High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Way We Were? - Remembering Valentine's Days Gone By

It wasn't really the way we were.

After the Prom (1957) by Norman Rockwell

It was the way we were depicted

in art, literature, movies,

television and popular songs.

It was the way we wanted to be.

Let's turn back the clock and experience Valentine's Day
as it looked and sounded in the late 1950s and early 60s.
To help get you in the mood for a nostalgic V-day theme party I decorated with vintage soda pop ads.

Day 1955

In the fantasy world of pop songs and Madison Avenue advertising art, every guy was Prince Charming, every girl was
Earth Angel.....
and it was love
at first sight.

Day 1959

In that world, soul mates met...
fell in love... and lived happily ever after.

Valentine's day 1960

It was a perfect world filled with perfect smiles.
The only thing that could make you cry was love...

Day 1960

and nobody ever had a bad hair day.

Day 1961

Hey, listen up, Mister Neil Sedaka...
and take my advice...

Stick to singing and songwriting and leave the dance moves to guys
like Deney Terrio
You're freakin' me out! I ain't seen nothin' that messed up since my homey Dot Com hammered five 40's in a row and stepped on a downed power line!

It's gonna take the jaws of WIFE to get that
outta my head, see what I'm sayin?

On Valentine's day and throughout the year...the pop culture snake oil salesmen sold us dreams...

illusions wrapped in pretty paper with ribbons and bows.

The Mad Men and the music marketers seduced Americans
with models
of perfection...

of happy
families, blissfully compatible couples, and love eternal.

In our quest for a perfect life, in the midst of our hunger to have everything we think we want, we should heed the familiar careful what you wish for. That was one of the many pearls and gems that Ruby Gissing shared in the narrative of my favorite movie, Ruby in Paradise. It's a valuable life lesson worth considering.







And what about this notion of finding a perfect match as the basis for friendship, dating or mating? It limits us. It causes us to walk around with blinders on. We tell ourselves that it's easier to make a connection with somebody who is exactly like us. We keep looking in the same places for the same type of people without considering anybody else. Why not shake things up by conducting an experiment? Pick out a person that you don't know, somebody who is different from you, somebody you don't particularly like or don't think that you would like. Move out of your comfort zone for a change. Take a journey into breakthrough territory. Get to know that person. Try to find a way to relate. Identify and explore the things that the two of you have in common. The rewards can be astonishing!

Valentine's day is our yearly celebration of romantic love,
but we should all remember that there are higher forms, namely unconditional love and altruism. Help your family.
Help a friend. Help a stranger. Help your community.
Help your country. Help the world.

I end this Valentine's Day salute with the epilogue from another of my film favorites, Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

You must each decide what your life will be. 
You must always know that a hand extended 

to your fellow man... 
is a gesture of love... 
love that asks nothing...expects nothing. 
It is simply there. 
And if love is in you...
then gentle will be all your steps... 
as you walk beyond this valley.

Have a Shady Valentine's day!


  1. It's mad to think that when we look back on ads we do really think 'oh, that's how everyone obviously looked and acted'! Wonder what our great grandchildren will think of the adverts depicting 'us' out there today? Bon Dimanche and Happy valentines day for tomorrow :)

  2. Gawgus things - Hello, my Paris friend! It might not have been the way we really were, but at least the media, the arts and the advertisers held us to a higher standard than they do today. If a time capsule filled with pop culture artifacts were to be buried today and unearthed far in the future...what would it say about us?

    In the year 2525
    If man is still alive
    If woman can survive
    They may find.....?

    Thank you so very much for coming over for a visit, G-T, and have a wonderful French style V-day tomorrow, my friend!

  3. My wife & I really had a good time going through this memory trail remembering back to the days when life was not cluttered with so many of the distractions of today. Amazing how your tunes can transport us so quickly to those times. I can always count on Shady to brighten up my day with happy thoughts and on this special time romance to rekindle sparks of more passionate times. Thanks my friend.

  4. Odie - I'm glad you enjoyed these songs. It only takes a couple of seconds of listening to somebody like Paul Anka or the Platters to take us right back to the age of innocence. It might be gone, but it will never be forgotten. Thanks for your comment, Odie, and have a great Sunday!

  5. Happy Valentines, Tom.
    Love this post and all of the advertisments are fantastic to look at. Lots of love as always, your friend Michelle xxxxxxxxxx

  6. Shell - I didn't know that your actual name is Michelle! It seems fitting for you to have the same name as that beautiful song by the Liverpool Lads. I'm glad you enjoyed my vintagy post even though the songs and print ads were popular decades before you were born. It was sweet of you to come by and say hello. I wish you and the rest of the lovely ladies of Liverpool a happy Valentine's day!

  7. What a great post! I really enjoyed this! Thanks! Have a lovely rest of your Sunday!

  8. mskanorado - Thank you, Kristina! I am very happy to know that you checked out my Valentine's day piece and found something to like. I hope that you and your husband have a very enjoyable V-day celebration. Please give Wyatt and Leo and the rest of your menagerie a great big hug for me!

  9. Sigh... these images are so very beautiful and only make me wish more that I had lived in a different time period than the one I do now. Is it me or were the 50's just so romantic? So full of love and an innocent beauty that today's society just doesn't have. It wasn't so much about the decadent truffles or the dozen red roses, but just showing the one you loved that you cared over a bottle of Coca Cola.

    You really made me think when talking about how we limit ourselves to finding our soul mates. You are absolutely right and it is something I'm without a doubt guilty of. Your words have made me think differently and try to give everyone a chance because you never truly know who your prince charming (or damsel in distress) might be...

  10. Loved the montage of men during the Mr.Sandman song. Cary Grant and William Holden were my favorites!
    Paul Anka was so young in this one. And it was a lovely song.
    You are right about Sedaka's dancing. Oh my, it was atrocious! But he was a cutie-patootie. I'm so in love with his happy music. It always makes me smile.

  11. Shady my dear friend, what can I say?! That post was really awesome, and I do appreciate all the time and effort you must have put into it. Like Belle, I love Neil Sedaka'ssongs, but certainly NOT his dancing. It was great to see all those old adverbs, BUT the very best bit for me was the little video clip whilst Mr Sandman was being played. The Venetian blind and those little feet . Absolutely brilliant! And the men! They don't make them like that anymore, Shady. I shall be watching that clip many times. I so agree with you that perhaps we do set too much store by romantic love. Very nice if you can get it, but it's not the be all and end all.loyalty, faithfulness, steadfastness have a lot going for them! Excellent post dear friend.

  12. Lauren - I am delighted to see that you came over and read my V-day salute. I always knew that you are wise beyond your years and your thoughtful comment is proof of it. As someone who lived through the 1950s and early 60s I can testify that it was a time when things like romance, chivalry, manners and etiquette, dignity, decency and formality all mattered more than they do today. I miss that higher standard. I have no doubt that someone like you would have fit right in to that age of innocence. Thank you very much for visiting, Lauren, and please come again soon! I wish you and yours a very happy Valentine's day!

    Belle, I remember you writing that you like Cary Grant. "Judy, Judy, Judy!" (I know, he never really uttered those words.) I am also aware of how much you love Neil Sedaka. So do I. However, I couldn't resist the impulse to have Tracy Jordan poke fun at Neil's dancing on that clip. I have the ultimate respect for Neil Sedaka and I am one of the millions who can't believe he hasn't been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I will be posting a rant on that subject next month. Thank you ever so much for your comments, dear Belle, and may you have a wonderful Valentine's day tomorrow!

  13. Thisisme - Thank you very much for stating it this way. On Valentine's day we tend to focus on romantic love and sex and forget about higher love. It's the same as at Christmas time when everybody concentrates on giving and receiving gifts and tends to forget the more important symbolic meaning of the holiday. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, dear Thisisme, and do have yourself a wonderful Valentine's celebration in merry England!

  14. Shady I think it was very creative the way you used pop ads to express Valentine's day. Much props for that. It was very cool.

  15. Israel - Thank you, my friend! Some of the best vintage advertising art is in the soft drink category and these illustrations do seem to fit the occasion. What a wonderful world it would be if life imitated art to that extent and if soda pop didn't rot our teeth and make us obese! Thank you very much for reporting in from the coast, Israel, and have a happy Valentine's day!

  16. I never saw any dancing like that in the Sedaka clip at the Dell. The girls could dance and even the clumsy guys were better than that. Think I will go listen to by Platters box set. Have a good one! Jerre

  17. I simple adore vintage advertising so much, what a wonderful post as always and hope your having a lovely Valentine's Day =)


    p.s. 'Mr Sandman' is going to playing in my head for the rest of this evening...bum bum bum bum!

  18. Thanks for your comments, Shady! I was about to ask if you'd do a Valentine's day special - and here it is! LOVE "Mr Sandman".

  19. Jerre - If I recall correctly I never heard a single Neil Sedaka record played at the Dell which in no way reflects upon the quality of his music. Enjoy your Platters platters and thanks for your comment, my friend!

    Leanne - Hello, my Liverpool lass! Thank you very much for the compliments. I could gaze at vintage advertising for hours at a time and never grow tired of it. There are many embedded clues if you look long and hard enough. I often get songs stuck in my head for days at a time. Usually they are songs that I don't like. Thank you very much for your visit and I hope you are enjoying your V-day as well!

    Joanna - Hello! "Mr. Sandman" seems to be the one song in this article that resonates most with the ladies. I'm glad you love it and I suspect that your parents also did. I distinctly remember the song from my youth because my parents owned the 45 and I played it heavily. Thank you very much for taking the time to drop by and happy Valentine's day to you, dear friend Joanna!

  20. Shady I was so hoping you'd do a Valentines post. I just love love songs, and I love old love songs even more! Thank you for the wonderful music, and a wonderful message as well. I shall do my best to spread the love!

  21. these ads were such fun to look at. Its crazy how ad men idealize our lives and in some ways make us believe that was actually how things were/are. I am going to see if netflix has Ruby in Paradise, i had never heard of it before but it sounds like a winner. Happy VD :)

  22. Alabee - You have thanked me for the wonderful music and for the wonderful message. Now it's my turn. I want to thank you for the wonderful gift of your friendship. You are one of a kind and I am honored to know you. I hope that you enjoy the remains of the day and please give Lucy and Cody a great big V-day kiss from their new best friend Shady!

    Amber Blue Bird - I know you well enough by now to believe that Ruby in Paradise is your kind of movie. Indeed, Ashley Judd's character Ruby Gissing reminds me of you. If Netflix doesn't carry Ruby in Paradise it is available for purchase on Amazon, although it's rather pricey at close to $30. I urge you to read some of the customer reviews on Amazon. If your local cable company offers IFC (Independent Film Channel) or Sundance you should check those listings because one of both of them have presented the movie in recent years. IFC is where I first discovered this gem of a movie. Thank you very much for coming over to my place, ABB, and happy VD to you, my dear friend!

  23. Happy Valentine's Day my friend!! hope you have a sweet and spicy week!!!

  24. LyDe - You too, dear friend! I can't wait to read the next chapter in your fascinating life. Thanks for coming by with V-day wishes. I wish you the same and a great week ahead! Good night!

  25. Ahh, now the late 50s must have been the tops when it came to cool romance.

  26. Copyboy - My older brother dated during the 50s and I had a chance to observe. As I remember it the dress code for dating was much more formal than it is today. Guys wore sport coats, ties or bow ties, carefully pressed dress slacks and shiny shoes. Girls dressed with the same degree of formality. Etiquette, chivalry and formality...those are the key things I remember being so different back then. Thanks for your comment, Copyboy!

  27. What great memories! I loved your song selections and the Coke ads. I miss those ads. Recently we got rid of many books (we're moving) but kept the book of Norman Rockwell illustrations. I spent many an hour in the drug stores, one of my favorite places. I agree that Valentine's Day should not be just about romantic love.

    Thank you ♥

  28. Cindy - The drug store soda fountain was one of my favorite places, too, and I always loved scenes in movies and TV shows in which teenagers hung out and danced in malt shops. The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet is one that immediately comes to mind. Thank you very much for visiting and for your comment, Cindy!

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