Times were certainly different back then.
Confession time: I wasn’t alive in 1951. I know that’s probably going to shock a lot of you, but I’ve only been told how things were back then. That and I’ve read a lot of books from the time period and watched films, including documentaries. From what I understand, having a beauty pageant with swimsuit-clad young ladies at a car wash/gas station/service center wasn’t a common practice. In fact, it was likely viewed by many Americans as at least a little scandalous.
Of course, this took place in Los Angeles, not the middle of Kansas, where pushing the decency envelope has been a sport for a long time. It was such a big deal LIFE magazine sent a photographer to document everything. Such an event there today would be shut down in about 2 minutes, if not the car wash be burned to the ground beforehand.
Parading around women in swimsuits was to celebrate the three millionth car wash at the facility. That’s a huge milestone, but we’re still trying to wrap our heads around who came up with this marketing scheme. After all, you have in attendance “Miss Body and Fender” and “Miss Lube Rack.” There’s even “Miss Polish Job.” These jokes write themselves, but since this is a family-friendly page we’ll leave it at that.
Some people will see this event as just playful fun and maybe it was – I wasn’t there. It’s kind of like how people have different interpretations about the function of paddock girls and podium girls in motorsports.
There certainly doesn’t seem to be anything overly rowdy or obnoxious in the photos. All the women (and the men) appear to be having a good time. However, others will view this as a backwards, evil thing of the past which must be erased.
I view this as a relic of the past, and a sign of how much we’ve changed. Car washes, gas stations, and service centers aren’t places of celebration or any kind of revelry. Now they’re somewhere we go to and get away from as quickly as possible. After all, we have a busy life full of canceling people on Twitter, binging shows on Netflix, and posting pictures of our meals/workouts/children on Instagram. Yes, we’re a much kindler, gentler society these days, leaving behind the backwards tenants of our past.