McGregor Jackets - I.G.Y., baby.

McGregor Sportswear, whom I had never heard of until this morning, was excited about their new Nylon jackets in October '57. They were ready to take on the South Pole, apparently. They look to me like they were definitely up to a trip to the corner for a gallon of milk on a chilly day, but the Antarctic?
They look like spring jackets, and the gloves look like the kind you use to work in the yard - definitely not the first thing I'd reach for if I were invited to the bottom of the globe for a gallon of milk. Looks like McGregor is still around, and doing the same thing. Good for them! Well whattya know? Their outerwear looks puffy and generally more arctic-worthy. I guess they learned a bit more in the years since the I.G.Y.

All in all, the entire arctic getup in these pictures looks sort of "not up to the job", but then again we know more about the Antarctic, having been there a bunch more times than in 1957. We have better stuff.

Shine on, you crazy rifleman.

The guy on the left page looks surprisingly well moisturized for being at the South Pole. He also looks like Chuck Connors.

"IGY taught us new ways to control the elements... inspired 4 ice-cap colors!" So what's this "I.G.Y." thing? In 1957 and 58, the International Council of Scientific Unions coordinated a number of scientific activities with thousands of scientists from 67 countries to learn about the Earth. It was called the International Geophysical Year. Pains were taken to ensure that all the going-on were apolitical and purely scientific in focus. They studied things like geomagnetism, the aurora borealis, cosmic rays, gravity, meteorology, the ionosphere, seismology, rocketry, and on and on. No bad thing, if you ask me.

Here's a quote from the NAS link:

"Given the state of science in the late 1950s, the timing of the IGY was highly opportune. Research technologies and tools had advanced greatly since the 1930s, allowing scientists a scope of investigation without precedent. Cosmic ray recorders, spectroscopes, and radiosonde balloons had opened the upper atmosphere to detailed exploration, while newly developed electronic computers facilitated the analysis of large data sets. But the most dramatic of the new technologies available to the IGY was the rocket. Post-World War II developments in rocketry for the first time made the exploration of space a real possibility; working with the new technologies, Soviet and American participants sent artificial satellites into earth orbit. In successfully launching science into space, the IGY may have scored its greatest breakthrough."

Yes, space was the exciting new frontier. Apart from this ad, mentioning the I.G.Y., what also appeared in the October '57 issue of LIFE was the Soviet Union's successful launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. (Anything that orbits a planet is technically a "satellite", whether natural or artificial. So, the moon qualifies as a satellite, as do Ganymede, Callisto, Sputnik, etc.). As this was the height of the cold war, the U.S. was seriously freaked out that a Soviet space thingy was flying overhead every six hours or so. There's a long article about the national freak-out in this issue, and it probably deserves to be posted in full. That's a lot of scanning and stitching together (LIFE is bigger than the P.A.G. Pitney-Bowes ScanTron, and each page must be scanned in two sections and knitted together in Photoshop by the Phil Are GO! Images and Scanning Them Dept.), so it may or may not happen.

I had heard of I.G.Y. before this morning, thanks only to Donald Fagen's 1982 album The Nightfly. Apart from being a brilliant piece of work, it's kind of a concept album. It's a catalog of the dreams and obsessions of a young Don Fagen growing up in "the remote suburbs of a northeastern city". There's a song on it called "I.G.Y.". Here's a YouTube link that's not really a video, so much as it is a picture of the album cover with the song underneath. The song is deliriously optimistic about the whole Bright Future thing. Well, he was a kid, after all. Also relevant is New Frontier, a similar song about the wonderful sciencey things to be seen at the World's Fair. That YouTube link is a proper video, and one of my favorites of ever. This is also the album that taught me about Dave Brubeck. The cover of his significant album Time Out is pictured in this video, and he's mentioned in the lyrics. It's a catchy tune, Beware.

It's probably kind of pathetic that Donald Fagen's account of his boyhood obsessions became my boyhood fantasy of growing up in the cheesy/naive late fifties and early sixties. How to purge these demons? That's what blogs are for.
Click for huge.


MrsBug said...

Holy fright, you could plant corn in the cleft of that guy's chin! (the one in the white jacket).

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