Holidays

September 7, 1957 – Elvis Records His Christmas Album


On September 7, 1957, visions of sugar plums replaced palm trees as Elvis concluded three days at Radio Recorders studio in Hollywood recording the tracks for Elvis’ Christmas Album, to be released in October.  The collection of popular and sacred Christmas songs and four previously-released gospel favorites, Presley’s fourth recording for RCA Victor Records, would go on to multi-platinum status and be reissued in many different formats over the years.  Elvis stayed in a proper Christmas mood for most of the tracks – the gospel songs, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, “Silent Night”, “Here Comes Santa Claus”, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, and “White Christmas” – but let loose a little on Ernest Tubbs’ “Blue Christmas” and gave a very merry spin to two songs commissioned specifically for the album.  The first was “Santa Bring My Baby Back (to Me)”, by Aaron Schroeder and Claude Demetrius. The second was written on the spot in the studio at Elvis’ request by the team who wrote many of his biggest hits, including “Jailhouse Rock”: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.  Elvis choose Leiber and Stoller’s blues-y, rock-and-roll “Santa Claus is Back in Town” to lead off Side One of the album, which dedicated one side to the secular selections and the other side to the sacred.

Elvis’ Christmas Album spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, but was not without its share of controversy.  Irving Berlin, composer of “White Christmas”, attempted to have the song and the entire album banned from radio play.  Bing Crosby’s famous version of the almost-instant classic appeared on the Billboard charts every year from 1942 to 1962, and Berlin obviously much preferred der Bingle’s rendition.  Calling it “a profane parody of his cherished yuletide standard,” Berlin instructed his staff to call radio stations nationwide to demand Elvis’ off-White version be kept off the air.  Most radio stations, recognizing a good-for-business-hit when they heard one, refused to comply.  If teenage girls couldn’t have Elvis and a sprig of mistletoe for Christmas, the next best thing would be this album.  With its gospel favorites and classic carols, Mom and Dad might even want to listen, too.

Image Credit: RCA Victor Records

August 30, 1957 – The Labor Day Weekend Begins

1957 Corvette Travel Trailer with Fun Accessories.

On August 30, 1957, the Friday before Labor Day weekend, Americans young and old, big and small, got ready to celebrate the last official weekend of summer.  Whether it was to the beach or the pool, the mountains or the desert, the grandparents’ or the Grand Canyon, everyone worked together to pack the station wagon, the trailer, or the ice chest with everything needed to enjoy these final lazy days in the sun before school started and the routine of life kicked in.

Depending on where you were going, you might have packed fishing rods, tennis rackets, horseshoes, inner tubes, a ball and mit, or a new-fangled Frisbee.  Into the Plaid Kooler might have gone Oscar Meyer wieners, jello salad, three-bean salad, watermelon, grape Nehi, and iced tea.  The cupboards in trailers, the baskets and hampers, could have bulged with Del Monte catsup, French’s mustard, buns, Ritz crackers, Mix Trix (or Chex Mix), marshmallow bars, and butterscotch brownies.

Dads packed their portable grills and asbestos mits to do justice to the thick steaks and ribs buried in ice (don’t forget the Lawry’s Seasoned Salt!).  For breakfast, kids were already busy laying dibs on their favorite mini-boxes of Kellogg’s Variety Pack cereals.  Mom and Dad looked forward to eggs, bacon, and Chase & Sanborn coffee – lots of it – or Bisquick pancakes with Log Cabin syrup.

Don’t forget the aluminum folding chairs, kerosene lantern, and bug spray.  Tuck in beach towels and baby oil.  Grab the dog, lock the door, and hit the road!  Summer’s almost over and there’s no time to waste.

Image Credit: Tin Can Tourists

July 4, 1957 – An American Family Visits the Pennsylvania Gettysburg Monument

On July 4, 1957, American father Walter Reed took his family to visit Gettysburg, where occurred from July 1-3, 1863 one of the most significant battles of the Civil War.  More soldiers died at Gettysburg than at any other Civil War battle, and the Union victory there signaled a turning point in our nation’s conflict.  Reed’s photo captures the Pennsylvania Monument, the largest of many monuments gracing the site. The granite pavilion commemorates the state which provided the most troops, the Union army commander, and the battlefield itself.

A little over four months later, on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the Soldier’s National Cemetery at Gettysburg with a short speech that has come to stand with the Declaration of Independence as a founding document for our nation.  On July 4th, Walter Reed and his family celebrated our independence at Gettysburg; perhaps they also read the Gettysburg Address together:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure.  We are met here on a great battlefield of that war.  We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But in a larger sense we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate –  we can not hallow this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note, or long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here.

“It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, so far, so nobly carried on.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining here before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Reed took a number of photos that day, some of which were later published in The Open Road: The Way We Were, by Dorothy Youngblood. His photo of the Pennsylvania Monument includes his beautiful turquoise and white 1955 Ford Fairlane Town Sedan.

Image Credit: Leon Reed/flickr

Vintage 1957 – Illustrator Edna Eicke

Edna Eicke - Tom Funk - (c)The Estate of Edna Eicke

Illustrator Edna Eicke

1957 was a prolific year for Edna Eicke. The prestigious New Yorker magazine tapped the accomplished illustrator to create six covers for the weekly publication. Over the course of her career, Eicke’s illustrations would grace the magazine’s cover fifty-one times, spanning the years from 1945 to 1961.

Eicke was born in Montclair, New Jersey in 1919. She graduated from Parsons School of Design with a degree in advertising and fashion and started her career sketching window displays for Sue William’s Display Studio in New York. After marrying fellow Display Studio staffer Tom Funk, Eicke started a family and a new career as a cover and interior illustrator for House and Garden, Vogue, Mademoiselle, Women’s Day, and many other magazines.

At first, Funk and Eicke lived in Greenwich Village. They were profiled by Life Magazine and photographs of their apartment appeared in House and Garden. They later moved to the artists’ enclave of Westport, Connecticut with their three children.

Eicke’s popular New Yorker covers usually depicted metropolitan landscapes and scenes from childhood. Games of hide and seek in the park, lights glowing from house windows at dusk, small ghosts going trick-or-treating, leaves changing color in autumn – how comforting these scenes must have been while the Cold War, Cuban unrest, and atomic weapon threat hovered in the background.

Prints of Eicke’s 1957 New Yorker covers – from January 19th, April 20th, June 8th, July 27th, August 24th, and December 14th – are still available from Conde Nast.

 

Portrait Image Credit: Tom Funk, the Estate of Edna Eicke
Illustrations Image Credit: The New Yorker