Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Best of AM - Back to Remembering the U.S.S.R.

One of my favorite pastimes is finding magazines from the World War II and Cold War era (especially World War II). This was a nice find at the Ithaca, NY library book sale in 2009, my first year of blogging. 

The Ithaca, New York book sale, held twice a year, is one of the largest in the country.  They usually have some boxes of old Life, Look and other older magazines.  Sometimes they are musty, but they are always a treat for people like me to read.  The next sale is in May, and I hope I can make it up there.

The original post can be found here.  Here is the post, slightly reworked.

Twice a year, I make my pilgrimage to the Ithaca Friends of the Library Book Sale.

If you aren't of a "certain age" you will not remember Life magazine (except maybe in the name "Time-Life" ). If you are of a certain age thinking of this magazine will bring back memories.

In a corner of the sale, I followed the musty smell and found a stack of old Life magazines. Many were heavily damaged but several were still in pretty decent condition. The subscribers (the mailing labels were still on the magazine, and they didn't belong to the same person) seemed to have a common interest in the space program - and in the Soviet Union.

Remember the Soviet Union?  The monolith that was the scariest part of my childhood - and crumbled in time for my son to be born?

The magazines were $1.00 each.  Pretty cheap history.

After some digging I found my little treasure - the March 29, 1943 "Special Issue USSR" with a picture of Joseph Stalin on the cover. Now keep in mind that I grew up during the Cold War, and did my share of Duck and Cover.  To this day, hearing the sirens calling out the volunteer fire department make me cold and scared for a quick second before I reassure myself that they aren't air raid sirens announcing the atomic end of the world as we know it.

Well, my inner historian reminded me that at this point in time the U.S.S.R was our ally (against Hitler). And sure enough I paged through the magazine and saw this article "Red Leaders. They are Tough, Loyal, Capable Administrators". Not exactly the, er, party line I would hear in my growing up. Other articles praised the accomplishments of the Soviet Union, and even the accomplishments of the Russia of the past 1,000. years.

Remember the U.S.S.R? Remember the Reds? Remember Communism? My now 22 year old son doesn't. He wasn't even two years old when the Soviet Union fell on Christmas Day, 1991. As for my generation, the Red Menace dominated our childhoods. What a difference a few years makes.

To my Cold War amazement, there was even an article "The Soviets and the Post-War" subtitled "A Former Ambassador to Moscow Answers Some Perplexing Problems". The author is one Joseph E. Davies, who famously supported the Soviet government even back in the 1930's, before we became allies.

One question asked of Mr. Davies was "Is Russian determined to pursue the cause of world revolution?" His answer began "In my opinion, no."

Seven years later, in the Joseph McCarthy era, this article may have been unprintable. The story of Joseph Davies is quite interesting, if this article is accurate.

For anyone interested in history, this was a great find.

Do you remember the Soviet Union?  Duck and Cover?  The Cold War?  Do you like old magazines for their glimpses of a world now gone?


  1. Ah, yes, Life magazine. One with the MOST glorious pictures, ones that actually could tell a story. And, Look- the competitor. One that had almost glorious pictures. At their heyday (up until being done during Nixon's time, when the only pictures of news quality would involve war, riots, and hate), they were a must own. And reflected the politics of the center.

    Now, I actually wrote (yes, WROTE as in handwriting) an 88 page (in teeny, tiny script, to boot) report on the Soviet Union in the early 60s. Which required a fair amount of research- including "Soviet Life" magazine, their version of our "Life". (Now, there's a phrase pregnant with meaning!) Which meant that the US Government decided that was the perfect time to begin "keeping tabs" on me...
    That last sentence should tell you all you need to know about US (pun intended) and them.

    1. My mother, when I was growing up, subscribed to both Life and Look. I can still remember some of the articles in both. I enjoy them when I can view them. I would not be surprised if "they" have a file on me, because I used to collect QSL cards from AM and shortwave radio stations as a preteen and dared to write away to both Cuba and the Soviet Union for cards.

  2. I remember the time of treat very well. The Soviet Union had missiles pointed at key pints around the globe and so did The US. Coincidentally, I mentioned it in my blog today and how that threat affected my family. The Cold War was just about as bad as threats get.

    1. I remember October, 1962 (Cuban Missile Crisis) all too well. I am grateful I was only 9 years old and too young to realize exactly how close to "the end" we were. My experience went into my memoir.

  3. I have to admit that I know very little about this period in history, so your post has helped to enlighten me :)

    1. It was a scary period especially in October of 1962, when the United States came so close to nuclear war with the Soviet Union over missiles they had placed in Cuba, only 90 miles from our shore.. And I'm even more amazed that Cerebrations wrote an 88 page report by hand on the Soviet Union!


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