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.

Predictions

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

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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

Spin Again Sunday: Laverne & Shirley

Let us venture again into the world of vintage board games.

Today’s Game: Laverne & Shirley

Copyright Date: 1977

Object: “Make all your dreams come true.” (In this game, all your dreams must involve dating. She who dates the most, wins.)

Game Board: Colorful, but the Laverne and Shirley caricatures are drab. Perhaps they complement the drab vision of blue collar life this game portrays—an endless round of rent paying, hair washing, TV viewing, bus riding, and brown-bag lunching.

Game Pieces: Standard plastic pegs. The most interesting game element is your “diary,” which you strive to fill up with dating minutes.

Recommended Ages: 8-14. Manufacturers often put an upper age limit of 13 or 14 on these TV show games. I don’t what their reasoning was, but I can imagine parents using it to their advantage: “I’d love to play Laverne & Shirley with you, Lisa, but rules are rules.”

Personal Notes: Did you ever see something and know you’ve seen it before, long ago? That’s how I felt looking at this game board, though I’m pretty sure I never owned the game. I must have played it at a friend’s house.

About the Show: Laverne & Shirley premiered in January 1976. I remember watching the first episode and finding it hilarious. The rest of America agreed, quickly propelling the show to number one. I was 7; I don’t know what the rest of America’s excuse was.

Final Fun Fact: According to The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable Shows, “Critics called (the show) TV junk food; ABC program chief Fred Silverman responded by comparing it to the classic satire of the 17th century French playwright Moliere.”

Previous Entries in this Series

Charlie’s Angels