April 2024

​Vintage Discoveries

Old magazine brought back memories of the 1950s

by Ken Weyand

Like many 15-year-old boys in early 1950s rural America, I was caught up in the popular culture of the times. In those heady days before the Internet killed off or reshaped much of print media, magazines were a big part of my life.

The 1952 “Popular Mechanics” I recently uncovered revealed a lot about the culture in which I grew up. The issue marked the magazine’s fiftieth year, and consisted of more than 320 pages of America’s latest inventions and developments in the mechanical arts. Unlike some of its contemporaries, the magazine is still published, although only six times a year, with a lively website.

My issue featured the latest news about the development of “super helicopters” in England, a Floyd Clymer article about the latest foreign cars, a review of the “completely restyled” 1952 Ford, a sleek homebuilt “catamaran” said to be the “fastest boat under canvas,” and many other articles. More than half its pages were filled with ads, including a hefty section of classifieds. In addition to the ads for the latest shop tools, do-it-yourself projects, and car accessories, there was Charles Atlas selling his body-buildng secrets, reaching his likely market: teenage boys.

As a “car nut” I remember liking magazines that previewed the latest automobiles. The Popular Mechanics ad that caught my eye, however, was a small one near the back of the magazine touting the 1952 King Midget, the “world’s lowest-priced passenger car.” The vehicle was developed by two Air Force vets in Ohio using lightweight aircraft technology. Their ad featured a young man giving his girlfriend a ride in the sporty mini-convertible. I was hooked.

During the summer, I earned my King Midget’s $750 purchase price by growing and harvesting a field of soybeans on our family farm. That fall, my car was crated, put on a boxcar and delivered by a train that still ran through a nearby village. Ironically, the day it arrived, I was away from home on a school trip, and Dennis, a friend of mine, unpacked the shipping crate, and my mother drove it to our farm.


 The Quack's Victims

The small ad that introduced me to the King Midget, my first (and worst?) automobile.

Biggle Health Book

Cover of 1952 issue of Popular Mechanics

1952 issue of Popular Mechanics marked publication’s 50th year


A couple of years later, a local weejky newspaper snapped a photo of my then-girlfriend and I in the concession stand at a local drive-in theater. The proprietor had given us free admission and popcorn if I would drive the tiny car inside. The car survived my years in high school, finding itself “re-parked” in various places on several occasions by my buddies. It was later traded for another vehicle when I started my college career at Mizzou.

Looking back, I realize I could have made better choices. But that’s how an old magazine added an adventurous chapter to my life.


Ken Weyand is the original owner/publisher of Discover Vintage America,  founded in July 1973 under the name of Discover North.

Ken Weyand can be contacted at kweyand1@kc.rr.com Ken is self-publishing a series of non-fiction E-books. Go to www.smashwords.com and enter Ken Weyand in the search box.