Welcome to a new feature that will occasionally substitute for my weekly series Weird Words of Wisdom.
Readers of that series know about my interest in the teenage experience–and especially in the messages that adults have provided to teens through the years. Fueled by this interest, I have amassed a collection of vintage advice books for teens, as well as vintage teen magazines. Today, we will explore one of these magazines.
Co-Ed is a publication we’ve encountered before. Published by Scholastic from 1957 to 1985, Co-Ed targeted girls in home economics classes–both “career girls and homemakers,” as the cover states.
This 1959 Christmas issue includes an out-of-this-world mid-century gift guide; lots of holiday food, decorating, and fashion ideas; and fearless predictions about the brave new world of 1980. All this and Gay Head, too!
So park your bird-car, get comfortable in your underground burrow, cozy up to your atomic brain, and let’s dive in to Christmas 1959. We’ll start with a closer look at this magazine’s cover. Perhaps we can glean some subtle clues about its original owner.
As we approach a new year, we all reflect on the past and wonder about the future. In 1959, Co-Ed asked both girls and boys to envision the far-away world of 1980. (They couldn’t just ask girls. They didn’t want all the predictions to focus on fashion, beauty, and child care.)
Answers ranged from the modest but accurate (women will increasingly wear slacks instead of skirts) to the more inventive ones here:
- “The home will no longer be recognized as a place where children are supposed to grow up. Instead, all children will be raised in institutions as wards of the state.”
- “There will be no United States, or Russia, or England, in 1980. Instead, everyone will live underground in ‘Moleland.’ All the governments on Earth will unite, and a single government will rule our underground world. There will be no wars on (or rather inside) Earth, because everyone will be busy defending themselves against attacks from outer space.”
- Instead of just watching a movie “in 1980, we’ll be able to smell and feel what’s going on in the movie, too. Seats will have metal bars on each arm rest. The moviegoer will grip these bars with his hands and ‘feel’ what’s happening in the through a series of mild electric shocks. The smells will be released into the air from little casings on the film strips.”
- “In 1980, people will have a different type of house for every season. They’ll just pick up the telephone and order a house like they now order a blouse or a shirt from a department store.”
- “School will probably be taught by electrically controlled robots instead of by human teachers.”
- “People will spend their vacations on the moon or one of the planets.”
- “Cars will probably be shaped like birds, and will travel so fast that they’ll seem to be flying. Women will be able to hop on an airplane in the morning, spend the day shopping in Paris, and make the return trip in time to cook supper!”
- “When a person wants to move to another city in 1980, he’ll probably just have to push a button and his entire house will fold up. He’ll then pack it in his helicopter, hop in, and he’ll be on his way!”
- “I read somewhere that a person will live longer if he works for three or four years, then has a vacation for the next year. Perhaps this will be the common practice by 1980.”
- “Encyclopedias and reference books will not be needed in 1980, because every family will have its own atomic brain. If Johnny wants to know where Egypt is, he’ll just ask the brain.”
Okay, if you replace 1980 with 2000, and atomic brain with Internet, that last one was actually pretty good. Way to go, Michael O’Connor from Oakland, California!
Co-Ed’s editors made some predictions, too, about “fabrics of the future.” They envision chemical fibers “which will shrink or grow on the wearer, so there will be no need for clothing alterations.” They also imagine clothing that adjusts to the surrounding temperature, keeping the wearer comfortable in any environment. By what date do they anticipate these innovations being available? 1970!
Other tidbits in this issue
- Co-Ed builds international awareness by introducing readers to Maria from the Austrian Tyrol. Sample wisdom: “Austrians love to eat and Maria is no exception.”
- Household hint: “Slip plastic bags over your hands when shaping popcorn balls.”
- Potential career path: “Beginning registered nurses earn $3,400 to $3,600 a year…some jobs include all or some meals; others include room and all meals.”
- Hairstyling hint: If your face is heart-shaped, “wear your hair medium to long. Wear it smooth at the temples, on top, and at the cheek bones. Choose fluff below or behind the ears, but avoid fluff at the temples.”
We close our look at this magazine with the work of our favorite teenage advice columnist, Gay Head.