Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In the Swim of Things

Click on this image for an enlargement

I grew up in Portland, Oregon, so I’m very familiar with the Jantzen swimwear company. Images of its iconic “Jantzen Girl” were everywhere to be found in the 1960s, especially around Jantzen Beach, the giant amusement park that opened at the city’s north end (on Hayden Island in the Columbia River) in 1928.

When I was boy, my father, mother, younger brother, and I would frequently drive up to that pleasure ground during the warm summer months. We’d go swimming in the mammoth pools, maybe ride the rickety old Big Dipper Roller Coaster or one of the merry-go-rounds, and swallow as much buttery popcorn as our bellies could hold. When Jantzen Beach finally closed in 1970--to be replaced by yet another characterless shopping center--it was like a chapter of my life closed as well. I have never been able to drive by the Jantzen Beach site since, without recalling for whoever is in the car with me what things used to look like there.

So I was delighted to see that Leif Peng, who writes the design blog Today’s Inspiration, has posted a selection of pin-up-style bathing-suit advertisements from the 1940s and ’50s, all illustrated by Pete Hawley (1916-1975). My favorite among Peng’s collection has to be the ad at the top of this post, with its “sextette” of fun-loving summer-fashion models (which appeared in the June 18, 1951, edition of Life magazine). But the rest of the ads in Today’s Inspiration are worth seeing, too. There are still more examples of Hawley’s work for Jantzen to be appreciated here and here.

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