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Friday, January 6, 2012

The 1952 Baton Twirling Magazine That Dared to Address the 'Sissy' Question

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2012 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_majorettes_on_parade.jpg

Your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from Golden State thrift stores, estate sales, and flea markets.

Majorettes on Parade magazine

Date: April, 1952

Publisher: International Baton Twirling Foundation

Discovered at: Mission estate sale

The Cover Promises: Boots, spangles, and, for some reason, batons that fold out from the midriff of a majorette like legs from a card table.

Representative Quote:

"I've had a number of letters lately from boys who say that in their schools a set of prancing, dancing, mincing majorettes have coerced the male twirlers into joining the dance shenanigans. As a result, boys from rival schools shout 'sissie.'"

In the early 1950s, America reigned as the world's greatest manufacturer of pep, that non-renewable resource essential to the development of long-gone U.S. specialties like the can-do spirit, the old college try, and not feeling like your job is a prison.

Just one generation later, those days of peak pep production would be but a memory, as teens dedicated themselves to the development of cool, a once-verboten commodity that ate like an acid through civic boosterism and cheerleader bakesales.

In '52, though, cool was just starting corrode pep. Majorette boys were being shouted down as "sissie"s for daring to express their love of their high schools by gadding and flitting about. Majorettes on Parade's advice for these fellows?

"Boys should stay with the stricter military type of strutting and marching. Let's be men -- men."
Such closemindedness defined the era and no doubt led to great confusion: How could men demonstrate pep and still hold to old-fashioned masculine ideals? One answer comes in this famous '60s photograph of a Connecticut lunkhead cheering on Yale:


As one-time yell leader George W. Bush illustrates, twerpiness is acceptable to Americans -- as is rah-rahing through years of unwinnable wars -- but "sissiness" still isn't.

Back in the fifties, Majorette girls, meanwhile, enjoyed more power than ever. Here's how well they were treated:

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_majorettes_on_parade_mayor.jpg

It works for the mayor's hotel room, too.

Here a squad of baton twirlers use the awesome power of pep to banish a rival to hell.

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_majorettes_on_parade_the_kill.jpg

In short, for female majorettes, the world was all sunny smiles and inspiring leaps, as you can see in this photo of the first pep-powered space flight:

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_majorettes_on_parade_duyse.jpg

That easy confidence is present all throughout this issue of Majorettes on Parade, a magazine so certain of its readers attention that it allowed itself history's most shrugging headline:

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_majorettes_on_parade_now_is_the_time.jpg

The editor responsible for that went on to write John F. Kennedy's famous "We might want to think about trying to go to the moon or something" speech.

The photo captions are likewise tossed off.


And so the magazine goes, part Triumph of the Will-style orchestrated nationalism and part photo essay of youthful smiles, sweaters, busts, and midriffs, all presented with that beaming fifties blitheness that suggests that nobody could admit that these images might hold for some readers some queasy sexual appeal.

Despite the abundance of young flesh in our media today, some of these photos are unsettling:

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_majorettes_on_parade_connie.jpg

Americans today wouldn't know whether to stone her mom or to give her a show.

Shocking Detail:

One article is by a guy named Rod White. That name appearing in a baton magazine is about as likely as, say, a Pistol Black turning up in Guns & Ammo or a Dick Butkus in Playgirl.


Happily, most of this isn't sexualized at all. Here's the young man who probably suffered most when cool came to power:

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_majorettes_on_paradeskates.jpg


Hey, you could do worse than following @studiesincrap or @ExhibitionistSF on the Twitter thing.

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