True Life Secrets: Short Story

I don’t know if it was intentional but these two separate covers for True Life Secrets tells a story of wanton betrayal, jealousy and revenge. Neither book contains a story with a scene resembling the cover action. The first is a pretty iconic cover, having been used on a few books and as examples of the genre.

True Life Secrets #23 (November-December 1954) is a recycled cover, initially published in My Desire Intimate Confessions #4 (April 1950).  The second cover, with the angry gent wanting to know just what the lady did to get the pricey necklace is from True Life Secrets #25 (March 1955). So while the story presented by the covers is coincidental it is pretty neat to have turned out that way.

If I saw issue #25 on the rack back in the 1950s I would have picked it up based on my memory of cover #23. I would have been disappointed but cover disconnect was the way the comic book  game was played back then. The budget, deadlines, disposable nature of comic books back then and people not giving a darn about the craft contributed to the practice. Covers were uncomplicated sales gimmicks and rarely represented the contents.

The art for the issue #23 is credited to Leon Winink and Ray Osrin. The second book is uncredited.

Comic Book Page

Not everything in a comic book is fictional, not even in romance comics! From the October 1951 romance comic title Boy Meets Girl #16 the song a happy, in love Margo is singing to herself as she walks home is from the real world tune All My Love, popularized by singer Patti Page in 1950.

While her most famous hit was the 1950 cover of  Tennessee Waltz Patti had a long and successful career in entertainment. She recently passed away last January at the age of 85, leaving behind an impressive musical legacy.

Husband-Hunting Tips

From various 1950s issues of New Romance I present as a public service announcement some really handy advice for those young women intent on pursuing romance with a steady beau all with the goal of getting hitched.

As all women know, good health is essential in maintaining your gene-derived, socially acceptable standards of good looks that are wholly dependent upon evolving cultural expectations! Sleeping with a window open for fresh air is a recurring theme in some of these old pre-Polio vaccine PSA’s. Breathing in Radon and mold day and night is a general no-no so it’s a good idea to have adequate ventilation. But it all depends on where you live. If you live in a universe where it is cool for a teen-ager to take their dad to a party and school yard gangs talk out their differences instead of popping caps into each other , then by all means, go for it. But where I live sleeping with an open window means you will probably wake up (if at all) with a crack-head holding a box-cutter to your throat as his buddy unplugs your TV.

Good Health is BEAUTY

Then of course girls must always appear cheerful! Nothing makes the boys shy away faster than a moody girl. Show a smile! Boys don’t like girls that appear thoughtful or express emotions that don’t compliment them. If maintaining cheerfulness is difficult on even the best days ask your mom how she does it. Many aids to happiness come in easily-obtained and affordable liquid or pill form.

Hold that SMILE

Almost as important as good looks is the ability to not embarrass any males you have come into contact with! Be polite, deferential but have your wits about you. But not too much! Be careful, girls! If you appear too smart boys won’t like you and instead of a home, hearth, husband and children to keep you warm at night it will be your hot tears staining the pages of a textbook on science!

Smart Talk

Once you have all the basics down you can go on the prowl! Not having to work after high school is important for the modern girl! Time is a wasting! So get involved in all those hobbies that men enjoy but proceed with caution. Don’t fully participate in sports and hobbies, LOOK ON ADORINGLY ONLY, or if that is not possible, ensure you take on the role of an accessory, like a tennis racket stand or gym bag carrier (but not too heavy a bag, you don’t want big ugly muscles!). Take steps to ensure you don’t intimidate a guy or show him up and faster than you can say “Holy Matrimony” you will be fulfilling your role as a wife, mother and homemaker!

How to meet HIM

And then it is HAPPILY EVER AFTER!


From the Library of Ada Winemiller, Part 2

The presumably young Ada Winemiller that claimed this copy of Brides in Love #9 back in 1958 would have been reading tales of romance that perhaps misled her as to what gender roles were really like in the late 1950s. Other than the social programming within the book Ada would also have been exposed to the somewhat non-gender specific advertising within the pages as well.

The advertisements that appeared in comics were not really targeted to both genders back in the day. Comic books were primarily and rightly so aimed at the young male demographic. Female customers were almost an after-thought and romance comic books held the same place the more adventure oriented books had as a product, as a safer alternative to the racier and more lurid pulp and gossip magazines that dominated the news stands.

Comic book advertising was almost certainly sold based upon volume, not a targeted youth or older group. Ads for submarines, rockets, space suits, cowboy gear and body building dominated pages set aside for outside revenue. What the sales department was selling was eyes on the page, not what percentage of boys versus girls were tempted by their products. Even the romance or female-oriented magazines for the most part contained advertising directly aimed at the young male reader. Ads for fashion and makeup were typically published in titles like Miss America or Calling All Girls which while they contained sequential art were considered full-fled magazines and were on a different tier than the other four-color comics.

So it was that Brides in Love #9 contained the usual advertising of the era. That several of the ads depicted muscle men is likely incidental and while possibly of interest to Ada were probably not placed in the book specifically to her market.

The opposite may be true for the male youth market as the amount of T&A in most of the mainstream comic books were obvious and gratuitous far beyond what the artist or writer knew was sensible. The romance books, while not as adventuresome thematically, supports my personal theory that even the girl-oriented books were also primarily meant for the male reader and served as a safe and acceptable form of pornography or at least a source to satisfy curiosity, somewhat like the notorious lingerie ads in a Sears catalog. Given that so many stories feature panels of women in their underclothes and showing them fitfully tossing and turning on their bed with frustration is provocative to be sure. A scene in an issue of Marvel Comics 2003 mini-series Unstable Molecules, reflecting the era, bears anecdotal witness to the idea. You can view the semi-NSFW page here.

These type of cheesecake voyeuristic images were almost exclusive to the romance comics. Unfortunately when this imagery, combined with the more violent ones that were ubiquitous to the action and adventure comics reached a sort of parental saturation the result was government and group involvement that resulted in the Comics Code Authority.

Of the eight pages of ads in Brides of Love #9 there are three are shilling body building, four are pushing a combination of toys and science-related instruments. Arguably given the perceived audience of the time these ads were correctly and most effectively aimed at a young male.

One ad features photographs of popular media stars, which is the only ad that might be considered by advertisers to be directly of interest to a girl of that era. But what sort of young woman was Ada Winemiller? If she took any interest in the ads at all who is to say she wasn’t the most intrigued by the rocket kit? Maybe she liked the idea of breaching the walls of America’s enemies in a tank? It could be she grew up to be a force to be reckoned with in the business world after learning entrepreneurship from selling salve or Grit. Out of all the advertisements from Brides in Love #9 presented here, which ones may have captured the attention of Ada the most?

Maybe she chose her own path and did whatever she wanted be it in business, science or as homemaker. Perhaps the old men editing the romance comic books of the 1950s, who mandated stories of women who yearned to be housewives and mothers and nothing else because there was no other goal worthier than domestic breeder, would be shocked to learn how Ada Winemiller ultimately turned out.

From the Library of Ada Winemiller, Part 1

An unknown time ago Ada Winemiller signed her name to a September 1958 copy of Brides In Love #9 published by Charlton Comics.

At this time Ada is a mystery. Nothing is known of her past, what she was like or the path of her life’s journey. The travels of this old romance comic book are as equally unknown as the owner.

How is it that this book came into Ada’s possession? Was it a gift, purchased with hard-earned nickles or begged for to a parent at a news stand? Did Ada enjoy the stories within and treasure them or did a cynical young girl dismiss them as foolish tripe?

That is almost impossible to say but here is one of the stories that a presumably young Ada Winemiller would have read way back in 1958. I’d like to imagine Ada lazily splayed over a pile of Annette Funicello records scattered about the floor, idly kicking her bobby sox adorned feet as she happily read about four-colored romance and happy endings as she dreamed of her future wedding day.

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