1954: Taking Care of Business

News from the Dec. 2, 1954 issue of the Lemon Grove Review when the business of America was any business you could dream up for the holiday shopping season.

Bill's Self Service lured customers with down-home cartoons.
Bill's Self Service lured customers with down-home cartoons.

Bill's Big Deals:  Bill's Self-Service, HOpkins 6-1491 (how phone numbers looked back then), 7195 Broadway, ran a wave of cartoons portraying Hubby as a well-meaning clod and Wifey as a woman scorned, the better to pull in customers for his unbelievable deals:

     Pick-up 'n deliver your car for a wash-wax, $1

     Pick-up 'n deliver your car for a Major Gasoline fill-up, 32 cents/gal.

     Pick-up 'n deliver you anywhere in Lemon Grove, $1

     Weigh your truck on our 100-ton public scale, free!

You Dreamboat, You:  In the Christmas of 1954, Lemon Grove businesses forsook their usual prey (women) to hone in on men.  Jean Parsons, owner of Lemon Grove Beauty Shoppe, 3311 Imperial at Golden, HO 6-5274, urged men to make pre-paid appointments for their wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, cousins, sweethearts, grandmothers, teachers and co-workers, all of whom would succumb to their "Big 'Ol Dreamboat's" allure once they'd been overhauled by the staff -- Mickey, Myrtle, Lois and Milly.

Frumpier Than Thou:  "Is she tired of looking frumpy?" demanded Patricia's Fashion Lane, 7887 Broadway.  "Men!  Let us assist your Christmas gift choices--a gift wrapped box labeled PATRICIA'S is assurance that your good taste will be acknowledged."

"She'll love a NEW sweater or skirt from YOU," emphasized the ad, which bannered "lovable, cuddlesome, flattering" fashions from $2.99 to $10.98.

Wonderland:  The Gift Box, 7344 Broadway, cut to the chase:  "Menfolk!  We are wonderful and we have more hand painted Christmas Cards than anyone else."  Moreover, the shop stocked enough bric-a-brac from England, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg and you-name-it to bail out the entire European Union, did it exist, which, natch, it didn't.

Skivvies from Santa:  Even Lane's Haberdashery, 7765 Broadway, normally a model of dignity and restraint, got into the act.  Throwing caution to the winds, Lane's advertised -- gasp! -- underwear -- briefs, to you -- but termed the unmentionables  "garments."   They came four to a box emblazoned with a chubby Santa proclaiming "A Gift of Comfort" intended to "gladden the heart of the intended wearer…and free Christmas wrap, too!"

When the flanks and withers of a nation are covered, hindsight in your rear view mirror lays bare the truth behind every king in his castle  -- let comfort reign!  All this for $3.95.

The Maytag Man Cometh:  Browne's Refrigeration and Washer Service, 3282 Main Street (still there after 60 years), swore to rid you of your "half-clean clothes" soaked in unstrained "dirty water" with their all-new Maytag Automatic available for weekly payments of $2.89.  Hold-outs could get the old style wringer model for $1.35 a week.

Toy Story First Born:   Lemon Grove got its first-ever toy store on Dec. 4, 1954 when Cottage Toys, 3510 Buena Vista, opened its doors with free gifts and drawings, and a panoply of wheeled, wind-up, multi-part toys and "educational games."  We especially admired this promise in the ad:  "We will help you read the instructions."

Harry the Hauler:  Harry Holt, HOpkins 9-8762, begged to take out your trash by wooing homemakers with this artful prose:  

     Sick of all the junk around your place?  Let Harry the Hauler turn your trashy yard into a palace fit for a king!  Don't let neighbors and Christmas visitors (Ho-ho-ho!) see the mess you've made!  For $5 we'll haul your castoffs to the dump and leave you squeaky clean for the holidays!

In those pre-EDCO days, 'Grovians hauled their own trash to the dump with varying degrees of success.  Result:  The Review was full of clean-up events in the prosperous 'Fifties as personal possessions mushroomed (and packaging, too), and local clubs and business leagues panicked over the state of local streets.

The Tough Got Tougher:  The Lemon Grove Business Women's League was fed up with trash along the railroad tracks and around The Big Lemon.  Spearheaded by grande dame Mildred Huebsch, the BWL built and raffled an elaborate child's playhouse to raise funds for 375 feet of sprinkler system, new lawn and shrubs to landscape the tracks from Central Avenue to North Avenue.  They also planned a phalanx of trash receptacles.

Al Drew, a local architect, devised the plans and the BWL placed an enticing color drawing of the playhouse in every business in town.  The playhouse was based on one built by Todd Chaffee for his niece on Olive Street that had become the envy of the known world between Lemon Grove and Spring Valley.

A who's who of businesses donated materials:  Hunter's Nursery (plants), Artcraft Signs (posters), Lemon Grove Electric (wiring), Russell's Plumbing (paint), Lemon Grove Sheet Metal (gutters), Ralph Long (louvered windows), Sullivan Lumber (shingles), Tony Sonka (front door), Lemon Grove Hardware (hardware), Lemon Grove Review (PR), Lemon Grove Pharmacy (painting)…and more.

Let the guilt trip begin.  We shudder to think how anyone survived the BWL's aggressive ticket-selling campaign replete with accusations like "If you care, you'll buy 50 tickets NOW," and "Show some civic pride!" and "Those who don't care may find themselves alone on Christmas!"  Whoa!

The playhouse was raffled on Dec. 24 at 3 p.m.  Stay tuned…and call home if you know somebody who may still have this remarkable piece of civic history (or even a photo).

With Steak So Rare:  Michael's Famous Food was the latest moniker for Michael's Pub & Grill, Michael's Steak House, Michael's Restaurant & Bar and just plain Michael's as the fabled watering hole sought to corral harried shoppers for 85 cent lunches and $1.50 dinners.

With slews of myrmidons at your beck and call, you could "make Michael's your dining habit" while enjoying Alice Waters at the organ, Mac McGrath and Dick Cole on drums and horn, and "private dancing facilities" for up to 300.  

Proving its charitable chops on Thanksgiving, Michael's hosted 157 orphans "who had never seen butter or cranberry sauce before."  Hmmm.

Wisdom of the Ages:  We yield the lamp of learning to no one, but admit to backsliding in the face of these pearls from the Review's legendary fillers:

     Mamie Van Doren has been elected Honorary Police Chief of Universal City.

     If you meet a Los Angeles cab driver with a hacking cough, he may have a little smog in his throat.

     According to a survey of 300 commercials, the word "you" appeared 2,400 times.

Probably a Typo:

     The Navy keeps time to an accuracy of five-millionths of a second.  You should do the same.

     The Navy cares for almost 18,000 patients a day in 29 hospitals.  You should do the same.

     There are more than 225 destroyer-type warships on active duty in the U. S. Navy.  You should do the same.

     Navy contractors produce more than 1,000 inventions for patents each year.  You should do the same.

And so it went at the onset of the Christmas season 59 years ago when Big Lemon merchants sought to make the best of a good thing.  You should do the same.


About this column:  Compiled by Helen Ofield, president of the Lemon Grove Historical Society, from newspapers archived at the H. Lee House Cultural Center.  Each week, we take a peek at the past with some news and advertising highlights from a randomly chosen edition of the Lemon Grove Review.  Ofield was awarded first place in 2013 and second place in 2012 in non-daily column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists.  In 2013 she received third place in the "History" category from the San Diego Press Club.

Michael Richards December 03, 2013 at 12:40 PM
Where was "Michaels" steakhouse?
Helen Ofield December 03, 2013 at 01:55 PM
Michael's was at 7828 Broadway between modern El Pollo Grill and Panda Restaurant. I believe the old Pelikan Pub was on the site of the former Michael's. Michael's had a prominent sign out front visible in old photos of that part of the business district.


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