Tuesday, July 17, 2018

1964 comics nostalgia, Part 1

Earlier this month, I used some images from Marvel's Strange Tales #120, published in May 1964, to illustrate a post honoring the late Steve Ditko.

Before I tucked it back away, I'm going to dive back into that issue from 54 years ago for a quick series that's in the vein of a longer, 11-post series I did two summers ago with the May 1978 issue of Marvel Two-in-One. Because exploring the advertisements within old comic books is always an enjoyable pastime.

So away we go!

First up, and shown below, is a full-page advertisement touting the Christy Trades School, a Chicago-based outfit that wanted to let readers know how they could earn big money — $5 to $6 per hour — by learning how to repair electric appliances in their spare time.

The floating head of Christy Trades president R.S. Frazer wanted to teach the mechanically inclined "how to repair refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, motors, factory equipment, electrical farm equipment" and more, including servicing all the wiring in their own homes. Because what could go wrong?

An amazing electronic kit and ceramic heater kit could be furnished. There were LESSON MANUALS and, best of all, a "SPECIAL PAY LATER FORM."

All of this "Know-how" would give entrepreneurs the ability to make good money and gain financial security.

As an added incentive, Christy Trades students would learn how to "build power tools from spare tools," a Tony Stark-esque superpower that seems to fit right in with a Marvel comic, if not quite the real world.

In May 1970, The New York Times published an article titled "Boom in Mail‐Order Schooling Marked by Dubious Practices," written by Walter Rugaber. It had this to say about Frazer's enterprises:
Only about half of the states are said to have any laws at all to govern home study institutions, and of the rest only six or eight, such as New York and California, possess the ability and will power to impose restraints on the schools within their borders.

Consequently, it is about as easy to sell home study lessons in the United States as it is to repair automobiles or retail shoelaces, and it is, much easier than to market securities, open a saloon, or run a bakery.

Just how easy was made clear not long ago to the members of a small trade group, the Association of Home Study Schools, by Dr. Richard S. Frazer, onetime head of the now defunct Christy Trades School in Chicago, who received his doctoral degree from the obscure "Neotarian College."

Immediately offer courses in 200 subjects, Dr. Frazer suggested, and decide on the basis of public response to an advertising campaign which of the 200 is the most likely best seller. Then provide that one.

"Select the best available textbook in your subject," Dr. Frazer advised. "Order a gross of the texts from the publisher. Have a bookbinder split these books into 20‐page units or lessons...."

New covers should be designed by an advertising agency, taking care to leave space for stamping on the title and number of each "lesson." Then, he went on, "when your sales level off, commence preparation of your second course."

No one knows how many operators have followed — or anticipated — Dr. Frazer's methods. (He is no longer with the association.) No one knows even how many privately owned correspondence schools exist — the estimates run from 500 to more than 1,000.

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