Wineka column: Lutheran Home selling donated copies of Life that documented era

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 24, 2012

SALISBURY — Sit down with a stack of Life magazines from the 1950s and ’60s, and you never want to leave.
You step into a “Mad Men” world when the photographs and advertisements in Life documented an era now viewed with great nostalgia.
Back then, through the pages of Life, our lives were presented to us as fresh, fast, filtered and freeze-dried.
Cassius Clay. Elvis. John F. Kennedy. Marilyn Monroe. Mickey Mantle. Elizabeth Taylor.
At times, Life was a sophisticated version of today’s People magazine, but that comparison is an insult. Life also documented the Vietnam War, medical breakthroughs, science, civil rights, nature, the Cold War, the space race, sports and worldly issues through pictures from some of the best photojournalists ever.
It was a fabulously edited publication. When you thumb through a vintage Life today, it makes you cringe at our shallow world of tweets, likes and shares.
Brenda Zimmerman, director of activities and volunteer services at the Lutheran Home at Trinity Oaks, recognizes this pictorial love for Life in many of us.
That’s why the Lutheran Home is making available for $5 each more than 300 old Life issues, which have been read and enjoyed by the home’s residents, visitors and staff for over two decades.
“They’re taking on a new Life in a new way — no pun attended,” Zimmerman said Friday.
The magazines, donated to the Lutheran Home years ago — and they were old then — are going to serve the residents one more time.
Proceeds collected will go toward a $2,500 mechanical table for the home’s “It’s Never Too Late” computer system.
The table allows for more independent access to the touch-screen computers by residents, who can pull up and adjust the screen and keyboards to their most comfortable positions.
Lutheran Home residents increasingly depend on computers for email, Skype conversations with family and to play games such as “Family Feud” and “Chicktionary.”
The IN2L system also has great links, at a touch, to current events, history, music and entertainment news.
“It’s really fun to see this population working with computers,” Zimmerman said.
The Lutheran Home has catalogued all the Life issues it has. The bulk of the collection includes editions from 1955 to 1963, when Life was coming out every week. There also are 17 monthly issues from 1980-81.
Most recently, 24 huge books holding all the Life issues were part of the activity room’s library.
But renovations now under way will eliminate room for storing all of those bound books, leading to the idea of selling the individual magazines.
The Lutheran Home thinks they will make good Christmas, birthday and anniversary gifts, especially for people looking for particular dates or years.
Just the advertisements by themselves are works of art. Zimmerman said homeowners could have great design elements for their kitchens or bars by framing the Life food and liquor advertisements, for example.
Mary Katherine Clark, a Lutheran Home resident, delighted in paging through a 1963 copy of Life Friday.
“Here’s a color picture — what does that represent?” Clark asked before she looked closer and answered her own question. “Beautyrest!”
Another advertisement was for Old Taylor 86, “the first Kentucky bourbon.” Clark wondered whether they make that bourbon any longer.
“Here’s one that I just love,” Zimmerman said, smoothing out at an advertisement for Pall Mall cigarettes. “How smoking can soothe your throat.”
The ad said with Pall Malls you could, “Guard Against Throat-Scratch.”
Many of these issues, if not all, are collection worthy.
“Somebody will get a deal,” Zimmerman said.
Just skipping through a couple of the 1963 issues, Zimmerman noticed a Feb. 8, 1963, story on the making of the movie, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The Feb. 15, 1963, edition included a story about Cassius Clay (Later Muhammad Ali) under the headline, “I’m the Greatest.” He also was described in the piece, which included a poem penned by Clay, as the “Lip of Louisville.”
“Yeah, we could make a lot more money,” Zimmerman said.
Random 1963 covers feature stories on Fidel Castro’s Cuba; the Kessler Twins from Germany; Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in “Cleopatra”; the fearsome, fascinating world of snakes; “What Happened to Lincoln’s body?”; Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “The Birds”; Greece’s Golden Age and actress Ann-Margret’s “spin to movie stardom.”
A collector from Niagara Falls, N.Y., already has offered to buy all the issues, but Zimmerman would rather make them available to local folks first.
She says people can reserve the copies they want by paying either cash or check. They will all be distributed, however, during one day — probably sometime in late September.
It promises to be a long day, but a fruitful one.
“I’ve camped out here before,” Zimmerman said.
Remember when the Volkswagen Bug was the hottest car in America, and the company had the greatest advertisements?
Those ads are in these issues of Life, such as the full-page VW ad in 1963 that said “$1.02 a pound” under a simple black-and-white picture of a VW bug.
Then there’s the 1963 ad for the “new” Jeep Wagoneer, or Woolworth’s page showing Prell shampoo in a tube and Vitalis in a bottle.
Some things don’t change. Traveler’s Insurance was using its red umbrella even 50 years ago.
Zimmerman paused for a moment at the story about the “Wobbling on a Wibbler” craze.
“Mine was blue,” she said, nostalgic for her Wibbler.
Life, which published weekly from 1936 to 1972, then monthly to 2000, was known for its “Parting Shots” photograph at the end.
These Life magazines being sold by the Lutheran Home are great parting shots in their own right.
“We’re just very blessed to be able to share them,” Zimmerman said.
If you are interested in buying one or more of the Life magazines, contact Brenda Zimmerman, director of activities and volunteer services at the Lutheran Home, at 704-603-2770. She has a full list of the issues available. Checks for purchase of the magazines should be made out to the Lutheran Home, and “Life magazine” should be written in the memo line. Cash also will be accepted.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@