Monday, December 27, 2010

Barry Goldwater house, Phoenix, 1958

Book of Homes, An Idea-Filled Collection by the West's Leading Architects, was a high-class periodical, similar to Record Houses, published twice yearly. Each edition is a treasure trove of midcentury gems, many of which I've not seen anywhere else, so I'll share more of them in subsequent posts. Here's the entire article about Paul Christian Yaeger's design for Senator Goldwater, five years before he ran for presidency against Lyndon Johnson.

Total square footage was 4560 square feet. Notice there's not one square room. I particularly like the idea of a triangular bathroom. To see pictures of the house today, go here.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Santa's Rocket Sleigh

During the Space Race '60s, Santa's Rocket Sleigh made several stops at Dixie Manor Shopping Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Though Dixie Manor is now rather forlorn, in those days was a bustling, popular hive of commerce, the largest shopping center in the region. I only rode the ship once, when my mother entrusted me with my three year old brother, Todd. I was about twelve, so I had no delusions about blasting off for the North Pole. It was fairly clear it had been an old streamlined city bus in a previous life, but its transformation to rocket sleigh was rather impressive. Inside, it was fully upholstered: seats, walls and ceiling, in the sort of sparkling vinyl typically seen in 1950s diner booths. Christmas music blared through speakers and Christmas lights twinkled overhead. During our journey at least, it was suffocatingly hot inside. A cheerful hostess in a fur trimmed miniskirt instructed us to take our seats then started up the bus -- er, rocket -- as she herself piloted the ship into a slow orbit around the parking lot. Meanwhile, Santa interviewed each kid via microphone as he made his way slowly up the aisle. I was shocked at the lack of discretion; the whole bus was in on what is supposed to be a very intimate, personal consultation. When he got to me, I dismissively replied I was simply there to accompany my brother, who, utterly bewildered, simply looked at the microphone. In the years following, I'd occasionally spot the rocket in city traffic, but eventually the landings ceased. Perhaps rocket ships in general had become too matter-of-fact.

I took these pictures of Dixie Manor in 1983. Originally, it had two local department stores -- Kaufman-Strauss and Ben Snyder's. My personal favorites were Woolworth's, G. C. Murphy's, Shakleton's elegant music store, and Fischer's, a delightful hobby store. Sadly, most of those names have vanished off the face of the earth, but I have great memories of Dixie Manor in its prime, including that one brief tour on the Rocket Sleigh forty-five years ago.
Many thanks to Dave Conover, who is preparing a book about Louisville shopping centers, for hunting down actual rocket sleigh posters and sending me one of my own. This is one of the several variations of the Rocket Sleigh. If you search google images for Santa's Rocket, you'll find a photograph of the version shown here. Apparently one sleigh has found its way to Alaska, which is certainly appropriate. Viktor Kuprin of Bloomington has written more extensively about the history of the Rocket Sleighs on his blog, Kosmosflot. A few miles south on Dixie Highway was the misbegotten Westland Mall, an ill-conceived venture that sat partially unfinished for years, connected to the pre-existing Consolidated Sales anchor with a narrowing trapezoidal corridor that looked as if it had been designed by the Monroe brothers from Green Acres. When it finally opened in the early 70s, it was a sad little place with drop ceilings and a bare cement concourse floor. Here are two pictures of the exterior, taken the same day as the Dixie Manor photos. Given its dreary history, Westland Mall actually still exists, albeit de-malled, and has been renamed Park Place.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Aluminum Christmas trees -- they won't tarnish or shed!

You won't hear those two claims made about many products. My mother was not convinced; we always had a real tree, but I consoled myself with a tiny aluminum tree she brought home from the bank branch where she worked. I faithfully set it up in my bedroom for many years running. It was thrown out in the 70s, but a friend gave me a large one in the mid 90s and I've been putting it up ever since. This pink and perky ad is from Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Ideas for 1960, which I have profiled in a previous post.
Above and below, advertisements from the 1960 Sears catalog.

Above and below, more ads from BH&G 1960.
This one has the same stand as mine, an 8 ft. Aluminum Sparkler, seen below. It was made by the Star Band Co. Inc, in Portsmouth, VA.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The one and only 1960 DiDia 150

How's this for a retro rocket, eh? Until yesterday, I was completely unaware of this midcentury spaceship, which has come to be known as the Bobby Darin Dream Car. It was the only automobile design by clothing designer Andy DiDia, which took seven years to build (1953-1960). Photos are courtesy of Scott King, who took them at the Concours d'Elegance of America in Meadowbrook, Michigan.
This is the designer himself, Andy DiDia. More photos and information can be found here, at Car News Articles. And even more photos of the car can be found here at and here.

The design brings to mind the slightly less ambitious 1956 Packard concept car, the Predictor, seen below.

Perhaps the 1953 Lincoln XL-500, seen below, inspired the bubble top.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Japanese cardboard Glitterhouses, circa 1953

When I was growing up, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without our delicate little cardboard village beneath the tree. As you can see some of the cellophane windows have disintegrated, but mostly the houses are generally intact. Transportation for the residents was provided by my O scale American Flyer train, which made convenient, regular stops at the train station and the nativity set. At one point I thought these houses must be very rare, but they turn up on ebay all the time, sometimes in entire sets. There were quite a variety of designs manufactured in the 40s and 50s. In recent years, there's been renewed interest in these charming decorations. There are sites that feature new ones like Dimestore Dwellings. Have a look at their catalog. There are other sites that tell you how to repair your old houses or even design and make your own, like this very useful site. General historical information can be found here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Ideas for 1962

For those who really need a challenge -- if BH&G says you need precision to make these, you can probably take them at their word.

Q-tips show up over and over in BH&G Christmas Idea books of this era. When Christmas is over, you can always gradually disassemble these in the bathroom.

In the 24th century, driftwood might look like this.
For those with flair and plenty of time, these homemade cards are quite impressive.
I'm not sure everyone will get the symbolism, but the symbolic tree on the left does look like it would only take hours per card rather than days.
In case you've been wondering what to do with gift paper rolls.
I do like the contemporary goop sample on the right.

Even Joan Crawford would have to admit these wire hanger creations are festive. It says to use foil, but I should think colored cellophane would be nicer, particularly for the butterflies, though the connection with Christmas is a bit of a stretch.
There are loads of ideas for making charming ornaments like this one.