Weird Words of Wisdom: Big Splendid Manhood Edition

“There are many silly, flashy, worthless, and even evil girls who think the boys they desire are their legitimate prey. Often such girls appear to be superficially the most fascinating. They know the art and trick of making the most of their charms. Nothing will so definitely put a boy in a wrong light before a whole school or community, as friendships and associations with ‘fast’ girls. Give them all a wide berth.”

Marked Trails for Boys by Frank H. Cheley, 1931

About the Book: We’ve looked at several books for girls in my weekly series on advice manuals for teenagers, and we’ve seen the double standards and mixed messages girls have received about growing up. Well, this book proves that boys sometimes traveled a confusing path as well. Author Frank H. Cheley doesn’t want his young readers to be wishy-washy, namby-pamby, weak-willed sissy boys, but he does want them to be perfect gentlemen at all times.

About the Author: Frank H. Cheley was an outdoors enthusiast who believed that camping, hiking, and other outdoor experiences helped young people develop good character. After working with boys through the YMCA, he founded his own boys’ summer camp in the Colorado mountains in 1921. He added camp activities for girls in 1926. His many books for young people often used hiking and exploring as metaphors for life’s struggles. More than 90 years later, the Cheley family still runs Cheley Colorado Camps. Frank H. Cheley left behind a wonderful legacy.

(Of course, I’m still going to cherry-pick the most dated and silly-sounding quotes in his book for cheap laughs. Maybe if I’d gone to a better summer camp, I’d be above this sort of thing.)

Most unintentionally dirty-sounding passage this book: When a boy waits for true love, he will find himself “ready with a big splendid manhood to offer in return for the devotion and companionship of a splendid girl.”

Second most unintentionally dirty-sounding tidbit: “Then there is Sister…Some other boy will be discovering, almost before you know it, that ‘she is one girl in a thousand.’ Why not beat him to it? A fellow who is half alive can learn many, many things from his sister, if they are on right terms.”

Something you wouldn’t want to hear from a summer camp director nowadays: “One of the very finest things in all the world is a fresh, clean-cut, upstanding, eager-eyed boy, filled to overflowing with physical power and nervous energy, seeking a suitable world to conquer.”

Some of Cheley’s favorite adjectives for describing the ideal boy: Vigorous, lithe, red-blooded, clean (morally, although he does make the usual advice-book pitch for deodorant and shampoo), splendid, pure, fine-spirited.

Cheley’s favorite names for a less-than-ideal boy: Molly-coddle, jelly bean, lounge lizard, coward, do-nothing.

Most depressing way to urge kindness toward friends: Be generous in your praise…Your friends will be a long time dead.

Cheley’s favorite role model for boys: Teddy Roosevelt.

The two kinds of boys (or maybe dogs—this part is kind of confusing): “The thoroughbred leads the party to the top; head high, eyes shining, teeth set, muscles quivering from giving their best; a true fighter who loves the battle. The house pet snuggles into an overstuffed davenport by the radiator and asks mildly for toast and tea.”

Cheley’s recommendations for good health:

•             Simple, plain food

•             Vigorous outdoor work and play

•             “Keeping digestion active”

•             Sleeping regularly in the open air

•             Avoiding patent medicines

Other quotes from Marked Trails for Boys

“A loud, noisy, boisterous boy who is inclined to be a bit smart is very tiresome. No one likes a ‘cutie.’”

“Of course, a worthy person never tells a ‘dirty story.’ It simply cannot be done without the loss of your self-respect…The boy that tells such is advertising that he is rotten at the heart, the boy who listens to one is yellow; he has no convictions worthy of a gentleman.”

“There is no finer little thoughtfulness that a boy can show for his mother than to early form the habit of taking her often, even one flower.”

“A boy, to enjoy fine girl friendships, must always and at all times be a gentleman, courteous, chivalrous, not a long-faced,  pious goody-good. Girls admire real vigorous, masculine men, but gentlemen. To forget for a moment the fine properties is to coarsen and spoil a beautiful relationship.”

“Real folks have nothing but scorn for a spooney boy, and fine girls invariably resent being pawed over. Only cheap, undesirable girls tolerate it.”

“Have always a grand, good, glorious time; be a regular boy. Everyone despises a sissy.”

“Fine boys everywhere have a real responsibility for influencing girls in their crowds to fine, womanly conduct.”

“Take a good disposition to the study table. Say, ‘Come now, Mr. Algebra and Madame Latin, I’m ready to lick the tar out of both of you.’”

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Weird Words of Wisdom: Mad for Van Johnson Edition

“A gal can’t find out what makes the world go round unless she gets around a bit herself!”

Personality Plus by Sheila John Daly, 1946

About the Book: We’re going back a bit further into teenage-advice-manual history today, back to the very birth of the American teenager. Jon Savage, author of Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture, says the word teenager came into common use in 1944.

“From the very start,” Savage writes, “it was a marketing term that recognized the spending power of adolescents…the fact that youth had become a market also meant that it had become a discrete, separate age group with its own peer-generated rituals, rights and demands.”

Personality Plus was written for teenagers, by a teenager, who opens the book by arguing that her peers’ spending habits and rituals do not define them:

“According to the popular conception, a gal just isn’t on the ball unless she drinks a couple of cokes a day, is mad for Van Johnson and Robert Walker and is swayed pro and con by Frank Sinatra. And the average Joe has missed the train by a mile unless he knows which band leaders play which instruments, wears bright reindeer sweaters, has lengthy phone conversations each evening and rides around after school in an old, violently painted jalopy.”

Daly knows, however, that teenage preferences are powerful—she sprinkles liberal pop cultural references throughout her book.

Number of Van Johnson References in Personality Plus: Eight. Van Johnson tied with Bing Crosby as the top box office draw in 1945. He was a bobby-soxer favorite; as his New York Times obituary said, “The numbers of screaming teenage girls who swooned for Mr. Johnson were second only to those who threw themselves at Frank Sinatra.”

Other Celebrities Mentioned in Personality Plus:

Vaughn Monroe

Gene Kelly (twice)

Robert Walker (twice)

Frank Sinatra (twice)

Betty Grable

Ingrid Bergman

Fred MacMurray

June Allyson

Harry James (four times)

Walter Pidgeon

Lana Turner

Humphrey Bogart

Woody Herman

Perry Como

Joan Leslie

Johnny Mercer

Johnny Weissmuller

About the Author: I think I kinda love Sheila John Daly, an ambitious and talented woman from a family of ambitious and talented women. One of her three older sisters, Maureen Daly, wrote the classic teenage romance Seventeenth Summer. Maureen also wrote a teenage advice column for the Chicago Tribune, which Sheila took over when Maureen went to work for Ladies Home Journal. By the time Sheila was 21, her column was reaching 10 million readers in 36 newspapers, and she had authored four books.

As a teenager herself, Daly avoided a preachy tone in Personality Plus. Instead of railing against “necking,” she reminded readers that getting too affectionate on double dates could make the other couple uncomfortable. Instead of banning smoking and drinking, she warned party guests against “dumping cigarette ashes between the davenport cushions” or raiding the hosts’ wine cellar.

Not much of her advice actually qualifies as weird. It’s entertaining, though, in the vivid picture it creates of 1940s teenage life. (The book’s glossy illustrations are also charming.) Consider this comment about teenage slang:

“‘Smooth’ is an interesting adjective which came into the high school vocabulary about five years ago, and when it did, about a dozen other words dropped out of common use, for ‘smooth’ is an accepted synonym for them all…Smooth can mean anything from pretty, poised, attractive and full of personality to just plain intelligent; it can even take the place of a whole sentence, explaining that a fellow or girl is a good dancer, a sharp date, an interesting conversationalist, or a fine hunk of heartbreak—all in one word.”

At times, Daly has a nicely snarky tone, as in her rules for losing friends and alienating people:

  • “Make yourself the center of attraction always. Make money the principal topic of your conversation. Match every anecdote that someone tells you with one of your own—just a bit better, just a bit more king-sized.
  • “Get the habit of talking about your friends…Don’t put your thoughts in black and white, just drop the hint and leave the others to twist the remark around to exactly what you meant it to mean. Those catty girls—how could they.
  • “Speak up. Then give the excuse: ‘I can’t help it. I’m just frank, that’s all.’”

If she were a young woman today, Sheila John Daly would probably have a lively blog and a huge Twitter following.

My Favorite Sheila John Daly-isms: “Any fellow old enough to select his own shirts and ties is man enough to give his own best glen-plaid slacks a once-over-lightly with the iron or to sponge the coke stain off his red striped tie. So whip out the ironing board and iron, fellows, and get to work—your wardrobe is showing.”

“If the right boys don’t ask you to have fun, if you can’t find anyone to move into the hand-holding department with you, well—have fun without boys. And you can have more fun than you think! Find yourself several good girl friends; try enjoying a movie with them on a Saturday night. Develop a hobby, get interested in sports, read all the books you’ve wanted to read for so long, find an after-school job.”

Final Fun Facts: I couldn’t find much information on Sheila John Daly’s career any later than this 1959 Life article. I do know that her married name was Sheila Daly White and that (yay!) she’s still alive. And if, as seems certain, this blogger’s aunt is the same Sheila Daly White, she really is a very “smooth” lady.

Other Quotes from Personality Plus:

On ways to meet boys: “Putting in an appearance at school basketball games to do a little lung-and-tongue exercise to cheer the fellows on to a higher score isn’t a bad idea, either, because some of the smoothest characters play forward on the cage five and they get a kick out of being appreciated!”

On preparing for a date: “…plan your schedule far enough in advance so that you won’t be caught with an unpressed skirt and your hair still in curlers when the doorbell rings.”

On corsages: “Use originality in your choice. Remember there are other flowers besides gardenias! Try a camellia in season, a cluster of violets, or two long-stemmed red roses.”

On the rules of dancing: “…a girl who is already dancing should never refuse to change partners when a boy cuts in…the partner who was first dancing with a girl must not cut back on the boy who took her from him, though he can cut in on a third fellow. Also (to avoid trouble!) he must not continue to cut in on the same fellow when the latter dances with other girls!”

“A formal dance calls for a certain dignity and even if you’re jitter-bugging at a sweater hop in the school gym, don’t claim more than your share of the floor.”

On curfews: “Another good reason for an earlier zero hour is the fact that the ‘healthiest’ part of the evening is always from about eight to twelve. The main event, the dance or the movie, is usually over by that time, a sandwich and a malt won’t take more than forty-five minutes, and after that–? A smart fellow and girl will start for home, and because you’re smart, too, you won’t have to ask why!”

“Many leading movie stars go to bed each night at nine when making a picture because they know you can’t win Oscars with circles under your eyes.”

A sign that he’s in love: “He has his class ring made smaller so that it’s just the right size for your third finger, right hand. (And that’s where all the gals are wearing them these days.)”

A party refreshment idea: “Heat hamburger buns in your oven until they are warm and toasty. Wrap one strip of bacon around a cube of American or pimento cheese and put it under the broiler of the oven until the bacon is crisp and cheese soft and toasted. Then pop the sizzling combination into the hot buns, serve with hot cocoa topped with marshmallow and you’ll soon see a quick disappearing act.”

On hair: “Whether you’re wearing your hair in a long bob, a fluffy feather cut, or in quaint pigtails with bright red bows, that old routine of ‘one hundred strokes a night, keep your hair healthy and bright,’ with frequent and thorough shampoos between, is the best way to give it that magazine ad slickness.”

On telephone etiquette: “Whenever possible, wait for boys to call you. Even with a hundred poles and a lot of wire in between, a fellow can tell when your line is out for him. And a smooth boy won’t want to get tangled up in it.”

Wonder Women of the ’80s

What do you get when you combine Donna Summer, Erma Bombeck, Cheryl Tiegs, Judy Blume, Gloria Vanderbilt, Carol Burnett, and Rose Kennedy? An absolute dream cast for The Vagina Monologues? Well, yes. But you also get the Wonder Women of the 80’s (sic), according to this book that School Book Fairs, Inc., published in 1980. Rather audacious of author Garnet Topper to pick the decade’s wonder women when the decade had barely begun. By the way, while Garnet Topper sounds like a Gay-Head-style pseudonym, my cursory research suggests that it’s a real name.

Weird Words of Wisdom: Twin Sister Smackdown Edition

…or, Whose Vintage Advice to Teens is Weirder—Ann’s or Abby’s?

Dear Teen-Ager by Abigail Van Buren, 1959

Ann Landers Talks to Teen-Agers About Sex, 1963

“Just as ‘liquor is quiquor’ is a way to a neat little plot in the cemetery, it can also be a jet liner to sextra headaches.”—Abby

“You wouldn’t take a diamond and platinum brooch to try to pry open a jar of pickles with it, would you? Using sex in the wrong way adds up to the same thing.”—Ann

About the Authors: Identical twins Pauline and Esther Friedman, the children of Jewish immigrants, were inseparable as children. As Morningside College co-eds, they collaborated on an advice column for the school paper. They married in a double wedding. And they built matching careers—Esther became Ann Landers in 1955 at the Chicago Sun-Times; Pauline because the San Francisco Chronicle’s Dear Abby three months later.  Both their columns were hits in syndication. Ann Landers eventually reached 90 million readers, and Abby reached 80 million by 1995. Pauline’s daughter Jeanne Phillips started co-writing Dear Abby with her mother in 1987 and took over all writing duties by 2002, after Pauline was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. That was also the year Esther died, bringing the Ann Landers column an end.

The Ann-Abby Feud: Understandably, Esther resented Pauline’s decision to start a rival advice column. The sisters went through a period of estrangement that included the publication dates for both these books. In 2005, Esther’s daughter, Margo Howard, published a collection of letters she’d received from her mother through the years.  Complaints about “Popo” (Pauline’s family nickname) figure prominently. “I can’t cut her out of my life completely, no matter how loony she gets,” one letter from 1981 reads. “She is too much a part of me, but I must myself protect against her in some way. She is too unpredictable—and destructive.”  

From Abby’s book, a sensitive illustration of the problems facing overweight teens

About the Books: The books’ titles reflect their differing focuses. Abby’s book covers various teen topics, from dating to dealing with teachers, from grooming to smoking. Ann’s book takes dead aim at the sex stuff. (That’s probably what most teens skipped to in comprehensive advice books, anyway.)

Changes in society probably influenced the difference in focus. Although only four years separated the books, those four years saw rapid changes in sexual mores. “The pill” became available for contraceptive use in 1960, and by 1963, America was on the cusp of sexual revolution. Of girls who turned 15 between 1954 and 1963, 48 percent had premarital sex before age 20. For girls who turned 15 between 1964 and 1973, the figure rose to 65 percent (Source: The Alan Guttmacher Institute).  

Differences in Tone: Abby’s writing style is much cutesier, and her book includes cutesy illustrations, as well. Ann can get a bit sassy, but mostly adopts a down-to-earth style. This reflects a real difference in their early advice-giving styles. As Time wrote in 1957, “Abby’s replies are slicker, quicker, and flipper.”

Examples of this style in Dear Teen-Ager include:

“If you’re under 18 there are more reasons for not going steady than Elvis can shake a hip at.”

“Men who are older tend to be bolder.”

“Troubles are like photographs. They are developed in dark places.”

Contrast that with a typical piece of advice from Ann’s book:

“Housework, particularly floor-scrubbing, is not only great for the female figure, but it’s good for the soul. And it will help take the edge off your sex appetite. Cooking, baking, and sewing will prepare you for homemaking. Energy siphoned off into these constructive channels will leave less energy for preoccupation with erotic fantasies.”

Abby would have probably said, “Keep scrubbing the floor, and you’ll be lusty nevermore”….or something.

A Shared Moose Obsession? Abby’s book includes one of her most famous lines: “Girls need to ‘prove their love’ through illicit sex relations like a moose needs a hatrack.”

Ann’s book reprints a letter from a girl with a loser boyfriend, and Ann’s response concludes, “You need this infant like a moose needs a hat rack.”

I don’t know which sister used the expression first, but it didn’t originate with either of them. Jack Benny made the phrase a running joke on his radio show in 1947.

The Double Standard: Abby took the double standard for male and female behavior for granted in 1959, while Ann rejected it in 1963.

Abby: “When a decent boy gets serious about someone, and thinks of marrying someone…that someone will be someone he respects. All boys aren’t angels, but most of them are looking for one.”

Ann: “No man should insist on a white-flower girl unless he is able to bring to the marriage the same credentials of purity.”

Homosexuality: Abby doesn’t mention homosexuality at all, but Ann devotes a whole chapter to it. This distinguishes her book from the other teen advice books I have from this period—few go beyond advising teens to seek professional help if they don’t develop an attraction to the opposite sex.

Ann sounds genuinely distressed by the mail she receives from desperate gay young people. “About 70 percent of the letters come from boys,” she writes. “Most of the boys who write are tortured with guilt and self-hatred. They live on the razor’s edge, terrified that someone may learn they aren’t ‘like everybody else’…Many who write are so ashamed of their physical desires for members of their own sex that they speak of suicide.”

She accepts the psychiatric wisdom of the time that labeled homosexuality as a mental disorder, but she does encourage heterosexual teens to be understanding toward their gay peers, who are “twisted and sick, through no fault of their own.”

Abby’s and Ann’s approaches to homosexuality in their respective books carried over into their newspaper columns. Abby mostly ignored the subject, and Ann stuck by her belief that homosexuality was a disorder until 1992, nearly two decades after the American Psychiatric Association stopped labeling it as one.

Ann’s Most WTF Comment about Homosexuality: “Some Lesbians who despise men enjoy arousing a male’s sexual appetite and then punishing him with rejection.”

Abby’s Least Helpful Advice: “…if everybody picks on you—well—don’t look now, but maybe something’s wrong with you!” (During my many years as a bullying victim, this would have cut me like a knife.)

Abby’s Most Surprising Advice, Which Follows Many Chapters Stressing Inner Beauty and the Need for Self-Acceptance: “Now maybe you’re one of those girls who were slightly short-changed above the equator. Hundreds of girls have written to me asking if it’s dishonest to get a little outside help (okay, ‘falsies!’) to put them out in front. To this I say, ‘Buy all the attachments you need!’”

On Smoking and Drinking: Both sisters advise against teenage drinking. Ann describes the decision she made at a young age—and maintained throughout her life—to abstain from alcohol. Interestingly, her daughter Margo writes that “I was considered ‘sophisticated’ even as a high school girl. I smoke and I drank scotch on the rocks.”

Ann has little to say about smoking; Abby raises several objections, which don’t include health effects. She even pulls out another double standard: “Even when a fellow happens to be a smoker himself, he prefers a girl who doesn’t smoke. It cheapens her appearance. It clouds the illusion of sweetness.”

Abby’s Most Ironic-in-Hindsight Use of a Celebrity to Make a Temperance Point: “Did Mickey Mantle tell Casey Stengel it’s old-fashioned to forbid smoking, drinking or late hours during baseball season? Of course not.”

Other Abby Quotes:

“A nice girl does not hand out a kiss—or kisses—on the first date, no matter how much she digs the boy. If he’s worth liking, he’ll respect you for it. Boys, hold your fire.”

“The bobby-soxer herself, Miss Junior Miss…is endowed by a mysterious but obviously prudent Nature with more slowly excitable sex responses.”

On handling a “mad lover” (21st century translation: a potential date rapist): “In an extreme case, where physical duress is involved, meet force with force. A right uppercut is unladylike, so you’d best settle for a stereophonic slap in lover boy’s fresh face…When he recovers from his chagrin, your best line is a brusque “Home James!” He won’t trouble you again.”

Other Ann Quotes:

“A girl who is called a make-out by her friends would do well to take stock of herself.”

“What am I saying? That a girl can be nice even though she goes all the way? Yes. The girl can be nice—but the girl is not very bright.”

Overall, I think Abby gets the Weirdness Trophy.

Other Entries in this Series

Weird Words of Wisdom: Prettily Bewildered Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: Spanking New Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: Chaperoned Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: TMI, Dick Clark! Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: TMI, Dick Clark! Edition

“At certain times each month you feel listless, bored or even completely knocked out. A physical change is making its presence known through menstruation. With the beginning of these days of monthly bleeding, some girls may be hit by attacks of cramps, headaches and even upset stomach. Strange, isn’t it? And frightening at first, until you begin to understand that this is part of life’s process for continuing itself. Your body will supply a son or daughter to build the world of the future.”

Your Happiest Years by Dick Clark, 1959

About the Book: Do any adults actually remember adolescence as their “happiest years?” This book by television personality Dick Clark, who would later be called “the world’s oldest teenager,” falls into that strange 1950s genre we have encountered here before—a volume of teenage advice authored by an adult celebrity. Can you imagine buying your young daughter a book in which Ryan Seacrest explains how her body will soon burst into womanhood?

Of course, when it comes to these celebrity books, it’s questionable who really authored them. Pat Boone’s book had a ring of authenticity, but this one is a pretty generic collection of 1950s wisdom for teenagers. It offers sensible advice on dealing with friends and family, while urging strict adherence to gender roles.

About the Author:  American Bandstand premiered nationally in 1957. The show “did as much as anyone or anything to advance the influence of teenagers and rock ‘n’ roll on American culture,” according to the New York Times. An immediate hit, it would run until 1989. In its early years, the Times wrote, teenagers saw Clark as “their music-savvy older brother.”

Dick’s marriage to high-school sweetheart Bobbie gave his teenage romance advice some credibility. Unfortunately, Dick and Bobbie divorced only two years after the publication of Your Happiest Years.

Clark was also a shrewd businessman, who never shied from a money-making opportunity.

”I get enormous pleasure and excitement sitting in on conferences with accountants, tax experts and lawyers,” he told the Times in 1961. It’s not surprising that he would lend at least his name to this book. Now, it is a bit surprising that he also “authored” a book for adults about bowling (scroll about 3/4 of the way down the page).

Clark wasn’t experiencing one of his happiest years in 1959. As the U.S. House Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight investigated payola in the music industry, Clark’s network bosses took pre-emptive action. As Time wrote on November 30, 1959, “ABC confronted him with a significant decision: he must get rid of his outside music interests or else quit TV…Faced with the ABC ultimatum, Clark decided to ‘divest’ himself of his interests in various music firms.” Clark denied any involvement in payola.

Celebrity Names This Book Drops: Connie Francis, Solly Hemus, Mickey Mantle, Dinah Shore.

Cautionary Tales Clark Offers:

  •         A boy who failed to overcome his shyness with girls at the appropriate age and reached the age of 19 without ever being kissed.
  •         A young ladies’ man who grew into a lonely adult when girls tired of his “gay-blade routine.”
  •         A sickly boy who resisted his parents’ curfew and came down with tuberculosis.
  •            A girl who stayed out all night, causing her worried father to head out looking for her. In his exhausted state, he crashed his car and emerged permanently crippled.

More Quotes from Your Happiest Years

“Once you’ve stepped out and found you can have a good time with girls, you are free to call any of them you know and ask for a date. They can say no, but at least you can ask. You don’t even have to feel self-conscious about it if one turns you down—you can dial another. A girl can’t do this—or certainly should not.”

“The sweaters and blouses that once flopped about you, to the despair of your mother and father, who wanted their little girl to look neat, are starting to fit snugly around your chest. Your breasts are undergoing a change as you grow into young womanhood. So are your hips, which broaden as they prepare for the function nature has marked out for you as a woman: the bearing of children.”

“It’s fine to be ‘one of the boys’ at certain ages. The teen age isn’t one of those times. The sports you played together when you were nine or ten belong only to him around thirteen or fourteen. You can know about them. In fact you should be able to talk about them—but let him star at them. You be there to cheer and he’ll notice and appreciate that.”

“A young woman should begin in her teens learning the things that keep a home running smoothly. She can watch how her mother cooks and bakes. There are also many opportunities for a daughter to observe how Mother handles Dad when he’s had a tough day at work. Mom can always use some help around the house, with dishes, cleaning, cooking, and a million other things a girl should know to qualify for that band of gold.”

On menstruation: “Accept it as you accept other signs of developing femininity and attractive womanhood. Although it may give you some discomfort and even embarrassment at first, it is a mark of special favor for you as a woman.”

Why teenage boys shouldn’t avoid dating in favor of hanging out with the guys: “A pinball machine may be a lot of fun when you’re seventeen, but at twenty-two it’s no date for a dance, and it won’t sew up those ripped shirts, when you’re thirty.”

Previous entries in this series

Weird Words of Wisdom: Prettily Bewildered Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: Spanking New Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: Chaperoned Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: Chaperoned Edition

“The question of chaperons will surely come up. It’s a fact that most teen-agers prefer to go to a party that’s chaperoned.”

Party Perfect by Gay Head, 1959 (3rd printing, 1962)

Yes, the author’s name is Gay Head. My “Top Searches” should be interesting this week.

About the Book: Dust off your records and start pressing your suit— we’re going to party like it’s 1959! This slim Scholastic volume is filled with party-planning tips, from entertainment (“No evening’s program of games is complete without a relay race”) to wardrobe (“Dress up in your best date dress and tell your girl friends to do the same. Jacket and tie for the boys. After all, part of the fun of a party is being dressed right for the occasion. You’ll all enjoy yourselves more if you do.”)

Sample Party Themes:

  • A United Nations get-together. You assign each guest a country, and they dress accordingly: “A girl can look like a Mexican senorita by wearing a colorful, full cotton skirt, a pretty blouse, and hoop earrings. To be a gaucho, a boy might wear dark trousers, a colorful shirt, and a cumberbund.”
  • A space party: “By Jupiter—be the first one in your crowd to give an out-of-this-world party! This is not as mad as it sounds. The day will come when travel to outer space will be as everyday as going for a spin in the family car.”

Sample Refreshments:

  • For New Year’s Eve, hot buttered soup, made with eight cans of condensed tomato soup and seasoned with lemon juice, cinnamon, and cloves. “Serve hot with a pat of butter floated on the top.”
  • For Valentine’s Day, tuna tomatoes. Combine two cans of chunk-style tuna with a can of cream of mushroom soup. Season with salt and pepper. Use mixture as filling for eight hollowed-out tomatoes, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • For a space party, deviled ham missiles. Spread deviled ham on half a hot dog bun. Slice a cheese wedge in half lengthwise and insert it at one end of the bun. Insert two carrot sticks at the other end. Top with other half of bun.

Sample Party Games Titles That Sound More Interesting Than the Games Actually Are: Bottoms Up, Scrambled Anatomy, Elopement, Murder.

About the Author: I would love to share a complete biography of Gay Head that included her childhood at Newport, her lively debutante days, and her marriage to a shipping magnate. Alas, Miss Head never existed. The Library of Congress entry for this book suggests that Gay Head was a pseudonym for Margaret Hauser. I can’t find any information about Hauser, except that she edited Scholastic’s Co-Ed Magazine from the 1950s through at least 1970. She also wrote articles under the Gay Head pseudonym for Scholastic magazine in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Interestingly, though, Hauser was not the only Gay Head. On October 21, 2002, USA Today published an interview with Ruth Imler Langhinrichs. “From 1948 to 1952,” the article states, “Langhinrichs used the pseudonym Gay Head to answer teens’ questions in a column in Scholastic magazine called ‘Boy Dates Girl.’”

It seems that Gay Head must have been a in-house pseudonym, used by various Scholastic writers. The occasion for Langhinrichs’ interview was the release of Steve Coulter’s short film The Etiquette Man, based on the book Boy Dates Girl, a compilation of Gay Head columns. Boy Dates Girl was first published in 1937, with updated printings through the mid-1960s.

Langhinrichs, at least, looks back fondly on her Gay Head days, according to USA Today: “Her years as Gay Head were happy times, she says. They helped her become an editor for teens at Ladies’ Home Journal, where she wrote a column titled Sub-Deb — as in not-quite-a-debutante. Langhinrichs still collects lore on social civility and manners. She works two days a week as a writing coach at Indiana’s Purdue University.”

To the delight of bloggers everywhere, “Gay Head” wrote several other teen advice books, including You’re Asking Me? and Hi There, High School.

We’ll be seeing more of her in future weeks.

Previous entries in this series

Weird Words of Wisdom: Prettily Bewildered Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: Spanking New Edition

In Memory of Horshack

I wonder who decided to put Hal Linden on the cover of a kids’ book called TV’s Fabulous Faces. I mean, Donny and Marie have a chapter in here!

In tribute to Ron Palillo, who passed away August 14, I present this excerpt from TV’s Fabulous Faces, a 1977 Scholastic Book Club title:

“When the show first came on the air, some viewers thought Horshack was retarded. ‘That made me very angry,’ Ron said. ‘People pinned that label on Horshack because he is young. If you act that way when you’re older, they just say you’re a little slow.’

“Ron Shook his head in disgust. ‘At first, Horshack would only talk when Barbarino said, ‘You may talk now.’ That’s going on in schools today. It always has! Retarded? Go to schools and see the kids! Many of them are crying out for attention and that’s not because they are retarded! They are asking for help!’