Friday, October 19, 2012

Goodbye Old Pal...My Old Pal

Newsweek will cease to produce a printed copy of the magazine in a couple of months.  Although it has changed radically over the years, I remember when it was a serious and (at least seemingly) non-biased reporter of the news.  But it was much more than that.  It was a snapshot of our lives.  I was an early, and probably precocious, subscriber as a teenager in the 1960s.  Happily, a few of the magazines survived by hiding at the bottom of a trunk, stowaways on my travels from this place to that.

This issue is from December 27, 1965.  President Kennedy had been assassinated 2 years earlier, but space exploration, a legacy of his Presidency, was still alive.  Sadly, things have changed and we have apparently abandoned our great dreams of exploring space.  But in 1965 the first space rendezvous between Gemini 6, commanded by Wally Shira,  and Gemini 7, with a crew of Frank Borman and James Lovell, had successfully been accomplished.  "We did it!!" was the exclamation.  At that time it was the longest manned flight, 330 hours 35 minutes and the first formation flight in space.    

We were still fighting in Vietnam, and the issue covered how families at home were coping with Christmas.  They spotlighted individual service men:  The Adviser, The Staff Sergeant, The Jet Pilot, The Marine Gunner, The Medic, and The Infantry Colonel and how they were celebrating Christmas in the fields of battle, mirrored by the brave efforts of the people who loved them to keep some semblance of normalcy in an abnormal world...determined to save Christmas.

 Airlines were still glamorous.  Braniff International (if anyone still remembers it) announced "the End of the Plain Plane" with cuisine by Alexander Girard of La Fonda Del Sol in New York, and "hostess" and pilot uniforms designed by Pucci.

 When it came to speculation about the future of our health in 2015, there were predictions that nurses would be replaced by robots in hospitals.  That "would be among the least remarkable development" by 2015.  A dicey prediction, obviously.  However, the science of robotics in general has made great strides in the past 50 years.  Additionally the oracle predicted life span would likely be extended beyond 100 years, molecular genetic engineering would insure that babies are born to stay healthy, and we would be able to grow new limbs and organs - presumably in the laboratory, although the article doesn't specify.   However, the report sets forth a probability that might cancel out all these benefits:  the outbreak of a major war before 2000.   Considering humankind, that was an unhappy but not unpredictable prediction.

 Somerset Maugham had died the week before the publication of this issue of Newsweek, and the magazine did a splendid article about his life.  "When my obituary at last appears in The Times, and they say, 'What?  I thought he died years ago!' my ghost will gently chuckle."  Maugham lived gracefully and well, it went on to state.  "I had no intention of living on a crust in a garret if I could help it," he once said.  Maugham admitted to being something of a misogynist, and many of his distaff characters did come in for rough treatment.  He was a gentle man at heart, but apparently remained convinced that life was essentially meaningless.  That view is certainly reflected in the works with which I am familiar, but this article convinced me to adore him nevertheless.

There was a glowing review of Flannery O'Connor's posthumous collection of short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge (named after one of the short stories in the collection).  I believe this article may have been my first introduction to O'Connor.  I know we did not study her work in high school.  Unbeknownst to me in 1965, I would one day make my home in the city of her birth, a city where she is revered and loved.   I re-read this beautiful, compelling, dark, and disturbing short story this summer.  Powerful story, powerful woman, powerful writer, powerful review.  What more is there to say?

 A Patch Of Blue starring Sydney Poitier and Elizabeth Hartman was panned, for good reason if I remember correctly...and of course... would not be 1965 without a red Mustang convertible.

Henry Charles Dickens, 87 years old and the last surviving grandchild of Charles Dickens, and his wife Fanny hosted a Christmas feast for 16 members of the family; Frank Sinatra, as he turned 50, announced he expected to "swing for 50 more,"  (I wish it had been 100 more, Ol' Blue Eyes), Brigitte Bardot, in her usual brilliance, declared she wanted "to be myself.  Lady Bird Johnson prepared to entertain Prime Minister Harold Wilson even as White House chef Rene Verdon gave notice he would be leaving his post.  Hired to please the Continental palate of Jacqueline Kennedy, the French-born chef found LBJ's penchant for barbecue, spoon bread and fried chicken just...well...shall we say, too much to swallow.

I haven't subscribed to Newsweek for decades.  But I feel a certain affection for it...for what it used to be.  I can't help but feel a bit sad.  Like when you know the goodbye is final.  Like the day you graduate from college and pack up your dorm room, a dull ache starting in your chest and making a lump in your throat.  Like driving away away for the last time...into your life and whatever it holds.


  1. You're making me wish I had kept all my old magazines, just for the pleasure of reading the culture of the day in them! A lovely eulogy, Grad. I'd particularly like to see those Gucci outfits for the flight crews.

  2. Somehow a few issues of Newsweek and a couple of U.S. News & World Report were in the trunk I used when I went away to study in Ireland. It holds stuff from my childhood now, mementos and things that hold no value to anyone but me. The two magazines I loved when I was a teenager were Newsweek and Glamour! The Glamour saved me from being a complete nerd.

    1. Tinky, forgot to add your name, but of course the comment above was to you, my friend.

  3. These are priceless now, what an amazing keepsake and collection, albeit you didn't have any idea at that time that Newsweek would come to an end in printed form. Not too long ago the New York Times had hinted an online only version. It does feel like the passing of an era. And Sydney Poitier... I saw his To Sir With Love in the theatre. That was before I moved here to Canada, and only a child then. Watched A Patch of Blue later on TV. Flipping through this old Newsweek must feel like time travelling, and, what a priceless vehicle!

  4. Arti, it is a little like a time capsule. And, no, I had no idea that Newsweek would someday come to an end in printed form, although had I thought about it, it probably made Look and Life magazines. It was totally an unplanned acquisition. They weren't taking up much space, were in a trunk I seldom rifle through, so there they sat all these decades. Maybe one of my children will want them when I'm in that great Gemini capsule in the sky.

  5. How fun to have found some old Newsweek's to honor the occasion of the magazine no longer being published in print! What a trip down memory lane. Robot nurses cracked me up. I remember my first airplane trip in the mid-70s, air travel was still glamorous and my mom made us all dress up. I think of what I wear on a plane these days and it just cracks me up.

  6. Stefanie, the menu from my first trans-Atlantic flight on Pan Am was written in French on beautiful high quality paper and embellished with watercolor images. And I went coach! I still have the beautiful menu, which I have always meant to have framed like the work of art it is. It makes one wonder whether time equals progress

  7. What an amazing slice of history that magazine provided! The pictures are wonderful, and like Stefanie, I thought the healthcare predictions were delightfully barmy. But it's things like the moon landing, and the death of Somerset Maugham that seem the most poignant and powerful markers of time passing to me. What a collection to treasure, Grad, if you have more where that one came from.

  8. Litlove, I have at least 3 more from '65, and a Life magazine as well. I must sound like an awful pack rat, but I'm not really. I'm just someone with 3 large trunks. They are fun to look at. One of the Newsweek issues is dated May 31, 1965 and I was shocked to see yet another glowing review of Everything That Rises Must Converge. I wonder if someone just forgot they'd already done a review when it was time for the December 27 issue, since there's one in that issue as well. Odd, I thought. But maybe the book editor was just a crazy fanatic over Flannery O'Connor (there are some of us walking around, you know...seemingly normal to the naked eye.)

  9. Always sad when a literary publication goes down. Like what you said about Flannery O'Connor.

  10. Vintage, I also have a few old copies of Look and Life. Apparently cancelling my subscription is the eventual death knell, although it usually takes decades!