I thought of you

Back on 3/16, I was honored by not one, but two, Facebook postings on the theme “this made me think of you”.

From Michael Palmer, a flyer for the 1897 mammoth opening of the swimming season at the Sutro Baths in San Francisco (MP: for “Arnold Zwicky, because mammoth”, alluding to my attachment to creatures of the genus Mammuthus).

And from Livia Polanyi (alert to my writing on gender and sexuality), 1940 gender adventures in Dallas: hunky male  car hops in shorts and cowboy boots.

Everybody into the pool! The flyer:

(#1) The Cavill family of Australia was famous for contributing to the development of the sport of swimming. (Wikipedia) Charles Cavill’s very risky swim around Seal Rocks off San Francisco attracted an audience of 30 to 40,000 people in 1897; he drowned in a distance swim along the beach at Stockton CA (link). Oh, and the Monte Cristo is an underwater escape act.

From Wikipedia:

The Sutro Baths was a large, privately owned public saltwater swimming pool complex in the Lands End area of the Outer Richmond District in western San Francisco, California.

Built in 1896 [and billed as the world’s largest indoor swimming pool establishment], the Sutro Baths, was located north of Ocean Beach, the Cliff House, Seal Rocks, and west of Sutro Heights Park. The structure burned down to its concrete foundation in June 1966

(#2) The baths c. 1896 (postcard: W. C. Billington, photographer)

(#3) Sutro Baths interior, c. 1896 (postcard: unknown author)

Many years ago, Jacques and I wandered through the ruins on one of our visits to the Lands End lookout point; since then the ruins have been developed into a kind of park.

And then, from my Lesbo Brides series of collages, an aerial view of the site, enlivened by lesbians:


Adonis and Apollo bring the trade in to the drive-in. Livia pointed me to Maureen McGovern on the Facebook group “Belle Epoque to Art Deco” (about the first 40 years of the 20th century), with this wonderful image:

(#5) Drive-in car hops in shorts and cowboy boots at the Log Lodge Tavern near Love Field Airport in Dallas, Texas, 1940

Some of the backstory, from the Flashback : Dallas site, “Carhops as Sex Symbols — 1940”, by Paula Bosse

In 1940, Dallas was in a tizzy about the sudden fad of scantily-clad “girl carhops.” This scourge had made its way to Dallas from Houston …, and in April of 1940, it was a newspaper story with, as it were … legs. For a good month or two, stories of sexy carhops were everywhere.

The girls started wearing uniforms with very short skirts — or midriff-baring costumes with cellophane hula skirts. Some of the women reported an increase in tips of $25 or more a week — a ton of money for the time.

The public’s reaction ranged from amusement to outrage. There were reports of community matrons who reported the “indecent” attire to the police department and demanded action. Other women were annoyed by the objectification of young womanhood. Lawmakers in Austin discussed whether the practice of waitresses exposing so much extra skin posed a health risk to consumers.

But it wasn’t until a woman from Oak Cliff piped up that something actually happened. She complained that she didn’t want to look at girls’ legs when she stopped in at her local drive-in — she wanted to look at men’s legs. Drive-in owners thought that was a GREAT idea, and the idea of the scantily-clad male carhop was born.

… The photo [in #5] ran in newspapers around the country with the headline: “Adonis and Apollo of Roadside Bring Trade to Daring Stand.”

First large roadside stand Friday to bow to the demand of Dallas women and feature husky young male carhops in shorts was the Log Lodge Tavern at Lemmon and Midway where four six-footers found jobs. Above, in blue shorts, white sweatshirt and cowboy boots, Joe Wilcox serves Pauline Taylor who smiles her approval of the idea. Bound for another car is James Smith, at right.

A moment of gender play, with a gender reversal. Predictably, in letters to the editor and interviews, real Texas men countered by assailing the carhops’ masculinity and sexuality.

Then there is the visible pleasure some women derived from the exercise of objectifying men, of (paraphrasing a female friend of mine on a more recent occasion) viewing men as pieces of meat. Though I have to point out that (then and now as well) this was an occasional exercise, a temporary assumption of roles and relationships, not an enduring one.



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