Sizzling in the Sixties Suburban Sun

retro teens in 1960s bathing suits tanning

Nothing gave off the glow of good All American health than a deep dark tan, and mid-century teens competed for the fastest tan in the west. After all, our handsome, vigorous young President sported a glamorous tan and who in 1961 was more glamorous and the picture of good health than  JFK?

vintage ads meat sunburn

Some Like it Well Done! (L) Vintage ad Meat Institute 1950 (R) Vintage Ad Solarcaine for sunburn pain

Teens and Tans

The  sixties suburbs were sizzling as back yard grilling was going on up and down the block. But it was more than mere hot dogs and hamburgers and Weber grills.

Next door, our neighbor, 15-year-old Lenny Moscowitz was already char broiling in his yard too, in his futile attempt to achieve a golden tan.

A tall, scrawny, lean-cut-of- a- kid, he stood in stark contrast with his short pudgy well-marbled parents. But like the rest of his family he had an unruly shock of kinky red hair and the pallid skin that accompanied it.

retro actress Sandra Dee in bathing suit 1960

Vintage Coppertone Ad Sandra Dee 1960

A Char-Broiled Tan

Like Don Quixote, this poor pale face was on a hopeless quest for a Coppertone tan that would forever elude him. As if somehow, this yeshiva boy would miraculously morph into a sun-burnished surfer from California, that sun drenched  Promised land and win the heart of the ultimate teenage blonde goddess  Sandra Dee.

Brashly flouting  his fairness, he’d lavishly slather on some oily accelerant , skillfully maneuvering a silver metallic reflector to help make those long summer rays burn deep.

He’d sit out all day on a lawn chair listening to WINS1010 on the radio while his milk-white skin turned the color of a rare steak,  boldly staring danger right in the face until he had achieved a  second degree burn.( At which point his overprotective mother would be giving him the third degree).

sunburn ad vintage illustration

Lenny would only come in when he had tested for doneness and was fork tender, poking and pressing the thickest part of his belly with his fingers till it felt squishy.

Like any serious grill-meister he had his secret marinade.   Lenny slow roasted, basting in a pool of viscous Fleets Mineral Oil.

1960s Retro as with actress paula Prentiss & jim hutton in bathing suits on beach

Vintage Coppertone Ad with Paula Prentiss & Jim Hutton 1962

Grilled to a Turn

In the yard directly behind ours, with the sounds of WMCA radio wafting over the wisteria, tiny fourteen year old Trudy Weitzman was grilled to a turn in her itsy- bitsy- teeny- weeny -yellow- polka- dot- come –n’ get-it- folks- bikini.

For that char broiled look  so popular nothing seared in the juices like  Johnsons baby oil the # one hit marinade of the boomers.

Tanning Johnson baby Oil woman on beach

Turn on a tan with Johnson’s Baby Oil – This vintage ad from the 1960s boasts: “It has no sunscreen like tanning lotions and creams. So there’s nothing to block out the golden sun. You tn faster and deeper than ever before. And you stay tan longer. Come on. Turn on you great big beautiful baby you!”

Two houses down where the voice of Norm Stevens on WMGM was counting down the hits, a chubby Susan Cornblau was slow roasting like a plump chicken on a rotisserie,  expertly  turning and flipping for even browning .

A true sun aficionado her technique was top secret- she got the extra plus of polyunsaturates by liberally applying a coating of Wesson oil. As the ads said it does more than make light crispy fried foods. Everything may have been better with Blue Bonnet on it, but for tanning, apparently, Wesson couldn’t be beat.

Excerpt from Defrosting The Cold War:Fallout From My Nuclear Family Copyright (©) 20013 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved


  1. Gahhhh! Love these! Goes well with the insane heat we are having in NY right now LOL xox


  2. ray

    WOW… how I remember slathering this on, but we mixed it with iodine. Not sure why, but was supposed to enhance ur tan!


    • I know about the iodine/baby oil concoction, but never understood the exact science of it and what iodine brought to the table, other than staining your skin so perhaps you appeared slightly tanner than you were.


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  6. you have the SMOKING HOT blonde guy ad for baby oil?


  7. where’s the Coppetone girl billboard ad?


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