Meet the Host Behind Zoomer Radio’s ‘Vintage Favourites’- Gene Stevens

Gene Stevens. Music Collector, Historian, DJ and Vintage Traveller. These are just a few of the titles for Zoomer Radio’s resident host of Vintage Favourites and the subject of today’s interview.

Note: This interview is chalked full of incredibly interesting information (and I’m not just saying that because it’s on my blog, it’s great!), so make sure you set aside some time to read all about Gene and his adventures.

Gene Stevens Zoomer Radio Vintage Favourites Host

Before we begin our interview here is a brief bio on Gene:

  • born and grew up in Toronto … record-collector and, prior to broadcasting career, a live DJ for dances/weddings, etc. (first radio gig – University of Toronto Varsity Radio show host.)
  • In broadcasting since 1972 – as on-air host, music director, promotion director, program director and general manager in Leamington, Peterborough, St.Catharines, Brampton and Brantford, before Toronto.
  • Previously: AM 740’s first Program Director from launch in 2001 through 2011.
  • Previously: Program Director at Toronto’s EZ Rock 97.3 1995-2000, and various other positions including Program Director of Toronto’s 590/CKEY in late 80s.
  • Host of ‘Vintage Favourites’ Sundays 2:00 – 4:30pm. (on-air since March 2007).
  • Gene is a music collector and has often lectured to university groups on the subject of pop music and culture. He has traveled the America’s and Europe, and loves history and film.

Part 1: Zoomer Radio (Part 2 (below part 1) will focus on fun vintage miscellaneous topics)

Q. You have worn many hats in your career, what do you currently love about being a radio host? What do you love about doing the ‘Vintage Favourites program?

A. My first passion was playing music for people. I took my 45s to house parties as a teenager and soon realized I could ‘run the party’, from a corner turntable.  Once I started learning about the music’s history, I loved to tell stories about the songs and the artists. From those basement house parties and then spinning records at weddings, I wanted to move to the next level, and play my songs to a huge audience as a show-host on a radio station.

The only way to really ‘manage the show’ was to be the station’s Program Director.  At my third station (St.Catharines) I was appointed Program Director at 25, and took on the job – with all its challenges and demands – really, to play what I thought was the best music selection for a particular radio station’s targeted audience. It’s been such fun, and so very fulfilling, to research listeners’ preferences, differentiate your station from others, put the finest programming together, and to ultimately satisfy the audience, day in and day out.

After 40 years in management, with various radio stations in various cities, working through the changing times and technologies, and having completed ten years as the first Program Director of AM 740, I wanted to shed the management work in 2011, and return to my original passion – to tell stories about the music I love.  I wanted to stay ‘on the Zoomer team’ and I’m truly fortunate that our founder Moses Znaimer – who’s a fan of ‘Vintage Favourites‘ – invited me to continue the show I had launched back in 2007.

What I love about hosting ‘Vintage Favourites’ – is the total freedom I’ve been given and the trust our management has in me. I’m inspired to explore the exciting and fascinating musical times we’ve lived through, and tell its countless stories for our Zoomer audience.

Gene Stevens Zoomer Radio with photo collages with some of the musicians he has met over the years
Gene Stevens with photo collages with some of the musicians he has met over the years

Q. Do you have a favorite Vintage Favourites Episode?

A. Since launching in 2007, I’ve created over 560 editions of ‘Vintage Favourites’ – in addition to over two thousand short and long-form music features during my career – so it’s difficult to pick a favourite episode. I really enjoyed the 2016 series of ‘The Vintage Year‘, where each week I put the spotlight on a specific year between 1930 and 1979, highlighting the top news, sports and entertainment stories along with the biggest songs of each year.  That was fascinating.  But then, I also loved last year’s ‘Music City‘ series, spotlighting songs about cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, LA, Detroit, New Orleans, Memphis, Liverpool, London and Toronto.

There was a show inspired by our founder, Moses Znaimer, about God – pop songs about religion, and ‘the big issues’. Then there was the show with math professor Jason Brown, invited to speak at IdeaCity, who discovered exactly how The Beatles created ‘that note’ at the start of ‘A Hard Day’s Night‘ – although I never liked arithmetic, I loved ‘The Mathematics of Rock’n’Roll‘ edition (Watch Jason’s talk HERE). Another stand-out show was the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, interviewing our ‘Conspiracy Show’ host Richard Syrett, and playing songs about Kennedy. I suppose one of my real favourites is telling the story of how rock’n’roll evolved – tracing it back to early R&B, even earlier to the late 1920s, and even earlier to 1913’s ‘The Rite of Spring‘ by Igor Stravinsky and the uproar it caused. There are many ways to tell that story, and I look forward to telling it again later this year.

vintage favourites with gene stevens swing era zoomer radio
Past Vintage Favourites Show

Q. You were the program director at the beginning years of Zoomer Radio, how has the station changed since 2001?

A. Well, everything is always changing – right?  The only constant is ‘change’. That’s a law of nature, and it certainly applies to radio stations. There are three key areas of change. First is the age of the ‘target audience’ and the passage of time, second is ‘texture’, and third is ‘focus’. I’ll give you a brief overview.

Our purpose was – and remains – to be that unique station serving a ‘older demographic’. The so-called ‘target audience‘ (the age group a station hopes to primarily attract) when we launched was 50+. In 2001, that meant someone who was aged 15 in 1966, or earlier. At present, Zoomer Radio is designed to appeal to a 45+ audience, and that means someone who was aged 15 in 1988, or earlier.  I mention ‘age 15’, in reference to a long-standing research theory that says people form their primary music tastes around that age; songs from our teenage years remain ‘special’ forever. Of course, our musical tastes mature into adulthood, and we will appreciate, and even love, music from later years – but those teenage songs will always appeal in a different way. So, the first difference is a result of the time that’s passed since our launch; the 15 year old of 1966 and of 1988, have a different tolerance/appetite/expectation of music.

And one of those key differences can be described as ‘texture‘. Put simply, someone who grew up with the electric guitar as the primary source of pop music has a different appreciation and acceptance of music, than someone who did not. (In the decades to come we’ll see that same discussion over growing up with ‘rap’ music)  Our station’s ‘texture’ was originally ‘softer’ and ‘gentler’; and the ballads gave us a romantic content in a medium tempo. We used to say “we don’t rock, we swing.” That’s now changed to a more uptempo, energized ‘texture’.

Finally, there is the difference in the ‘focus‘ of the music mix. In our early days I adhered to the conventional wisdom of a narrow focus – every successful radio station had a clearly defined and consistent ‘sound’ you could distinguish instantly. That wisdom said your advertising and promotion bring listeners to sample your sound, and hopefully decide to stay; that sound needed to be as consistent as possible to maximize one’s marketing efforts, and to continually ‘deliver on your promise’.

However, the past decade of increasing digitization, has given us almost limitless choice, on demand. Shorter attention spans have led to less patience, and a kind of restless energy – while a musical smorgasbord is only a click away in our omni-present ocean of choice. One’s music tastes are constantly being teased, satisfied, and altered. Put your personal music library on ‘shuffle’, and you’ll bounce around the various music genres that comprise your accumulated personal experiences with music.

That’s now reflected in Zoomer Radio’s wider focus, which I might describe as ‘diffused’ – offering the listener a ‘shuffle-like’ ever-changing palate of musical memories, from the many genres in our station’s huge music library. After our launch, we played ‘All Time Favourites‘, represented pictorially as Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley. In a typical half-hour you’d hear John McDermott, Neil Diamond, Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole, Michael Buble, Anne Murray and even Glenn Miller.

Today we play ‘Timeless Hits‘, and our menu is much wider, with more unexpected ‘surprises’; a typical half-hour could feature Beatles, Four Tops, Guess Who, as well as Meat Loaf, Dixie Chicks, April Wine, and even Jimmy Durante.  In a nutshell, our station has evolved to reflect the changing times, demographics and tastes.

Having said all this, I want to add, the station launched with – and continues to this day – with a dazzling variety of specialty shows that satisfy various groups (and sub-groups) of music fans with big band, Irish, British Invasion, and blues programs, rock’n’roll oldies, countdowns, celebrity profiles and themed programs. That genuine effort to offer substantive and compelling content has never changed, and I believe, is a defining characteristic that separates us from ‘the rest’.

Q. If Zoomer asked you to create a new radio program right now, what would you create?

A. I’m very satisfied with the wide latitude of music genres, themes, and selections I now explore weekly on ‘Vintage Favourites’.  The station already has so many wonderful and long-running specialty programs (many of which I launched) … it’s pretty hard to find a ‘missing niche’. But – since you asked – I think the 1950’s and early 60s would be fun.  A program dedicated to the pre-rock’n’roll pop music of that era, as well as that innocent early ‘pre-Beatles’ sound.

Part 2: Miscellaneous Vintage Questions

Q. My readers are collectors of vintage items; and I have read that you’re a collector of music. How long have you been a collector and can you let us know what your favourite item or most prized possession is?

A. Ah collecting is such a blessing – and a curse. I first caught ‘the bug’ in the late 1960s, collecting 45 rpm records. First came the CHUM Chart hits of the day – as well as the CHUM Charts themselves. I eventually collected all the CHUM Charts from the early 60s through to their end in the mid-80s. Alas, I stupidly marked many of them and glued them into scrapbooks – immediately devaluing them as ‘collectables’. I did the same – marked my name – on many of my earliest 45s.

CHUM Hit Parade Toronto 1960s
Source: 1050 CHUM Memorial Blog

Later came the trolling through dusty record store basements, private collections, and the insatiable acquisition of new songs, and the endless search for ‘holy grail’ oldies.

I learned to respect the collection, and accumulated hundreds of vinyl albums and 15,000 45s – all neatly jacketed and much-loved.  I learned so much about music, and collecting – until one day, vinyl died! The CD era had arrived, and when I moved into Toronto, I could no longer afford to dedicate an entire room to my vinyl. And there was family and children, and other priorities.  Besides, ‘vinyl was dead’!

So I built up my CD collection, and sold my vinyl – often a bargain-basement prices. Thus I learned about the ‘curse’ of collecting – its obsessiveness is only matched by the pain of letting it go. Then came the Internet, streaming, and putting your music onto your laptop’s hard-drive – huh – no more need for CDs either?  How many times did I let the industry (and technology) fool me into buying the same songs in newer ‘formats’?  So don’t even ask me how I feel about the ‘Return of Vinyl’ – Bah, humbug!

My prized possessions are some early records including ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale‘ (my first purchase), and the many I have with artist autographs on them, along with a pretty decent CD library with artist autographs, some signed books and plenty of photos.  One of my ‘surprise favourites’ is a hard cover copy of ‘Papa John‘ – autobiography of Mamas and Papas’ John Phillips, who signed it: ‘To Gene. This is the last damn book I’m signing.’ Ha – what a character he was.

Gene Stevens of zoomer radios Vintage Favourites with vintage record collection
Gene with some of his collection: Beatles Rarities, Elvis in Concert and Chuck Berry live, and that little 45rpm. is ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ – Gene’s first record. Behind are some of his prized records – some autographed – others, just ones Gene loves, and (still) loves to look at in his living room.

Q. If you could interview one musician that is currently no longer with us, who would it be and why?

A. A fascinating question:  My first (and shakiest) interview was while a student at U.of T.’s Radio Varsity, I was asked to interview Kelly Jay, of Crowbar.  It was 1971, and Crowbar was having a big hit with ‘Oh What a Feeling‘ – and I was scared.  Kelly couldn’t have been nicer – virtually carrying the interview by himself.

Over my career, I was rarely the go-to guy for interviews – I tried to schedule the stars to speak with our strongest on-air hosts – and that wasn’t me. But in all those years, and the many various meetings, I’ve been blessed to meet and chat with everyone from Tony Bennett to Phil Collins, The Everly Brothers to Julian Lennon, Michael Buble to Anne Murray and so many more.

Gene Stevens Zoomer Radio with John's first son - Julian Lennon
Gene with John’s first son – Julian Lennon

Who would I like to talk with – who’s no longer with us ?  Well, Elvis comes to mind, of course. But so does someone like Sam Phillips, who owned SUN Studios – can you imagine the stories? Yeah, I’d like to chat with Sam Phillips – about Elvis and Roy, Jerry Lee and Johnny Cash, and how it was in the south, being among the few who’d work with blacks and whites, and feeling the change coming, and catching ‘lightning in a bottle’ that July night in 1954 when he recorded ‘That’s All Right’ with Elvis, and Scotty and Bill.

Gene Stevens Zoomer Radio at SUN Records studio on Union Avenue
SUN Records studio on Union Avenue
Gene Stevens Zoomer Radio inside Sun Records
Inside the studio. Gene is standing at precisely the spot (It’s marked by an ‘X’ on the floor) where Elvis stood while recording ‘That’s All Right’ and the other songs at his first session July 5, 1954. Note the technician’s booth behind the glass was behind Elvis – so he wouldn’t be distracted.

Q. 2017 was a year of loss in the music (and film industry) and you recently did an ‘In Memoriam’ show discussing all the musicians we had lost this past year. Which ones in particular hit you the hardest and why?

A. Every death is sad, and a loss – knowing a real family somewhere has lost their loved one, while we fans will never again hear anything new from him/her. I think the death of Glen Campbell moved me the most because of the cruel ravages of Alzheimer’s – a brilliant musician, terrific entertainer and great singer, who faded away – from his family, friends, fans and his own fantastic life-story. That really is sad.

Glenn Campbell 1960s Capital Records handout
Source: AZ Central

Q. It’s a Saturday Night in Toronto, where do you go to listen to live music? Do you have any bands or venues in the city that are your favourite that my readers should check out (I’m particular to Grossmans Tavern and the Cadillac Lounge)?

A. My very first concert was Lighthouse in St.Michael’s College high school gym, and soon after, I saw my first arena show – Creedence Clearwater Revival at Maple Leaf Gardens. Once I got into ‘the biz’ I was privileged to see so many shows in huge venues and tiny intimate cabarets. I also spent precious hours waiting backstage to glimpse some star for a 15 second handshake and photo, or autograph. Nowadays I seldom see live shows.  Among my favourite spots are the CNE Bandshell – I’ve gone to the EX every year of my life! The Cameron House is delightfully intimate, and I liked The Cadillac Lounge. And, really, does any place sound as good as Massey Hall?  I remember singing on that famous stage – OK, I was in my high school choir and it was the Kiwanis Festival – but still…

Gene Stevens Zoomer Radio on the Levitt Shell Stage in Memphis
Levitt Shell stage – formerly called The Overton Park Shell – in a large downtown Memphis park – the location of Elvis’ very first concert July 30th, 1954. Elvis was last on a bill topped by country crooner Slim Whitman along with Billy Walker and The Louvin Brothers. He sang two songs: ‘That’s All Right’ and ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ – the songs he had just recorded July 5th,and were just starting to get local radio airplay. Elvis played the Shell later that same summer and again in 1955 when he headlined for another SUN Records artist who was making his own first-ever live performance – Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two.

Q. I saw on the Zoomer website that you did a program on why you felt that 1957 was the best year for Rock n Roll (The 50’s in a nutshell were pretty awesome)? Can you summarize for this interview why you felt this way?

A. Although I was only 6, and still a decade from starting to listen to radio (yeah, a late bloomer) … I’ve come to appreciate how massive rock’n’roll was in 1957. That was the year this new music for kids really broke through. ‘That’s All Right‘ was ‘the big bang’ in 1954; ‘Rock Around the Clock‘ was the first #1 hit in 1955, and Elvis broke through in 1956 … but it all came together in 1957 – Elvis was ‘The King’, Buddy, Jerry Lee, Fats, Chuck, Don & Phil – they all had hits, Sam Cooke gave us soul, and ‘American Bandstand’ went national, bringing rock’n’roll into every living room, and Ricky Nelson became our first TV idol.  It would never again be so pure, so powerful, so precious.  In 1958, Elvis was drafted, soon after Buddy died, Chuck was jailed, Jerry Lee married his 13 year old cousin and was banned, Little Richard found religion, and ‘payola’ showed how commerce was taking over; ‘American Bandstand’ would bring on a second wave of pretty boys, perfect for the TV sponsors.  By the time The Beatles revived us after JFK’s death, rock’n’roll was ready for its maturity as ‘rock’ – darker, harder, heavier, cerebral, ethereal, surreal, and … and changed.  1957 was ‘the best year’!

Gene Stevens Zoomer Radio Vintage Favourites was answer 1957 rock’n’roll’s best year.

Q. Beyond music, you also are a big film buff. Many of my readers, including myself are lovers of film particularly vintage movies (I’m a big MGM Musical fan). What is your favorite genre and why? And of course we would love to know what your most favorite movie of all time is?

A. You’re right, I love the movies. In fact, if anything’s taken some of my time away from music, it’s the movies.  My girlfriend Trudy, and I, see at least one new movie almost every week, and probably rent another.  Favourite movies are a bit like favourite songs – tough to decide, and easy to change your mind by mood – but here goes: Among the classics I love ‘Casablanca‘ and the film noir genre – ‘Double Indemnity‘ and ‘Postman Always Rings Twice‘ are such watchable classics. My all-time favourite is probably ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ – and although I own the Indiana Jones box set, I never watch it. That’s the funny thing about favourite movies – at least for me – I don’t choose to actually watch them. I’d rather spend that time watching something I haven’t seen.  Among recent movies, I loved ‘Star Wars – Last Jedi‘ and ‘Get Out‘ was good, but my favourite of ’17 is the less-well known British award winner ‘I, Daniel Blake‘.  A ‘little’ film about British bureaucracy – gritty, stark, sad, and rewarding.

Casablanca the movie

Q. Several of the blog posts I do over here on the Vintage Inn, has a 1920’s-1960’s‘Canadiana’ history focus, I just love learning and sharing info on less talked about topics like vintage dance halls, women on the home front etc.  If could go back to one moment in history and watch it happen as an observer what would it be and why?

A. History is my favorite subject; I love history books, historic films, and, of course – the history of popular music !  I’ll give you two answers; the first relates to music. I’d love to be there in Liverpool’s Cavern Club, on one of those sweaty nights in 1962, when The Beatles were just breaking, and ‘the in-crowd’ was right there. That’d be fun.  I’d also love to be a ‘fly on the wall’ during the Warren Commission hearings, to hear just how the ‘story’ of the JFK Assassination was manufactured – it’s a defining moment in a Boomer’s life, and for many of us – me included – that mystery confounds us to this day. Who, how, and why?

Gene Stevens Zoomer Radio at Indra where the Beatles place in 1960
Hamburg Germany, with Gene standing before the Indra Club, located on that famous street (Grosse Freiheit, which translates as ‘the great freedom’), in the seedy ‘red-light’ Reeperbahn District. The brass street marker identified ‘The Indra’ as the first of several Reeperbahn clubs John, Paul, George, Stu (Sutcliffe), and Pete (Best) played. The first Beatles performance in Hamburg (Aug.17th, 1960), 2 years before their first UK recordings gave us ‘Love Me Do’.

Q.  I have heard that from your travels you have many fantastic stories. It would be great if you could share 1 or two of those stories that my vintage readers and zoomer listeners would love to hear.

A. My travels have taken me across North America and Europe several times these past 5 decades – and as a history buff, I’ve been drawn to places both famous and infamous, places of great performance and terrible tragedy. But staying with music – among my favourite places included the Elvis pilgrimage from his birthplace in Tupelo, to various locations in Memphis, including Graceland, SUN studios, the Overton Park Shell, and Beale Street. I enjoyed visiting Hamburg’s naughty Reeperbahn district to check out the places where The Beatles first played during the early 60s.  I’ve stood in the decaying shell of the punk music palace – New York’s CBGB’s, and country music’s hallowed Ryman Hall, Cleveland’s Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, LA’s Grammy Museum, Detroit’s Motown studio, Chicago’s Chess Records studios and London’s Marquee Club.

Gene Stevens Zoomer Radio at Grammy Museum
Grammy Museum

Here’s one story in some detail:

The legendary Les Paul – an inventor of the electric guitar and hit-maker of the early 1950s – was a regular listener, from his New York home, during our early years as ‘AM 740’ in the 2000s. This station has a huge night-time signal blanketing much of the north-east. One evening Les Paul called in to chat with our on-air host Bob Sprott, and that started quite a friendly relationship between them. This living legend – Les Paul – phoned in several times and for delightful chit-chat with our own, very knowledgeable, ‘legendary host’. It so happened, I was planning a vacation trip with my twin daughters to New York, so I decided I’d drop into the Iridium Jazz Club on Broadway where Les Paul entertained weekly. My girls and I took our seats, and soon, in walked the man himself – who had just recently played the room with an adoring Paul McCartney. There were no guest-stars that night, and Les, approaching age 90, would only do a fairly short set. But afterward, he sat and met every person who wanted to see him – that certainly included my daughters and me. He spent a generous amount of time – and confirmed my question about his car accident decades earlier, which broke his arm so badly it had to be permanently set – as he directed – in a guitar-playing position.  And, yes, he signed a t-shirt for our Bob Sprott, and posed for a nice photo with my girls and me – one for the albums, and for the ages!  Les Paul – one of only a few inductees to the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame with a permanent exhibition.

Q. Last Question: Sun Records vs Chess Records who had the better lineup in your opinion (or is this an impossible question)?

A. Hah – chocolate or strawberry (neither studio was ‘vanilla’ !)  Elvis or Chuck Berry? Are you kidding?  That is impossible. I think it comes down to personal taste. My tastes lean toward SUN – I love rockabilly, and it was ‘created’ right there. But one of history’s most famous R&B classics – ‘Rocket 88‘ by Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner, was recorded at SUN Studio by Sam Phillips in 1951. He then licensed it to CHESS Records in Chicago where it was distributed.  So, one of the all-time greatest R&B classics actually belonged to both SUN and CHESS. SUN gets my nod – because it had a wider scope, doing R&B, rockabilly, rock’n’roll, and country … whereas Chess focused on blues and R&B.

I was fortunate to tour both legendary locations.  Another story?

My girlfriend Trudy and I visited Chicago a few years ago, and by the time we got to 2120 S.Michigan Avenue, the doors were closed, and I was left peeking into the storefront window.  As the custodian was leaving, he saw me looking forlorn – and my Trudy asked him to ‘puhleeze’ consider letting me in – ‘just for a little peek’.  He couldn’t refuse – and took me in for a whirlwind – and personal – tour of where the Chuck Berry/Bo Diddley/Muddy Waters magic happened. I think I floated out of there …

Gene Stevens Zoomer Radio Brill Building
Standing at the doors where hundreds of famous musicians and songwriters, publishers, engineers, and promoters all walked through for years in the late 50s, 60s, 70s and even today – that’s The Brill Building at 1619 Broadway at 49th Street, just north of Times Square in Manhattan. This is where songwriters toiled in tiny rooms with just enough space for a piano and a chair, and walls thin enough to hear their rivals next door – churning out the songs we grew up with from ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ and ‘Stand By Me’ to ‘You;ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’, and yes ‘On Broadway’.

 

BIG GIANT THANK YOU to Gene for taking the time to answer my million questions (Gene is just so interesting and I had to share all the stories). I hope you enjoyed this interview and you can check out Gene’s show every Sunday 2:00pm-4:30pm (online or on the radio at AM740/96.7FM) on Zoomer Radio.

Liz

The Halifax, Nova Scotia Women Volunteers of WW2

Recently on Instagram my friend Meghan posted a link to a Canadian history mini movie called “Dancing was my Duty” (video avail at end of post). It was about the WW2 homefront work of the women in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada. Now being a swing dancer and a lover of Canadian history from the 40’s, I instantly needed to see what this as all about.

f halifax canada during ww2

WOW was my reaction after I watched the movie. How have I never heard of this in my history classes? These women did so much for the homefront in such a short amount of time and their story needed to be shared.

So friends lets not have you wait a minute longer and fill you in on the Canadian women who “knitted socks and hats and scarves and absolutely all of the nice, warm, cozy things that our military personnel needed in Europe” (Quote from Janet Guildford Halifax Women’s History Society Chair).

1940's Canadian Women Homefront war effort. Canadian Red Cross Volunteer
Source: Halifax Archives

Background of Halifax during WW2

September 10th, 1939 Canada declares war on Germany. Halifax, a small gritty seaport city of only about 78,000 instantly becomes the principal and closest staging point in Canada for the war in Europe (Source).

Halifax Canada before ww2 vintage aerial view From Prince Street to Cogswell and Cunard Streets
Halifax Before the War. Aerial view From Prince Street to Cogswell and Cunard Streets. Source: Halifax Archives

In just over 5 years the city would grow to 117, 000 as an influx of transient sailors, soldiers and airmen and, often, their families came and went. These new numbers of “residents” would strain every resource and create a shortage of housing and diversions for the troops, who were often bored while waiting for active duty (Source). The people of Nova Scotia and Halifax stepped up and volunteered their services (in huge numbers), with the majority being women. They worked in canteens, service clubs and hostels, providing food, entertainment and a ‘home away from home’ for the thousands of troops who flooded into the city.

Simpsons Catalogue Cover 1942 Canadian women on the homefront
Source: Halifax Archives

The below is an excerpt from the Halifax Women’s History Society Website going into further detail about their contributions:

Women joined national organizations such as the Red Cross, the IODE, the Salvation Army, and the St. John Ambulance. In the Halifax/Dartmouth/Bedford area alone there were 18 separate branches of the IODE.

Local women also formed and launched groups such as the North End Services’ Canteen, the Halifax Central Magazine Exchange and the ANA Club. The hand of friendship was extended to thousands by churches and clubs offering hot meals and entertainment.

Women also formed groups to knit what were called “comforts” for sailors and merchant seamen, and for people in England, who were dealing with the German bombings. The women volunteers made quilts, clothing and bandages, collected salvage, helped organize blood donor clinics and encouraged people to buy war bonds.

A Few Important Statistics (source):

  • The North End Servicemen’s Canteen served 400,000 hot meals in a two-year period.
  • The Halifax Central Magazine Exchange distributed 4 million magazines and 30,000 packs of cards by June 1942 for troop and merchant ships in the harbour to alleviate some of the boredom and stress.
  • There were 13 nursing divisions of the St. John Ambulance brigade in Halifax alone. The women’s volunteer brigades contributed more than 200,000 hours of nursing aid.

Knitting and sewing for overseas relief also was undertaken by women volunteers. The output was astounding. These figures are for the year 1945 alone:

  • Knitted comforts for men overseas (mittens, scarves, etc.)  42,282
  • Surgical dressings   33,263
  • Quilts for civilian relief   4,664
Members of the Halifax North (Women’s) Division of the St. John Ambulance Brigade Association in a practice at their headquarters on West Young Street. Halifax Civil Emergency Corps, September 1942
Source: CBC News. Members of the Halifax North (Women’s) Division of the St. John Ambulance Brigade Association in a practice at their headquarters on West Young Street. Halifax Civil Emergency Corps, September 1942

Volunteers at Work

Magazine Department of the Naval Reading Service-1940.

Magazine Department of the Naval Reading Service 1940s Halifax Canada
Source: Halifax Archives

Naval Reading Service 1942.

Halifax naval reading service 1942
Source: Halifax Archives

Corporal Daisy Nunn working in the hospital of the RCAF Station Dartmouth (Note: Dartmouth is a community and former city in Halifax. Dartmouth is located on the eastern shore of Halifax Harbour).

Corporal Daisy Nunn working in the hospital of the RCAF Station Dartmouth
Source: Halifax Archives

Woman crocheting-1941.

Woman crocheting
Source: Halifax Archives

Picking and Packing Apples-1941.

1941 picking and packing apples halifax canada vintage image
Source: Halifax Archives

Red Cross, girls drilling-1941.

1941 Red Cross girls drilling in halifax canada ww2 vintage image
Source: Halifax Archives

Red Cross Knitting Instructions for War Work-1942. Side Note: Her set looks like my usual messy vintage set. Glad to see I’m true to history!

1942 Canadian Women in hair curlers learning to knit for the war effort vintage image
Source: Halifax Archives

Entertaining the Troops

Halifax Canada WW2 womens homefront war effort vintage photo marcus dance show
1941-Marcus Dance Show. Source: Halifax Archives.

Excerpt from Halifax Archives:

World War II brought Royal Navy warships and Armed Merchant Cruisers to Halifax, spilling hundreds of sailors on to the streets in 1940-1941. They encountered a city which had become very ‘straight-laced’ during the 1930s.

Drink was available but under restricted circumstances that gave way to bootlegging and speakeasies. Social conventions of the time also looked down upon informal mingling of the sexes outside of marriage. As a result, there was not a lot for servicemen and war workers to do — so many took to entertaining themselves outdoors, and as they wished.

Before long, a network of hostels and canteens sprang up throughout the city, catering to servicemen and seamen and providing them with food, drink, a bath, sometimes a bed, and always a friendly ear. There were Merchant Navy Hostels, YMCA Huts, Knights of Columbus Huts, Salvation Army Canteens, IODE Canteens and the North End Service Canteen, as well as dedicated clubs for servicemen from foreign countries such as France and Norway.

The most famous of them all, the Ajax Club, opened in 1940 and welcomed naval ratings and petty officers from all the Allied navies. Monthly attendance was estimated between 10,000 and 15,000 men — until the club was unceremoniously shut down in 1942.

Another wartime entertainment initiative, The Halifax Concert Party, was created out of freely-given volunteer talent; show after show was produced throughout the war years for an unending sea of men in uniform. As well, troops and Halifax residents alike were routinely entertained by travelling productions such as The Marcus Show, which brought ‘the world’s foremost exposition of female loveliness’ to town, to relieve the tedium and horror that was otherwise known as war.

Ping Pong Game at RCAF Station Dartmouth.

Ping pong game at RCAF Station Dartmouth
Source: Halifax Archives

North End Services Canteen.

north end services canteen 1940s nova scotia canada vintage image
Source: Halifax Archives

Marcus Dance Show-1941.

Marcus Dance Show 1941 halifax Nova Scotia vintage image canadian wartime homefront
Source: Halifax Archives
Marcus Dance Show 1941 halifax Nova Scotia vintage image canadian wartime homefront Sailors
Source: Halifax Archives
Marcus Dance Show 1941 Women performers Halifax Canada vintage image
Source: Halifax Archives

Taking a break during or in-between shows-1941.

Marcus Dance Show 1941 Vintage showgirls halifax Canada vintage image
Source: Halifax Archives

Naval Personnel at a dance-1941.

1941 Canadian Homefront vintage dance image naval personnel and women
Source: Halifax Archives

Service personnel and civilians at Orpheus movie theatre Barrington Street, Halifax.

Service personnel and civilans at Orpheus movie theatre Barrington Street, Halifax
Source: Halifax Archives

Ajax Club-5 pints of beer or 10 glasses are allowed each man (that is a lot of beer!).

Ajax Club 1941 Halifax Nova Scotia WW2 vintage image
Source: Halifax Archives

Evening of Music at the Quinpool Road Hostel-1942.

Evening of Music at the Quinpool Road Hostel-1942
Source: Halifax Archives

After the war ended, Halifax returned to normal fairly quickly (however not without a big bang, which you can read all about HERE). The troops went home, Canadian troops returned and the women went back to the lives that they had before the war started. Life carried on without any recognition to the hard-work and sacrifices made by these women.

Present Day & Wonderful News!

In 2017 these amazing women finally received public acknowledgment with the below monument, thanks to the efforts from the Halifax Women’s History Society. Thank you to the society and thank you to the women of Nova Scotia.

Read about how this historic monument came to be HERE.

Halifax Women WW2 Volunteer Monument
Source: CBC News

Dancing Was My Duty

It is now your turn to watch the movie that is the focus of this blog post. Click on the image below to be taken to the film. Enjoy!

NOTE: Out of Canada readers, I have been notified that CBC would let you watch the video. I have currently dropped them a line to see if there is anyway around this. I will update here if a solution is found (updated Jan 14th, 2018).

Dancing was my duty halifax womens ww 2 history
Source: CBC

Further Reading:

  • Nova Scotia Archives has a excellent virtual exhibit (where many of my images came from) on Halifax’s war effort. Check it out HERE.
  • Halifax Women’s History website has lots of wonderful gems about this time period.

Question time: How did you like this post? Have you heard of these amazing women before? Maybe you have your own story to share about a grandmother, mother, aunt etc. who were one of these volunteers. Share your thoughts and comments below, I love hearing from you!

Liz

Vintage Las Vegas: The Roundup

It’s that time of year again! I’m off to Las Vegas for a fun weekend celebrating German Karneval (Mardi Gras). I cannot wait to get out of Toronto because right now it’s so cold all my windows and patio doors are frozen shut! That is too cold way too cold. Bring on the sunshine and pools (even though many of the pools are closed during this time of the year as it’s offseason. Not my hotel though!).

Vintage black and white photograph of two girls by the pool. Las Vegas, 1955
Las Vegas 1955. Source: Etsy

For today’s post, I put together a roundup of ‘Vintage Vegas’ images to help put me in a sunny mood for a visit to one of my favourite cities.

Lets throw a quarter into the machine and begin the fun!

Nevada Club, Las Vegas: Vintage RPPC Souvenir Photo, c1950s
1950’s Nevada Club. Source: Etsy

TWA 1956 Travel Advertisement.

Vintage TWA Las Vegas Print, 1956 Advertisement
Source: Etsy

Alaska Motel, Las Vegas 1949.

Alaska Motel, Las Vegas, NV, July 1949
Source: Etsy

The Sal Sagev Hotel (now the Golden Gate Hotel) on Fremont Street, Las Vegas.
The postcard also shows the El Trovatore Auto Court on Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona.

Sal Sagev now Golden Gate Hotel Fremont St Downtown LAS VEGAS NV Vintage Linen Postcard
Source: Etsy

Group photograph of entertainers at the Dunes, including Anna Bailey and Frank Sinatra.

Group photograph of entertainers at the Dunes, including Anna Bailey and Frank Sinatra via UNLV
Source: The African American Experience in Las Vegas, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photograph of a showgirl posed at the swimming pool of Moulin Rouge Hotel and Casino, [May 22], 1955. The Moulin Rouge was the first desegregated hotel casino, it was popular with many of the black entertainers of the time, who would entertain at the other hotels and casinos and stay at the Moulin Rouge (source).

Photograph of a showgirl posed at the swimming pool of Moulin Rouge Hotel and Casino, [May 22], 1955
Source: The African American Experience in Las Vegas, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
Moulin Rouge, Las Vegas, 1955.

Moulin Rouge, Las Vegas, 1955
Source: Pinterest

The Westerner, Circa 1950’s.

 Film transparency of the front exterior of the Westerner Gambling House (Las Vegas), circa 1950s
Source: Manis Collection, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Las Vegas gambling scene, 1930s.

 Photograph of a Las Vegas gambling scene, 1930s
Source: Manis Collection, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Neon sign for the Silver Slipper Gambling Hall (Las Vegas), after 1958.

 Photograph of neon sign for the Silver Slipper Gambling Hall (Las Vegas), after 1958
Source: Manis Collection, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photograph of the June Taylor Dancers posing at the Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, circa 1949.

 Photograph of the June Taylor Dancers posing at the Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, circa 1949
Source: Bill Willard Collection, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Vintage Las Vegas ~ Flamingo hotel cocktail napkin “The Show Place of the Nation”.

Vintage Las Vegas Flamingo hotel cocktail napkin
Source: Pinterest

Travel Western Airlines!

Las Vegas Western Airlines vintage ad
Source: Pinterest

1950’s Strip Fun.

vintage image of two women 1950s las vegas
Source: Pinterest

One last picture before we leave. Circa 1950s.

visiting las vegas in the 1950s vintage image
Source: Pinterest

That is it for this weeks post and now I’m off to pack. If your interested, follow my adventures on Instagram and have a great week friends!

Question Time: If you have been to Vegas before, share your favourite hotel or things to do in the comments below I would love to know!

Liz

 

Happy New Year Everyone!

Martha Hyer; Hollywood New Year's publicity photo.
Martha Hyer; Hollywood New Year’s publicity photo

As we approach New Years Eve, I want to take a moment to wish all of my readers..that is YOU, a Happy New Year! It has been quite a year for everyone and I’m so happy that my little blog has been a source of distraction and enjoyment for many of you. On my side it has been a pleasure and a joy to put together these vintage posts and I look forward to many more in 2018.

So thank you for being such loyal readers and I hope you stick with my blog as I have many exciting topics, images and fun ahead.

See you in January 2018!!

new years vintage poem

Liz aka the Vintage Inn Blog

I’m Dreaming of Vintage Christmas Images

Christmas Parties, yummy foods, holiday cocktails, vintage dresses in reds & greens, it’s truly a marvelous time of the year! I love this season and since it’s almost gone, I’m going to extend it as long as I can with a post filled with lovely vintage photos of Christmases gone by.

Lets begin!

Vintage Photo Christmas Card, Postcard Season's Greetings, Mid Century Holiday Greeting Card, Wreath with Red Bow, 1949
Source: Etsy

“One quick photo with the tree before we head out everyone!”

Vintage Snapshot Photo of Women Standing By Small Christmas Tree 1940's
Source: Etsy

Christmas Morning!

vintage photo of kids opening gifts on christmas morning 1940s 1950s
Source: Etsy

Christmas at Sea-WWII Sailors aboard USS Cebu. Can you see the “Fireplace” and Christmas Tree to the right of the photo?

Christmas at Sea- 1940s Vintage Photograph- WWII Sailors Aboard USS Cebu
Source: Etsy

Smile for the camera before you open the presents!

1940s vintage image of two women at christmas
Source: Etsy

1957-Sometimes the wrapping paper is more fun than the gift itself.

1957 vintage image of a little boy with presents
Source: Etsy

1950’s family photo. Hi Lassie!

Family Portrait by the Christmas Tree 1950s Vintage Photo
Source: Etsy

2 little girls enjoying their gifts in the 1940’s. According to the description on ‘I Love You More Photos‘, the girls are playing with toys they just got for Christmas..a miniature umbrella clothes line, a small washing machine, laundry tub and ironing board.

1940s vintage image of two little girls with tree and gifts
Source: Etsy

1950s- When your home is small, your tree also becomes small. It’s not the size that matters it’s how you decorate it with tinsel that does.

Corner Christmas Tree- 1950s Vintage Photograph
Source: Etsy

1950’s – The little black dress at the Christmas party never gets old….

1950's Kodachrome slide of Christmas party with Santa
Source: Etsy

Group photo to remember their time together.

Christmas 1957 Group Family Photo Standing in Front of Tree
Source: Etsy

December 15th, 1956. The Ladies Christmas dinner (not super clear but there are mini trees on the table).

Vintage French Photo - Ladies Christmas Meal
Source: Etsy

And that brings us to the end of this roundup of wonderful holiday photos. Thank you for stopping by friends and…..

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE VINTAGE INN (aka Liz)!

Retro Christmas Card

Want to see more Christmas Vintage Images? Check out the following posts:

Liz

P.S. ALL photos at the time of this posting were for sale. So if any caught your eye click on the image to purchase.

Bea Wain-Star Singer of the Big Band Era

Bea Wain 1940s Big Band Singer

Bea Wain is considered by many to be one of the best female vocalists of her era. A self-taught singer, with an expressive but understated swing style, she worked hard to leave her mark in the Big Band & Radio world.

Today’s post is all about this incredible and talented woman.

Bea Wain NBC's Manhattan Merry-Go-Round 1940s
Bea Wain for NBC’s Manhattan Merry-Go-Round 1940s Source: Getty Images

Born Beatrice Wain April 30th, 1917 in the Bronx, New York, her singing career would begin at the young age of 6 on a radio program titled “NBC Children’s Hour,” where she earned $2 per broadcast (Source). Blessed with a raw talent and the knowledge that she wanted to be a singer, Beatrice would never took a single singing lesson growing up. Dance and piano lessons she agreed to but never singing.

“I never wanted anybody to teach me how to sing,” she said in an interview with Sara Fishko for the New York public radio station WNYC in 2013 (Source).

This raw talent would keep Beatrice busy, singing with various radio shows and even cutting records for popular big band leaders. One particular record with Artie Shaw in September 1937, saw her name accidentally go from ‘Beatrice Wain’ to ‘Beatrice Wayne’. Then later on record labels, her name was shortened (without her permission) to “Bea” by the record company, ostensibly for space considerations.

Bea Wain Big Band Singer Vintage Photo

She would get her big break in 1937, when she emerged from the chorus on the radio show “The Kate Smith Hour” to sing an eight-bar solo. The arranger Larry Clinton, who was listening, needed to hear no more. He was forming a band at the time and quickly signed her to be its vocalist.

“I did a lot of singing, choral things,” she recalled.  “And he heard me on the Kate Smith show.  He didn’t see me.  Actually, it was very strange, because . . . I had a call and went to the phone and this man said, ‘My name is Larry Clinton.  I’m starting a band and I’m looking for a girl singer and I would like you to make some sides with me.’  Which was really cuckoo [laughs], ’cause I said to myself, ‘He never saw me.  He never really heard me, it was just a few bars.  And he told me to meet him at RCA Victor the next week, he was recording, and he sent me a tune to do, and I did it. And the first time I saw him was when I walked in the studio (Source).”

Larry Clinton and Bea Wain album cover

Following this recording session Bea remained with the band and would make her debut with Larry Clinton officially in the summer of 1938 at the Glen Island Casino, New Rochelle, New York. This would be the turning point for Larry Clintons Orchestra because as they were broadcasted live across the radio wires, theirs and Bea’s popularity would rise.

Glen Island Casino Vintage Image
Source: Glen Island Harbour Club
Bea Stated:  “If we played in an elegant ballroom, it was very nice.  We played a lot of colleges, and that was fun.  As I said, I was very young.  We played at Yale, we played at Princeton, we played [at] the University of North Carolina… you know, we just went on the road, and you went from one to the other.  And they all couldn’t wait until the band arrived, because the band became very popular on account of these radio broadcasts (Source).”    

During her time with The Larry Clinton Orchestra, Bea would go on to record several hit songs:

Her Signature Song: My Reverie and was top of the charts for 8 weeks in 1938. (Video Link)

Deep Purple”, “Heart and Soul” as well as “Cry, Baby, Cry” were also # 1 hits.

(Video Link)

It’s time to move on…

After a year and a half with the band, she tired of the road trips and poor pay for recordings** and left to perform on her own. At this time she was also a married woman to radio announcer André Baruch who she had met on the Kate Smith Show (where she was singing in the chorus if you remember my mention above). They had married May 1st, 1938.

BEA WAIN and ANDRE BARUCH
Source: Pinterest
Bea Wain and André Baruch
Source: Pinterest

After the orchestra, Bea would go on to have a successful radio career singing in programs like CBS’s, “Your Hit Parade” from 1939-44 where her husband Andre was also the announcer. Monday Merry-Go-Round (NBC Blue 1941-1942) and Starlight Serenade (Mutual 1944) (Source).

Bea Wain, singer on CBS Radios popular music program, Your Hit Parade. Here, She applies makeup. Image dated October 1, 1940. New York, NY.
Bea Wain, singer on CBS Radios popular music program, Your Hit Parade. Here, She applies makeup. Image dated October 1, 1940. New York, NY. Source: Getty Images
Bea Wain in General Electric ad 1940s
Source: Pinterest

During WW2 while her husband served overseas, Bea would do her part by performing at Army Camps and Naval Bases for the troops. Upon his return they would go on to host a radio program called “Mr. and Mrs. Music,” a daily program on WMCA in New York, on which they doubled as disc jockeys and interviewers.

Bea Wain with her husband, Andre Baruch, at WMCA in 1947.
Source: NY Times

In 1973, the couple moved to Palm Beach, Florida, where they had a similar radio show before relocating to Beverly Hills. During the early 1980s, the pair hosted a syndicated version of “Your Hit Parade”, reconstructing the list of hits of selected weeks in the 1940s and playing the original recordings on-air (Source).

Around the same time, Bea was featured on TV’s “Jukebox Saturday Night”. She was sensational, proving that her voice was still very much intact and that she was still a force to be reckoned with.

Bea passed away this year at the age of 100 on August 19th, 2017 (Andre passed in 1991).

In a 2004 interview with Christopher Popa, Wain reflected: “Actually, I’ve had a wonderful life, a wonderful career. And I’m still singing, and I’m still singing pretty good (Source).

Thank You for all the music.

Other Awesome Facts about Bea:

Bea Wain Billboard 1943 Image
Source: Wikipedia

*Ms. Wain was voted most popular female band vocalist in Billboard’s 1939 college poll (Ella Fitzgerald was second) (Source).

*She is considered by many to be one of the best female vocalists of her era, possessing a natural feel for swing-music rhythms not often found among white singers of the day. With regard to technique, she excelled in pitch and subtle utilization of dynamics. She also communicated a feminine sensuality and sang with conviction in an unforced manner (Source).

*Wain was also the first artist to record the Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg classic “Over the Rainbow” (on December 7, 1938, with Clinton’s orchestra), but MGM prohibited the release until The Wizard of Oz (1939) had opened and audiences heard Judy Garland perform it (Source).

Other Hits (not a complete list):

(Video Link)

Friends, I hope you enjoyed learning about this beautiful and talented star of the Big Band Era. I had heard of Bea in passing, but did not realize what a true talent she was until now. Bea will be on rotation on my playlist going forth and she will always be mentioned when discussing the women of the big band era.

Question Time: Have you heard of Bea Wain? If yes then please share your favorite song in the comments below, I would love to know what it is!

For further reading please check out my blog post: ‘Women of the Big Band Era that Everyone Should Know.

**Bea made $50 a week (about $870 in today’s dollars) working every night all summer with the Clinton band at Glen Island and only $30 for a three-hour session recording four songs. That meant that while songs like “My Reverie” and “Deep Purple” reaped a fortune for others, she made all of about $7.50 (or about $130 today) for each song (Source).

The 2017 Christmas Kitsch Roundup!

It’s my favorite time of the year, the Christmas Season! And what is a Vintage Christmas without some Kitschy items to fill your home with (or gift to your dearest friends & family).

Today’s post is a roundup of fun vintage kitschy Christmas items that you can pick up right now, because everyone deserves to have a Merry Kitschmas!

Kitsch 1950s christmas card
Source: Vintascope

1950s Vintage Metal Christmas Tree Spinning Spinner, and it works! (Buy HERE).

1950s Vintage Metal Christmas Tree Spinning Spinner Toy Tin Santa Molto Retro Kitsch
Source: Etsy

1950’s Christmas Flocking Deer Ornaments (Buy HERE).

1950's Christmas Flocking Deer Ornaments
Source: Etsy

1950’s Vintage Ornaments (Various Sellers).

Vintage Christmas 1950s ornaments
Source: Etsy

Vintage 1950s Christmas Double Sided Honey Comb (Buy HERE).

Vintage 1950s Christmas Kitsch Antique Center Piece Double Sided Honey Comb
Source: Etsy
Vintage 1950s Christmas Kitsch Antique Center Piece Double Sided Honey Comb
Source: Etsy

Vintage 1950’s Cookie Cutters In Original Box (Buy HERE).

Vintage 1950's Cookie Cutters In Original Box
Source: Etsy

1950’s Reindeer Figurine, mom and baby (Buy HERE).

1950's Vintage Reindeer figurine mom and baby
Source: Etsy

Poinsettia Bells Girls, Lipper & Mann Figurines (Buy HERE).

Vintage Noel Poinsettia Bells Girls Lipper Mann Christmas w/box Figurine
Source: Etsy

Vintage 1950’s shelf doily (Buy HERE).

1950's Christmas Doily Vintage
Source: Etsy

Dead Stock 1950’s Jewelry Box (Buy HERE).

Vintage Kitsch Jewelry Box Pastel 1950s
Source: Etsy

Vintage Felt Stocking Card Holder (Buy HERE).

Vintage Pink & Gold Felt Stocking Christmas Card Holder
Source: Etsy

Vintage Florida Christmas Postcards (Buy HERE).

Vintage Florida Christmas postcards set of 2 1950s
Source: Etsy

50s paper napkins still in their original packaging (Buy HERE).

50s paper napkins still in their original packaging
Source: Etsy

Thanks for stopping by everyone! So did something catch your eye, or is Christmas Kitsch not your thing? Share in the comments below.

P.S. Don’t forget, that if something has caught your eye in this post to buy asap! All the items are vintage and when they are gone, they are gone.

Merry Kitschmas!

Liz

Vintage Photo Tuesday-The 1949 Dance Teachers Strike

Some time around 1949 according to the LIFE archives, Arthur Murray dance teachers went on strike. I don’t know for how long, exactly where, and if 1949 was the actual date but it happened and LIFE was there to document it. Today’s Vintage Photo Tuesday is going to take you through that day.

But before we begin I would like to start off by saying that it was a slightly odd picket line. Yes there was your standard strike signs, but there was also women in swimsuits, a shirtless barefooted man, people dressed in different time period fashions, face masks, conga lines and of course lots of dancing.

Gosh, sounds like a fun strike to me!

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image
Source: Google/LIFE

“Working at Arthur Murrays isn’t just a song and dance. We want job security!”

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image
Source: Google/LIFE

“My master leads a dog’s life at Arthur Murrays studio”

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 6
Source: Google/LIFE

“An Arthur Murray Teacher on Arthur Murray wages”. This seems to mean she can only afford a sweater, shorts and dance shoes. MAYBE that is why the women are wandering around in their swimsuits, to show that they can’t even afford a shirt on their back (same with our shirtless/barefooted man)?

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 8
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image10
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 11
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 14
Source: Google/LIFE

Early 1900’s Fashion made an appearance at the strike.

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 5
Source: Google/LIFE

Charleston and 1920’s women’s fashion.

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 9
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 15
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 13
Source: Google/LIFE

There are no descriptions to any of the images but this does look like the negotiation table. Or at least the place where all the demands were being collected.

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 7
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 12
Source: Google/LIFE

That is the end of our dancing/striking teachers photos. I do hope their demands were met and dance was once again enjoyed by all that stepped into their studios.

UPDATE (Nov 30th): Thank you to Jeff Kellem (@composerjk) for shedding some light on the strike for us. It seems that there might of been multiple strikes in 1947 (not 1949). The image below is from New York city and the caption states 1947 as the year (Source).

Dancers Picket Arthur Murray Studio
Source: Huffington Post

As for the demands that the dance teachers were looking for, thanks to the civil suit Jeff found entitled ‘Gomez v United Office and Professional Workers’ we now have some insight.

Here is what they wanted:

Defendants and the dance studios of Arthur Murray in New York are engaged in a controversy concerning the terms and conditions of employment of Arthur Murray’s dancing instructors in New York. This controversy concerns minimum wages, union recognition, job security, grievance procedure and an alleged lockout of dancing instructors employed in the New York studio (Source).

Lastly Jeff also believes that the images in my post are from a Chicago because the Cable Building (57 East Jackson Building), on 57 E. Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL is in the image (GREAT EYE Jeff!)

Now dear readers, if any of you know anything more about the strike please share in the comments below. Thanks!

Liz

The Fashions of Christian Dior 1947-1957

Opening this weekend in Toronto at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is the ‘Christian Dior Exhibition‘ and this Vintage Gal is biting at the bit to see it. I know it’s going to be an incredible exhibit with some of the most stunning dresses in the world.

Christian Dior Exhibit at ROM Toronto

Vintage Dior is dreamy and of course historical because Christian Dior was the one who broke the wartime rigid mold of women’s fashion (mostly due to the rationing of fabric) and created the “New Look” in 1947. This look was filled with tight-fitting jackets with padded hips, petite waists, A-line skirts, and lots of use of fabric (as seen below). Quite a change from the previous decades of fashion and this look (plus extensions of this style) would go on to dominate the fashion world for several years.

dior New Look

“It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian! Your dresses have such a new look!” Carmel Snow, the former editor-in-chief of the American edition of “Harper’s Bazaar,” said these words after Dior’s debut fashion show in Paris, on February 12, 1947 (Source).

For today’s post I want to take a walk down memory lane of some of the most beautiful vintage dresses the house of Dior created between 1947-57. I have also included a video of a fashion show, vintage ads/covers and even dresses you can buy today (if you have the money).

Dior New Look vintage modeling image

“Cherie” (Spring/Summer 1947) exemplifies the “New Look” in all its salient elements: sloped shoulder, raised bustline, narrowed waist, and a monumental volume of skirt falling away from a padded hip line to below the calf (Source).

Dior New Look 1947 1948 vintage dress
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the biggest fans of the Dior New Look was Princess Margaret, seen below in a stunning dress (lots of fabric used in this dress).

Princess Margaret in Dior 1950s
Source: Frock Advisor

1949-1950.

Christian Dior 1949 1950 dress
Source: The Lady and Him

Jean Patchett modeling Dior, 1951.

Jean Patchett modeling Dior, 1951
Source: Pinterest

Cygne Noir Dress 1949-50 from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Christian Dior 1949 Dress From Victoria and Albert Musuem
Source: The Red List

Christian Dior with model Dorothy Emms, 1952.

Christian Dior with model Dorothy Emms, 1952
Source: Another Mag

This image of a model wearing a gray Dior suit outside the Louvre Metro station was photographed by Mark Shaw in Paris in 1957 for LIFE magazine.

Christian dior 1957 vintage image
Source: The Red List

Christian Dior with models, c.1950.

Christian Dior with models, c.1950
Source: Another Mag

UK Vogue 1953 Magazine Advertisement Dior Evening Gown Sold at Harrods London.

UK Vogue 1953 Magazine Advertisement CHRISTIAN DIOR Evening Gown Sold at Harrods London
Source: Pinterest

Dior 1952.

Christian Dior 1952 vintage ad
Source: Pinterest

Dresses for Sale:

Couture Dior 1950s Silk Taffeta and Lace Ballgown. Price available upon request.

Couture Dior 1950s Silk Taffeta and Lace Ballgown
Source: 1stdibs

1950s Christian Dior Dress / 50s Navy Blue Lace New look Dress. Listed for $1800 cdn on etsy.

1950s Christian Dior Dress 50s Navy Blue Lace New look Dress
Source: Etsy

This is an incredible numbered Christian Dior from the 1950s. At the time of this post, it was also for sale on 1stdibs for $2,000 cdn.

1950s New Look Christian Dior Gold Silk Bow Dress
Source: 1stdibs

Christian Dior 1956 haute couture numbered off white silk Femme Fleur look ball gown Wedding Made in France. Listed for $45,000 cdn. Here is the dress and the image from a promotional ad (I love when you find the matching original image).

Christian Dior 1956 haute couture numbered off white silk Femme Fleur look ball gown Wedding Made in France
Source: Etsy
1956 Christian Dior
Source: Etsy

Dior on video:

I hope you enjoyed the beauty that is early Dior and if you are in Toronto or visiting Toronto between now and March 2018 make sure you check out the exhibit.

Question Time: Do you have a favorite outfit featured above? If so share in the comments below!

Liz 🙂

A Peek Inside The MZTV Museum of Television & Archive

It’s great having a new and modern Television but there is just something special and beautiful about TV’s of the past (Don’t you agree?) So you can imagine my excitement when I was recently able to pay a private visit to Toronto’s MZTV Museum of Television & Archive thanks to Zoomer Radio. It was an incredible visit with so much history under one roof that I need to go back to make sure I did not miss anything.

Museum of Television Toronto

For today’s blog post I am going to give you a peek, just a peek into what the museum has to offer because if possible I want you to go and see it sometime yourself (so why ruin all the surprises in this post).

Museum Of Television Toronto Ontario Canada

Mission Statement:

The MZTV Museum and Archive seeks to protect, preserve and promote the Receiving Instruments of Television History. Whereas other North American Museums of Broadcasting feature Programs, ours is unique in its focus on the History of the Technology, as well as on the Sets Themselves.

Together with related original papers, discs, books, magazines, toys and other ephemera the collection offers some 10,000 objects to scholars and students as well as the general public.

The Museum’s mandate is to exhibit the world’s most comprehensive collection of North American Television Receivers for the formative fifty-year period from the 1920s to the 1970s. The MZTV Museum also aims to tell the story of the medium and to contribute to the understanding of the impact of television on the people who watch it

Museum Of Television Toronto Ontario Canada

Lets begin with the Pioneers of Television section. This was a great high level overview of all the important people who made Televisions possible. I enjoyed this intro because it really set a nice tone for the rest of the museum tour.

Don’t like reading? No worries the museum also has a wonderful FREE app you can download with audio of the content, extra images and videos to give a little more to what is featured in front of you. The app was a great addition to my tour.

The pioneers of Television vintage inn blog museum of television

Now before reading ahead, who of my readers knows what role ‘Felix the Cat’ played in the beginning of Television? If you know the answer, pat yourself on the back and then continue reading below.

Felix the Cat the original Museum of Television

The Answer: Pictured above is the original papier-mache figurine of Felix purchased at F.A.O. Shwartz in NYC. This figurine of Felix would become Televisions first star when RCA would first transmit his image from the Empire State Building in 1928 and then again in 1939 for the first commercial television broadcast. This was a lead up to the formal unveiling of Televisions at New York World’s Fair.

Once you leave Felix on his turntable, the museum has you move to various sections that explain how Televisions were formed, how they worked, what they looked like in different era’s plus various other tidbits. Here are some images of those displays.

Museum of Television 1930s tv

1930’s-1940’s Televisions (just a sample of what they have).

Museum of Television image 4

Museum of Television 1930s 1940s tv

1950’s-1960’s. LOVE these TV’s. They are just so cool!

Museum of Television 1950s

It’s all about the details.

Museum of Television 1950s 1960s TV

Sample from the the space age TV’s.

Space Age vintage televison at Musuem of Television

There were so many stunning Television’s but I think the one that stood out the most for me was this 1950’s West Germany, Komet. You would need nothing else in your room but this work of art (also housing a turntable).

vintage televison at Museum of Television

Beyond showing the timeline of Television sets, the museum also plays hosts to 3 special sets.

Up first this lucite beauty from RCA shown at the 1939 World’s Fair in NYC (The ONLY one in the world).

Vintage Television Lucite world fair television

The 1939 World’s Fair was the first time many people had their first look at television and the centerpiece was the Phantom TRK-12 shown above, whose cabinet was made of transparent Lucite. Having the transparent casing convinced skeptics that TV really worked and wasn’t all smoke-and-mirrors. The TRK-12 had the CRT facing straight up, and the screen was watched by looking into a mirror (Source).

1939 RCA Transparent TRK-12 Television at the World's Fair

The next special TV is Elvis Presley’s early 1970’s set that was situated on the counter in his kitchen (which was very uncommon at that time).

Elvis Presley 1970s Television

It was a tiny TV as you can see below.

Elvis Presley kitchen 1970s

First Elvis, now a 1957 Magnavox Television from Marilyn Monroe (seen to the left in the tableau below).

marilyn monroe 1950s television

The last part of my visit had a stop at the archives portion of the museum and it was jam-packed with advertising, books, photos and so much more. It was very cool to see (I adore anything archive related) and a great resource for anyone in the field or in need of historic information.

Museum of Television Toronto Archives 1

Museum of Television Toronto Archives 1

And that was my wonderful visit. Thank you to the fantastic staff for answering my questions and allowing me into the archives portion of the museum. I enjoyed myself immensely and I look forward to my next visit.

NOW it’s your turn! If you live in Toronto or are visiting Toronto soon (or someday), then make sure you make time to stop by the Museum you won’t regret it!

  • Location: 64 Jefferson Ave, Toronto, Ontario Canada
  • MZTV is open Tuesday-Friday: 2pm-5pm
    Saturday-Monday: Closed
  • Pricing:
    • Adults $10
    • Seniors and Students $5
    • Groups 10+ $5/person
    • CARP Members FREE
    • Children 12 and under FREE

Question Time: What style of vintage Television do you like? Share in the comments below.

Liz