Teen ‘Zine Scene: Co-Ed, December 1959

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.

gay head


Weird Words of Wisdom: Crisp White Gloves Edition

“Above all, don’t arrive at the breakfast or dinner table, or go downtown shopping, with hair up and guard down. Boys (including fathers and brothers) should think that beauties are born, not made—even though all girls know better!”

The Co-Ed Book of Charm and Beauty, 1962 (1963 printing)

By the Editors of Co-Ed Magazine

About the Book: For the latest entry in my series on vintage advice books for teens, we turn to this Scholastic book club offering, chock full of advice for improving every aspect of a girl’s looks and personality. The fashion section makes me sad that I was born too late for hats and little white gloves, though I’m happy to live without girdles and curlers.

About the Authors: Scholastic published Co-Ed Magazine from 1957 to 1985. According to the New York Times, Co-Ed targeted girls in the home economics field. (Scholastic replaced the magazine with Choices, a classroom magazine for teens of both sexes, which still exists.) As we have seen in the past, Margaret Hauser edited Co-Ed Magazine for many years, and she and other Scholastic personnel often wrote advice books under the pseudonym Gay Head. It’s a shame they didn’t do so with this one—that name would make a lovely complement with the cover image.

Hair setting techniques, The Co-Ed Book of Charm and Beauty

Recommended Amount of Time to Devote to Bathing and Beauty Treatments: An hour each night, extended to two hours once a week and to three or four hours once a month for intensive maintenance.

Fashion Tips

“Short white gloves are never out of place, and there are many occasions when not to wear them would show a lack of good taste. Gloves are a ‘must’ at church, at weddings, and most really dress-up affairs.”

“A movie date, a stroll in the park, a casual gathering of your friends, or a shopping expedition should see you skirted casually, perhaps in the outfits you wear to school. A date that’s somewhat special, a church activity, concerts, the theater, and informal school dances call for a suit or that old stand-by, the basic dress…A basic dress takes to a hat, high heels, and crisp white gloves as well as to flat shoes and an all-purpose cardigan. It can go almost anywhere and be your Sunday best.”

“Special finery must be special all the way, from sparkling earrings and delicate bracelet to petite evening bag and satin, suede, or velvet slippers. Such grand occasions permit you to bare your neck and shoulders; to float in chiffon, taffeta, peau de soie, or fine cotton organdy; to wear a jeweled pin and stars in your eyes!”

“You’ll wear a hat to church, of course, but what’s the rule for other times? It’s good taste to wear a hat when traveling, on ‘downtown’ shopping trips, and whenever you know other women or girls will be wearing them.”

“When you’re within the walls of your home, don’t fall into the ‘nobody will see me’ rut. What about your family? What about the neighbors and store clerks who see you as you dash to the store on a last-minute errand for mother? They’ll view with horror, and remember with regret, the vision of you in pin curls, shirttail flying.”

Recommended at-home wear: Skirts or culottes, pants or Bermudas, with classic shirts or knit tops.

“On occasion, treat (your family) to the pleasure of seeing you in pretty separates or a dress at dinnertime—a ‘must’ if company is present.”

“Ankle socks or knee socks pair with sturdy school shoes, while you’ll want to wear nylons with soft ballet-type flats and little heels. Sneakers are for sports and after school.”

Make-up Tip: “A bit of petroleum jelly applied to eyelids, brows, and lashes, will make the eyes sparkle, lashes look longer, and brows stay neatly in place.” (I hate when my brows wander.)

Fragrance Recommendations by Personality Type

Single Floral: For girls who are “sweet, fragile, feminine.”

Floral Bouquet: For “the All-American girl, crazy for football and hi-fi, happy in the thick of things, always ready for fun.”

Spicy: For girls who are “alert, alive, mad for bright colors and songs with a beat.”

Woodsy-Mossy: For “the born athlete who lives in shorts and sweaters and delights in long walks in the rain.”

Oriental Blend: For “the intense, dramatic type of person who looks great in unusual jewelry, offbeat styles.”

Fruity: For “the quiet kind of girl who thinks more than she talks, enjoys soft music, serious books, daydreaming.” (I’m fruity, apparently.)

Modern Blend: Good if “you’re always on the go, always in the know, a clever girl with lots of zip and a wonderful sense of humor.”

Sample exercises

Clothes and Body Type:

“If you’re over five feet six inches tall and weigh 125 pounds or less, lucky you! You have the fashion model’s ideal figure.”
DOs for this type: Shirt-waist dresses, bold prints (including “coin-size polka dots”), large accessories.
DON’Ts: Too slim skirts, deep V necklines, vertical stripes.

Girls 5’6” and over, weighing “135 or thereabouts” (Anything higher than this is too terrible to contemplate, I guess)
DOs: Vertical and diagonal stripes, middy collars, cardigan tops, three-quarter sleeves, straight or gently flared skirts.
DON’Ts: Princess dress lines, pleated skirts.
“If you’re pining for a print, pick the ‘teeny-weeny’ polka dot, a calico, or baby-check ginghams.”

Girls 5’3” and under, weighing 105 or less
DOs: “The princess line, with its snug-fitting bodice and flared skirt,” straight sheaths, softly tailored suits, delicate buttons and jewelry, knife-pleated skirts.
DON’Ts: Bold-patterned prints, “suitcase-sized handbags.”

Girl 5’3” and under, weighing 115 or more
DOs: Skirts with “gentle gores or center pleats,” narrow self-belts, cardigan-topped outfits.
DON’Ts: Pencil-slim sheaths, ballooning skirts, deep V-necks, box pleats, overlong jackets, “giant trimmings.”

Sitting, Standing, and Walking Attractively

Sitting: “Try the S curve. Knees together (always—even when wearing shorts or slacks), place your thighs diagonally across the seat of the chair, your legs in the opposite direction, and cross your feet at the ankles.”

Standing: “Stand with correct posture, feet parallel. Step back with one foot and point that toe out at a forty-five degree angle. Keep the front foot straight, the heel a couple of inches away from the instep of the back foot, and turn your hips slightly toward the back foot (so that they present a slim line).”

Walking: “Beware of arms swinging, taking too long (or short) a stride, letting your chin lead and your derriere follow as it may…Your ‘bounce’ should be less than two inches…If you consciously let your fingertips brush your skirt as you walk, you’ll avoid that ‘swinging out’ look.”

Fearless Charm Inventory: The book includes inventories to help girls assess their charm levels. To the authors’ credit, they include prejudice, along with shyness and laziness, as a barrier to charm. The original owner of my book was not prejudiced or lazy, just shy.

Goody! Quizzes!: The book also includes quizzes on humor, tact, family interactions, and dating etiquette. Quizzes were always my favorite part of teen magazines. I think the wrong answers on the tact quiz may be a wee bit too obvious, though:

“I should have known you were sick because…”

a.)    You look so awful.

b.)    I missed seeing you around.

c.)    Sally’s been dating your boyfriend.

Final Fun Fact, Courtesy of the Authors: “The word grooming comes from gromet, an old French word meaning ‘servant’ or ‘assistant.’ Before you jump to the wrong conclusion, bridegroom comes from a combination of two Anglo-Saxon words: ‘bryd’ (bride) and ‘guma’ (man)!”