Like most mid-century girls, Bitsy Bendix longed to be a bride, convinced that the basic occupation of virtually every girl was choosing a man to marry.
But for bachelorette Bitsy the next best thing happened.
In the summer of 1950 she may not have been a model bride but became the ultimate model for a bride when she posed as one in a Community Silverplate advertisement.
In an era run rampant with advertising and illustrations of happy brides and handsome grooms, no series of ads celebrated love and marriage more than the wildly popular Community Silver-plate series illustrated by that dream-weaver of mid-century American romance Jon Whitcomb.
Always a Bridesmaid…
It all began for Bitsy in April.
Springtime brought out the bride in all hopeful young women. April showers might bring May flowers but they also brought bridal showers blossoming into June Brides.
Along with the appearance of the first daffodils, each spring, would bring with it a new crop of bridal and wedding themed articles, advertising and illustrations. Every magazine you flipped through, every newspaper you read, painted the same glowing picture of the desirability and inevitability of marriage.
Long before the now defunct Doma (Defense of Marriage Act) dictated what constituted a marriage, American mass media set the gold standard for the ideal of marriage.
Like every girl she knew, Bitsy would close her eyes and imagine herself floating in a drift of white organdy with embroidered dots enveloped in a veil of tulle; her wedding shower filled with the latest Wear Ever pressure cooker, copper bottomed Revere Ware and perfectly wonderful Pyrex.
But most of all she longed for her very own treasure chest of gleaming Community silver-plate, just like in the romantic ads.
Bitsy would picture herself setting a table for 2, placing her cherished Community silver proudly on lace or linen, delighting in its tradition. With her husband beaming with pride, she could imagine herself a gracious hostess entertaining proudly, knowing her guests will whisper “Isn’t she lucky-“It’s Community!”
Marriage is For Keeps
The famous series of ads that launched a thousand happy marriage trousseau’s had been running since WWII where it featured long distance romance between a soldier and his sweetie on the home-front, dreaming of a post-war world where they would be together for keeps.
The formulaic ads lushly painted by illustrator Jon Whitcomb always featured beautiful bride or bride to be gazing adoringly into the eyes of her beloved, a typical American love scene with a clean-cut boy and well scrubbed girl.
Whitcomb has been called the master propagandist in the art of love and his highly romanticized vision of both men and women and their idealized lives filled the pages and fantasy of post war America
The Look of Love
Along with her best pal Guy Manning, Bitsy could spend hours poring over the latest women’s magazines discussing flower arrangements, table settings, and a well planned trousseau.
But mostly for these 2 romantics it was the appearance of the seasons first community silver ad that set their hearts aflutter. It was something the 2 had shared since childhood.
“There’ll come a day when we’re the lucky ones,” a brooding Bitsy would sigh to Guy, staring longingly at the illustration of the handsome groom.
Sometimes it was hard to tell who was swooning more over the dreamy couple pictured in the ads, Bitsy or her old pal Guy.
Not the The Marrying Kind
Everyone always remarked that Guy was a real dreamboat, as handsome as any of the hunks in Whitcomb’s illustrations. But when it came to girls he was always batting zero.
Betsy just ignored him when he’d shrug and tell her “he wasn’t the marrying kind.”
“A man becomes the marrying kind,” Bitsy would lecture him, “when some girl makes him realize that marriage would be far more agreeable and worthwhile than bachelorhood!”
For years, Bitsy had tried setting Guy up with all kinds of gals from the office but they never amounted to anything. Sure he might flirt with a file clerk and share a soda and sob story with a girl from the steno pool but Guy seemed to prefer the quiet company of his equally handsome roommate Rod.
Exacerbated, Bitsy joked that the two confirmed bachelors were like an old married couple.
A Man of Your own
Bitsy just knew in her heart that some glad day the lump in her throat would melt and the man in her life would appear.
What Betsy didn’t know was that for Guy, he already had.
“Don’t you worry Guy,” Bitsy reassured her best pal. “They’ll come a day when your dreams will come true… And the hopes and plans for a marriage of your own will really happen topped off by a treasure chest of Community!”.
But for Guy there would be no wedding, and no presents for in 1950 for a closeted gay man in a small town there was no community.
Calling All Brides
Who would ever guess that a shopping excursion to a department store in April would bring Bitsy closer to her hearts desire.
By early spring it always seemed someone in Bitsy’s set was about to take the big step. Shopping for wedding gifts at Swensons Department store in downtown Sweet Oaks was a spring ritual.
One afternoon, while Guy and Bitsy were browsing through the silver department deep in deliberation mulling the merits of pickle forks for their pal Midge, a sign caught Guys eye.
“Manufacturers Sponsors Jon Whitcomb Contest for All American Girl” read the sign
Picking up a flyer from the counter Guy read aloud:
“If you’ve ever dreamed of being a real life cover girl, this may be your opportunity,” an animated Guy read excitedly. “Jon Whitcomb famous illustrator and creator of the Whitcomb girl is looking 4 new undiscovered feminine faces to model for color page ads for Community Silverplate.
Who is the clear-eyed all American girl painted by Jon Whitcomb?
A model is desperately needed to model silverware for a Jon Whitcomb painting. A nationwide search is now being conducted to come up with 4 future Whitcomb lovelies and the lure is a fabulous summer vacation trip top NYC all expenses paid. and a week at Waldorf for girl and her chaperone or husband.
Four lucky girls will receive the original painting valued at thousands of dollars and $100 a day modeling fees while posing for 3 days plus $100 cash for incidentals.
“One girl will be chosen from towns of less than 25,000, one from towns of 25,000 to 100,000 one from towns of 100,000 to 500,000 and one from cities of more than 500,000.
The contest sponsored by Community Silverplate, one of the country’s foremost manufacturers is being conducted through jewelry stores and department stores silverware departments.
The contest ends May 1 1950. To enter a busy gal has only to visit a jeweler, fill out a very short application blank and mail it with a snap shot to the board of judges. Winners announced in June.
“Unless Hollywood is your first love, you can’t afford to lose this opportunity!
“Bitsy doll, you’d be a shoo in,” Guy said eagerly.
Everyone in Sweet Oaks Iowa always said Bitsy was a jack-pot type of girl.
With her wholesome American good looks she fit a Whitcomb girl to a T. A honey strawberry blonde with a Pepsodent smile and plenty of pep, she had, as Guy would say “a cake baking disposition.”
“It oughn’t be so hard to have that ‘starry eyed look’ over a knife with which you can butter your bread, should it?” Guy asked joyfully.
“This could be your ticket to your dreams.”
“Everyone knew,” he gushed “ that many of Jon Whitcomb’s models had gone on to big time Hollywood careers, as well as leaving the business for matrimony, marrying big time railroad executives, and other successful tycoons.”
A thrill shot through Bitsy!
This just might help this bachelor girl to get a ring on her own finger.
Bride Make Over
With only 3 weeks left to mail in their application they got to work.
While Rod grabbed his Kodak Hawkeye Brownie and made like a shutterbug, Guy did Bitsy’s hair and her makeup applying just the right amount of rouge to give her that well scrubbed all American look.
Carefully he painted her lips in Revlon’s new color sunny side up red for good luck. “A tempting red…teasing as a butterfly,” Guy cooed.
The ads said it all: “Revlon’s light hearted, sun sweetened crimson makes you kick up your heels…put a lift in your clothes…a laugh in your eye! Suddenly, all’s right with the world….”
The Waiting days are Over
Waiting to hear if she’d won the contest nearly drove poor Bitsy batty! The postman always rang twice, but for weeks Bitsy was at the door by the first ring anxiously waiting for the letter from Community.
When the congratulatory letter arrived in June, she was over the moon! Bitsy would be a bride at last if only in a painting.
On the train ride to NYC with her Mom, Bitsy had to pinch herself! She was really going to be a Whitman girl!
And We’ll live happily ever after Shes In Love and She Loves Community
It wouldn’t be long before she could count on a set of cherished community silver for her very own.
By Christmas beautiful Bitsy Bendix was engaged!
It was the day she dreamed of and Community helped make her dream come true, turning a bride model into a genuine model Bride.
Suddenly, just as Guy said, all was right with the world….
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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