Working in the history biz, I have found that there is a tremendous tendency amongst (mostly white) people to romanticize the past. “Those were the good old days,” museum patrons will sigh, focusing on, say, the pretty clothes and conveniently forgetting about stuff like polio and dubious dental procedures and the fact that minstrel shows were once considered clean, wholesome entertainment that was fun for the whole family. As a museum profeshunal, I can tell you without hesitation that there really weren’t any good old days – just different old days. For instance, no matter what Fox News or the Daily Mail might have you believe, today’s youth is no more degenerate or in danger than any other group of youngins in the past. For more on that, I highly recommend watching Matt Wolf’s excellent documentary Teenage, which is currently available on Netflix streaming. However, I can, to an extent, forgive this tendency to view the past through rose tinted glasses, because some of the items left behind paint a much more wholesome picture of the youth of yesterday than was, perhaps, the case.
Exhibit A: This pamphlet, which my parents recently found while cleaning out my grandmother’s house:
I should note here that this pamphlet, which I’m placing about circa 1943, is in pristine condition, which would indicate that it was never used – probably because even those wholesome god fearing folks in the good old days recognized that the kids would never, ever consider throwing a party in which the attendees were encouraged to dress up in unironic clown costumes, which the cover of the pamphlet seems to suggest. I’m also quite intrigued by the title. I believe the usual terminology, when one is planning an event, is to “throw” a party. Or “host.” Or “have.” This pamphlet, however, promises instructions on how to “run” a teenage party, which conjures up images that are far more writing our manifesto/unflattering beige unisex jumpsuits for all/blind devotion to Dear Leader than turning the laundry room into make out central/obsessing over the playlist/ohmygod, if that orange soda doesn’t come out of my mom’s white shag rug we are DEAD, Denise.
Well, this seems promising. Party ideas from Hollywood stars and debutantes, huh? MILLIONS entertained. And, most of all, the unequivocal approval of this mysterious “Jenny the Hep-Cat” person, who is apparently “giving out” something about this pamphlet that we all hope is not a social disease. Jenny the Hep-Cat also advocates here for an “informal teen-age brawl,” which is fascinating, since I thought the first rule of fight club was not to talk about fight club, but I’m trusting you here, Jenny the Hep-Cat.
Sooo….our invitations are going to be….donut themed, I guess? Jenny the Hep-Cat is assuring me that donuts are super popular and hella cheap, but I’m not really sure that’s enough to build a theme on. Also, that place card and donut horse party favor are kind of nightmare inducing. I feel like I’m watching an obese Horseman of the Apocalypse saddle up.
Seriously, Jenny the Hep-Cat, you need to put the kibosh on this “old fashioned square dance” business IMMEDIATELY. I assure you, someone going, “Hey kids, lets have a square dance!” has always been met with groaning and a chorus of, “You know what? We have to go….I totally forgot about this um, thing…I have to do….with my dog….” They only place this does not happen is in a movie starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, and we now know that there were booze and amphetamines just out of camera shot to keep that party going. Good call, though, on making sure there’s a “phonograph or a radio” for “frequent relief” from that party guest who shows up with a guitar. God, Jenny the Hep-Cat, why did you even invite him?
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, JENNY THE HEP-CAT?! Bobbing for donuts floating in bowls of Royal Crown Cola while holding a piece of hard candy in your mouth while whistling Yankee Doodle? That is literally the worst party game I have ever heard of. I hope this party’s insured, Jenny the Hep-Cat, because I know no one knows the Heimlich maneuver, on account of it hasn’t been invented yet.
You know what you probably shouldn’t do if you’re “running” a teenage party? You probably shouldn’t play games in which the lights get turned off and someone has to agree to have their stocking removed by another party guest. Jenny the Hep-Cat, you really need to stop hanging out with embryonic pick up artists. Also? If the bulk of the game involves a “District Attorney” questioning people, you should probably just accept failure and gather ’round the radio to listen to Dragnet. Or Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: The Transcribed Adventures of the Man With the Action Packed Expense Account – America’s Fabulous Freelance Insurance Investigator.
Betty Grable, huh? I’m assuming she’s one of the Hollywood stars Jenny the Hep-Cat has been gathering all these super party running tips from? I’m a bit dubious on the idea that Betty Grable was regularly inviting Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth over to bob for donuts swimming in bowls of RC Cola. I’m even more dubious on the idea that Betty Grable was allowed to ingest Royal Crown Cola in the days of Hollywood studio-ordered pineapple and cottage cheese diets. Also….what’s that small print at the bottom? “For additional copies of this booklet, write to DONUT INSTITUTE?” You mean this whole thing has been a CRUMMY COMMERCIAL FOR THE POWERFUL DONUT LOBBY?!? Jenny the Hep-Cat, ARE YOU EVEN HEP?! DO YOU EVEN EXIST?!
Oh my God, I don’t know who to trust anymore. Betty Grable, Jenny the Hep-Cat – they’ve all been shilling for Madison Avenue. Trying to sell us on the apparently not so deathless combo of “wholesome,” “nourishing” donuts and Royal Crown Cola, which is beginning to sound more and more like a euphemism for cocaine. Why, Jenny the Hep-Cat? Why?
I hereby don my beige unisex jumpsuit and swear allegiance to the Donut Institute and Royal Crown Cola.