Posted in The Publications

The Ceramic Christmas Tree Craze

You all knew it was inevitable. This Christmas season has made people across the nation (and beyond) watch eagerly at the windows of favorite stores while decorations and red-green merchandise glitter for us. What seems to be the most significant and widespread craze of this year is none other than the crowning achievement of a ‘kitschy’ Christmas: The ceramic lit trees. These tabletop gems are a necessity for the season as a reminder of tradition and family and what timeless values the holiday stands for.

Although the Kitch ceramics have been making a comeback for several years, this year has made tree-lovers and kitch-lovers rejoice more than ever. Unlike the previous years, this Christmas offers the elusive replacement plastic bulbs for all those empty slots in both new and old ceramic trees. As a proud recipient of my family’s originals, I can attest to the fact that these bulbs were impossible to find unless  (1) amazon was good to you this year, (2) you found them deep in the catacombs of your grandpa’s attic, or (3) you interrogated every antique store for them within a 50 mile radius of your home. To make matters more difficult, prior to the revival of these precious pieces, bulbs all differed in diameter and type. Some looked like pins with baubles, others were birds, and then there was the classic shape too. Now it seems like every major retailer has found the joys of these little light-ups.

Apparently this love of Christmas found its intersection in the 60s and through the 70s as more and more individuals (primarily women) sought after their artsy side and pursued ceramic-painting classes. These classes were so popular in fact, that these ceramic creations spilled over from strictly holiday items through just about everything. The more a lady loved her ceramic classes, the more frequently families like mine would end up with dozens of keepsakes that were painted especially by Nana.

The trees, however, are one of her crowning achievements. Glazed and illuminated, these trees became a great reason to sign up for a class or two to keep up with the latest homemade, hand-crafted trends. Much like we see a resurgence of knitting today, tree-painting was a fad back then!

So now the trees are making a comeback as a well-deserved and sought-after (if not sold out) tabletop classic. Except of course, there have been additions made- these trees come in new forms too! Nightlights, tabletoppers, and battery-operated darlings all grace the stage for this season’s nostalgic must-haves. Have you got an original or a new age tree? Tell us about your retro Christmas! We would love to hear from you.

Posted in The Publications

Aesthetics and Racism: Revivalists Only Reuse the Good Stuff

The title of this post is one that I hope sticks with every reader. Over the course of a year of successful blogging, I think it is important now to write up a disclaimer of sorts. So many people talk about the “olden days” as being overly-romanticized, biased, and viewed through a stereotypical and stigmatized lens. In order for anyone to truly appreciate the past, it is so valuable to be aware. At a time in the US when coming together and giving thanks is just a staple of this season, it is more important than ever to emphasize this pillar of our revival antics.

The sad realities of the past are the same ones that plague us today. Previous to the hippie/beatnik movement, racism was rampant and it seemed like the Caucasian population was having all the fun. Today, we are fighting racism and bias tooth-and-nail in hopes that someday equality will be true to its word. I’m stressing this because sometimes people will address me or my colleague Manny Dylan with concerns that those who advocate for the past find these traits of yesteryear to be acceptable. Darlings, I promise you all, that this will never be the case. Revivalism focuses its energy on giving a second life to the best bits of decades past, not the regrettable bits.

We try not to use the term ‘cherry-picking’, only because it suggests we amend material to be in our favor. However, that is the idea. It is so important to pick apart revivalist ideas and lifestyles because if we take too much modern or too much vintage, we end up on the extreme sides of the spectrum. With too much modernism, we wouldn’t have something to write about, social media would become a dependency issue, and the top priority would be economic value. Too much retro would translate to a paper newsletter, no mass media, and no blog. 😦 In order to truly understand revivalism and living a retro lifestyle, we need to talk about moderation. It’s been a theme since the very beginning, but no post has centralized around it.

In the wake of recent hate crimes in the greater New York area and the political climate that wrongly pits parties against one another and tosses out offensive names like ‘snowflakes’ and ‘extremists’… this is more important than ever. Loving thy neighbor may not have been the theme of the heavily=gentrified 50s, but we are in 2018 now. Now is the time where ‘letting the good times roll’ shouldn’t be specific or unequal to any population.

The title “Aesthetics and Racism” is to display the very contrasting morales we can observe in decades past. Aesthetics, such as the craftsmanship of artifacts from each era or the overall ‘flavor’ of the past are the attributes that revivalists encourage. Racism (perhaps one of the most severe juxtapositions to the beauty of the ages), on the other hand, is extremely discouraged for obvious reasons. Going forward, it is vital to our culture not to bring back all these traits, because some of them are just plain wrong. Those bits and pieces that are morally justified are the ones that are worth pursuing. On a small scale, how many of our readers remember Randy from ‘A Christmas Story’? This sweetheart probably shouldn’t bestow the same frosty immobility of his snowsuit onesie to his own children. However, a hand-knit sentiment like a scarf or mittens to keep warm is a classic alternative to not being able to put your arms down.

On a macro-level, all people should be treated equally and respectfully. Welcome hard work and cherish the time you spend impacting the lives of others, even through the little things. So for any further clarification, the vintage/retro ideals (the real deal ideals), do not participate or approve of the past’s erroneous tidbits. We at the Retro Revival want to thank those who posed questions about morality, because without these complete answers, we wouldn’t be representing revivalism at its best. Until next time, stay curious!

Posted in Operation ORCHID

Op. Orchid: Where There’s Hope…

 

Recently the team at RRBlog had the luxury of a calm weekend afternoon to ourselves. In an ever-busy world, its a beautiful commodity to get to slow down and enjoy the scenery at a place like Duke’s Estate. Of course, even on the loveliest of days with the most charming picnic box lunches, it is impossible to shut our eyes to progress or demise of any sort. You see, we’ve got a rich history on the land of historic riches.

So what exactly caught our eyes this time around? Admittedly, it’s been a while since we’ve had this opportunity for a self-guided tour. We didn’t cover everything, but it was enough to shake a stick at. First thing we noticed as we got into the park was a small cart carrying individuals to the Orchid Range who otherwise would struggle with that distance. In the absence of a tram, this was a relief to see. Next, we made our way to the orchid range, where we met a frog in the doorway. Most impressively, there were decorations for the harvest season flanking both sets of doors and a boisterously successful growing arch. We didn’t have time to tour the entire facility again, but the explicit use of space and attention to detail was a welcome contrast to years prior.

Next up was the Old Foundation after a nice cardio walk uphill. That remains essentially unchanged, except for the excess of trees and other debris blatantly left to overgrow the structure. Surely the roots alone are causing irreparable damages to the shapes of concrete rooms below. I also remember years ago that visitors would have no problem seeing the fireplace on the northernmost wall of the foundation, or the two stories beneath the ground. Now, it’s nowhere near the same caliber of visibility.

Ahead, we veered off the path to wander west across the bridge at the Great Falls. The very same balustrade post from years ago still stands cracked and badly in need of repairs, but we remain hopeful. We had to pause for lunch by the Great Oak Tree. It was just getting sunnier out and we had the distinct pleasure of befriending yet another, much larger frog in our trek back to the Coach Barn. This is where the real amazement started to settle in. Just as the two of us emerged to greet the Bull Durham statue, my eyes instantly darted to the gates to the mansion’s footprint. Gone were the sprays of ivy, cracks, and unblended patch-up jobs of the last year. Restored, clean, and painted a clean coat of ivory, the gates that once welcomed Doris Duke home and all her guests to their destination stood tall and proud. Naturally, we were inclined to take a closer look, because this was a splendid step in the right direction. And we were blown away with the steps toward a true vision that awaited us.

Yep. You heard right. Things within the realm of historic integrity are actually looking up. We aren’t about to overlook the catastrophic losses of the Duke Mansion (2016) or the Garden of Nations (2008), but we are here to serve as a source of encouragement and support for future endeavors to improve on what is left.

The mortar of walls along the borders of the Coach Barn and pillars that lead to the new pedestrian-accessible Coach Barn Gate, which offers a unique new trail for visitors to use. This was once a turn-of-the-century motorway for the Dukes and their company to drive along the banks of the Raritan and now gives an expansive look of wetlands and views of the same lovely river. As if this wasn’t enough of a re-ignition of hope and positivity, we decided to venture into the ‘arboretum’, which actually held up its name with some hints still lingering of a summer’s blooms.

The meditation garden was remade so effectively that we at the RRBlog want to give our compliments to the landscape team for this area. The tea house, babbling brooks, paths, and diverse array of non-native plant species all support the magnificent display. Icing on the cake? We got it. Despite the dramatic absence of a one-of-a-kind mansion, there is maintenance of the landscape of its footprint and the flanking palm room fountains.

Feel like another round? From the sound of Twitter, the Education Cottage is the revival of the Visitor’s Lodge that leads guests to the grassy esplanade of the greenhouses. We revel in what comes next in this pattern in pursuit of preservation. Until next time, we carry on the inspirations through Operation Orchid.

#JusticeForDoris

Posted in The Publications

The Brooklyn Boys Bring it Back

Brooklyn Seltzer Boys got their moment in the limelight on CBS 2 News here on the east coast on Sunday, September 2nd, 2018. This small startup has a large following and an even larger impact on modern retro living. After ages of collecting decades-old glass seltzer bottles, the staff at BSB offers New York City a taste of timeless sparkling water in a classic delivery.

According to CBS’s report, the market is precisely right for this type of business to grow and emerge. Currently, about 821 million gallons of sparkling water are consumed in America alone each year. The healthy alternative to sodas and other fountain drinks has made itself a staple of today’s culture through the classics like Vintage brand and the newer La Croix brand. No matter which you like best, seltzer water is a great beverage served cold, iced, or at room temperature.

So the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys struck gold at the intersection of green methods, trending health foods, retro living, and timeless traditions within their business.

Once again, retro is a green style of living. Not too long ago, the RRBlog team found a small quote on Facebook that read simply, “We didn’t have to worry about carbon footprints in my day because we didn’t have disposables. Paper napkins used to be linen, bottles were cleaned over and over again, and we wouldn’t dream of throwing out towels because they sure weren’t made of paper either”. The collection of glass, reusable bottles is not only aesthetically pleasing, but economically sound for this incredible small-but-growing establishment. So already, the appeal expands well beyond the generations that remember seltzer deliveries. In an effort for consumers to reduce their carbon footprint and enjoy a much healthier alternative to fountain drinks like sodas and sugary artificials, many conscious buyers turn to seltzer- delivered the way it used to be.

So Alex Gomberg welcomed an interview with our dear Manny Dylan. And here’s how it went!

To understand the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys now, we need to understand where they came from: Gomberg Seltzer has been a bottling center for seltzer men for decades. Started by the great-grandfather of the current vice president of Gomberg Seltzer and the Brooklyn Seltzer boys, Mr. Alex Gomberg. The founder of Gomberg Seltzer had been a seltzer man for a very long time; a decade-long career of delivering the goods to homes in New York and when they felt the need to not only have more control over the product they were sending out, as well as wishing to be involved more so with the bottling and then with the transportation, because of the amount of labor involved, Gomberg Seltzer was born as an organization by and for seltzer men. Before the founding of Gomberg Seltzer there was a conglomerate of seltzer bottling plants that multiple organizations used. The spirit of innovation and progress runs in the Gomberg family, with Alex as the current vice president taking up the mantle of being a Seltzer Man. Utilizing the product that is Gomberg Seltzer, something used by multiple seltzer delivery services in the area as well, Alex realized that Gomberg Seltzer was struggling to keep up in the modern market. By introducing the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys, the first seltzer delivery service utilizing internet subscription services and reaching out to restaurants, Alex revived his family’s business and showed the viability of the retro methods and incredibly innovative spirit that runs in his family. It becomes very clear from our conversation embedded in the YouTube video below that Alex Gomberg is not only a family man but someone who respects what is family has built, and wanted to make it something that can continue on, hoping to have some young seltzer men coming up in his family with some time.

At the intersection of American history and family, I find myself fortunate enough to be interviewing the vice president of the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys company, and heir to the Gomberg seltzer family business, Mr. Gomberg is an incredibly humble and extraordinary person, family man, and heir to a generations-long legacy of seltzer water. According to the man himself (and his father and other family members), seltzer runs in their blood, I had the distinct pleasure sitting down as Mr. Gomberg poured a chilled glass of seltzer water for me during this interview. In every sentence uttered regarding his family’s business and seltzer water in general, you can hear there’s a care and passion for the art of the old ways of the elusive seltzer man. With the more recent inclusion of having a website, Mr. Gomberg is part of the new seltzer revolution using new tools as well as old ones in promoting his expansive beverage empire.

The Brooklyn Seltzer Boys use a vast amount of mostly repaired and soon-to-be repaired glass vintage seltzer bottles. These bottles are not your run-of-the-mill plastic bottle from the supermarket: These are high-pressure controlling and valve construction, at least in the tops used. As described by the man himself, these bottles are part of the history as well, being made of particularly thick glass that is no longer made at this point. But usually, stocks of these bottles being found in people’s basements or from previous seltzer men find their way to being donated, which keeps the Gombergs’ business ready for a larger customer base. There is always a need for more seltzer bottles! According to Mr. Gomberg, their facility is working very hard to repair the damaged ones, and have new cases of seltzer out as often as possible. The sense of responsibility to reuse the past is in many ways thought to be new, but I was personally enlightened to the realization that the old way is the new way now.

In older business models you had organizations such as milk men, likewise there were seltzer men, who would come and take empty bottles and fill them and return them to families and this would continue in cycles. There was very little waste in these services because the same bottles are being used after they were emptied of whatever their contents were. Likewise with the nozzle heads that are utilized by the Seltzer bottles they are mechanisms in themselves. In no larger than 2 square inches of a piece of metal, there are valves and springs at work making sure that the pressurized seltzer inside of these unique bottles is always fresh for everybody who is lucky enough to press them. Mr. Gomberg is revolutionizing the industry by bringing things back to the good old days, yet incorporates very new and relevant things to revive his family’s business. As well as joining the Seltzer delivery business again after several generations of bottling seltzer, Mr. Alex Gomberg brought his business into the digital age, with a website and internet presence powerful enough to make Brooklyn Seltzer Boys the main source that comes up whenever one searches vintage seltzer, retro seltzer, or seltzer delivery on a google search. Another very big change as noted in some interviews with some of the other members of Gomberg Seltzer is the marketing of these seltzer services every month to restaurants, so instead of wasting a small plastic bottle of seltzer there is an interactive experience for people at those bars, and there’s a great appreciation of what is the current pattern in how people consume products.

The Brooklyn Seltzer Boys deliver around NY and into NJ so give them a call and get your fizz on! Check them out at www.brooklynseltzerboys.com.

Posted in The Publications

Op. Orchid: Duke’s Neighbors

When we talk about neighbors, often we think of the people residing next door, across the street, or maybe bordering us along the backyard fence. In this case, when we talk about Duke’s Neighbors, we are actually referring to a well-intentioned old soul named Arthur Brisbane. These two are practically neighbors in the macrocosmic scope of things- one lived in Somerville while the other made his estate mansion just about an hour and so away in Wall Township. What’s truly stifling is the uncanny turn of events that unfolded after each of their respective deaths. Much like Doris Duke’s will was parsed and considerably ignored, and her subsequent New Jersey property was only quasi-adherent to her final will and testament, Mr. Brisbane’s legacy suffered the same, if not more dangerous twist of fate.

Brisbane had a considerable amount of land in Wall Township, which he left to the state to be used as a public park following his passing. Heaven knows how exactly (we are still pulling research) things changed, but his mansion was converted into a children’s psychiatric treatment center. It was later closed indefinitely due to a lawsuit and the tragic death of one of its patients in the 1990s. In no way does this reflect Brisbane’s interest in the natural environment or suggest that his executors were remotely on board with his wishes.

Similarly and that which can’t be ignored, Doris Duke’s will set expectations for Duke Gardens Inc. to remain an entity and that a separate foundation for the preservation of rare and endangered wildlife of both plant and animal kind was to be established. Neither such foundations/organizations presently exist, and it has only been 24 years since her death. Most impressively, Duke’s name outshines Brisbane’s as far as celebrity status and philanthropic/net worth, yet the rapid degeneration of their good will is exactly the same.

Food for thought brought to you exclusively by RRBlog.

Posted in The Publications

Harvest Hearth: A Victorian ReVamp

There is perhaps nothing more autumn-y than the fragrance of cinnamon and allspice perching atop a fireplace mantle or perhaps Macintosh apples and butternut squash soup. Pumpkins are amid the décor, a cool breeze keeps them fresh; there’s a few well-pressed leaves that retain their rainbow of color as a garland on the hearth. So many of the traditions and stereotypes that we hold dear to the harvest season were romanticized in the Victorian era and the sense of gathering and unity has only since grown for the autumn season. The love of that old-timey seasonal bliss has been honed in on over the last few years especially.

Vermont Country Store, Victorian Trading Company, A Touch of Class, and other similar retailers offer a wide variety of goodies for the home to fashion your fall season. Whether you prefer the warm tones of cashmere browns and wine reds or long for woven tablecloths and soup recipes, we collected a tripartite of trifle treats that offer exactly what you’re looking for this equinox. Of the many retailers offering a strong sense of ‘classic cozy’ this chilly season, we wanted to highlight some of our favorites from these three picks. First up, the Vermont Country Store!

VCS offers a wide variety of diddles for the down-home country folk, homesick bones, and anyone in between. Whether you’re in the market for those fine woven table linens or a crock of homemade clam chowder, Vermont Country Store delivers. Of particular interest is their variety of savories and sweets in the likeness of traditions from across the world in their November and December catalogs. They capitalize on old-fashioned and nostalgic goods like candies and soups (yes, we emphasize the soup), timeless beauty products, and even old-fashioned clothing and home amenities. For even more of their goodies, check out their website at: Vermont Country Store

Victorian Trading Company offers a slightly different era of offerings. Year round, their catalog and website offer a splendid spectacle of Victorian style replicas for the home, hearth, and soul. Among the wintry treasures are fanciful flannel sheets, opulent pajamas for the ladies, felted hats for everyone’s taste, and cookware that’s sure to bring on nostalgia for the chilly months. In its thorough nature, this store also offers a variety of furnishings, stationary, and other unique gifts that are sure to stun all the antique lovers in your life. Our personal favorites were found in the gardening and desk sections! All the greatest in grandeaur is available at: Victorian Trading Co!

Last but not least, A Touch of Class catalog adds the essentials to your bold statement design elements from yesteryear. Between the timeless designs and revival styles like romanesque, victorian, and vintage vineyard, this place has something for every flavor of home. From our library of favorites, we encourage our readers to check out their sophisticated array of quilts and color-coordinated sets for both bed and bath. Need more ideas? They’ve got plenty! A Touch of Class

We are always looking for new places to find old things both online and in person. Please note that these retail locations are always suggested in addition to your local antiques stores. Support local businesses first if you are able. Be sure to tell us about your favorite ways to turn your house into an autumn cozy.

Posted in The Publications

Women’s Empowerment and Hilda

https://www.vintag.es/2016/03/50-sexy-vintage-illustrations-of-hilda.html?m=1

Everyone who has any stigmatized image of the 1940s-50s probably knows what a pin-up model is. Slender, proportionate women in playful or scandalous positions and stylish (although sparse) outfits would pose for a picture which would be later changed into a painted artist’s rendition that would often be more colorful and eye-catching. This all sounds good and to-be-expected for the era. But this post isn’t about the models we expected. This post is focused on a brave woman named Hilda, who was the only plus-size pin-up model of that time.

I found the article for the first time through Facebook links, and my introduction to Hilda was harmless at first. She was featured in her first photo as a nude model whose only coverings were woven flowers, with a pursed expression and an outdoorsy theme.

Co-author’s notes; Hilda is an intreaguing figure among women in the modelling industry, especially in the 40’s and 50’s. She can within reason be seen as among the first plus sized models, though models of the era were bordering on the cusp of what we would today suggest at plus sized as well. Beauty standards of the era were still based upon a less realistic ideal , with hourglass body shape being a standard to some extent, atleast the hour glass was allowed to have some volume. This is not to say that modern campaigns focused on “real women” aren’t having an effect, but rather that it would seem that other body types are also being lauded as beautiful and socially and culturally desirable.

Hilda can unfortunately be considered to be part of the body positivity movement which has valid points in its acknowledgement of diversity of body types and acceptable forms of beauty, has in the more extreme aspects of that movement can encourage unhealthy and concerning effects. The issue of public health and wellness is essential to understanding the overall impact of shifting ideologies especially in the beauty world.

While not a fan of body augmentation personally, I still conceed that if someone is happier with themselves after having gotten breast or buttox augmentation as is the current trend, it can have a private and personal health result. Improved self image and perception can be immensely valuable in ones level of confidence and perceotion of their social standing and can have positive impact on their overall well-being. But the surge of these operations, and further manipulation of the human form poses a social and public health challenge, when people are having ribs removed, and having themselves turned in literal “human barbie dolls” this is the extreme limit of these once helpful procedures.

I would be concerned that while Hilda is a revolutionary figure (pun intended) for her era in the industry she was involved in, to hyper idealize any exaggerated figure can glamorize the immaciated or over indulged sets concerning prescidents and sets potentially unhealthy and unmaintainable expectations. These expectations can stem from either extreme of female physical representation. This is where I humbly have to take the stance of simply not being wise enough or interested enough in being right in a matter that I am too young to have experienced, how does this portrayal of women with the era of it’s publishing, and modern perspective leave you feeling on the matter, dear readers?

Please leave your respectful and insightful comments below, and as always, stay curious.