Last Thursday morning, in the next room, something crashed and clunked onto the floor. I immediately stopped editing the blog post I had been working on to investigate the interruption. The mirror-wall art was on the floor, possibly broken. Half of the frame remained on the wall. The front piece of the thermostat laid at my feet.
I reassembled the thermostat and made sure it still worked first. I wanted to save the chore of cleaning up and disposing of broken glass for last. Then I saw that the mirror had somehow survived the fall. I carefully checked all of the edges and discovered no chips at all. The cheap, plastic poster frame must have absorbed the fall. I needed to reframe the mirror and rehang it.
Later in the morning, I pocketed my slim tape measure and set off to the Goodwill Store to see if they had a suitable, better replacement. Almost immediately, I spotted a possible candidate. My friend, Charlie, helped me measure the inner dimensions. The size was exact. In fact, it was the only frame of that size in the store. The Robert Wood print was an added bonus. The description on the backing said the picture was manufactured by Illinois Molding Company, Chicago 8, Illinois (aha, pre-Zip Code era). I paid $11 plus tax then brought it home.
Monday was the first opportunity I had to devote to assembling my surprise project. I used my pocketknife to cut through the perimeter of the tan, protective kraft-paper backing of the picture so I could remove the print. Then, I discovered a wonderful prize that had been hidden inside.
A couple pages of old newspaper had been used as padding between the print and the kraft-paper. One page was glued to the backing, but the other one was completely free and could be unfolded for me to read. Right away, I located the name of the newspaper and its date. It was part of the “Chicago Daily Tribune” from Tuesday, November 24, 1959. This gave me an approximate date that the frame and print had been originally assembled. I’m guessing right around January of 1960, give or take a few weeks.
Because I used to be a DJ, I noticed the disk jockey story, right away. The “payola” scandal was one of the most infamous instances of record label-radio station wrongdoing in history. During an investigation, authorities uncovered the crime of music “play for pay”. DJs were bribed to give extra spins to certain records favored by unscrupulous record label promoters. The most infamous case was that of Alan Freed of New York.
After I finished reading the payola story, I glanced to the left and found the item about Jawaharlal Nehru. The ever-present tensions in the Indian State of Jammu And Kashmir was in the news yet again. I was fascinated by this little tidbit of history.
On the same page is a story about the desegregation crisis in Alabama. The shameful Jim Crow laws were still in force. A district judge upheld a local law that required blacks to sit in a separate section, apart from whites, on city buses. However, the issue of civil rights was also mentioned in the piece.
One of the stories on the page that was glued to the kraft-paper dealt with a throwback to McCarthyism. College students at 16 universities protested the requirement of a “loyalty oath” to be sworn before students could be approved for student loans. Congress had earlier passed a law stating that loan candidates must swear an oath and sign an affidavit stating they would pledge loyalty to the United States and would never support any organization that aims to overthrow the government, ie. the Communist Party. The administration officials at the 16 schools came out in support of the students’ complaints.
Not only are the news stories fascinating, the advertising is quite entertaining and interesting, too. I especially enjoy the full-page ad for Polk Brothers electronics store. I was somewhat surprised at the high prices for their hi-fi gear. An AM/FM table radio or a reel to reel tape deck at $95.95 seems a bit steep, even in the 1959 market. That figure is comparable to $779.59 in 2015 dollars.
The Motorola “3 Channel” hi-fi stereo console was advertised on sale for $550 in 1959. That amount of money has the same purchasing power as $4,469 in 2015 cash. My goodness, how times have changed! Console stereos aren’t even manufactured anymore. I did find a vintage one that recently sold on eBay for $266.67.
One other ad made me chuckle. Evidently there used to be an after-shave product for men called “Man Tan”. Supposedly, all you needed to do was to splash the product on your face, then you could have a “Caribbean Tan” in six hours. I can imagine all sorts of problems with such a product. After I finished reading the “Chicago Daily Tribune”, it was finally time to finish my surprise project. The “Bassett” black mirror, featuring a golden clipper ship, perfectly fit inside the vintage frame. To protect the back of the mirror, I placed the Robert Wood print behind it, then restapled around the perimeter to secure everything in place.
The finished mirror project not only looks better than before, it is much safer, too.