• Welcome to The Fedora Lounge!

A Day in the Life of the NY Times, 1942

Discussion in 'The Golden Era' started by Benzadmiral, May 30, 2017.

  1. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

    David Conwill and 2jakes like this.
  2. In the '80s news editing room, the smoke was so thick that you would
    choke from the stench and your eyes water if you were a non-smoker.
    Add to that was the building that had no windows at all.
    The folks that had to stay inside all day looked like creatures from
    “Night of the Living Dead”.
    I was lucky.
    Being the news cameraman, I was out on assignment for
    the better part of the day.

    Nevertheless my clothes stunk of tobacco. I don’t want to think
    what it was doing to my health!
    Obviously...the worse kind of "smoking” was inhaling the smoke
    from those who would light up a pipe or cigarette. :(
    Last edited: May 30, 2017
  3. I don't know about the other guy, but everyone in New York theatrical circles knew that Brooks Atkinson's pipe was permanently grafted into his face. It was widely believed that he slept with it in place.

    Note also the photo engraver working nonchalantly in his sleeveless undershirt. Dirty slob, don't you know every man in 1942 always wore a tie?
    sheeplady and tonyb like this.
  4. St. Louis

    St. Louis Practically Family

    Fascinating. I've never seen a photo of a linotype machine before. Startling to notice that it doesn't have a QWERTY keyboard.

    Those sleeveless shirts look as though they had been hacked with a pair of rusty nail scissors.
  5. I learned to run a linotype in high school -- we composed and printed our own school paper. I was chief typesetter as well as editor, which gives you an idea of how excited people were to have the privilege of doing this work. I loved the machine though, the smell of the hot lead was unforgettable.
  6. What was the editorial leaning / opinion page view when you were editor of your high school paper? Did they give you space (ideologically and in physical space in the paper) to express your views as an editor?
  7. I had a column, but I was extremely restricted on what I could write in it. We called the faculty supervisor "Il Duce," and I once set her name in type on the masthead followed by that title. Repercussions were heard.
    ChiTownScion likes this.
  8. Imagine the smells and sounds! I'm sure it was grueling, but it looks amazing.
  9. I had a feeling you sprung from the womb fully Red and ready to fight. We might have stood on the opposite ends of the political divide, but we were similar in ways as kids.
  10. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Practically Family

    Terrific photos! Love those old Underwoods. The cigarette smoke and noise --including a baseball game on the radio in the background-- must have been head splitting. Yankees vs the Cardinals in the World Series that year! And probably many of those desks had a bottle of hooch in the bottom drawer. Remarkable how little menswear (at least office wear) has changed over the past 70 years. Another thing: I think I saw only one woman in all those many photos. Times have changed in that respect, and its a good thing.
  11. Two things hit me: the amount of discarded paper and the chalk in the sink.

    The paper looked like when I was working on my dissertation... as I made my edits I dropped my paper copies on the floor page by page. I still edit this way (final edits on paper and then transcribed). Apparently I am in good company.

    The second is the chalk in the water fountain. I'm not sure if I'm more grossed out picking up spit chalk or drinking from a bubbler 3 inches from grubby chalk in my workplace.
  12. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    Lots of surprising little details in the photos, not the least of which was the fact that the men weren't actually all that dressed up on average. But it looked like most of those not actually involved in printing were wearing a tie. One man had his bowtie undone. It also looked like a window air conditioner in one photo but it may have just been a fan. A couple of men wearing ties had short sleeve shirts. A surprising number of the men were wearing glasses, too, but it comes with the territory.

    It also reminds me of a place where I started working about 40 years ago. Bare (no carpeting), cluttered, nothing wired (no computers, that is), smoking allowed, and no distractions from the internet, which didn't exist. Come to think of it, it's been longer since then than between then and 1942!

    Although there were a couple of dedicated smokers in that office, it was not allowed in the plant and not really that many smoked anyway. I don't remember even noticing the smoke.

    And someone even ate lunch at their desk, too. Since a newspaper is deadline driven, I doubt that it was exactly a relaxed place to work, either, the work cycle being daily. I also notice that none of the men had button-down shirts (the collars, that is) but one was wearing a collar pin. With a few exceptions, dress shirts were plain white, not counting the ones with truncated sleeves or no sleeves at all. The men also look like they visit the barber more often than I do.

    The entire newsroom office, at least as pictured, might be better described as a shop rather than as an office.
  13. I like the guy in the mailroom who's wearing what appears to be a pinstripe blue or grey dress shirt with the sleeves cut completely off. Now that's style. I imagine he had a greasy gabardine or shiny blue serge suit coat to wear over it, probably cut in the style of the late 1910s.

    I worked for about a year in an industrial printing factory, and the level of filth in that kind of working environment is quite high -- you either wear overalls or your most raggedy old clothes. I had an old grey sweatshirt that I'd wear and it would get covered in ink and grease from the machinery. Every day before punching out I'd go over to a big pneumatic tank full of mineral spirits and spray all the stains out of the shirt. By the time I got done working in that plant, the shirt was as thin and translucent as tissue paper. I still have it, and picking it up is like holding a spider web in your hands.
  14. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    Most of the men's clothes looked lived in, with shirts that had probably been to the cleaners a hundred times (once a week for two years would be realistic, don't you think?).
  15. Probably most of those guys didn't use cleaners for their shirts. Their wives boiled them on top of the stove to get out the worst of the stains, and then ran them thru a wringer washer sudsed up with Rinso or Chipso or Super Suds and hung them out the window on a pulley line. And when the collars or cuffs frayed, they picked out the stitches, turned them over, and resewed them to equalize the wear.

    Likely only the dandies among them wore a fresh shirt every day. It was more common to get at least a couple of days out of a shirt before consigning it to the hamper. And men didn't commonly wear deodorants in that era, so you can imagine the aroma in the room could get rather fruity on a hot day.
    ChiTownScion likes this.
  16. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    Could be but my father worked at a laundry in the pre-wash and wear days and when a wringer washer was what most people had. Shirts were a big part of the business. They were always folded and wrapped up with the customer's other laundry with brown paper. Dry cleaning was always on hangers. The dry cleaning was covered in paper, not the clear plastic things that came out years later. They also had a service in which laundry would be returned to the customer still wet. But I also know that it was a common practice to turn collars and cuffs.

    The laundry was the second largest employer in town but even then (late 40s, early 50s), it looked old fashioned, just like the newsroom photos. But it wasn't so much old-fashioned as it was simply old. I don't remember very many things looking new when I was still in grade school. It was only then (sometime in the 1950s) that the first new school buildings were built since before WWI. I think they must build a new school building there about once every 30 years.

    Of course, not everyone sent their laundry to the cleaners. But judging from the photos that show men's shirts well enough, I'd say most of the patronized their local laundry, Chinese or otherwise.

    I like the eyeshades, too. That's what I need to complete my classic bookkeeper look, because that's what I am in real life. I didn't notice anyone wearing sleeve garters, though.

  17. Another exhibit to be entered into evidence in the prima facie case that I was born decades too late. Well into my early 20's I was notorious for wearing a dress shirt more than once. Part of it was that was instilled back in grade school. We wore uniform dress shirts and ties, and I only owned three such shirts... and damned if my lazy (her assessment) mother was willing to wash and iron shirts more than once a week for me.

    That habit got corrected pretty early, but it took a few more years to drive home the lesson that a shirt that was deemed "permanent press" did NOT mean that it was permanently pressed. Credit the lady who became my wife with driving home that lesson. She taught me how to iron my own shirts, and then promptly vowed that she would never- ever- iron another shirt for me again. She has spend her life's currency in that job ironing her dad's uniform shirts when he was active duty. Result is that I'm now pretty OCD about always having a freshly pressed dress shirt.

    Deodorant use, on the other hand, was drummed into me by my dad from the time that I was old enough to bathe myself. He was obsessive about that. He'd evidently worked one construction job with a guy whose body odor was particularly offensive, and the poor guy was, one day, ambushed by about five coworkers, all wielding spray cans of Right Guard who let loose on him. They took him out for drinks after work to show that there was no hard feelings, but the guy did learn the lesson. As did I- by proxy.
  18. Spray deodorants didn't exist until after the war -- the first, a product called "Stopette," was a powdery substance that came in a plastic squeeze bottle that you'd sort of puff into your pits. Prior to that, there were only liquid products like O-Do-Ro-No and Nonspi, and creams like Tussy and Mum, all of which were overwhelmingly marketed as "women's products," and did not work especially well on hirstute skin.

    The term "B-O" was brought to the public attention by the Boys, working on behalf of Lifebuoy Soap in the 1930s. In 1942, they kicked off one of the most offensive and obnoxious radio advertising campaigns of the Era, with their famous "B-O Foghorn." In each of these gems of radio drama, two characters would discuss the fact that one of them couldn't get a break in the workplace or in romance because they reeked like a compost pile on a sunny day. At the climactic moment in their conversation a loud, grating foghorn would punctuate the discussion with a sono-voxed "BEEEEEEEEEEEE-OHHHHHHHHHHHH!" This would be followed immediately by this delightful musical jingle, a gem of the hack copywriters' art:

    "Yooooooooo don't have to have Beeee-Oh!
    For with Lifebuoy it wil go!
    And that scent sure vaaaaaaaaaanishes awaaaaaaaaaaaaay!"

    And then came Kenny Delmar, your enthusiastic announcer, advising you to "GET THREE CAKES OF LIFEBUOY HEALTH SOAP TODAY!" Because, you know, one cake just won't cut it, buddy, because, jeez, you really stink.
    St. Louis likes this.
  19. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    I don't know when I learned the facts of life about deodorant but at least one of my relatives used cologne liberally after he came home from work. I can recall observing that fact more recently in someone I had contact with now and then.

    Fresh shirt or not, a weekly bath was probably considered sufficient for most men back then, too. My father never took more than one a week, I know. Frankly, I'm not that learned about any other men in the 1950s except for a couple of uncles. In my own case, however, except in certain circumstances, two or three day's wearing, not necessarily consecutively, was the norm for a long time. I think I mentioned before how some of the shirts I wore to school were on the ragged side but there's no way you can turn a sleeve. I know they can be patched but I didn't have a mother to do that. And as for the guys in the newsroom, some of them just might have been single and living in the big city away from home.
  20. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    It's another thread but I don't think "dandy" gets used much anymore, if it ever was. I understand what it means, though. As I mentioned elsewhere, I think the term "sharp dresser' was used more back in the 30s and 40s. It doesn't seem to apply to any of the men in the photos, though. Neither of those terms necessarily mean that the man is expensively dressed, though, but they could be. Most of those men look like ordinary working men, white collar and blue collar, and hopefully they wouldn't take offense at that description.

Share This Page