It has been a long time since I have written about the Cheerful Granny, a staple of American advertising in the mid-twentieth century. I knew it was time for an update when Jen Orsini of the blog Pintucks sent me this prime example from a 1958 issue of the Ladies Home Journal.
In these ads, older women are typically pushing big ticket consumer items, often with a grandchild on the scene. Here Bell Telephone is selling the idea of casual out of town phone chats. Long distance calls used to be very expensive, saved only for emergencies and special occasions. This ad is urging the older couple to “find out if everyone is well, talk over plans, get all the family news.” It’s implied that there are happy grandchildren on the other end of the line.
Our cheerful granny wears what looks like a cotton shirtwaist dress, a typical at home outfit for women of every age in the fifties. I find it interesting that she is given very few visible markers of age. Her hair is gray and there are subtle lines around her eyes; otherwise her hairstyle, makeup, and outfit are quite youthful. We know she is supposed to be a grandmother because of the text and her older looking husband behind her.
The ad is selling the telephone as an aid to a happy retirement. It might not matter so much if the kids have moved away if you can afford to call and “brighten up the whole day.”