EPHEMERA KABINETT: Bomb Shelters in Life Magazine

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TITLE: Life Magazine (1/12/1962)

DESCRIPTION: Weekly periodical with articles on: Retirement age men who continue to work; the romantic riddle of Lawrence of Arabia, Garbisch collection of American Primitives; Romain Gary (before his marriage to Jean Seberg was made public); and the story of the week: “Everybody’s talking About Shelters.”

ICI LOCATION: Ephemera Kabinett

POINTS OF INTEREST: features opinions of the ‘everyman’; artist renderings of imagined bomb shelters; an eerie photo of Romain Gary and Jean Seberg on a beach near Rome. The caption claims “Gary is surprised on the beach by U.S. actress Jean Seberg whom he had met in Hollywood and who was there with a party of people.” (The pair was already a couple. Did the newspaper respect their privacy or was the article’s author that gullible? In either case, it was a different time.); an advertisement about how to quit smoking, two years before the Surgeon General would release its first condemnation of smoking; and a soft-focus color ad for the Pan-American Coffee Bureau that features a woman dressed in a traditional Sari.

DISCUSSION: The article about Bomb Shelters gives a sobering view of life after the bomb, and encourages readers that a bomb is survivable “if you’re prepared.”  Drawing its inspiration from the 1961 pamphlet Fallout Protection, the photo-essay presents a selection of ‘opinions’ from everyday citizens — a construction worker, housewife, butcher, rabbi and bank teller. The two featured women are identified as ‘Mrs.’ Were married women more credible?

The article presents a number of bomb shelter scenarios and reassures the reader, at least visually, that ‘no stickin bomb’ is going to ruin our daily routines. The homey details of each shelter brings to mind another ‘hole,’ whose embrace at the same time may have been driven by the same war-fueled anxieties; it was introduced to the world through a book’s opening line: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” (The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, published in the U.K. in 1937; U.S. sales soared in the mid-1950s).

ICI HISTORY: HOLES (revisited) rhizome on the Laboratory Blog (12/12); APOCALYPSE rhizome on the Laboratory Blog (07/15)




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