Suburban Treasures of the Post WWII Boom

On a sunny Saturday one winter afternoon, I found myself in the garden of a well-loved home in West Covina. Sitting on the end of a cul-de-sac and with the back of the property line facing the wash, this home was part of the post WWII building boom in Southern California. From 1950 to 1960 West Covina was one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Not bad for a city that split off from Covina because it didn’t want a sewage farm built in the area.

The items from today’s estate sale haul speak precisely to the middle class sensibilities of that era. A set of red cloth bound books with gold lettering caught my eye as I made my way through the living room. There on a bookshelf sat a nine volume set of the Scribner Radio Music Library from 1946. The amazing gold microphone on the cover sealed the deal for me, but when I started to thumb through one of the volumes I realized that this was a wonderful way to take the pulse of a nation’s culture. Volume 6, Standard & Modern Dance Music, and volume 8, Favorite Songs of Every Character, are the most intriguing books to study at the moment. Though I lack a piano at home, I’m hoping that my brother, the pianist, will indulge me by playing a slice of the library’s repertoire.

As good timing would have it, I passed by a table of costume jewelry & watches on my way to set the Music Library aside for purchase. A gold case with bells shimmered and I couldn’t say no to the scallop design so I picked it up. I turned the case over to reveal the name Coty on the other side. Upon opening the case carefully to investigate I confirmed that I had indeed just found a compact. The exterior of the case is in fairly good condition, with minor wear to the gold tone and some light scratches. The top lid mirror is perfectly intact & in marvelous shape. There is some blush in the compact, as well as the remnants of some air-spun powder, but no sign of the applicators. The sleigh bells on the handle are securely fastened and ring delightfully. Clearly something so cute just had to come home with me.

A quick search online revealed this darling ad from Vogue’s November 1942 issue.

Coty compacts ad from Vogue.

Coty compacts ad from Vogue.

Finding a vintage Coty Sleigh Bells powder compact was a nice surprise. I think this will make a fantastic Mother’s Day gift as my Mom has been collecting compacts for ages. Most of her goodies were found while living in Ireland, but I have been known to find a treasure or two in the time since. 

The set of books and the lovely compact point to signs of a prosperous middle class that could afford a taste of the arts & leisure in their own home. That neighborhood maintains the same sensibility in present day, and I hope that whomever buys that house appreciates it’s young yet valuable history.

 

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Remembering the Greatest Generation

Yesterday was a day was filled with reflective moments. I popped in and out of this live stream of the 70th D-Day Anniversary celebrations.

So many sacrificed so much. And I was reminded of that fact while hearing the stories of four American soldiers that were well enough to make the trip back to Normandy. Truly powerful stuff. You can watch the full episode here.

Earlier this year I happened upon a birding book from 1902. When I opened the cover I found a yellowing piece of paper tucked against the crease. Based on the outlines that pamphlet left on the inside of the cover and title page, I imagine the thing had been left untouched in there for a significant amount of time. That little piece of paper happened to be a rubber & gasoline rationing pamphlet from 1942.

I have yet to scan this document, but here are some rough shots. Also of note, the cover of the pamphlet has an illustration of a Japanese soldier by Edmund Duffy. That’s for a later time as I need to research how best to preserve this piece of American WWII ephemera.

Rationing pamphlet, Office of Price Administration, 1942

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Rationing pamphlet with illustrations by Edmund Duffy, 1942