Weird (and Wonderful) Words of Wisdom: Special Year-End Edition, Part 2

In My Opinion: The Seventeen Book of Very Important Persons, 1966
Edited by Enid Haupt

Today, we receive more wisdom from the 20th century’s cultural leaders, courtesy of Seventeen Magazine. As I told you last week, this book comprises essays from the magazine’s long-running “Talk to Teens” column. Seventeen Editor Enid Haupt edited this book. I hope you will gain some year-end inspiration–and a bit of amusement–from these quotes.

(You’ll noticed I included Joan Crawford quotes in each part of this edition. Her whole essay is a gold mine. She even starts it with a dig at one of her daughters–most likely Christina–for wanting to achieve stardom without doing all the hard work it requires.)

Next week, Weird Words of Wisdom will revert to what it does best–mocking vintage teen advice books.

Quotes from In My Opinion

Vance Packard

Vance Packard

“In my travels during the past year I have found myself talking with at least a dozen women I knew as teenage girls. Some, I must confess, have not aged very gracefully. What impresses me most is that those who were most conspicuously girls of strong-minded integrity then are the most delightfully stimulating adults today.”

Vance Packard, journalist and social critic, author of The Hidden Persuaders, a groundbreaking work about advertising

Shelley Winters

Shelley Winters

“Although I am no longer the blonde bombshell of my early career, I often find myself acting that part because I feel I won’t be accepted as an educated, intelligent woman. These feelings limit my social world considerably. The discipline of study, of developing your mind so that it wants to study and likes to and considers it fun, which I have seen in many young people, I have never acquired. These feelings of inadequacy have made me make life decisions which have proved to be terribly serious mistakes.”

Shelley Winters, Academy Award-winning actress

Artur Rubinstein

Artur Rubinstein

“American girls marry much too young. I don’t believe a girl should marry until she finds the right person, and knows it deeply. I don’t care if she doesn’t marry until she is 35.”

Artur Rubinstein, pianist

Dr. J. Roswell Gallagher

Dr. J. Roswell Gallagher

“If these are your primary concerns–amounting to something and getting high marks–if you put these first and all else subordinate to them, what may this do to your feminine feelings and attitudes and role, to your regard for what is really good and really important, and to those people who cannot achieve your sort of success?”

Dr. J Roswell Gallagher, Boston physician specializing in adolescents

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

“Most women look as if they dressed in the dark and made up in a closet. They needn’t, for the essence of chic is simplicity. Chic begins with cleanliness–that wonderful sense of being freshly bathed and powdered and perfumed.”

Joan Crawford, Academy Award-winning actress

Philip Roth

Philip Roth

“Novels do not pussyfoot around. They can leave you sulky, angry, fearful and desperate. They can leave you dissatisfied with the life you are living. Sometimes, upon finishing a book, you can’t help but dislike yourself–for being smug or narrow or callous or unambitious…Novels can make you skeptical and doubting–of your family, of your religion, of your country; they can reveal to you that the kind of person you happen to be or think you want to be isn’t really worth being.”

Philip Roth, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist

Rosalind Russell

Rosalind Russell

“You’ll know us (parents) by the pride in our eyes and by our outstretched arms. No, we won’t smother you. We promise. We want to stand by you, not over you. We want to talk with you, not dictate to you. We want to talk frankly, not nag you. We want to discipline you because we’re supposed to. We want your cooperation to help us be better parents. We want your respect, and most of us know we must earn that respect. We want you to forgive our mistakes or at least try to overlook them. Above all, we want to love you, and you cannot deny us this because we loved you first.”

Rosalind Russell, Tony Award-winning actress

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger

“Travel while you are young and still are free of responsibilities. See what a big, broad, beautiful land we have here, then maybe a foreign land or two. See that there are honest, hard-working people in every corner of the globe, all quite certain that their own way of living, their local geography, their music, etc, is the most beautiful.”

Pete Seeger, folk singer

Jean Dalrymple

Jean Dalrymple

“Seventeen is a darling age…It is an age to enjoy, to savor and to appreciate, especially if you are a girl, because then you are lovely. Everything about you is fresh and springlike–your body, your mind, and your soul.”

Jean Dalrymple, playwright and theatrical producer

Rod Serling

Rod Serling

“Only the Lord knows how many adults are forced into psychoanalysis at age thirty-five because of sweeping a problem under the rug at age twelve or thirteen.”

Rod Serling, television producer

park

“Like morality, good taste recognizes the existence of other people. Good taste requires that we care about other people’s feelings sufficiently to discipline our behavior.”

Rosemary Park, president of Barnard College at the time this book was written

Eileen Farrell

Eileen Farrell

“The successful human being, as I see him, is willing, even eager, to expose himself to new experiences and ideas. He welcomes contact not only with those who agree with him, but with those who don’t–not necessarily to persuade them to his way of thinking (though that’s always a possibility) but to learn something about theirs. That’s the only way to replace prejudices that create fear–with the knowledge born of conviction that gives courage. And with courage, everything is possible!”

Eileen Farrell, concert and opera soprano

Other Weird Words of Wisdom posts you might enjoy

Attending to Our Bodily Housekeeping Edition

Betty Betz and Vintage Teen Etiquette That Rhymes Edition

Big Splendid Manhood Edition

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Weird (and Wonderful) Words of Wisdom: Special Year-End Edition, Part 1

in my opinionIn My Opinion: The Seventeen Book of Very Important Persons, 1966
Edited by Enid Haupt

Today, in the holiday spirit, I’m offering something a little bit different than a typical Weird Words of Wisdom post making fun of a vintage teen advice book. (Don’t worry, we’ll get back to those in the new year.)

About This Book: For many years, Seventeen Magazine featured a regular column called “Talk to Teens.” In this space, celebrities and leaders from various fields gave advice to young readers. In My Opinion is a collection of 43 such columns.

Our old friend Enid Haupt writes in her introduction, “Opening this book is rather like walking into a large party with every guest a celebrity, and all of them eager to talk just to you.”

Actually, it reads more like a series of college commencement speeches.

Many of the authors offer good advice—and, of course, a few offer weird advice. I have to wonder how 1960s teens would have received even the best advice in this book, however, considering that most featured authors came from their parents’ generation.

Many of these essays mention the generation gap, and my impression is that the gap was widening rapidly in 1966. My mother graduated from high school in 1965, and I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have found relevance in advice from people like Bennett Cerf, Burl Ives, Rosalind Russell, and Joan Crawford. (Actually, taking advice from Joan Crawford is probably a bad idea, no matter what your age.)

As we prepare to enter a new year, may these quotes provide inspiration (or, in some cases, amusement).

Quotes from In My Opinion

Jan Peerce

Jan Peerce

“…it’s so important to be flexible and to try to develop a number of interests, whether you use them for a cushion or a steppingstone. History books are full of people who stumbled onto the right path by sheer accident. And sometimes the best way to find your ultimate destination is simply to change your course.”

Jan Peerce, opera singer

kenneth tynan

Kenneth Tynan

“Nonsense is part of our birthright; and the more we are allowed to indulge in it—the more we are encouraged to make our own mistakes—the healthier we grow up to be.”

Kenneth Tynan, theater critic

sj perelman

S.J. Perelman

“My vocation, it may have leaked out to you, is that of a writer, which means that I sit in a hot little room stringing words together like beads at so many cents per bead. It’s shabby-genteel work and, on the whole, poorly paid, but I’m too fragile to drive a brewery truck and I’m too nervous to steal…In the poolrooms I frequent, it has often reached my ears that the chief advantage of being a writer is that it allows you to sleep late in the morning. Don’t believe it. You can enjoy the same privilege as a night counterman in a cafeteria, and, what’s more, in that job you can always bring home stale Danish pastries for the kiddies.”

S.J. Perelman, humorist

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

“Though a career girl must often think like a man, she must always act like a lady…A woman in business has an enormous advantage: the fact that men are courteous. They will treat you with respect, listen when you talk and give your opinions priority. This is wonderful, of course, but don’t abuse their gallantry.”

Joan Crawford, actress

chet huntley

Chet Huntley

“The American girl is aware of most of the ingredients of beauty: posture, coiffure, make-up, costume and the rest. But she frequently quite overlooks voice and diction…To be beautiful, a girl must sound so.”

Chet Huntley, newscaster

Pearl S. Buck

Pearl S. Buck

“Sometimes talent is insufficient for earning a living and yet enough to provide for happiness. It is then worth the effort of pursuit. You will enjoy art more if you pursue it without thought of money. Pursue it for pleasure, for release, for enrichment of the mind and spirit, for simple happiness.”

Pearl S. Buck, author

Next week–advice from Shelley Winters, Pete Seeger, Rosalind Russell, Philip Roth, and others!

Other Weird Words of Wisdom posts you might enjoy:

Spanking New Edition

Where the Boys Are (You’d Better Wear a Skirt) Edition

Speak Softly and  Carry a Hot Breakfast Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: Boring Beth and Sunshiny Sue Edition

“Develop a grand passion for the humble hard-boiled egg.”

altkoAltogether Lovely, 1960
By Charlene Johnson

About This Book and Its Author: “Different!” this book’s dust jacket announces. “That is the word which best describes this book.”

I have to agree with that. The teenage advice book market has certain subsets. Religious books, especially those from an evangelical Christian perspective, are common. So are books that focus on beauty and fashion. Not many authors attempt to combine these two perspectives.

Charlene Johnson, though, was both a model and the wife of a budding minister. Knowing nothing more about her than what’s in this book, I can tell she brings a lot of enthusiasm (as measured by exclamation points) to both roles.

Johnson usually spends most of a chapter discussing beauty and personality, then shifts to spiritual life. These transitions can be abrupt. Consider this paragraph from the chapter on skin care:

“Interesting, isn’t it? To think of the glands, pores, body oils, eyes, brows, mouth, teeth and all. How wonderfully we are made! I have often wondered how any thinking person could ever be an atheist.”

The other thing I know about Johnson is that her adolescence must have been a lot different than mine. She calls the teenage years “the most sparkling, exciting years of your life.”

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Quotes from Altogether Lovely

“Everybody wants to be popular!”

“’Miss Popular Teen’ has that indescribable something known as personality. She sparkles! She’s alive!”

“(Overweight) is the biggest bar to good looks; the best looking outfit or hairdo in town just won’t look sharp on an overweight girl.”

When walking: “Keep smoothness and complete poise and regalness foremost in your mind.”

“Walk quietly, smoothly—like a bride.”

Really? Never? Even if you're at the supermarket, staring at the cereal selection or something?

Really? Never? Even if you’re at the supermarket, staring at the cereal selection or something?

“Notice people as they sit down. Observe the awkward contortions many people go through just to sit.”

Well...this one I can get behind.

Well…this one I can get behind.

On Lipstick: “Use light, bright shades. They are so much younger, so much prettier. A dark mouth is a hard mouth.”

“White gloves are a must with heels.”

Proper dress for church: “A teen-ager should always wear nylon stockings and probably French heels…A hat, white gloves and small pearl earrings are in excellent taste.”

“Parties, luncheons, and even teas are becoming a part of your social life; right?…I’m sure you know that such affairs are dressed-up occasions—meaning heels and white gloves.”

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By the way, Johnson’s seminary-student husband did the illustrations for this book.

Something you probably won’t see in a current advice book for evangelical Christian teens: “The pitter patter of the teenage heart—the heartbeats, the heartaches, the heartbreaks—they’re all thrillingly yours. Enjoy every wonderful minute of teenage romance. The dating period is one of the happiest, most captivating and important experiences of your lifetime.”

“If you were the boy, which girl would you rather spend time with: (1) Boring Beth—quiet, dull, uninteresting? or (2) Sunshiny Sue—full of vim, vigor, fun, and life?”

You ain’t seen nothing yet: “If I could only tell you girls how deeply concerned I am with the shocking divorce rate in our country.” The U.S. divorce rate doubled between 1960 and 1980. It has since declined slightly.

“Being a housewife is just about the most wonderful profession in all the world for any woman…The housewife is the very center of love and sunshine and kindness in the home.”

On husbands: “Don’t completely domesticate him. Certainly there are little things he will like to do: play with the kiddies, or flip pancakes, or do the ‘man’s work’ around the home. Let him offer to help you, he wishes; don’t ever insist.”

“When he comes home for the office, make him proud of you. Look lovely—your hair combed, your appearance neat, your lipstick on, a pretty smile, and a loving kiss. See that the children are clean and the house tidy. Have dinner ready. Make him whisper deep down inside every night, ‘There’s no place like home. How lucky I am.’”

The Six Basic Personality Types and What They Wear

Sweet and feminine:“This miss is usually small in stature, soft spoken, and fair.” She should wear full skirts, pastels, and flowers in her hair.

Sporty: These types should wear “tailored, tweedy clothes” and woodsy colognes.

Queenly: “A true lady.” She likes simple, elegant clothes “and is lost without her white gloves.”

Slightly Sophisticated: She is tall, slender and “likes extremes in fashion.”

Exotic: “She has a ‘different’ look about her, and dresses to dramatize that.”

Vivacious: Full of life and pep, she “has her own happy flare for individual clothes.”

An echo in here: On the subject of makeup, Johnson writes, “Young eyes need no enhancement. They have their own sparkle and fire.” This is oddly similar to the wording in another book we’ve looked at—Once Upon a Dream by Patti Page, also published in 1960. Page wrote, “If you’re young and healthy, your eyes have enough sparkle and fire without needing any ‘extra added attractions.’” I’m not sure what to make of this. Maybe young eyes having “sparkle and fire” was part of the zeitgeist in 1960.

Other Weird Words of Wisdom posts you might enjoy:

A Million and One Tricks with a Strand of Pearls Edition

The Five Types of People Who Go All the Way Edition

Crisp White Gloves Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: Mugging, Smooching, and Flinging the Woo Edition

“A girl who will use her head and not her lips in securing friends will find that they are the type that she can and may later love.”

Youth’s Courtship Problems, 1940
By Alfred L. Murray

About This Book and Its Author: Christian publishing house Zondervan published this book, the work of a former U.S. Navy chaplain named Alfred L. Murray. Though the book has a Christian viewpoint, it focuses on the way young people relate to each other, rather than their relationship with God. Murray is enthusiastic about the social benefits of dating, though of course he urges a conservative code of behavior.

Murray is fond of anecdotes and expert commentary. (His experts sometimes miss the mark, especially on medical topics. One thinks the frustrations of “petting” can lead to an enlarged prostate.)

This was Murray’s second book on youth courtship, and he wrote other books on various religious topics. He died in 1965, in Seabrook, New Hampshire, where he served as pastor of the Federated Church. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Fun Fact: Lamar Hunt, an influential figure in American sports, owned a “well thumbed” copy of this book during this college years, according to biographer Michael MacCambridge.

Quotes from Youth’s Courtship Problems

On “Mail-Order Dating”: “I have known at least four girls who, by correspondence, made friends with men whom they had never seen. The correspondence continued until the men proposed and the girls married them. One girl quarreled with her husband, and they separated in a few days. The second was deserted by her lover. The third went out of her mind. The fourth apparently resulted in a happy marriage.”

“Rouged cheeks and reddened lips, highly scented perfume, and bright colored fingernails are artificial and bear testimony that the person who is extravagant in display lacks good judgment and is not real…Any girl who indulges excessively in makeup appears common.”

“The moral collapse of an individual begins the moment he uses the sacred as if it were profane. One who uses the language of a kiss without discrimination is not worthy of intimate friendship…If a kiss is meaningless, what is the guarantee that life will not be judged by the same standards?”

“There is no virtue in staging public caressing parties.” I’ve got to agree with him there.

“That which differentiates necking and petting is that the first has certain powers of restraint and restrictions, while the last is noted for its liberty and license. When the time limit is removed from kissing, and fondling with the hands is introduced, the sexual urge is intensely increased.”

“It is yet too early to determine the meaning of the terms ‘mugging,’ ‘smooching,’ and ‘flinging the woo.’ If one were to guess, he might say that ‘smooching’ is necking; ‘flinging the woo’ is just love play; ‘mugging’ is petting on the heavy side.”

As an alternative to petting: “An interest must be developed in something both can share. It may be reading a book together. The Reader’s Digest will furnish one with sufficient topics to develop into interesting conversations for a date every day of the month.”

“I recently rode from Chicago to Philadelphia on a de luxe ‘crack train’ I could not find a place in the cars where women were not smoking. The were in the Pullman, the diner, and the club car…(The porter) went on to tell me that he used to make the trip and never see a woman smoke. ‘When one did come on, I knew that she was a bad woman, but now most of the women using this train smoke.’”

“I noticed that very few men on that trip were smoking. Those who did went to the lounge room and lit a cigar. The women smoked to excess and without discrimination.” I’ve never smoked in my life. Why does this book make me want to light up?

On marijuana: “It carries him out of the world of reality. But the price for this sensation is the habit, which quickly produces sexual perversion, insanity, and crime. It is the most dangerous drug in America. Those who smoke it will never be socially or morally the same.”

“There is a record of seventeen persons who attended a party, where ‘post office’ was played, having received syphilis infection. There was one infected person at the party. He kissed several girls who in turn were kissed by other fellows. All became victims of the dreaded disease.” In case you’re wondering if it’s really possible to contract syphilis through kissing—apparently, yes.  

“The girl that men like has intelligence, but she does not make a display of it.”

“When a man speaks harsh words, he is reflecting his thinking, but a woman who ‘flies off’ or appears irritated is expressing her feelings. Do not, therefore, take her little acts of unkindness too seriously. These are but emotional, not mental, reactions.”

“Women have a way of admiring the man they fear—fear because of his greatness.”

“Avoid all types of street conversations unless you are moving. It is the mark of poor breeding to stand on a street corner and carry on a conversation.”

Read the whole Weird Words of Wisdom series!

Weird Words of Wisdom: Embracing Our Nature and Destiny Edition

“Unless you are expecting to marry a militant feminist (and if you are, it might be well to reconsider what is in store for you), it is best to remember that even tomboys are actually girls who are just going through a phase, and that ‘equality’ is not the best word to describe what women really want.”

The Girl That You Marry, 1960
By Dr. James H. S. Bossard and Dr. Eleanor Stoker Boll

About This Book: A reviewers’ blurb on the dust jacket says this book will help boys learn “just why the little things that seem so foolish to him are so very important to his girl.” Indeed, the authors attempt to explain the mysterious workings of the female mind through such chapters as “She is Ritualistic and Conservative,” “She Needs Security,” and “She Wants to Be a Mother.”

Oh, the authors do admit these generalizations don’t apply to every girl. “The fact is,” they write, “that some of them are so sick mentally, or maladjusted emotionally or socially that cannot even live at peace with themselves. Among this group are the girls who are rebels against their own nature and destiny.”

By the way, if you’re wondering why teenage boys would be thinking about marriage, it’s interesting to note that the median age at first marriage in 1960 was 20 for girls and 22 for boys. In other words, half the people getting married were below those ages! In 1960, 72 percent of American adults age 18 and older were married. (Today, the median age at marriage has hit a record high in America—26 for women and 28 for men, and only half of adults age 18 and older are married.)

The Macrae Smith Company published this book, and they did a crappy job. It’s riddled with typos.

About the Authors: James H. S. Bossard was a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who published frequently on marriage, family, and child development issues. Eleanor Stoker Boll, another Penn sociology professor, collaborated with him often. I can find almost no biographical information about them beyond what’s on this book’s jacket. Dr. Bossard died in January 1960, before this book hit the shelves. Dr. Boll, who wrote a follow-up book called The Man That You Marry, died in February 1997.

I became slightly obsessed with finding out if these authors were married to each other. A couple of vague hints in this book suggest they were, but I can’t confirm that. In this 1959 article about weddings (which is worth a look, if only for the photo and the sidebar on 1950s wedding costs), Dr. Bossard refers to Dr. Boll as his associate. Given their attachment to traditional gender roles, I’m curious how their academic partnership worked if they were husband and wife—and even more curious about how it worked if they weren’t.

Strange Sidelight: Both Drs. Bossard and Boll worked for the William T. Carter Foundation for Child Development at Penn. While looking for information about them, I learned about William T. Carter’s son Billy—a cad who let his wife and children fend for themselves on the Titanic. His car was the model for the car where Jack and Rose got busy in the movie Titanic.

Quotes from The Girl That You Marry

On Men and Women

“Our assumption is that the girl you are going to marry is like most American girls…She likes being a girl, and she wants to become a real woman.”

“Girls are built and designed to do certain things and boys to do different things. Girls excel in some things and lag in others, just as boys do, and the more normal the boy is and the more normal the girl he marries, the more this is apt to be the case.”

“The most secure feeling that a young bride can have is the confidence that she is married to a man…A wife looks to her husband as to Gibraltar—as a rock of strength and stability. If her husband does not prove to be that, the wife loses the comfortable feeling of having a man to rely upon for things she is not equipped by nature to do as well for herself. She also is a bit disappointed in him as a male.”

“Your wife will experience this secure sense of worthiness when you recognize her as different from you and support her femininity in a manly way.”

“A boy who has not grown up with sisters is often surprised at the quick changes of reaction and mood of his new bride. She may seem sparkling and strong one day and depleted, depressed and irritable the next few days, only to return after this to her former cheery self.”

On the Relative Importance of Clothing to Men and Women

“By ages eighteen and nineteen, the popular ages for girls to marry today, she has been reared to place great stress upon being well dressed, and with many appropriate changes. This is a necessity in the competition to attract boys and to get a husband. Later, when she is a wife, it is still necessary if her husband and children are to be proud of her and if she is to maintain her self-respect and her position as a wife and a mother among other women and men.”

“…boys have been brought up to think that being well dressed themselves is a sign of, or close to, sissiness. The male author recalls across the span of many years the day he took a brand new pair of shoes and ‘worked over’ the outside with a rough stone to take away the newness of their appearance.”

On the Importance of Wedding Symbols and Festivities to Women

“An engaged girl without a ring is perpetually aware of the unseemly nakedness of her finger. Girls take great delight in visible symbols of a man’s love for them. They differ from most men in this.”

“That strange community of females that finds such romance in these occasions will probably take up her time, and yours, increasingly with showers and parties…Added this this, the girl has new and absorbing interests. The hope chest must be equipped. Every new acquisition is exciting to a girl who is picturing its use in your home and hers. Fortunate is the boy who has, or can assume, interest in guest towels and double damask dinner napkins…”

“Were you to become President of the United States, you would probably not want to be inaugurated in private. Her wedding is just as important as that to her.”

On “Sexual Adjustment”

“It has quite generally been found true that the girl who has the least petting experience before marriage is the girl apt to take longest for satisfactory sexual adjustment in marriage. And practically everyone who has questioned large groups of boys about their attitudes on premarital sex experiences finds that boys, many of whom are quite willing to exploit other girls, want their own to have had practically no petting experience.”

“Your bride, if she loves you, will comply with your wishes often, without any resistance whatsoever, in spite of surrounding conditions, and you will both find a kind of satisfaction.”

On Homemaking

“…girls are reared to be domestic, to think of homemaking as a very important job. The girl who is happy about being a girl loves this job and wants to do it in the best possible way.”

“A husband should no more try to direct his wife’s housekeeping than she should try to direct his business.”

“When the woman from next door drops in, or the boss and his wife come for dinner, no one will blame the husband if the house is ill-kept and the food unpalatable and badly served. They will only pity him…And strangely enough, those same husbands who care not what conditions the lady next door may drop in upon, swell with pride when the boss praises “your charming home” and “the little woman’s dinner party.”

“She wants to please you. Be patient with her and encourage her, and you may be the prime factor in turning an experienced young girl into the chef of chefs.”

On Parenthood

“Adult males who are physically and mentally healthy, usually are quite aware of the importance of their part in reproduction and, at some time in their lives, feel like less than whole men if they have never played their role in creating a new life. How much more is this true of the female, whose whole body has been shaped by nature for the role of motherhood.”

“The conservatism of the female, which tends to be greater than that of the male throughout life, reaches its peak at the time of motherhood and the rearing of children…As a matter of fact, some of the giddiest girls become the most conservative mothers.”

“A group of fathers in Long Island, New York, has formed a Society of Frustrated Fathers. All their children are girls and as the dads put it, ‘Girls are fine but they don’t play football.’ So these fathers meet to do together and to talk about the things they would talk about at home had they sons of their own.”

And one of the weirdest, most WTF observations ever

“Some psychiatric therapists who work with children and their mothers have told us they think some high-grade morons make better mothers for small children than do well educated and intellectual mothers…What they mean is this: A woman of low mentality can endure and enjoy the constant association with small children, and without strain, because she is mentally in gear with them.”

Read the whole Weird Words of Wisdom series!

Weird Words of Wisdom: Speak Softly and Carry a Hot Breakfast Edition

“It is not enough, if you want to be liked, if you want to be loved, to be merely good. You also have to fight for the good things you want. You have to compete with other girls. What’s more you have to make up your mind to win. Otherwise you’ll not have your pick of the best boys. You’ll only have what’s left over.”

Once Upon a Dream: A Personal Chat with All Teenagers, 1960
By Patti Page

About the Book: Patti Page opens up about her own weaknesses and insecurities as she tells young fans her Cinderella story–a story that transformed Clara Ann Fowler, “that shy, overfed, part Cherokee choir singer from Claremore, Oklahoma,” into a “Singing Rage.” (Although a Cinderella motif pervades the book, the title references a song from Walt Disney’s 1959 film Sleeping Beauty.)

As we’ve seen before in this series, celebrity-written advice books for teens proliferated in the 1950s and early 1960s. While I always wonder how much the celebrities actually “wrote,” I found this book’s voice consistent and believable.

About Patti Page: All I knew about Patti Page going into this book was that she sang “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?” and “The Tennessee Waltz.” The latter was one of the best-selling songs of all time, and Page was the top-selling female artist in the 1950s.

Her rags-to-riches story had a genuinely ragged start—she was the 10th of 11 children, and money was so scarce that she sometimes went to school barefoot. In this book, she tells a moving story about the time she wanted a Mickey Mouse watch so badly that she made one out of paper.

She made up her mind to escape poverty and began to plan for a career as a commercial artist. She took a job making posters at a Tulsa radio station, soon found herself performing on the air whenever they needed a girl singer, and was “discovered” when band manager Jack Rael passed through town and heard her voice on the radio.

To her teenage readers, Page presents herself as shy and insecure, with ongoing weight issues. She talks about a period in her life when she burst into tears after every performance, and she uses the language of psychoanalysis freely.

She writes a lot about her husband, choreographer Charles O’Curran, whom she married in 1956. She doesn’t mention that she had an earlier, short-lived marriage, or that she was O’Curran’s third wife (Betty Hutton was his second). Page and O’Curran would divorce in 1972.

I’ve chosen some of Page’s sillier-sounding statements to feature here, but this book actually gives plenty of good advice. She encourages girls to be themselves, to care about others, and to develop their minds. Though she has a typically 1950s obsession with “femininity,” she advises girls against playing dumb and against letting boys get in the way of their dreams. She even manages to talk about religion without sounding preachy.

Today, at 85, Page is still performing.

Quotes from Once Upon a Dream: Inner and Outer Beauty

“Charm is simply the art of being pleasing…charm is the magic wand that can transform an ugly duckling into a princess, or a shy quiet type into the belle of the ball.”

“The girl who thinks she can get by with an overweight figure by calling attention to her face is only fooling herself. Eventually people notice her figure too. In the same way, the gayest of hats will not make up for a shabby pair of shoes. A tight-fitting sweater is a poor substitute for a bad complexion. No matter how elaborately you do your hair, which may be your good feature, how long do you really think it will keep people from noticing your teeth, which may not be so good?”

Examples that prove personality is more important than beauty: Helen Hayes, Lynn Fontanne, Katharine Cornell, Mary Martin, Ethel Merman. (“True, they’re older now than when they first rose to fame on Broadway, but even in their youth they were never what we might call great beauties.”)

“Once a week…is usually enough to keep the average girl’s hair clean. Thursday or Friday night’s the best time to do it—so you’re all set to look your best for the week-end.” Ew. If I followed this schedule, even as a middle-aged woman, my scalp could help America achieve energy independence.

“If you’re young and healthy, your eyes have enough sparkle and fire without needing any ‘extra added attractions.’ Besides, if you’re an adolescent, you’re mysterious enough. Mascara and eye shadow would make you positively inscrutable.”

“It’s impossible to apply rouge so that it looks natural on tender young cheeks…If you feel you’ve absolutely no color at all, I’d rather you pinched your cheeks—as grandmother used to. After all, she got her man.”

“A lipstick should not only blend with your own coloring but with the color of your dress.”

“The more inconspicuous your clothes, the better. “You don’t want them to distract attention from you. (It is only older women who tend to wear startling colors and daring designs to make up for tired faces and bad figures.)” She’s starting to hurt my feelings now.

Getting Along with Boys

“If you can’t be empathetic, at least be observant, especially when it comes to boys. It’s not so hard to figure out what gives them pleasure and what makes their hair stand on end.”

“Very often, for women especially, conversational ability is only a talent for listening rather than for talking. Of all the women I know, the one I have most often heard described as a brilliant conversationalist scarcely says a world. But when she sits listening to a man, she looks at him as intently as though he were first man she had ever met, and as though speech were something he had just invented.”

“Passion is violence. It is loss of reason. It is a loss of control so complete that it’s too late to say yes, no, or maybe…So the only way to handle an invitation to passion is to say No! And make the reason for your no a moral one.”

“…at one time, a woman’s greatest pride before marriage was in her chastity. It was proof she was good and pure in heart. It meant she had something precious and rather wonderful to give to the one man of her choice. But to take away this pride in virtue and to joke, as some people do, about virginity is to cheapen something rather wonderful. To indulge in sex as a biological act, rather than an expression of love, is to strip a woman’s life of dignity, meaning, and fulfillment.”

“For all their teasing and loose talk, boys—and men, too—are really looking for a girl with the courage to have standards and the wisdom to say no. It’s true, if you say no, there’s a chance you’ll never see the young man again. But there’s an even greater chance he’ll ask you to marry him.”

“There are, so far as I know, only two types of males who don’t resent an aggressive female, and I don’t think you want either of them. One is the vain ladies’ man who waits for girls to call him. He appreciates each call. It’s a tribute, he feels, to his irresistible charms. But this type of man is incapable of love. He can love only himself. The second is the weakling type, with a domineering mother, who likes girls who take charge because they remind him of his mother.”

About the kind of girl who’s a pal to boys: “This type of girl, like most people on earth, eventually does get married. It isn’t necessarily a romantic marriage. In fact, it’s usually a sensible one. But it works because both husband and wife are comfortable.”

“If you will just remember that woman’s traditional role is to help a man make something of himself, you will realize that there is always the chance that you can help the drip of today become the man of the moment tomorrow.”

“When you’re shopping for a dress, do you like to have three to choose from or thirty? Well, it seems to me that choosing a husband is a much more vital decision. And how can a girl be sure she’s making the right choice if she only knows the three or four boys she’s gone steady with?”

“And necking, contrary to popular belief, is not a way to hold a boy—it’s a sure way to lose him. No boy values anything that is too easily won. What’s more, nothing remains static. Necking either develops into something more, after a while, or it dies. Either way, you stand a good chance of the boy’s losing interest in you.”

Marriage and Femininity

“My advice to you is to have a career—not instead of marriage but before it. A career is not only, in my opinion, your best preparation for marriage, but the most enjoyable way to pass the time until you’re over 21 and ready for marriage.”

“…your generation seems to know—at a much younger age than I ever did—that for a truly feminine woman, the only true answer to life is a marriage based on true love.”

On keeping her weight down: “…it’s no longer a matter of professional pride alone. Loving my husband, I have also learned what it means to be a woman. So it’s now a matter of personal pride—the pride of a woman who is loved—that I be as pleasing as I can to my husband. (And my husband just doesn’t happen to like overweight women.)”

“…many men in enumerating the qualities they expect of the ideal woman or the model wife say, ‘Above all she must have a soft voice.’”

An interesting quote, considering that she and her husband had both been married before: “Divorce takes a terrible emotional toll. Something that is sweet and lovely and trusting seems to vanish forever from your life. Sure, you can make a second, more sensible marriage, but it won’t be the romance the first one was when you had the thrill of sharing that first apartment, that first ice cube, maybe even that first baby.” First ice cube?

“…the only way to get a man to come home every night and want to stay there is simply to make your home the place where he enjoys himself the most.”

“I think you’ll find, when your married, that it isn’t nearly so important for you to be interesting as it is to make your husband feel that he’s interesting.”

“The main purpose of marriage, which some people forget, is not just to find someone to share a life with, it’s to raise children. This is why you were born, and why you used to play with dolls.”

“I read somewhere that 60 percent of American husbands get their own breakfasts while their wives stay in bed. To me, this is a sign of trouble…How can (a wife) expect her husband’s continued love if she won’t even get up when he does and see him off to work?”

If you enjoyed this post, take a look at the whole Weird Words of Wisdom series.

And, if you want to see Page in action, here is a 1956 episode of The Patti Page Show.

Weird Words of Wisdom: Attending to Our Bodily Housekeeping Edition

“Many girls feel that it is more delicate to neglect the care of the bowels than to attend to a daily evacuation, but if they would remember that it is just as indelicate to carry effete or dead matter around in the bowels as it would be to carry it upon the person in any other way, they would realize that it was only politeness and refinement to see that this part of their bodily housekeeping was attended to.”

What a Young Woman Ought to Know, 1913
By Mary Wood-Allen

Today, I would love to blog about a book with a Halloween theme. Unfortunately, Vincent Price never wrote an advice book for teens. (He did, however, write a cookbook.) So, the scariest thing that we can do is travel a century into the past to see what the day’s leading authorities were telling girls.

About this Book and Its Author: Born in 1841, Dr. Mary Wood-Allen was a physician and the World Superintendent of the Purity Department of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (isn’t that an imposing-sounding title?). She was a leading light of the social purity movement in late 19th and early 20th century America, and wrote many books advising girls and women about sexuality and health. Though her views seem far removed from today’s feminist thought, many feminists of her era supported the social purity cause. Social purists believed in giving young women information about sexuality (though they usually did so in an oblique way—they popularized “the birds and the bees” method of explaining reproduction). They also attacked the prevailing double standard that demanded purity from women but found it acceptable for men to visit prostitutes. Their alternative to the double standard was imposing Victorian standards of purity on both sexes.

Wood-Allen was in great demand as a lecturer, as an interesting biographical sketch from 1897 shows:

“At present Dr. Allen has her home in Toledo, Ohio, whence she goes forth into the lecture field. Glorious as has been her work for temperance, that which she has done, and is doing, for social purity is more beautiful. Upon this subject, so difficult to handle, she has spoken Sabbath evenings in many pulpits, and has received the unqualified praise of such noted clergymen as Dr. Heber Newton, Dr. Theodore Cuyler and Dr. Pentecost in the East, and Dr. McLean upon the Pacific coast. She manifests a peculiar fitness for giving wise counsel to girls, and has done acceptable work in this line in schools and colleges. During several winters, by invitation of Miss Grace Dodge, she has spoken to the Working Girl’s Clubs of New York City…Her mission in the work of reform and philanthropy demands a peculiar talent which she possesses in an unusual degree; a scientific education which enables her to speak with authority ; a winning presence ; a musical voice which makes itself heard in the largest building with no apparent effort, and which by its sympathetic quality arrests attention and touches the heart, while her words appeal to the reason, and a gentle womanly manner which converts the most pronounced opposer of woman’s public work. To those who hear her on the platform or in the pulpit, she is a living voice, alluring her hearers to lives of truth and purity, and to those who know her personally she is a sweet womanly presence, the embodiment of those graces which are the power in the home.”

Wood-Allen cites the views of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg several times in this book, and her general views on health seem to accord well with his: Enemas are good, coffee is bad, and “self-abuse” is a dire threat to physical and mental health.

Quotes from What a Young Woman Ought to Know

“The influence of tight clothing upon the pelvic organs is to displace them and create a great many difficulties which we know as ‘Female Diseases.’”

“If you waken unrefreshed (after a night’s sleep), I should want to inquire into your habits of life. Was there opportunity for fresh air to enter your room? Was there in it no uncovered vessel, no old shoes in the closet, no soiled underclothing, nothing that could contaminate the atmosphere? Did you eat a hearty supper late in the evening? Is your system oppressed with a superabundance of sweets?”

“Dancing is a most fascinating amusement, and if it only could be conducted under proper circumstances, it would be very delightful. In itself it is not so objectionable as in its concomitants; the late hours, the improper dressing, the hearty suppers in the middle of the night, the promiscuous association, and the undue familiarity of the attitude of the round dance are what make dancing objectionable.”

“I would like to call your attention to the great evil of romance-reading, both in the production of premature development and in the creation of morbid mental states which will tend to the production of physical evils, such as nervousness, hysteria, and a host of maladies which largely depend on disturbed nerves.”

“The modern play concerns itself principally with a delineation of those phases of life which we condemn when they become reality, and the teaching power of the stage becomes a lesson in wrongdoing which to the young and inexperienced is potent in its suggestiveness.”

On card playing: “The young woman who respects her own intellectual and moral powers will see little charm in manipulating cards in a way to gain a momentary success over another and perhaps arousing unkind feelings, it may be even passions, that may culminate in bloodshed.”

“When girls are so sentimentally fond of each other that they are like silly lovers when together, and weep over each other’s absence in uncontrollable agony, the conditions are serious enough for the consultation of a physician. It is an abnormal state of affairs, and if probed thoroughly, might be found to be a sort of perversion, a sex mania, needing immediate and perhaps severe measures.”

“A young husband exacted of his bride a promise that she would never take a glass of wine except in his company, and when asked the reason, replied that he knew that no woman’s judgment was to be trusted after taking one glass of wine.”

“…the daughter of drunken parents, very often attractive to some men by reason of their excitable, vivacious, neurotic manner, should be carefully avoided by young men in search of wives.”

“Idiocy and inebriety are on the increase among civilized peoples.”

“…while in the human being the procreative act does not kill, it exhausts, and no doubt takes from the vital force of those exercising it. One can feel justified to lose a part of her own life if she is conferring life upon others, but to indulge in such a waste of vital force merely for pleasure is certainly never excusable…”

“A young man may assure you most emphatically that he respects you none the less, although you allow him to hold your hand, or kiss you at parting, but he knows it is not true, and he will admit it to others rather than to the girl herself.”

“…in wedded life, all that is lasting in affection, in tender courtesy, in most intimate companionship, in sweetest demonstration, is possible without the physical union, which in itself is the most transitory of pleasures, but which in unlimited indulgence becomes the most domineering of passions, exhaustive of physical powers and of mental vigor, and absolutely annihilating all true love.”

What a Young Woman Ought to Know is so full of weirdness that you might want to read the whole thing. It’s in the public domain and available for free.

Read the whole Weird Words of Wisdom series.