What it was like Being a Teenager When Movie Magazines Reigned Supreme

Jojay By Jojay, 9th Jan 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Personal Experiences

A story about what it was like being a teenager in the 1950's.

Destroying Cousin Sharon's movie magazine collection would haunt me for the rest of my life

Being a teenager in the 50’s was being in love with movie stars and all the things that movie stars represented: wealth, glamour, and living in big mansions where maids laid out your jewels and gowns for the never-ending stream of parties to which you were invited.

Along with other teenage girls in Creston, I collected pictures of my favorite movie stars and pasted them in a scrapbook. For a quarter (and some times 15 cents), we’d buy copies of the newest issues of “Photoplay”, “Screenland” or “Modern Screen”.

Magazines clutched in our hot little hands, we couldn’t wait to get home and read about the secret meeting of Fabian and Annette Funicello, or find out why Liz cried the day after her wedding.

Once we read the articles, we would carefully go through the issue and cut out the pictures of our favorite screen queen. It was no coincidence that our choices coincided with something we saw in their faces that reminded us of our own. Judy’s freckles made her a kindred spirit with the ‘girl next door’, June Allyson.

Barbara liked Susan Hayward, on whose face, she thought she saw her nose and eyes. I favored the dark-haired beauties like Debra Paget, Linda Darnell, and Elizabeth Taylor. I settled on Liz Taylor when a girl in my class said that I reminded her of Velvet Brown in the movie “National Velvet.”

Although we had our heart throbs men stars (Troy Donahue and Rock Hudson) --- (back then the only ‘coming out’ they were doing was squiring around their leading ladies) it was the women whose pictures we coveted.

Women movie stars lead lives that might be possible for us if we could only get out of small town America, and go to Hollywood to be “discovered’ like Lana Turner at Schwab’s drugstore. (Alas, yet another apocryphal story dreamed up by her press agent.) However, it was true that Lana Turner was born in Wallace Idaho. (A mining town about 90 miles away, and where Dad worked for awhile before he was married.)

Come Saturday afternoon, we’d take our buck fifty we got for babysitting five kids in a 900 square foot house (while their parents went down to the local tavern) and save it for the next time mom and dad went to visit their parents in Davenport and we could buy movie magazines at the drug store.

We often traded photos with our cousins Rita and Sharon who lived in Davenport. Each of us had a scrap book of our favorite stars, and we’d sit around on the beds and look at our scrap books, and share pictures with each other.

Sharon was the same age as Barbara, and she had by far the biggest movie star magazine collection. She had been collecting for years, and she prided herself on the large stack of magazines that (except for her taking out pictures of her favorite movie star, Ann Blyth) were in almost mint condition.

I’m here to tell you that cousin Sharon’s movie star collection would be the source of a good deal of guilt that I had up to my adult life. No, I didn’t need therapy to exorcise it, and I manage to sleep soundly most nights without being awakened in the middle of night with Sharon’s shocked face inside a thought balloon above my head, but I still get a twinge whenever I see the latest issue of some teen magazine in a magazine kiosk.

The day that will live in infamy happened like this: Judy and I got to stay home from school because mom had scheduled a Tuesday dentist appointment for us in Davenport.

After seeing the dentist, mom took us over to Aunt Hazel’s for lunch. Sharon knew that we were coming to visit, and she’d told her mom that while she was at school, “the twins” could go through her magazine collection for pictures of their favorite stars. It might help them take their minds off their aching mouths, she told her mother.

We were thrilled! To think we could peruse all her magazines, (she had at least one hundred!) and get photos of June Allyson and Liz Taylor. Mouths still smarting from the Novocain, we sat down on the floor in front of the stack of magazines that Aunt Hazel got from the top shelf of her closet. She’d even given us our own scissors to cut them out.

“That’ll should keep em’ busy for awhile.” She said as she returned to the kitchen.
We went through the magazines and all the photos. I was disappointed not to have found more pictures of Liz, and June Allyson seemed to be scarce as well.
When we finished with the magazine, Judy and I had a pile of about 20 photos between us.

We looked at our piles with disappointment.
“You know what I noticed when I went through the magazines?” I asked Judy

“Noooooo,” Judy said as she picked up a small photo of June Allyson and looked kind of dejected.

“I noticed that there were a whole bunch of photos of Audrey Hepburn. Next to Liz Taylor I admired Audrey. I strongly considered collecting Audrey over Liz Taylor.”

“I saw scads of pictures of Doris Day, Judy chimed in. She must have been in every other magazine. And big colored pictures, too. I was going to collect Doris Day but then June Allyson had that great voice, and was so healthy looking----but Doris Day is healthy looking, and with those freckles an all--- Doris Day would have been my second choice.”

It was quiet for a moment and we looked at one another with the same expression that two men in the bar might have after observing their favorite football team getting trounced in the last three seconds of play.
“Here’s a thought. Why don’t we change our minds?”

Scissors in hand we went through cousin Sharon's prized movie star magazines and destroyed them all

“What do you mean?” Judy asked.
“Where is it written we have to stay with our old collection? We could start a new collection.

“But Sharon just gave us permission to cut out our favorite stars.

“Yes, but we can change our minds. We’ll tell Sharon that last week we had decided to collect someone different. There’s nothing wrong in changing our minds, is there? She’ll understand…” my voice trailed off as I picked up a Modern Screen where Audrey Hepburn was featured in the movie, “Roman Holiday”. “Isn’t that a great picture? I’d love to have that picture.”

“Look at this photo of Doris Day.” Judy held up a copy of Photoplay. “See that green scarf around her neck? I bought a scarf just like that in Woolworth’s last week. I think that’s a sign, don’t you?”

“Sign, Smign----, I was getting excited now. Let’ go through these magazines again and get pictures of our new favorite photo stars!”

And so, scissors in hands and like Caribbean Buccaneers with their swords, we went through Cousin Sharon’s prized movie magazine collection like we were raiding towns and villages. An hour later, we had over 100 pictures (between us) and every magazine had holes in most of the pages. My heart sank when Judy held up a copy of Modern Screen in front of her, and I could see her face through the page. What had we done?

I almost jumped when Mom came to the bedroom door with “It’s time to go, girls.”
Judy and I sat there with our pile of pictures, with a look a look on our face that said a picture is worth a thousand cuts of the scissors.

“Did you get the pictures of your favorite stars?” Mom asked.

“Well yeah, but when we saw that we didn’t have too many pictures of them, we uh, decided to collect pictures of Audrey Hepburn rather than Liz Taylor. Judy decided that she wanted Doris Day, and so we went back and got pictures of Audrey and Doris. Our new favorite stars-----“ My voice trailed off.

Aunt Hazel went right for the jugular. “You destroyed Sharon’s collection!” she said as she went over and picked up a copy of Motion Picture. (We’d even taken the cover off that one. It was of Doris Day with the green scarf.) She picked up one magazine after another and opened them. The magazine looked like newspapers with the want ads cut out.

“You kids were only supposed to take pictures of your favorite movie stars!” mom repeated. When mom was upset she had a tendency to repeat herself. “You were only supposed to take pictures of your favorite stars!”

“But we changed our minds…” my voice trailed off. There was no excuse for destroying Sharon’s entire movie magazine collection. We’d butchered them beyond compare; she would have no collection for her kids or grandkids to look over.

“We’re sorry,” Judy said. “Joann wanted to collect pictures of Audrey and I wanted Doris Day because of her green scarf….”

“I can’t believe you girls would do such a thing! Sharon was so nice to trust you with her collection, and this is how you repay her!”

Aunt Hazel put down the mutilated magazines and looked at us as if we’d just confessed to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.

“We, that is, “I” changed my mind, and then changed Judy’s mind, when I discovered that I’d have a bigger collection if I ‘changed horses in midstream”, so to speak.

“You changed your mind because you wanted more pictures?” Aunt Hazel said. “Why would you do a thing like that?”

Greed was the only answer that sprang to my mind.

We were in deep dog dodo. Seeing that there was nothing more to say, we picked up our pictures (which now had as much appeal as moldy bread) and followed mom out of the room.

Aunt Hazel repeated herself (after all she was mom’s sister), “I don’t understand why they changed their minds like that”, she said as they walked to the car. Mom replied that she didn’t understand either, but then she stopped making sense out of our lives when we turned thirteen.

We didn’t talk much on the way home. Mom said we should be ashamed of ourselves (as indeed we were) and Sharon would never trust us with anything again.

But that wasn’t the worse part. Sharon would tell Aunt Toots (who would side with her because her husband, Uncle Vern, (Uncle Vern was the brother of Sharon’s dad) and Vern favored the nieces of his brother over the nieces of his brother-in-law any day of the week. They would talk about what the twins had done to “poor little Sharon’s movie star collection” for at least the next twenty years.

We might as well wear a scarlet letter on our chest. But instead of A, it would be a P (short for Putz) and go around with that until everyone got old and senile and forgot all about the day the twins ‘cut loose” on Sharon’s movie magazines.


Movie Articles, Movie Gossip, Movie Magazines, Movie Magazines Of The1950S, Movie Stars, Movies

Meet the author

author avatar Jojay
I am a published and produced playwright. I enjoy writing about anything that strikes my fancy as well as engages my passion for a lifetime of learning.
Also find my
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author avatar Steve Kinsman
9th Jan 2012 (#)

Wonderful article, Jojay. I, too, was a teenager in the fifties, and I remember this so well. Great post.

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author avatar Carolan
9th Jan 2012 (#)

Very interesting piece Jojay..I too was around at that time and had my hearthrobs...

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
10th Jan 2012 (#)

Those magazines were very special for the time.

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author avatar Val Mills
13th Jan 2012 (#)

Oh Jojay, how I remember those magazines! I too had scrapbooks, assembled in the early 1960s and pictures up on the wall. I hate to admit it, but my 'darling' was Troy Donaghue.

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