Being a lad in the early fifties. Sex, violence and no poofters.

Looking through some pulp and comic strip publications of the late forties and early fifties I found the advertising gives us a good idea of the expectations placed on young males. Surprisingly huge body image pressure, ability to successfully mate and ability to earn as much money as is never enough. The other thing I found was how gullible and naive the target audience must have been and also going on advertising, that girls must have been regular readers of comic strips primarily targeted at a young male audience. The advertisers must have found that girls also loved war, crime, cowboys and as much sleaze as could make its way passed the censors. Below are a few examples taken as screen captures from my document reader and sorry for the bad quality.

First up this piece of utter garbage made up of a photograph of a boy with the totally anatomically incorrect chest I would say is a clumsy airbrush job. The little line-art frame with the two scantly dressed females whispering behind the skinny boy’s back they will ‘pass him by’ is a direct attempt to use sexual angst of the young teenage boy as the main selling point. I could not imagine such a thing today and especially if the gender roles were reversed.

Fifties ad for body building program with image of young male with grossly exaggerated chest and arm muscles.

Head is a photograph but body is a stuck on and rather poor quality airbrush job. No photoshop in those days.


Below is another example of the same thing and this time – hey, hey, hey – no less than Charles Atlas as your personal trainer. What sort of teenage boy would not want Charles Atlas taking personal care of his body? Especially a Charles Atlas dressed in those superman outside undies. Wow. Again the line-art little comic strip uses sexual angst but also this time the ability to belt the crap out of other boys. BTW – studies (today as in 21st century) show that teenage boys are the most frequent victims of violence. Notice also that in the strip section of the advertisement violence between males is rewarded with sexual advantage.

Phew – those superman inside-out undies!!!

Pimples – a curse on teenagers then and now and, here’s something I observed as a youth worker, I have never seen a happy teenager and that had bad acne.  Just an observation – I’m not claiming acne is always linked to poor mental health.

Nothing new about pimples either.

Here’s another interesting ad and that points to what was expected of young males back in dem good ol days. Prestige among peers for in this case being the proud owner of a tin coin box that – wow every child’s dream – lights one of six pictures every time you put a coin in the slot. Battery and light bulb included it says in the ad. The purpose here is a rather clumsy attempt to bring together parent approval and child want. Pretty sure the manufacturer would have gone broke. No child would waste precious paperboy money on the exhilarating experience of seeing the same boring six images magically light up over and over again. Unless s/he had been smoking fried banana peels as kids did in those days.

The speaker was quality painted on the tin coin box. Whoopee!

Speaking of novelties and life expectations check out the page of advertising below. Body image and masculinity once again (poor skinny teenage boy of the fifties), education, business and how to hypnotize! Now that’s a solution to all your access to the mysterious opposite gender problems – hypnotize the bitch and have your way with her you skinny boy wimp! And now that you are that evil hypnotizer of young and beautiful girls you must absolutely have the skull ring also advertised on this page and coincidentally just below the evil face of the evil hypnotizer! I wonder how many teenage girls pretended the hypnosis worked… Hmmmm…


Conning children into buying an ‘adult’ product. Notice top left , where you start reading a page, the boy in raptures with his new watch, mum and grandma behind him giving approval and the other background figures are adults who use that very same watch in their exciting everyday lives of action and adventure.

What the ‘F’ would you do with the ‘world’s smallest ball point pen”? Unless of course you have the ‘world’s smallest fingers”. Surprised they didn’t throw in ‘shaped just like space rockets’ and ‘writes in any language”. Love also to know in those times when internet was the stuff of science fiction, how the swing-out weather forecaster worked?


And not forgetting women who then as today are always after a quick fix to the problem of getting fat but this one must be by far better than anything Jenny Craig came up with. Basically just chew gum instead of eating and I wonder how many females reading this are right now googling “Kelpidine Chewing Gum”.

Free Sexy Outfit to any young woman who manages to chew gun for twenty five days instead of eating Mamma’s good tasty meals.

Once you, teenage girl of the nineteen fifties, got that sexy dress you’re next concern was how to score the hottest, highest-earning-potential, big ‘muscle’ boy? That need is addressed as well in your brother’s copy of ‘Man Comics’. “How to write thrilling love letters”. Now here’s a suggestion for the great-grandma’s who might still have a copy in the attic and who are living on the minuscule old-age pension. The grannies who picked the wrong boy at the school dance – the real prize was skinny boy, yep the one who bored everyone with his stories about future ‘micro-processors’ replacing then state-of-the-art tube valves.  Anyway, drag out your copy of ‘How to write thrilling love letters” change that to “How to write thrilling emails to your chosen life partner and with bonus section on sexting”. List on Amazon and Smashwords and your financial worries are over.

Not recommended for suspected gay boys whose bedroom is searched by parents on a regular basis.

And with near all men of the time been veterans of either WWI, WWII or even both, there were huge problems with what we now know to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  which could lead as we would understand today, to substance and alcohol abuse and psychotic and violent behaviors including domestic violence which very often was directed at boys as the image below correctly identifies as been the case. It takes according to research, three to four generations to completely breed out the emotional damage caused by war. The veteran father damages the son who then  becomes a dysfunctional father himself and that goes on until grandson or even great-grandson of the veteran. Unless of course there is another war which sets things back to square one.

The ‘true story’ correctly identifies a violent home as a major cause of juvenile crime.