Mid Century Luggage Tags

One of the necessary set pieces for Wait Until Dark is a suitcase with travel stickers, and so I’ve been scouring the internet for some of my favourite mid-century designs.

It’s really unfortunate that these are no longer used by hotels and airways, because some of them were really beautifully designed, and who wouldn’t love a bag covered in them? Personally, I might print off a second set for myself and add them to my own luggage.

-E.

Retro Christmas Countdown – Xmas in the 20th Century

While Christmas dates back hundreds of years before, it was the start of the 20th century that saw the turn towards the lavish and very commercial holiday that we all know today. Here’s a very brief history of Christmas traditions from the last century.

1900s

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The first Christmas card was created in 1843 by John Horsley, and by the turn of the century the Victorian’s love of sentimental greetings had made this a popular tradition.

The Victorian styles of decorating carried into the start of the 20th century, with gilded nuts, candles and paper ornaments adorning trees.

This decade also saw the creation of what was to become one of the most popular children’s toys of the century; the Teddy Bear. Named after President Roosevelt, the charming story of the origin of this toy and its name can be read here.

1910s

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As Christmas rapidly became a highly commercialized holiday, more and more companies used it as a means of selling their products, and the image of Santa Claus began to morph into the one we are familiar with today. It was in the 1910s that Santa’s now unmistakable look, with red suit and pants trimmed in white fur, matching cap and long white beard, began to become the norm.

While a legend has grown that claims Coca Cola invented the modern-day image of Santa, that is not quite the case. Prior to the famous Coca Cola Santa (who was created in 1931), the jolly elf had been portrayed as anything from tall and lanky to a munchkin-sized man. Norman Rockwell had painted a Santa who is strikingly similar to the 30s Coke version all the way back in 1911, however it wasn’t until Coke began regularly producing consistent looking Christmas ads that the current version of St. Nick really began to stick.

For an interesting pictorial history of Santa, check out this link.

1920s

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By the 1920s the upper class had traded-in their candles for electric Christmas lights, and trees were as lavish and daring as the fashions of the decades.

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With the rising popularity of the wireless (radio), the 1920s also saw the first Christmas radio broadcast when, in 1922, Arthur Burrow presented “The Truth About Father Christmas”.

1930s

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Rockefeller Centre, 1931

In the midst of the Great Depression few had money to spend on food and clothing, let alone Christmas gifts and decorations. Still, the tradition of putting up a tree hung on, with many families owning decorations they had purchased in the more prosperous 1920s. Homemade ornaments also adorned the tree, made out of things like the foil paper saved from cigarette packs. As previously mentioned, Coca Cola started to advertise with their own version of Santa, and upbeat Christmas songs were enjoyed on the radio. Advertisements still bombarded shoppers with ideas for the perfect Christmas gift, only their tactics had changed; a focus on the practical and sometimes financing options were promoted.

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The popular character Rudolph, everyone’s favourite red-nosed reindeer, was created in 1939 by Montgomery Ward. Although it wasn’t until a decade later when Gene Autry released the song that we’ve all learned as kids.

rudolph

1940s

The 1940s saw the Second World War, and with that came rations and a reminder that the war effort should be supported above all else. Sales in non-necessities like Christmas lights dropped dramatically as many companies changed their focus to assist in the war effort. War bonds were promoted as a perfect gift for any family member or friend, and Santa himself switched his classic red & white outfit to don army duds and support the cause.

With many families missing fathers, brothers and sons overseas, Christmas could have been a bittersweet time. However, back home the masses were reminded to keep their spirits up while fighting the good fight, so many Christmas celebrations resumed some of the splendour they had seen before the Depression.

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1950s

The post-war boom made the Christmas of the 1950s one of the biggest and gaudiest yet. The Baby Boom meant there were lots of families with youngsters, and so the toy market was buzzing. Wide-spread prosperity meant most were lucky enough to be able to afford Christmas celebrations, and women’s magazines, eager to encourage them to return to the home, now that the war was over, pushed for the ideal Christmas season, full of elaborate recipes and decor.

Television was also becoming popular and with it came a host of Christmas specials. Stars like Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby recorded Christmas songs and popular shows like I Love Lucy recorded special Christmas episodes.

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1960s

By the 1960s, the fads of the 50s were firmly cemented; every toy imaginable was available on the market and they were advertised directly to children in between the cartoons they watched on tv. The Christmas shows we still see today – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Frosty the Snowman – first appeared on the airwaves and decorations were more colourful and outlandish than ever before.

There was significant variety now as well. Christmas trees could be anything from your traditional green pine, to the popular aluminum trees that came in silver, aqua and even pink! And don’t forget the fake snow! The concept of “Kitschmas” was truly born in the 1960s.

What’s your favourite Christmas decade? Tweet your replies to @BygoneTheatre #RetroXmas 

-E.

Retro Christmas Countdown – Crazy Vintage Recipes

Every family has their own Christmas traditions, and chances are, they include some much-loved recipes. However, for every delicious pie there is that dreaded fruit cake or failed potato salad that family members choke down once a year so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. Imagine the difficulty in doing that, however, when the popular recipes of the day looked like this!

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Ok, I kind of get it…candles, Christmas, those sort of go together. But somehow looking at those I don’t find myself thinking of candles…also, maybe it’s just me, but bananas never exactly screamed “xmas” to me.

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In keeping with our candle theme here’s one dish that does something incredible; turns me off from food even more than the previous one. It’s like someone had spent years plopping that cranberry sauce out of the can and thinking, it needs something extra, and then one day, eureka! We can mix it with mayonnaise and light it on fire! I mean, the lighting it on fire part isn’t a bad idea…

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Oh goody! More of everyone’s favourite Christmas treat; bananas! But now we’ve perfected them by ADDING MEAT.

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Now, on top of generally just being against eating anything that smiles at me, I feel like “seafood” and “mousse” are two words that shouldn’t really go together. Gotta appreciate that great presentation though, the bed of greens and 3 awkwardly places tomatoes really give it that je ne sais quoi.

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Despite it’s bizarre appearance, I feel this may be the most normal meal on the list. I think those are cornflakes that have been sort of “candy-fied” and topped with what I assume are mints. Worth the effort? Not really. But much less likely to give you nightmares or gut rot than most of this list.

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There were just too many lovely jello creations to choose from, I couldn’t narrow it down to one. Really, all you need to know is that jello used to be SO popular they made vegetable flavour, and that it wasn’t uncommon to serve as part of the main course. Now, admittedly, my Grandmother always serves jello with Christmas dinner, I think it’s a rural Ontarian thing, but THANK GOD it’s cherry flavoured and I’ve never been forced to choke down shrimp and olive jello.

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I think the name says it all. “Bacon pudding” is even worse than “vegetable jello” in my books. Fun Fact: this comes up looking the exact same way it does going down.

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Last, but certainly not least, this piece de resistance that certainly does take the crown. I think what really makes it for me is that, they seem to have sliced the sausages lengthwise so that they can curve up around the dish, rising up so support that lovely pile of…I guess it’s some sort of sauerkraut…I’d love to see someone try and serve this without the whole thing falling apart, almost as much as I’d love to watch someone eat it without falling apart themselves.

Did you like this post? Check out other blogs like Bad Jelly (where they make and try some of these fabulous creations) and The Gallery of Regrettable Food. Have you ever tried anything this ghastly? Tweet us your pictures or stories to @BygoneTheatre #RetroFood.

-E.

Vintage Christmas Printables

In need of some last-minute decorations or gifts? Check out these sources for great vintage printables and hand-make a card, gift tag, wreath or garland. Be sure to tweet pictures of your creations to @BygoneTheatre! Click on the images for links to the original sites.

Graphics Fairy

Graphics Fairy has hundreds of Christmas printables.

 

Vintage Holiday Crafts features many turn-of-the-century Christmas cards

Vintage Holiday Crafts features many turn-of-the-century Christmas cards

 

Beautiful gift tags from Christmas Charisma.

Beautiful gift tags from Christmas Charisma.

 

True to its name, Free Pretty Things For You has some adorable prints, a bit more modern and colourful than the others, plus ideas how on to use them!

True to its name, Free Pretty Things For You has some adorable prints, a bit more modern and colourful than the others, plus ideas how on to use them!

 

Miss the kitschy-fun wrapping paper of yesteryear? No fear! Aunt Peaches has some scanned so print to your hearts content.

Miss the kitschy-fun wrapping paper of yesteryear? No fear! Aunt Peaches has some scanned so print to your hearts content.

 

Enjoy!

Retro Christmas Countdown – Gifts For The Guys

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on finding the perfect gift for the vintage-loving ladies in your life, we thought we’d do one for the boys.

For The Host

Does your man love to play host? Help him up his vintage game with a gift like this masculine travel bar set from Etsy, or check out Toronto’s BYOB for a similar one-of-a-kind find. Not much of a drinker? Why not help add to the ambiance with a retro-inspired radio or mp3 player, like the funky ones by Crosley.

For The Film Buff

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An easy gift for you film-loving friend is of course, a movie or movie box set. Already know his favourite vintage flick? Why not buy him a gift set by the same director or starring the same actor? If you really want to leave an impression, you can even give him this ridiculous (but very cool) vintage-style Crosley tv.

For The Business Man

If he has an office or dedicated workspace, there is a wide range of gorgeous office accessories out there sure to make any vintage lover squeal with delight. Restoration Hardware has spectacular pieces and while most are pricey enough to be options for the very wealthy (few of us have upwards of $3000 for a desk) some of their desk accessories are relatively accessible, like the 19th Century Belgian Deed Boxes (doubt he already has one!). Or go for something with a more personal touch and find an antique card holder from your local vintage shop and take it in to be engraved.

For The Greaser

If he’s more of a 50s bad boy type lots of vintage and rockabilly stores have some wicked shirts, like these from Tatyana’s boutique. And if he spends more time doing his hair than you do, maybe throw in some good old fashioned hair pomade as well and help keep those Elivis-esq coifs looking fine.

For The Dandy

 

If your gentleman prefers tweed jackets and bow ties to jeans and bowling shirts, you may want to look for something a little more upscale and help him complete his “dandy” image. New York’s Fine & Dandy would be my first choice here as they carry everything you could need for this look – even spats and sock garters! If that’s a little much check out their wide range of neckwear, sure to impress the most particular of tastes.

Retro Christmas Countdown – Gifts for the Ladies

With Christmas less than a week away we thought it was time to do a final Christmas countdown for all you retro lovers out there. Check our blog every day up to and including on Christmas for some vintage holiday fun.

To start things off, here are some fabulous gift ideas for the lovely ladies on your list.

For The Makeup Lover


Is the lady on your list a fan of glamourous vintage makeup looks? Then be sure to check out Besame Cosmetics. Created by cosmetic historian (yes, that is a thing) Gabriella Hernandez, Besame features a wide range of  reproduction beauty products that beautifully capture the luxury styles of the 1920s-50s. From 20s style cake mascara to 1938 Crimson Cream Rouge, this company is sure to have the perfect item for your makeup loving friend.

For The Quirky Friend


Not sure what to get for your quirky, vintage-loving pal? Have no fear, there are dozens of great options. Why not try a funky pillow with a great cult-vibe? Or an adorable Sailor-Jerry-esq tea towel set? Blame Betty has these and many more for very reasonable prices. Not quirky enough? Try scouring Etsy for a unique find, like these book purses from Novel Creations, or find a one-of-a-kind vintage item, like this kitschy figurine – she’s sure to remember that!

For The Cocktail Fan

Nothing screams vintage like the perfect cocktail served up in a gorgeous vintage glass. West Elm carries a nice set of 20s inspired stemware, and Toronto’s own BYOB carries everything from stunning absinthe fountains to funky tiki mugs.

For The Jewellery Lover

Dazzle her with an Edwardian (reproduction) ring or a daring Deco necklace. Jans Jewells offers a wide selection of reproduction jewellery made with more affordable materials (eg. cubic zirconia rather than diamonds) so you can get that beautiful one-of-a-kind look without breaking the bank buying a real vintage piece. 1928 is a similar store with a lot of great vintage-inspired finds; check out their Downton Abbey collection for some hopelessly romantic pieces.

For The All-Round Retro Diva

Does your gal love everything retro? Does she look like she stepped out of a Golden Age picture? Then you’re in luck, because there are dozens of stores dedicated to amazing retro-styled fashions. Here in town check out shops like Tatyana’s Boutique or Rosie the Rebel for more casual retro duds, or try Cabaret Vintage for a more upscale look. If you’re willing to look overseas you’ll find an even better collection at shops like Collectif or What Katie Did. Make sure you check the return policy, especially if ordering from overseas. In cases like this, a gift card may be the way to go, it’s unlikely your retro diva would be disappointed in that.

Hollywood During WWII

With Remembrance Day around the corner we’d like to share some WWII facts about Hollywood and the stars who helped the war effort. While many stars performed for the troops and helped support their country by selling war bonds, some had more notable achievements that have been largely forgotten over the years.

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

German-born performer Marlene Dietrich was a staunch anti-Nazi who became an American citizen in 1939. The outspoken actress was one of the first stars to start selling war bonds, and is said to have sold more than any other. She refused multiple requests to return to her native country and instead performed for American troops, sometimes dangerously close to enemy lines. She was awarded the US Medal of Freedom in 1945 which she said was her “highest honour”.

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

Actress Hedy Lamarr is mostly remembered for her stunning good looks, and for her risque nude scene, but the Austrian born actress contributed much more than pinups to the  Allied war effort. Along with the help of George Antheil, an Avant Garde composer, Lamarr created a device that could prevent the enemy from throwing their torpedoes off-course. By utilizing a piano roll to unpredictably change frequencies, they made it nearly impossible for the enemy to scan and jam frequency signals. This frequency hopping spread-spectrum invention would become the basis for modern technologies such as GPS and Bluetooth.

Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks

Comedian Mel Brooks was drafted into the army and served as a corporal combat engineer. In addition to fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, Brooks had the nerve-wracking task of diffusing land mines. Always a comedian, he kept up his fellow soldiers spirits by broadcasting Al Jolson music over the loud-speakers in response to the German propaganda playing (Jolson, like Brooks, was a Jewish performer).

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

Born in St.Louis, Missouri, Josephine Baker moved to France in the 1920s and became enormously popular. During the war Baker served as part of the French Resistance, working as a secret informer and smuggling messages written in invisible ink on her sheet music. Upon her death in 1975 she was buried with military honours.

Jimmy Stewart

482px-Jimmy_Stewart_getting_medal-e1282911945287Jimmy Stewart was eager to join the war effort and reapplied after initially being rejected due to being underweight. While initially his star status delegated him to tasks such as paperwork and making training videos, Stewart pushed for the chance to see combat and in four short years moved up the ranks from private to colonel. Stewart flew a B-24 into German and for his bravery twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross; three times received the Air Medal; and once received the Croix de Guerre from France. After the war, Stewart remained a part of the Air Force, reaching the rank of Major General (two star general) after 27 years of service.

Knock ‘Em Dead! – The Vaudeville Origins of Theatre Slang

Chances are, if you’re not a vintage theatre lover like we are, you don’t know too much about Vaudeville. You’ve likely heard the term thrown around and maybe have a vague image of some old-timey song and dance, cheesy jokes and bad acts being pulled offstage with a hook. You likely know more about Vaudeville from Looney Toons than from the real thing. While Vaudeville may be (sadly) dead, its influence is still alive and well with thanks to the many theatre slang terms the style coined. How many of them do you recognize?

Bugs Bunny gets "the hook".

Bugs Bunny gets “the hook”

Corny Material
Unsophisticated, simple, sentimental, cheesy; all of these describe what many people thought of the humour that came from the small-town country performers in the circuit. Originally the phrase was “stuck in the corn” but as with most slang, it was shortened, becoming the “corny” phrase we know today.

Fozzie Bear's pun-riddled comedy is the epitome of "corny".

Fozzie Bear’s pun-riddled comedy is the epitome of “corny”.

Tough Act to Follow
You want the number before you to warm the audience up, but if they get too hot, chances are you’ll get the cold shoulder. Waiting in the wings would’ve been nerve-wracking for any performer, and if you see a great act just before yours, you know you’ll have a tough time getting the applause you crave.

“Knock ‘Em Dead”, “Lay Them in the Aisles”, “Slay Them”

A little gruesome, sure, but hey kid, that’s showbiz. The theatre world is full of hyperbole which is likely why performers talk about “blowing audiences away” or “knocking them dead” with their stupendous performances. While the exact reasoning behind these rather violent terms isn’t clear, it’s likely due to the fact that in a high-stakes world like theatre, you need an extreme reaction to guarantee you live to play another day. A number that has them laughing so hard they fall into the aisles, or one that gives them a near spiritual experience, knocking them flat, is exactly what any performer would dream of.

Hoofer
Hoofer is the term for a professional dancer, often a tap dancer, whose dance style is close to the floor, emphasizing foot movement over arm or upper body. The term originates from the Vaudeville performers who would pound their feet on the ground prior to coming onstage in order to give the band the proper tempo. This sound, much like a horse pounding it’s hoof, gave rise to the term “hoofers”.

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was one of the greatest hoofers of his time.

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was one of the greatest hoofers of his time.

Blue Comedy
While Vaudeville’s roots were based in low-brow art forms and could get pretty risque, at the turn of the century there was a big push for “polite Vaudeville”, creating a cleaner version that was suitable for women and families. Many theatres took this very seriously and issued warnings to performers who crossed a line. Vaudevillian Sophie Tucker recalls the dreaded blue envelopes that would deliver the news;

“Between the (Monday) matinee and the night show the blue envelopes began to appear in the performers mailboxes backstage . . . Inside would be a curt order to cut out a blue line of a song, or piece of business. Sometimes there was a suggestion of something you could substitute for the material the manager ordered out . . . There was no arguing about the orders in the blue envelopes. They were final. You obeyed them or quit. And if you quit, you got a black mark against your name in the head office and you didn’t work on the Keith Circuit anymore. During my early years on the Keith Circuit, I took my orders from my blue envelope and – no matter what I said or did backstage (and it was plenty) – when I went on for the Monday night show, I was careful to keep within bounds.”

Hence the term, blue comedy.

Give ‘Em The Hook
I found this one hard to believe. Despite having grown up very familiar with the hook trope, the concept of someone actually using a crook to pull a person offstage seems far-fetched. However, there is some evidence to suggest that the phrase and its tradition originates from 1903, at Harry Miner’s Bowery Theatre. Check out some people arguing over the origins here.

Break a Leg

I know everyone and their mother has a theory about where the origins of this line really come from, but the one I tend to go with is one of the simplest, and I think that generally means it’s most likely closest to the truth. Theatre managers would book more acts than they could fit into a show, since audience response would dictate whether or not a bit got to run to completion (we all remember the old Loonie Toons where someone gets pulled off stage with a hook). There was no pay for those who were overbooked and waiting in the wings; you crossed your fingers, hoped the number before you would bomb and that you would break a leg, ie. go past the “legs” (part of the curtains) and get to perform onstage, thereby getting paid. In a business where everyone just wants their shot in the limelights and to make a buck, I’ve gotta believe that’s the right origin.

Red Carpet
This one has a few different origin stories, ranging from Agamemnon walking on a carpet fit for the God’s, to the 20th Century Limited train company rolling it out for its distinguished passengers. But I’ve found a couple sources that link it to Vaudeville, so we’re going to include it in this list. Apparently, headliners and bigger acts often had expensive costumes, and working 8+ shows a week meant they were difficult to keep clean, so a red carpet would be laid down backstage along the path the stars would walk; it was easy to spot if this was clean or not, and so they knew that their costumes were being protected. A little far-fetched? Maybe.

Alley-Oop
A term for a gymnastics routine, often one that involves launching performers into the air. Many of these circus acts were by European performers, and it is likely that the phrase came from the French word “allez” meaning everybody and a vocalization like “hup” to cue when to jump.

The Ziegfeld Follies show off a spectacular acrobatic routine.

The Ziegfeld Follies show off a spectacular acrobatic routine.

In The Limelight
While the phrase today simply means “the centre of attention” this phrase has a very simple origin. A Limelight is better known as a Drummond or Calcium Light and was a popular stage light in the days of Vaudeville. A cylinder of quicklime is heated by an oxyhydrogen flame, creating an intense illumination. Electric lights have long since replaced these, but the term lingers on.

Think we’ve missed any? Tweet them to us at @BygoneTheatre #Vaudeville, and keep posted for more information on Bygone Theatre’s Vaudeville Revue, coming June 2016!

-E.

Vintage Halloween Decor

Artistic Executive Director Emily Dix shares some tips on creating a vintage vibe this Halloween.

Till Next We Trod The Boards

With Halloween fast approaching I thought I’d share some great vintage designs sure to give your party that awesome retro flare. Links are in the comments – enjoy!

Cats are a big part of vintage Halloween decor, and thanks to people like Martha Stewart, chances are you are familiar with the classic “scared cat” design. You can find variations of it here from sites like Johanna Parker Designs;

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and The Sum of All Crafts;

Great for wreaths, masks, invites and more! Just print and hang.

Try whipping up some eerie apothecary bottles using vintage medicine labels; you’d be surprised how many household items were poisonous back in the day!

chloroform-linamentTurn of the century labels often have beautiful typography and design. Try throwing a few less deadly bottles in your mix (like the bitters one here) to make a more eerily authentic display.

Try throwing some of these onto bottles…

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Vintage Halloween Masks – DIY Printables!

With Halloween just around the corner, we thought we’d share some fun vintage masks that you can print out at home! Check out these great sites for more, and be sure to follow our pinterest board for all the updates.

Wings of Whimsey is a great source for free printables and one I visit often. You can find things like this vintage cat mask;

VintageHalloween.com is an obvious choice if you’re looking for something specific and don’t mind spending some money. They have a wide array of vintage reproduction so you can make your Halloween party as authentic as you’d like (I’m swooning over some of this stuff).

This is sort of a random one that I stumbled across while browsing pinterest. 50’s Ben Cooper Box Art Detail is how the flickr album is labeled and it seems to be a high-res scan of an old costume box. Pretty nifty.

The Monster Masks Blog is a spectacular find – you really can get anything on the internet. Check out an amazing assortment of high-quality rubber and latex masks and download some cool paper ones for yourself!

 

Prefer pretty over creepy? Check out Mamelok Papercraft for some beautiful Victorian reproduction masks like these;

Got some more resource you think we should share? Send them our way! Tweet them to @BygoneTheatre.

  • E.D.