Gene Gable's blog

Scanning Around with Gene: The Art of Fire Prevention

In 1968 when I was 12 my school took part in a city-wide competition where students produced small posters promoting fire safety. Despite my complete lack of ability as an illustrator, I managed to crank out a crude but winning entry which depicted a young man with long hair sitting on a sofa, smoking a cigarette (it was tobacco – I don’t think I knew of any other sort of cigarette at the time). Nearby a small fire was starting in the waste basket where he had tossed his still-lit match.

Scanning Around with Gene: Let’s All Pile in the Station Wagon!

Until Chrysler introduced the first mini-van in 1983, most American families with more than two kids probably owned a station wagon at one time or another. In some ways the station wagon exemplified the American auto industry in its heyday -- big, heavy, and hard to park. But we loved them as kids, and piling in the station wagon often represented a fun family outing, whether the destination was the ice cream parlor on a hot summer day or a long road trip where sleepy little ones could curl up in the way back for a nap.

Scanning Around With Gene: Teaching Kids About Industry

Kids grow up these days taking a lot of things for granted. The electricity that comes out of the wall, the gasoline in our cars and the steel in our skyscrapers are all just there and have been for so long it doesn’t seem like any big deal. I don’t even know if we teach kids about the history of these and other industries — much of it would seem like ancient history I suspect, and does it really matter how electricity is made or what goes on in a steel mill? Kids these days are probably a lot more interested in how iPhones are made.

Scanning Around With Gene: Being a Boy in 1939

The 1930s were interesting times. The impacts of the Great Depression were considerable, which made for hard times for many Americans. But it was also a time of great progress — many big projects including the Empire State Building, Hoover Dam, and the Golden Gate Bridge all came to life during the decade. It was a great period for the arts too, particularly the coming of age of photography and film.

Scanning Around With Gene: The Amazing Story of Measurement

Lately I’ve been accumulating various comic-book stories of big industry with titles such as “Rubber, a Wonder Story,” and “The Story of Shoes Through the Ages.” These were once popular ways for large companies to educate kids (and adults) on the history of an industry, and were often distributed free to schools. Of course in addition to a history of rubber production or shoes, there was always a message about the sponsoring company — an easy way to build brand awareness with the young.

Scanning Around With Gene: The Era of "Mad" Women

I haven’t had a television for the last couple of years, so I’ve never seen the series "Mad Men," though from all the media reports I feel like I have. Everywhere I turn these days it seems like there’s some nostalgia (good and bad) for the era of heavy drinking, heavy smoking, racism and sexism, at least as reflected by the show that takes place in the Madison Avenue advertising industry.

Scanning Around With Gene: Things That Are Within Five Feet of My Desk

Every so often I feel the need to show images that don’t fit any particular theme but that I can’t resist hanging on to for a variety of reasons. But even these images, which are too numerous to run in any one installment, need some sort of hook to tie them together and limit what I include.

Scanning Around With Gene: The Sex Appeal — and Bad Reputation — of the Fiat

I’m old enough to remember when Fiats were a fairly common site on American roads — not as popular as Volkswagens, but surely more numerous than, say, Peugeots or maybe even Volvos. The sedans looked like good workhorses and the sports models were, well, shapely. One of my favorite college professors had a '70s-era 1500 Spider convertible, and it was a joy to ride in.

Scanning Around With Gene: How Does Your Garden Grow?

I’ve never been all that much of a gardener, though I’ve spent my fair share of time toiling in the dirt. I can explain the difference between a perennial and an annual, and I know my petunias from my pansies.

Of all the gardening activities, the most gratifying by far is growing something from seed. The idea of a full-grown plant, let alone something like a watermelon, coming from a tiny seed is a wonder of nature I’ll never quite get over. A little soil and some water and next thing you know you’ve got a giant squash on your hands, or a towering tree.

Scanning Around With Gene: Typographic Treasure from the Bottom of the Box

My life is full of entirely too many poorly marked boxes full of who knows what. I spend a lot of time moving one box to get to another box to get to another box which leads to yet another box. Eventually I forget what I am looking for and, if I’m lucky, find myself lost in a box full of treasure.

Scanning Around With Gene: The Old Way of Photo Retouching

I’ve never been much of an artist, though I did, early in my career, have several opportunities to do some basic black and white photo retouching — mostly taking out a background, fixing a flaw or trying to tone down glare from reflected light. These tasks were done back then not on the computer, but with a set of special photo-retouch paints and a variety of fine brushes. Sometimes in a pinch we’d use a black Sharpie or a soft pencil.

Scanning Around With Gene: When Advertising was King-sized

Last week I took a look at the artistic covers of vintage Fortune magazines and described how that publication set out to be the most lavish and eye-appealing publication in America. I promised to take a look at some of the advertising art that appeared in Fortune over the years, which is the subject of today’s installment.

Scanning Around With Gene: The Stylish Covers of Fortune

I’ve long wanted to do a column on the covers of Fortune magazine, especially those published before 1960 when the magazine was one of the most lavishly produced in the United States. However, because the magazine began publishing in 1930, it was difficult to edit the many possibilities down to a manageable number for presentation here.