The lighthearted rooster

From Sim Aberson on Facebook, this vintage crate label:


(Crate labels on this blog: my posting of the 14th.) The heyday of crate labels was in the early 20th century, so gay ‘lighthearted’ and cock ‘rooster’ would be appropriate for the period, despite the way we’re inclined to read them now.

The image comes from the Vintage Fangirl site, in a posting by Wendy Piersall, who wrote:

Wow. Words certainly had a different meaning not that long ago, eh?

I tried to find some history on this piece – it is a wooden fruit crate label for a Los Angeles citrus fruit company… and that’s all I know. I could find nothing on “Stanley Levinson Co.”, nor could I find out what kind of fruit carried the “Gay Cock” brand.

Piersall went on to note the enormous number of “authentic” crate labels on the market (there’s a big collectors’ market in these things), thus casting some doubt on the authenticity of this particular one, even though it’s been reproduced on sites all over the net. Whether or not it’s authentic, it’s plausible, and it’s certainly entertaining.

Now about Sim, and why the image above might have special meaning for him. To start with, Sim is gay, been out for many years, lives with his partner Mike (in Dania Beach FL). From the old days of the Usenet newsgroup soc.motss, Sim has been known as the Weather Jesus, because (a) he’s a research meteorologist (at NOAA since 1981) and (b) with his long hair, he looks like some conventional representations of Jesus:


(an unusually stern expression on Sim’s face here).

Not only is Sim known as the Weather Jesus, but (the lore goes) if you want to ensure good weather for some occasion, you have to sacrifice a cock (such as the one in #1) to the Weather Jesus as meteorological deity. That is, offer up the ritual gay cock.

6 Responses to “The lighthearted rooster”

  1. John Baker Says:

    I’m inclined to think that this is real. “Gay cock” was a not uncommon phrase in the period from the late 19th century to the early 1960s, typically but not always referring to a literal cock (rooster or other male bird). An embroidery design popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s was advertised as a “gay cock” design. There was a racehorse named Gay Cock, and there were Gay Cock Inns in Portland, Oregon, and East Woodland Hills, California. (I bet signage and stationery from those inns would be popular, if it could be tracked down.)

    As for Stanley Levinson Co., it could not have been a very large outfit, but there is mention of a “Stanley Levinson & Co.” in the Covina Argus, March 17, 1955, where it is listed with other produce companies in an advertisement congratulating a new grocery on its opening. Covina is in Los Angeles County, California.

    • Arne Adolfsen Says:

      Um, John? “East Woodland Hills, California”?!?! I grew up in the San Fernando Valley — in “Northeast Van Nuys” — and lived there from the late 1950s to the late 1970s with periodic visits until the mid-2000s and I have never heard of “East Woodland Hills” as a location. Does East Woodland Hills border on the area Valley boys such as myself never called “West Tarzana”? Or maybe “Southwest Reseda”?

  2. John Baker Says:

    Well, I can’t say I’m particularly familiar with the Van Nuys area myself. Apparently the Gay Cock Inn was a restaurant in the Corbin Village Shopping Center, which was considered to be in East Woodland Hills. The Corbin Village Shopping Center is still around and is located at Ventura Boulevard and Corbin Avenue. References to the Gay Cock Inn appear in the Valley News on 4/29/1956 (when it was a planned establishment), 7/5/1956, and 2/4/1957. So it may not have been very successful.

    • Arne Adolfsen Says:

      I think I’m talking about capitalization here. By capitalizing the ‘e’ in ‘east’ you’ve transformed a area of the recognized location Woodland Hills into its *own* recognized place: East Woodland Hills. There is no such recognized place as “East Woodland Hills” separate and apart from “Woodland Hills”. It would be like saying that you love living in North North Beach in Northeast San Francisco. Or is it that you like living in Northwest South of Market in San Francisco? I adore living in Northwest-Central West Los Angeles!

  3. John Baker Says:

    Older sources do capitalize the E, and there used to be an East Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce. The contemporary sources I checked do not recognize East Woodland Hills.
    Again, I’m entirely dependent on the sources, since I have no first-hand knowledge of this area.

  4. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Michael Palmer on Facebook:

    It’s actually fairly late for a fruit crate label. Stanley Levinson (born Pittsburgh 29 August 1907, died Thousand Oaks, CA, 5 July 2005) was a salesman for the Terminal Fruit Co., Los Angeles, in the 1930s and became a bonded commission merchant at the Terminal Fruit Market about 1940. Apparently, he was rather fond of the graphic, which also appeared as “Head Man”, (I’m not making this up, you know!
    And speaking of crate label innuendo,
    (where you can purchase copies of both Gay Cock and Head Man crate labels for $12.75 and $1, respectively. (William J Kozersky Stamp Co.: Gay & Lesbian Life Style Theme Crate labels)

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