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Thursday, August 21, 2014

No Sitter Needed: Drive-In Fun!!

By: Corinne Court, Registrar at Curt Teich Postcard Archives

3CK1267, Semri Drive-In, Silvas, Illinois. Operated from 1951-1982. Demolished
There is something magical about going to a drive-in theater. Is it the nostalgia of yesteryear? Is it the sense of freedom? Or, is it the comfort?  I believe it's all of this and so much more

I journey to the McHenry Outdoor Theater in McHenry, Illinois. My favorite parts are the 1950s music playing from the speakers, the 1970s decor of the concession stand, and watching today's new release movies from their new digital projector. It doesn't feel like summer until I have gone to the drive-in.  

The first drive-in movie theater was built in New Jersey in 1933 and drive-ins quickly spread throughout the United States. Its popularity peaked in the 1950s and early 1960s with more than 4,000 drive-ins. Families of the baby boomer generation discovered drive-ins were a fun and economic activity for everyone, with playgrounds and other family-fun gimmicks such as hayrides, train rides, etc. Intermission was a big hit, featuring cartoons.  Who doesn't remember the dancing concessions singing, "Lets All Go to the Lobby" or the 10 minute intermission clock with the hot dog flipping into the bun?

Today, I believe after the economic hardship and the soaring ticket prices at indoor movie theaters, people are rediscovering the drive-in as a great source of family entertainment. There is a sense of pleasure of watching movies outdoors with no restrictions. In 2012, there were 364 drive-ins in the United States. I just hope that number continues to rise. 

Here are a few postcards from the Curt Teich Postcard Archives.  And please help your local drive-in theater's capital campaign to raise enough money to buy digital projectors. It's well worth the investment!

4CK521, Memri Drive-In Theater, Milan, IL. Operated from 1948-1986. Demolished
RT66-350, 66 Park-In Theatre, St. Louis, MO. 
Operated from 1948-1993. Demolished

9BH1132, Norridge, IL. Harlem Avenue Outdoor operated from 1948-1976. Demolished.
River Grove, IL. North Avenue Outdoor operated from 1949-1973. Demolished.

On the back of this postcard states:
"Why the Outdoor Theatre? America living, working and playing on wheels created a demand for a place where the family could go as a group in one automobile with no parking worries and, without the necessity of "dressing up", remain in the car and be entertained. In the Outdoor Theatre, there's no walking to the box of ice, no waiting for seats, no climbing over people in the dark, no separating from friends of family when you get there.
Solve Sitter Problem! Get in your car, come as you are. (1959)
9BH1865, Oklahoma City, OK. Skyview Drive-In Theatre.
Operated from 1948-1983. Demolished
6BH2550, Phoenix, AZ. Indian Drive-In.
Operated from 1950-early 1980s. Demolished

3CH1110, Gull Drive-In Theatre, Brainerd, MN. Operated from 1950s - unknown. 
Closed, but you can still see the screen from HWY 371

Cinema Treasures is a great reference guide for all theaters around the world. Check them out for more information about your childhood drive-in theater! 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Swas-Ti-Ka Postcards: An Emblem of Good Luck...and Evil

By: Corinne Court, Registrar at Curt Teich Postcard Archives
SBN342, ca. 1908

A few years ago, the previous collections cataloger Kory wrote an article for the Curt Teich Postcard Archives' publication Image File. It was titled, "The Problematic Swastika" (Volume 16, No. 3/4 2009). She explained the meaning of the swastika symbol, the history of the symbol, and how it was and still used. I thought I would pull some of her information for this post, with postcards of course!  These postcards represent the common view points of the time period when they were printed, which often were very different than today’s sensibilities.

Kory wrote: For centuries the swastika was a symbol of good fortune and blessings to people all over the world. It's still a sacred symbol of prosperity and auspiciousness in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Odinism. Historians are not sure how the swastika symbol spread throughout the world, it was the favorite symbol of good luck to many different religions and people in North, South, and Central America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

The swastika became a very popular symbol of good luck in the United States and Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the United States, the Navajo culture referred to it as the "Whirling log" or "that which revolves." The symbol appeared in Navajo sand paintings celebrating miracles. It was not until the late 1800s that Navajos started incorporating the symbol into blankets and rugs, as well as many other trinkets and souvenirs. Not only was it found on souvenirs, but also on postcards and in architecture.

1bh477, ca. 1931
CTPA13.22, ca. 1920s

1003-30, 1930

Postcards through the years show how the swastika morphed from one meaning to another. One greeting card from 1908 stating, "To My Dear Friend" shows a swastika adorned with flowers. Another postcard from the same time period shows the front of the postcard with a Saint Patrick's Day themed pattern of green and gold swastikas and a message of luck. No one suspected that not many years after these postcards were printed, the swastika would become one of the most controversial symbols of all time. 

LH359, ca. 1908
G693, ca. 1912

During the 1930s, the swastika was still viewed as an auspicious symbol. Postcards show places such as the Peach Springs Trading Post and Vaughn's Indian Store proudly displaying swastikas on their signs or in the windows. A card intended to raise money for "Indian Welfare Work" pictures Chief Chibiaboos standing next to a Native American pianist named Tsianina whose piano has a swastika adorned blanket draped over it. 

613-30, 1930
A121906, ca. 1920s

In a blink of an eye, the swastika's positive meaning ended for much of the world. The swastika now evokes the thoughts of Adolf Hitler, the Third Reich and the atrocities of the Holocaust. Due to one man's actions in the last century, thousands of years of meaning were all but erased from history. The swastika appears doomed to be a symbol of death and hatred. A 1943 image shows the Navajos renouncing their swastika design after the United States declares war.
3BH1370, 1933

The image is from 1958 and shows the interior view of the Patton Museum in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Here you are able to see different artifacts from World War II including the unmistakable Nazi flag with the predominant swastika. Also you can see Nazi symbols on two German planes, ca. 1940s and 1960s.

8CK1427, 1958
BB834, ca. 1940s

3DK406, 1963

Although many religions still use  the swastika with its original good intent, it seems it may be destined to remain a conflicted icon of hope, prosperity, and luck as well as hate, murder, and genocide.

 I conclude with a postcard from the early 1910s, that tells us the history of the "Swas-Ti-Ka: The Emblem of Good Luck." Thanks again Kory for your article!
"The foresight and energy of Mr. P.E. Kern, of Skagway, Alaska, the leading Manufacturing Jeweler in all the Territory, have caused the revival of the Swas-ti-ka cross as a design for jewelry decoration, the widespread and general adoption of which has led to many inquiries as to whence its origin and what its import. The origin of this religious and secret emblem of good fortune is lost in the obscurity which veils the mysteries of bygone ages. It is, indeed, very ancient and was used by peoples of widely separated origin and locality. It is found engraved on archaic Green pottery and on relics of ancient Roman Armour treasured in the British Museum. It is seen on the ornaments used among the wandering tribes of Asia and our own American Indians weave the symbol into their blankets and engrave it on their decorations, and woven into the rare basketry and bead work of the Alaskan aborigines is also found the mystic design whichever and always wherever used is considered a token of good luck. Naturally, many and various traditions, legends, and folk-lore attach to a device so universally distributed...From that time has the Swas-ti-ka among the Alaskan Indians always and ever been an emblem of good luck and a charm against evil spirits."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fun Along the Road

Christine Pyle, Manager of Historical Resources, Guest Blogger

Did you know that postcards and automobiles came on the scene about the same time?  And neither of them were too welcome.

CTPA RT66-244
Postcards were seen as the end of letter writing, and on top of that – anyone could read them including the postman!!  


Laws were passed to keep automobiles off the streets, and some towns authorized the police to shoot out tires. 

Eventually the two began to be accepted and soon they were working together.  The automobile brought about new services and products, and postcards provided an inexpensive means of advertising them.

CTPA R53666
In the early 1900s, it was unclear which method of power would dominate – gas, steam, or electric.  Electric cars were favored by women even though they had limited range.  They were simple to operate, quiet, and odorless. 

CTPA A80583
Supposedly the first two autos in the state of Ohio managed to crash into each other, bringing about the need for businesses such as Rosey’s Auto Graveyard. 

CTPA C51511

CTPA A59266
Automobiles were always breaking down on the road, and most men kept overalls in the car to keep their suits clean while changing a tire or doing whatever other repairs were needed.  

CTPA 1417-29
The first roads were also very dusty! 

CTPA A86856
In 1907, Gabriel Introduced the first shock absorber in America, the Snubber. 

CTPA A68767
Puncture proof tires were a big selling point in new autos.  The “Torture Test” involved driving over 25,000 20-penny nails, 24 steel knives, and 30 pounds of broken glass. 

CTPA R55349
As the auto became more common to the average household, a new part of American history was unfolding.  New roads were being built like the Dixie Highway, and the family vacation was born! 

 And what’s the best way to share a family vacation?  Send a postcard, of course!