Travelling America’s highways as a kid in the 1950s was a curious kind of adventure. Sleeping in different motels every night, eating in different cafes and road houses. The journeys were punctuated by an array of iconographic items that seemed to occupy most cafes, diners or filling stations. They became such a part of the road experience that one has only to see them now and one is transported back to childhood summers.
Here’s a few that ought to jog some memories.
THE SWAMI FORTUNE TELLER DINER NAPKIN HOLDER
Take a good look at this beauty! An original 1950’s Swami Fortune Teller Diner Napkin Holder. This particular machine came from the old Continental Trailways bus station in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. They were in “The Continental” restaurant. This Swami is in excellent working order. Loaded with original paper fortunes & napkins. Take a look at the chrome! The center piece is the original polished stainless steel.
One of the best episodes of Twilight Zone, entitled “Nick of Time”, employed a version of this machine in creating difficulties for a young couple whose car had broken down. The drama stems from the apparent power of a machine pitted against a man that seeks to better his fortunes, and his spouse/fiance’s attempts to get the man to be reasonable and to break from the spell of the machine.
THE SEEBURG 100 WALL-O-MATIC
The Seeburg 100 Wall-O-Matic set shown here includes a remote song selector and two speakers. These components would have been connected to a central jukebox located elsewhere in the building. These worked with any jukebox in the Select-O-Matic series. The selector was designed to mount on a wall or it could also be placed on a table or countertop. It allowed the customers to remotely select songs from the jukebox and the selectors were placed in diner booths or on counters. The teardrop-shaped speakers were wall-mounted and also worked remotely, receiving the signal of the jukebox.
The Wall-O-Matics were manufactured between 1948 and 1958 and were initially released with a painted finish. The chrome finish was introduced in 1950. This early set has been restored and painted a trendy turquoise. These units were a very common sight in diners and restaurants and are recognized today as true icons of the jukebox era.
1950s FORD GUMBALL MACHINE
The first stick gum machines were introduced in 1888, followed by the first gumball vending machines in 1907. Shortly after that, Ford Mason, a roofing salesman, was looking for a business to get involved in during the winter months, when sales were at a lull. He started by leasing about 100 gumball machines and placing them in stores throughout western New York. He found the gum business profitable enough that he considered leaving roofing sales altogether. But Ford realized he would never do as well as he could because most gum sales were from one-time customers. This was because the gum in vending machines was of poor quality and the machines were unreliable. So Ford set out fulltime to make a better gum. Shortly after Ford’s father, a Baptist minister, advised him to start making his own gum vending machines. The success of Ford’s machines lead to a nationwide business with over 500,000 gum vendors across the country.
This is a vintage Ford gum vending machine from the 1950s. This model was set up to vend gum for 1 penny. The glass globe has a flat top, because originally there was a metal frame positioned on the top of these gumball vendors that displayed the name of whatever local charity the vendor was collecting for. These machines had the capacity to fit 4 lbs. of gumballs. We restored this chrome gum vendor back when we were still in the restoration business. Dimensions: 12” H x 8” W Weight: 13 lbs.
DR PEPPER SELMIX SODA DISPENSER
This is a Selmix soda fountain dispenser in its original, unrestored condition. It has a single head, or spout and was made by the Selmix Dispenser Corporation. This dispenser was made in the 1950s and was manufactured shortly after the original “outboard” style Selmix dispensers. Like the outboard model, this one was able to dispense a continuous flow of mixed carbonated water and soda syrup with one pull of the handle.
This machine bears the slogan, “The friendly ‘Pepper-Upper’” that was used by the Dr. Pepper/7-Up Company throughout the 1950s. The logo was changed from the original old-fashioned script to a more fun and friendly font. The chrome Selmix logo is visible in the second photo and is positioned toward the top of the machine.
This model soda dispenser was made for general use by a variety of soda manufacturers, such as Diet Rite Cola and Hires Root Beer, in addition to Dr. Pepper.
Selmix Dispenser Corporation
St. Paul, Minnesota
PEPSI COLA PAPER SODA CUPS
Pepsi-Cola was invented in 1893 by Caleb Bradham in New Bern, North Carolina. First known as Brad’s drink, it was officially named Pepsi-Cola when Bradham purchased the brand name in 1898. This cup is from the late 1950s to 1960 when the company introduced the slogan “Be sociable, have a Pepsi”.
This 10 ½ ounce paper cup was made by Dixie Cup, a division of the American Can Company of Easton, Pennsylvania. Dixie merged with the American Can Company in 1957. Invented in 1912, the Dixie Cup was first called the Health Kup. It was given the Dixie name in 1919. Today the Dixie Cup name and product line are owned by the paper and chemical manufacturer Georgia-Pacific.
Dixie Cup Division
American Can Co.