Retro Dee is a regular contributor to The Grooveyard’s website, writing about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s. Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every Wednesday.
Hi folks, I’m Retro Dee and Welcome to another edition of Collecting 1950’s!
In this edition, we’ll be talking about an item that is highly associated with the 1950’s era: The Pennant!
Pennants have been around since the turn of the Century, so they were hardly new in the 1950’s. However with the new-found spirit of the teen set, pennants are often times icons associated with the Fabulous Fifties. They were frequently seen in teen bedrooms, diners and of course, gyms.
I remember being a little kid thinking that pennants were “those triangle things from the 50’s with names of teams on them”. Of course, this is partly true. Pennants are still being made as souvenirs of sports events and destinations to this day.
When I began wondering how I could revamp my bedroom to pay homage to the 1950’s, I immediately began thinking about decorating with pennants. But the decorating aspect is easier said than done- not all decor matches with the varsity look you get with pennants.
So now I’m merely collecting (which, let’s face it, is a blast!) rather than decorating with pennants.
One great thing about pennant-collecting is the vast variety you have to choose from. There are as many pennants as there are schools, teams, events and places to visit!
I’ve decided to collect pennants from places that have a special meaning to me.
Let’s have a look at some of my collection so far!
The first group of pennants is a sub-collection, I guess you could say. They’re the towns that were the stops on the infamous “Winter Dance Party ’59” tour. Macabre, maybe, but in my mind it’s a tribute to the last tour for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. So far, I have seven out of the eleven stops. They are various sizes as you can see in the photo:
Alright. Let’s move on to something a bit more cheerful.
School pennants are a blast to collect. So far I have four:
Littlefield High, which is the high school Country Music superstar Waylon Jennings went to. Granted, I’m not a huge Country fan, but Mr. Jennings was good friends with Buddy Holly and credits Buddy with giving him his start in the music industry. Plus anyone who does a duet with Big Bird is cool in my book. 🙂 When I saw this pennant with a mean ole pussycat mascot on it on eBay, I couldn’t resist.
Homecoming ’56: Can’t you just imagine the excitement in the air when this pennant was being waved by a high school student back in the Nifty Fifties? I can. This 8″ pennant was another eBay purchase. On the opposite side it says: “Beat The Cards!”
I finally found another Lubbock High School pennant after being outbid on eBay on a set of two from the 50’s. This one isn’t as old as the other two, but when I got another chance to get a pennant from the high school Buddy Holly went to, I jumped on it.
And one more… This tiny 6″ St. Olaf College pennant had my heart as it reminds me of that beloved nit-wit Rose Nylund from the hit classic TV show “The Golden Girls”. I think my cat Holly likes it too. (Could like it, could be planning on shredding it. So hard to tell… 🙂 )
This next set, I bought the whole lot for only ONE pennant that I wanted… So, who here doesn’t think this has something to do with Buddy Holly? 🙂
The purple Texas Centennial pennant not only honors the Centennial itself, but 1936 was the year Buddy Holly was born. (And the year Roy Orbison was born, for that matter.)
Which brings me to the next point on collecting pennants. Old pennants are exciting to find, but I’m having trouble dating them. Even if the date is on the pennant, it’s possible that it isn’t the year the pennant was made. While I’m confident that the Homecoming ’56 pennant is, indeed from 1956, I’m not sure if the Texas Centennial is actually from 1936. It could be a reproduction made later. So far I can’t exactly tell. This, I’m hoping, will come with more experience.
It’s easy to find pennants on eBay and Etsy. There are literally hundreds of them. Many are decently priced, however this depends on the seller and on what you are looking for. Obviously the older and more rare the pennant is, the higher the price. Many pennants on eBay have a Buy It Now price, but there are still plenty on auction.
Tip: If you’re buying a pennant online, make sure you know the actual size, as photos can be misleading.
You can also find pennants at places like flea markets and antique stores. Usually these places will have far less of a selection than eBay or Etsy. I just went to a flea market last Sunday. Only two (out of about 60) vendors were offering vintage pennants from the 1950’s era. One vendor had 4 pennants total and the other had about 10 pennants total. The only one I was interested in was Santa Catalina and the vendor wanted $10 for it. I’d just spent $12 on ephemera in a previous both, so I passed it up. Of course considering I’d have to pay shipping on eBay, $10 was not a bad price for the pennant.
That’s about all for this edition of Collecting 1950’s! In closing, I’d like to say that whether you collect sports, school or souvenir pennants, they sure are fun to search for… you just never know what might come up!
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