty work. Except the bear is stock footage and can’t do anything more that frighten Vee back to the lodge. Once she’s learned that Mike’s escaped to Juneau, Vee flags down a passing barge to follow him.

Mike arrives in Juneau and wastes no time getting his drink on. I should mention that for the next little while, this movie jumps genres over to screwball comedy. Mike lands at Ernie’s bar, where he asks for a scotch but the bartender recommends the rye. After quizzing the annoyed bartender on the location of his old chums and getting nowhere, Mike heads off for the next dive. We get a last shot of the bartender, sniffing the money. Pervert.

The Flying Saucer Money Sniffer

The money sniffing, pervert bartender.

We get a happy go lucky montage as Mike wanders into and out of Cut Rate Liquor, Arctic Cocktail Bar, Alaskan Hotel Bar, Yukon Bar, the Fo’Cs’Le Bar, The Baranof Bar, Blackie’s Bar, and the Pack Train Inn. Rye, leave the bottle, it saves time.

Drunk as a skunk, Mike ends up at Dreamland Liquor.  Dreamland Liquor? Appropriate for a Flying Saucer movie, don’t you think? Here, Mike makes a new friend, Nanette, who’s ever so willing to help. She knows everyone in Juneau and everyone knows her. She’s a friendly sort of girl, if you know what I mean, and Mike seems to have forgotten all about frigid Vee. Mikel Conrad does his best acting work when he’s playing inebriated. The slurring, the goofy grin, the three cigarettes betwixt each set of knuckles, and thinking he’s run out of smokes… perfection. I imagine his talent for this sort of pantomime comes from practice, but I could be wrong.

The Flying Saucer Nanette

“Want to make a new friend,” asks Nanette.

Vee shows up, accompanied by the barge pilot, who is into good deeds, I guess. It’s never explained why he’s now chasing around Juneau with her, but it gives a drunken Mike somebody to punch, which he does. Poor dumb Mike is jealous, even as he himself is working his way into the sack with the local doxy.  

Vee, exasperated with Mike’s lack of discretion, escorts the sadsack barge pilot out of the bar. Mike almost has a moment of conscience and starts to follow, but lovely Nanette easily distracts him back to the table. That’s our Mike!

Before Nanette gets her claws deeper into him, Mike’s old buddy,  Matt Mitchell finally shows up. If Foster Brooks and Otis from Mayberry had met in a bar, they could not have out-drunked Matt and Mike.

The Flying Saucer Drunk Mikel Conrad

Matt and Mike. Phissshhhh!

Against all odds, Matt actually has some helpful information for Mike. He’s got a fat wallet because some foreigners are renting his boat and paying mad cash. Mike agrees to meet Matt in the morning and heads out. Yeah, as if either of them is going to remember the conversation in the morning. To bad for Matt, a couple of the foreigners were eavesdropping in a nearby booth and escort him out. I’m going to stop calling them foreigners, as I’m sure you’ve figured out, they’re Soviet agents. I’m not sure why Matt thought they were foreigners though, since they talk like they’re from Detroit. Except for Hans, who delivers enough generic Europeanness for all of them.

They knock out Matt and toss in him a back room. Soon after, the Russians greet a man named Turner, played by old Briscoe Darling himself, Denver Pyle. Seems that Turner is the assistant to a certain Doctor Laughton. And it seems that Turner is looking to get rich off of selling something to these Commies for a cool million. A turncoat! But what could he be selling? You don’t suppose… not the saucer?!

It is at this point that the still conscious viewer will realize that this is not an alien-come-to-earth story at all. This whole time, the Flying Saucer has been nothing more than this Doctor Laughton’s prototype 2000 mile per hour, completely Earth-made aircraft.  The whole conversation where this is revealed is so completely nonchalant that I had trouble believing that the plot twist was actually happening. What an O. Henry style switcharoo! I’d like to mention that there’s still about 35 minutes left in this hour fifteen minute movie. Mikel, here’s a note for you. If you’re going to have a twist ending, don’t reveal it half way through the film. Consider holding it til the end, so it actually has an impact.

Anyway, while this is going on, Matt’s woken up and has heard everything, including the location of the saucer. He stumbles his way out the window. They don’t show it, but I like to imagine him teetering on the window sill, legs sticking up and going “Whooooaaa” as he lands in some trash cans outside. Missed opportunity, Mikel.

Meanwhile, on his boat ride back to the lodge, Mike, in his quest to be completely irredeemable, crashes on a piece of floating ice, falls out of the boat and gets knocked out. Luckily, the now escaped Matt just so happens to roll by and rescue him. Seriously, without Vee and Matt to bail him out, I swear Mike would have been impaled by an icicle, run over by a herd of reindeer, stabbed by his own cork screw and fallen into a vat of sauerkraut.  

Matt ferries Mike back to his place, but soon after, the Russians pull up in a boat. They shoot Matt which rouses Mike out of his drunken slumber long enough to attempt some William Shatner style attack moves. He’s immediately overpowered and knocked cold. Again. Then just as quickly as the commies arrived, they’re frightened off by the approach of another boat. By the time Mike can stagger back into the shack, he finds Matt nearing death. Before he flutters off to join the choir invisible, Matt divulges the pertinent details of the Flying Saucer, then he fades away to join the force. Like Yoda.

Meanwhile poor Vee tries desperately to find Mike, but that’s incredibly boring, so let’s skip it. She does manage to make a connection with Doctor Laughton during this time, so that’ll come in handy at some point.

In his desire to find out what his friend died for, Mike rents a plane and we’re treated to five full minutes of him flying over the Alaskan wilderness. I assume that he’s still mostly drunk during this part of the story.

Mike finds the spot, lands and investigates a log cabin. Through a hidden hatch on the floor and into the basement, he finds the saucer. He spends a hot thirty-five seconds investigating, and man, he’s outta there!

The Flying Saucer 1950

Shiny and about the size of a Ford Fusion.

Back in the plane and back at the lodge to refuel, before returning to Juneau. At the lodge, Hans does his best to sabotage the plane, which Mike notices immediately. It’s then on to fisticuffs and Mike nearly does an impression of the bald Nazi mechanic in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The Flying Saucer Death By Propeller

Hans, with malice in his eyes.

The rest of our commie cowboys shows up and once again, Mike gets the stuffing beat out of him. Then Vee and Doctor Laughton, who you’ll remember is the inventor of the flying saucer, show up and are promptly captured by the Russians. Now the whole big family is together and so begins the march across the glacier to find that damn flying saucer!

Gosh guys, I feel like I can sum up the rest of the film in a few sentences. Here goes! More Alaska scenery! Spelunking through caves! Mike finally figures out how to use the element of surprise and takes a Russian as a human shield. The other Russians fire on their own guy, miraculously not killing mike in the process. An avalanche! The cave collapses! Many Russians die! Turner the turncoat launches the saucer so he can fly it to Russia! The saucer explodes because smart guy Doctor Laughton planted a bomb! BOOM! Mike and Vee kiss! Young romance. They’ll be married in spring, and she’ll divorce him by Autumn.

flying_saucer_16_Human_Shield

For once, Mike gets the drop on somebody.

The end.

Phew. Timing in at an hour and fifteen minutes, this is not a long movie. Not too unusual for a B-movie, but man, they padded the hell out of this thing. About a third of the flick is dedicated to glacier porn. Hiking, flying, boating, picnicking… This film may have been sponsored by the Alaskan travel board.

So the question is, can “The Flying Saucer”  legitimately be called the original UFO slash flying saucer film? Well, yes and no. I think it can definitely be viewed as the first feature film to cash in on the UFO phenomena that was gaining attention in the late 40s, early 50s. But let’s be honest. It’s an espionage caper. That’s it. The flying saucer is nothing more than a macguffin for American and Soviet agents to fight over. There are no beings from outer space, no imminent danger to the planet, no death rays, no robots. The titular ‘flying saucer’ is just an experimental aircraft that has a combined total of about 45 seconds on screen. This is barely even science fiction.

Given these facts, I really wasn’t sure about reviewing “The Flying Saucer”. It doesn’t fit the parameters that I imposed on myself for these reviews. But I found enough things interesting about the movie and its production to give it a fresh watch and a review. While it’s not a true UFO sci-fi film, it must be given credit for introducing Americans to the image of flying saucers on screen. The opening minutes are the first time a UFO paranoia montage was shown. This film, whatever its flaws and self-misrepresentation, opens the door for what would come during the next decade and continue on to the present day. That makes it noteworthy to me. Even the anti-Soviet propaganda would continue in later true sci-fi alien pictures, only it would be the subtext, in which aliens represent the dangers of the Red Menace.

I should also point out that Mikel Conrad really pushed the UFO phenomenon while promoting his film. In an interview with the Los Angeles Examiner in September 1949, he claimed that he had seen a UFO and captured it on film while working on an earlier movie. Further digging revealed a tall tale about him being interviewed by the FBI about the footage, which ties back into the message displayed at the beginning of the movie. Some colorful stories even have him quitting Hollywood and going off the grid in order to research and expose the truth about UFOs. Check this odd Youtube video for more on that. The video footage there is obviously bad CGI, but if you click Read More, there’s an interesting story. I’m sure it’s nonsense, but it’s interesting. Mikel Conrad strikes me as a bit of a huckster, so I take most of this with a grain of salt. But it does create a neat little color-shift around the film, giving it more sparkle than it probably deserves. 

Unfortunately, it’s all a bit of a let down when half way through the film, he sells the story out with a reveal that the flying saucer is just an experimental aircraft. Why make that kind of film? There were so many great spy films in the 1940s, and frankly, this little film was never going to be up to that level. Mikel Conrad is no Alfred Hitchcock. He couldn’t have been delusional enough to think he was making anything more than a B-movie. If everything you’re telling the public to promote the film is sensational, then make it sensational! Throw in a monster from space or a robot with an atomo-ray. That’s all me and five million matinee kids really want.

Maybe it’s not fair to blame Mikel Conrad for not completely inventing a genre. He invented some of the necessary mechanics. Other geniuses would come in soon after and build the rest of the machine. So I give him props for his contribution.

So, how do I rate Flying Saucer as a film? Not good. On a scale of zero to ten, I’ll give it a one. As a sci-fi thriller, it’s terrible. As an espionage caper, it’s still terrible. It did originate some things that I’ve come to love about sci-fi flying saucer movies, so it has enough historical significance to warrant a star. Moreover, I’m really fascinated by Mikel Conrad. I have drawn an incredibly intricate picture of who this man was, based solely on his behavior in this movie and the few things I’ve found to read about him. I have to believe that Mike Trent is Mikel Conrad. From the drunken whoring to the passing out on a chunk of ice, to the unwanted boob grab to the reluctant investigations into unknown realms. I want this guy’s life story, and I hope it’s every bit as colorful as I imagine. That said, it’s not enough for me to suggest that you waste an hour fifteen watching this movie, unless you’re a completest like me.

What did you think of “The Flying Saucer”? Give me your own thoughts in the comments below!

1968 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

1968 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

In this entry to the Christmas Catalog Extravaganza series, I give you Artificial Christmas Trees! I really thought this was a rather recent invention, but a little research proved me entirely wrong. Check out Wikipedia for the full history. In terms of these catalogs though, 1942 is one of the first advertised versions I found, proudly exaulting the low cost and the lack of falling needles. But first, a little about me.

Jason’s Christmas Tree History

When I was growing up, my father would march into the lush pine wooded forests of Vermont on December 10th, hickory handled axe perched over his shoulder. His quest? To find that one perfect Fraser Fir. He would fell the noble tree in one great motion and drag home to our log cabin. His job done, my mother and I would decorate the tree with festive glass ornaments and strings of popcorn, while dad read the paper and sipped a tumbler of Jameson. I hid the pickle in the tree. Then we’d settle in to sip eggnog and watch “White Christmas” or “The Bells of Saint Mary’s”.
This Norman Rockwell / Charles Wysocki version of my family’s Christmas tree tradition is, of course, only partly true.
The reality was, we lived in Homestead, Florida. The only naturally growing real pine trees were usually about 70 feet tall, so they weren’t quite right for decorating. We usually hit a few of the Christmas tree tents running down US1 in Cutler Ridge, trying to find a tree that hit that perfect ratio between size and price. We wanted a six or seven footer, but dad wasn’t into paying a bundle for it either. My mom also had a prejudice against Scotch Pines, which I have adopted as my own. We were a fir and spruce family. Usually, we’d find one that looked great from one side and had a deformity on the other. Tall tree, plus deformity equals lower price, so that was the one for us. We’d stick our purchase in the back of the pickup. When we got home, dad would saw an inch off the bottom so it would fit properly into the tree stand. Take it inside the house and rotate it until the best side was up front. It was never level when we first stood it up, so my mom borrowed a couple of my Archie Comics to stick under whichever leg the tree was listing towards.
The rest of the story, where mom and I decorated while dad sipped whiskey, that’s all pretty accurate.
I guess my point is, when I was growing up, my family was going for as much holiday tradition as possible. Christmas was too special to replace a natural tree with a pile of green metal and plastic. Years later, this would all change. By the time I was in my teens, we had purchased a high quality artificial tree. It all came down to the recurring annual hassle and of course, the cost involved. For the price of a real tree or two, you could have a very authentic looking fake tree that was easy to assemble and would last many years. I have a fake tree now, but if Ginny and I ever have kids, we might be tempted to buy a real one for a few years, just to give our kids the experience of owning a real, forest grown Christmas Tree.

Department Store Artificial Christmas Trees

As established already, this is a tribute to the all American fake Christmas tree. Taken from the pages of vintage Sears catalogs from 1942 through 1983, you can almost smell the pine scented candles used to create a festive evergreen smell in the absence of a real tree. Thanks again to Wishbookweb.com for making these scans available. If you’re into 20th century advertising design, department store history or just enjoy looking at the Christmas catalogs from your childhood, this is an amazing website! Go there!
As always, click any image for the full page scan.
1942 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree
1942 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree
We start with 1942. The artificial Christmas tree starts out pretty weak. That is not a lot of branches and definitely not a lot of variation in shape or length. To be honest, this looks like it was a made out of a bunch of pipe cleaners. But hey it’s a start, and at only 49 cents, quite a bargain!

1945 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

1944 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

Another tree that is barely there. Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree indeed. Still, if you manage to put enough ornaments on it, it could be very festive.

1947 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Trees

1947 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Trees

We’re improving. The one on the left is pretty bare, but the one on the right is quite good considering what came before.

1952 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree and canned snow

1952 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

There’s a fake tree on the right, but the “Make It Snow” spray snow is what really intrigues me in this ad. “Just Press the Button. It Snows Glistening Magic Flakes.” The ad doesn’t tell you about the chemical ingredients, but I wonder how toxic that stuff was.

1956 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

1956 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

I like these lovely colored trees. The pink one in particular. Now, can someone please explain to me the horrifying death effigy on the door? I’m serious. I don’t want to bring the Christmas mood down, so I won’t say what I think it looks like. I would suggest, however, that other sentient snowmen steer clear of this particular home, lest they suffer the same fate.

1958 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

1958 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

Remember the fake cardboard fireplaces you could buy to hang your stockings up on? What a perfect accompaniment to your fake tree and fake Santa Suit.
This is unrelated, but I just remembered that I forgot to buy eggnog when I was at the store an hour ago. I was really hoping to sip on that with some rum swirled in while I write the rest of these captions. Sorry… stream of consciousness.

1962 Sears Catalog Aluminum Christmas Tree

1962 Sears Catalog Aluminum Christmas Tree

I love aluminum trees. I have a vintage one here in my office. The one pictured above, however, is not working for me. The copper colored pom-poms are atrocious. Actually, reading the copy in the ad, it appears those are supposed to be red. I supposed that would be better. This photo doesn’t do it justice though. Ugh.

1962 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

1962 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

Two very distinct styles. The one on the left, with it’s more random and fluffy shape, is clearly meant to be naturalistic. The one on the right is much more stylized with all its branches reaching out in symmetrical predictability. Very space-age. As much as I love a real tree, or a fake tree that looks real, I’m a big fan of this space-age tree.

1964 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Trees

1964 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Trees

 

1964 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree Vincent Price

1964 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree with… Vincent Price??

Okay, hold everything. This page from the 1964 Sears catalog requires us to stop and consider. Vincent Price, star of some of the creepiest gothic horror, science fiction and mystery films of the 1950s and 1960s, had a line of home decorating accessories for Sears and Roebuck. Let that sink in.
I love to think of little kids thumbing through the pages of this catalog and landing on this page after having just seen a matinee of “House on the Haunted Hill” or “The Tingler”. I have to say though, Vincent Price, the man himself, does strike me as a likely to have had good taste. I imagine his basement laboratory and torture chamber was stylishly outfitted by Gerrit Rietveld.

1968 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

1968 Sears Catalog ‘Away from home’ Christmas Tree

The ‘Away-from-home’ tree. Perfect for homesick traveling salesmen. This little tree makes me a little sad, sentimental dope that I am. I hope it brought even a little bit of warmth to those lonely Fuller Brush men, Pan Am flight attendants and rock and roll roadies who it was intended for.

1968 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

1968 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

Small child in a parka, picking a tree from the artificial pine forests of the northeast. Heartwarming!

1972 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

1972 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

Fake Canadian Pine trees, made in Hong Kong and sold to US citizens. Our ancestors couldn’t even fathom the wonders of the future.

1972 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

1972 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

Hey, hey buddy! Did you think you needed your cold weather gloves to assemble your fake Christmas tree? You don’t. Also, did anyone ever tell you that you look kind of like Bill Bixby?

1972 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Trees

1972 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Trees

 

1977 JC Penney Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

1977 JC Penney Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

 

1980 JC Penney Catalog Artificial Christmas Trees

1980 JC Penney Catalog Artificial Christmas Trees

 

1983 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Trees

1983 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Trees

Fake trees with built in pine-cones. The realism just keeps getting more extreme.

1983 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

1983 Sears Catalog Artificial Christmas Tree

The pre-flocked artificial tree! Hooray, we’ve entered a golden age that continues to this day!

Also Check Out….

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my other Department Store Christmas catalog tributes. More to come in over the next few weeks.
That colorful and tasty Christmas Hard Candy!
Those wonderfully tacky Sausage and Cheese gift packs!
The gift that everyone dreads, the Christmas Fruitcake!
And don’t forget to visit Wishbookweb.com! It’s the best place to make the fantasy Christmas list that the 11 year old you would approve!

Christmas Hard Candy

1937 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

Hard candy. Boiled sweets. Teeth Crackers. Call them whatever you like, these colorful, iron hard confections remind us of Christmas at Granny’s house. Whether they be fruit or mint flavored, drops or ribbons, tinned or jarred, we kept going back for more! And if mom or dad told us we’d had enough, granddad had a private stash by his recliner that he’d share on the sly.
This is a tribute to that time honored holiday goodie. Taken from the pages of vintage Sears catalogs from 1937 through 1979, these colorful pages are almost good enough to lick. I again extend my apprciation to the folks at Wishbookweb.com for making these scans available. If you’re into 20th century advertising design, department store history or just enjoy looking at the Christmas catalogs from your childhood, this is an amazing website! Go there!
As always, click any image for the full page scan.

1940 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

1940 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

Ten pounds of candy for a buck and change. I feel like that was a bargain, even for 1940. I could be wrong though. It’s possible you could have bought a car for a dollar fifty in 1940. I don’t really understand inflation.
I like that the pail depicted above is divided into multiple sections. This is the precursor to the modern flavored popcorn cans that are so popular around this time of year.

Christmas Hard Candy

1940 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a tub of candy. Jack munched down and broke a crown and Jill just swilled some brandy.

Little girl christmas candy

1942 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

Okay, let us be clear. This little girl is greedy. The photographer didn’t need to say, “Okay Clarissa, we need you to hold the candy bucket like it’s your prize dolly.” She was way ahead of Fred the Photographer on that one.

Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

1942 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

I like the chopped stick candy with pictures running through the center. Reminds me of British ‘Rock’ stick candy that they sell by the seashore. I assume it’s made exactly the same way. Take that Brits! Sears stole your rock candy! Or did you give it to us during Lend-Lease?
Also, regarding the stick candy chunks in the image above, does that one near the middle just say, “OK”? That’s a bit of a bore, isn’t it?

Christmas Hard Candy

1947 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

Starlight mints? Get those out of there! We have candy canes on the tree! Who, in their right mind, would reach for a starlight/pinwheel when there’s a lovely curved stick that you can suck to a point? They taste exactly the same, and the candy cane has the added benefit of being able to torture little brothers and sisters. The candy cane is a multitasker!

Christmas Hard Candy ribbon candy

1952 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

More broken sticks of rock, these with flower images inside. And an overabundance of  starlights! Space fillers, all of them!

High contrast christmas candy

1956 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

You know, for as much holiday candy as I’ve eaten, I don’t think I’ve ever been presented with a piece of ribbon candy. They’re all the rage in these ads. Also, the above ad may be my favorite from all of these. I love the high contrast. It’s like they painted black into all the nooks and crannies between the candy. I just love it.

Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

1958 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

Candy that comes in a collared tin, like the ‘Diana Stuft’ tin above, seems slightly impractical. I’m from Florida, and the humidity here makes just about any sugary substance extra sticky, extra quick. I imagine that any confection left in there by January 1st is going to have to be chiseled out with an ice pick.

Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

1962 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

 

Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy french creams

1964 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

Woof, this is a motley combination of hards and softs. There are hard candies mixed in there, but they’re being overtaken by jellies and, ick, french creams. What’s wrong with you, 1964? French Creams just look like the 1960s, folded into a confection. French Cream: The mod dress of the candy world. Except I actually like mod dresses.

Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy country inn confections

1972 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

Color! May your eyes be be ever seared by Christmas red! Also, Country Inn makes a big bold appearance! See my Christmas fruitcake article for lots of Country Inn. I still don’t know if it was a Sears and Roebuck brand, but I’m hoping one of you will fill me in! Comments below!

Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy tin

1979 Sears Catalog – Christmas Hard Candy

And as we depart the 1970s, the blandness of 1980s catalog coloration and design begins to bleed backwards. Still, those Country Inn tins remind me of my youth. My family had tins just like this around the holidays and it fills me with warmth.

Also Check Out….

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my other Department Store Christmas catalog tributes. More to come in over the next few weeks.
Those wonderfully tacky Sausage and Cheese gift packs!
The gift that everyone dreads, the Christmas Fruitcake!
And don’t forget to visit Wishbookweb.com! It’s the best place to make the fantasy Christmas list that the 11 year old you would approve!

vintage catalog fruitcake

1942 Sears Catalog – Christmas Fruitcake

Tis the season for a new batch of classic department store Christmas catalog time travel! And today, I bring you that classic Christmas cliche, in all of it’s kitschy glory: The Christmas Fruitcake. These images are culled primarily from Sears Catalogs, from 1937 to 1988. The catalog fruitcake is a perennial favorite, though I don’t recall if I’ve ever once tried a slice. Given that it’s reputation precedes it due to negative reinforcement from movies, tv shows, comics and general vibes from other humans, I’ve always shurgged it off. Yet, there’s nothing about the ingredients of the standard fruitcake that really offends me. I like cake. I like candied fruit. I like nuts (within reason). I like Christmas. What is there for me to dislike? Maybe this year, I’ll give fruitcake a try. Until then, enjoy these colorful representations of that classic seasonal doorstop. Click any image to enlarge to the full page catalog ad.
Oh, and don’t forget to head over to Wishbookweb.com where I found these fantastic images. If you’re into 20th century advertising design, department store history or just enjoy looking at the Christmas catalogs from your childhood, this is an amazing website!
Read more

Delta Dreamflight Press Kit

The cover of the Delta Dreamflight press kit, 1989.

Delta Dreamflight was a ride at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Opened in 1989, it replaced one of my favorite rides as a kid, If You Had Wings, which was sponsored by Eastern Airlines. When Eastern dropped their sponsorship, Delta stepped in and became the official airline of Walt Disney World. This media package was released during the opening festivities and contains promotional materials, Delta collateral and a photo. I’ve scanned some of the more interesting material. Click to enlarge.
Read more

rockefeller center in 1939
This is a collection of all the pages from a 1939 booklet, “The Story of Rockefeller Center”. It’s a tourist guide coinciding with the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and it covers the development, design and attractions of the building. In 1939, Rockefeller Center was only about nine years old, but it had gained a reputation as a cultural hot spot in New York City. The source of many of NBC’s radio broadcasts and home of the Radio City Music Hall, the building was known to millions of Americans. This booklet is an interesting time capsule.
Read more