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.
Hey there, folks! It’s Retro Dee with another swell listicle!
In keeping with the spooky, “icky” theme for Halloween this month, this post will list five things from the 1950’s era that will make you go EWWW!
The 1950s were famous for being charming, polite, proper and sweet, so finding disgusting things from that era might seem impossible– but believe it or not, they had ’em!
So here are 5 Disgusting Things from the 50’s:
1. The Burping Pen of ’53
Perhaps this isn’t all that disgusting, however, I was surprised to find this ad from 1953 featuring the “new” Eversharp Ventura: the pen that BURPS! To us, burping is no big deal– like it or not, good manners are practically a thing of the past. But in 1953, most folks were polite and proper, so to even mention something like burping would be considered crass. Yet, here we are! I think the baby heads are really cute actually, and this pen looks like a fantastic collector’s item if you’re lucky enough to find one today in good condition. But even back then, the “burping” pen was not cheap: It was $5, which in today’s money would be close to $50.
2. Jello Salads
Here’s something the 1950’s are notorious for: all the disgusting things they did with Jello. And truly, it was gross! Jello molds were particularly popular, especially in “salad” form. They’d put anything in their Jello salads including cauliflower, cabbage, fish, spam, tomato juice and onions… I mean, yuck! Onions do NOT belong in Jello! We know that, but I guess they hadn’t come to that realization yet.
Housewives in the 50’s proudly served these Jello salads to their families and to guests at parties. Honestly, some of the recipes I found online were so gross, that I couldn’t even stomach looking at them. Here are a couple that I can post without getting too nauseous.
3. Potato Fudge
Um, what?! Even as someone who loves all things chocolate, this made me gag. For some reason, someone thought that a good way to get your kids to eat their potatoes was to pour fudge sauce over them. Yes, Kraft’s “Potato Fudge” actually existed and made its way to grocery store shelves sometime in the Nifty Fifties. And as if pouring fudge on top of a baked potato were not bad enough, the ad features other recipes such as fudge nugglets and mashed potato fudge.
Oh yes! And it came in butterscotch flavor too. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse.
4. Horsefat Spread
Why use plain ole butter when you can use… horse fat? The ad boasts using the finest horse hooves and fat that money can buy. It also says that it’s great on bread, toast and pancakes.
Just the idea of this is disgusting to most of the world today, let alone to those concerned with animal rights. The one redeeming thing about this ad is that it shows the contrast between yesterday’s world and ours. I don’t think that using horse fat is even legal anymore, but in the 1950’s it was simply an alternative. Still, this gives the phrase “I can’t believe it’s not butter” a whole different meaning.
5. Tonsils in a Jar
There’s no picture for this, so use your imagination. Personally, I’m disturbed by the idea that not only did they take children’s tonsils out back then, some doctors offered them to their patients as a souvenir. The tonsils were placed in a jar, floating around in alcohol. Kids would take them home and put them on a shelf in their room.
My issue with this is that not only does it look disgusting, what if said jar were to break? It’s not just gross, but a health hazard also. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m haunted by that episode of “Leave it to Beaver” when Wally graphically describes the time Lumpy Rutherford took his tonsils to school in a jar. That particular episode (which was actually from 1961) left a lasting impression on me.
Of course, the 1950’s were not the only era that kids took their tonsils home in a jar, but I think it’s safe to say that the practice ceased sometime around the 1980’s. Nevertheless, I will always picture a stark, black and white room with a peaked kid recovering in his bed and a jar of tonsils on the shelf. Not only disgusting, but unnecessarily traumatic to boot!
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