If you haven’t had quite enough Thanksgiving, I recommend a trip to Paul Berge’s blog, where you can check out Thanksgiving cartoons from roughly a century ago, including this post-WWI John McCutcheon piece noting that, while Extravagance, Unrest and the High Cost of Living were still dining at the table, War, Hunger and Hard Times were finally absent.
“Unrest” is an interesting guest, since the end of the war certainly stirred things up and we weren’t so far away from wagons blowing up on Wall Street and a significant Red Scare, while Russia was sorting out their revolution and Ireland was in the middle of theirs.
Berge has a nice mix of the serious and the less-so, and this Arnold Webster piece hits me at the right moment because I’ve been mystified by a surge of memes and posts about how awful it is to check out your own groceries.
Granted, it’s another way in which automation costs jobs, but it is just another: We’re already using ATMs and pumping our own gas, and this cartoon reminds me that there was a time when you didn’t fetch your own groceries from the shelf.
Or much of anything: “Shop girls” were an early target of social reformers, since department stores generally paid them poorly, gave them few breaks and required them to remain standing, while fetching things as simple as a spool of thread for customers.
In “It,” a 1927 romcom that holds up well, Clara Bow (seen here) played a shop girl whose grinding poverty was key to the plot.
And, while not everything was behind the counter at grocery stores, having nothing behind the counter was enough of an innovation to attract the attention of Mad’s Harvey Kurtzman and Jack Davis in 1955.
Most of the jobs being eliminated by these technical innovations were chimp work to begin with, and while I am adamant that we should be dealing with minimum wage issues and benefits for unskilled labor, I don’t think we need to artificially keep the specific jobs around like endangered species.
Though I’m sorry that “service stations” turned into convenience stores with self-serve gas pumps, because, while it’s nice to pop in for a loaf of bread or a Coke when you’re buying gas, it sure was nice to be able to get help at the next gas station when your car broke down.
Side note: When self-serve gas was first proposed, Vance Packard said women wouldn’t accept it because sticking the nozzle into the gas tank was too suggestively phallic.
Too bad we didn’t have Facebook back then. Imagine the commentary and arguments over that theory.
More Holiday Nostalgia
Once upon a time, the syndicates would release a Christmas special, a continuing story with a holiday theme that would start about now and run up to the holiday.
Tom Heintjes is running George Wunder’s 1937 Christmas strip, “Tommy Carrol’s Christmas” in daily dollops on his Hogan’s Alley Twitter page.
Seems worth following.
I don’t know that anyone does that anymore: The most recent example I know of was in 2003 when United Features offered a holiday serial with a relatively new (April 2001) strip, Frazz.
They offered it again in 2010, but I’m not aware of anything since.
Speaking of exploited workers in crappy jobs, I remember when there were fewer “shopping days” than calendar days.
I’m not sure how we let the Sabbath slip away down here, but when I first moved back East in 1987, our nearest Big City was Montreal, where only the depanneurs and restaurants were open on Sunday.
When repeal of Quebec’s blue laws was proposed, the point was made that people can only buy so much and that being open seven days instead of six simply added another day of utilities and labor costs in the pursuit of the same amount of money.
But some aggressive stores found loopholes allowing them to stay open, which meant the rest would lose business and so the law was scrapped and every day became a shopping day.
Another advance for civilization.
It’s a whole lot more hi-tech than when I lived out there and you had to call a phone number to find out where Santa was.
The whole thing began in 1955, when a Sears ad in the Colorado Springs paper invited kids to call Santa but accidentally gave the number of the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Cheyenne Mountain.
The commander realized the mistake when small children began calling for Santa and kindly played along, assuring them that the folks who normally tracked Soviet missiles also tracked flying reindeer and that Santa was indeed on his way.
It turned into an annual event and then word began to spread beyond Colorado Springs and so here we are. My kids made the calls when they were little, and I kind of wish they’d stayed young long enough to enjoy the on-line version, which is pretty cool.
You’d think, by the way, that it would be scary to live within sight of Cheyenne Mountain, but there was something comforting in knowing that, if the shit ever did hit the fan, you’d be completely vaporized in the first 10 minutes.
Anyway, I’d rather have my kids call NORAD for Santa updates than give them that creepy Big-Brothery Elf On A Shelf.
Wouldn’t you prefer a good game of chess?
Ben Jennings offers this commentary, after Boris Johnson denounced the Labor Party for having released the terrorist who staged the attack on London Bridge.
Between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, I’m wondering if maybe we’re just headed for an era of leaders who are not only incapable of empathizing with others but don’t even know how to fake it.
Speaking of which
A holiday thought from Steve Brodner, in the spirit of the times.
Talk about a “War on Christmas.” They who smelt it, dealt it.