Let’s Read College Humor, January 1938

College Humor Magazine was targeted mostly at young adult men and ran from 1920 to 1943. It has no relation to the current website College Humor. Interestingly, the magazine relied on contributions from college newspaper editors across America for content rather than one central office of writers. By doing so, the magazine was able to directly source the hottest trends and slang directly from the campuses themselves. College in the first half of the 20th century was a wild world. Socially it resembled more of today’s high school cliques and team spirit culture than today’s average college landscape, owing to the giddy fantasy that young men and women were living and mingling on the same campus — far away from their parents for the first time! And this being the thirties, this was an Age of Partying Most Epic – swing music, jitterbugging, movie star glamour, the end of prohibition, drugs that didn’t even have names yet. This magazine thrived on perpetuating the college archetypes that lasted through Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds: the football hero, the bimbo co-ed, the dorks who couldn’t get dates. Can’t you just hear the marching band music? Does it sound like the theme from Coach? Does anyone even get that reference?

I don’t know what your college experience was like, but no one knew the words to our school fight song. There was no “big man on campus”. We only owned sweatshirts and notebooks with the school’s brand on it because the campus bookstore was easier to get to than the mall. Sororities and Fraternities were not the pillar of campus society. Call it the results of an ethnically diverse and largely commuter-based campus, but the average college landscape today would be unrecognizable to a freshman from the 30s.

That torn off top right corner would have been very helpful to have intact, but I can confirm that this is the January 1938 issue after squinting at the fine print in the table of contents. College Humor, like many magazines of the 30s, had very beautiful graphic design that was showcased in their painterly covers.

Heaven…I’m in heaaavan…I love every single word of this overstuffed ad. Any ad that reads perfectly in a 1930’s “Sadie Doyle” radio voice just tickles me. The Arthur Murray System even comes with the foot prints that you can put on the floor and dance on top of, just like in the old cartoons!

Wow, look, a non-white man in the featured spotlight! And what a kickass name he has! Wellington Koo, Jr. was the son of this guy, who I believe holds the title of Most Dignified Man Who Ever Lived and also Super Duper Diplomat. It’s driving me up the wall that I can’t find evidence of anything that Koo Jr. did after his very prestigious college days, except that he died rather young in 1975 and his brother Freeman (this family was amazing with names) died only a year after he did. On the other hand, one of his sisters is still with us today at the age of 99. You go girl!

On the contents side, we have something about Swinging Fraternity Cats and Alligators. If you have absolutely no idea what that means, don’t worry – only half of this magazine speaks in a bizarre vernacular completely lost to time.

Tales of rrribaldry! Thorne Smith died in 1934 from very saucy circumstances, making him America’s one and only very short lived “Rabelaisian Humorist”. “Rabelaisian” in this context means “books with boobs in them”. This was for the sophisticated thinker who read CLASSICAL smut of the MASTERS! Trashy sales tactics aside, Smith was actually a really fun writer and a lot of his works are easily found on the web.

Eh. I give it a C+.

Not terrible. B-.

I’m going to try really hard to translate this.

“Put on your big pants and let’s go out. Ready? It’s rumored that the late jazz soloist Bix Beiderbecke is getting a biopic, with Benny Goodman in the lead role. Except for the difference in their instruments, Benny’s career has been just as meteoric — but can he act? Larry Clinton has quietly made drastic changes in his band, replacing several men with talented players from other bands. Must be that Swing has learned the player-swapping trick from baseball! We liked Larry’s band as it was.”

If you’re wondering if people actually talked like this in everyday conversation, the answer is probably no. I don’t think anyone ever talked like this who didn’t do it from the inside of a locker or a toilet bowl. Heck, this could even just be random words to fill space as an excuse to feature this photo of a girl with her skirt flipped over her head.

Not funny, but at least I get it. B.

I thought at first that this was a reference to Lord Ashley and his ex-wife’s impressive skill at marrying rich and famous men, but I think it’s just “Rich people! When AREN’T they hobnobbing in a snooty fashion?” C-.

An article on the Strength Through Joy program in Nazi Germany, where the German elite were forced to take mandatory vacations that no one actually wanted before getting sentenced to a year of service work that left the participants broken in spirit and more than likely victimized by their superiors. This article outlines the whole creepy-as-fuck life plan that Hitler cooked up for the youth of Germany, which went on for five years and was discontinued when WWII officially started, when they suddenly had more important priorities. Fun fact: the Volkswagen Beetle was a product of this program, as Hitler wanted VW to produce a cheap and sturdy car that people could afford because all their money was being spent on stupid cruises and vacations to the middle of nowhere.

Campus hijinks! Turns out Youngstown got their football team after all later in the same year, making for a short demonstration of frat boys wearing barrels in protest.

This image of the pretty “apple-bobbing” Puerto Rican girl probably made so many repressed dweebs uncomfortable in a way that they didn’t know how to describe. The editors are well aware of what they’re doing here. I don’t know who Steve Hannagan is, but a lot of very dorky men in 1938 would have liked to be him.

I don’t know if I really want to know what “things” Hap Holliday could do with a football that he couldn’t do with a woman…


Jefferson Machamer was one of the most popular cartoonists in America at the time, famous for his glamorous leggy pinup girls. In this one, he has adopted an imaginary Marlene Dietrich as his girlfriend modeling some very drag-fabulous costumes. Is it drag, or is it just the 30s? CATEGORY IS: 1938 Marlene Dietrich Co-ed Fantasy!

Old maids, am I right? At least this one’s trying to get some. Good for her. B+.

The monthly collection of weird jokes, quips, and one-liners that lame people memorized and said at parties (or their roommates, or their dogs, or whoever was listening). Did any of these ever actually work? One day I’m going to have a party where people just pull these random weird-ass lines out of a bowl and the goal will be to try and work them into a conversation. While a lot of it is cause for eye-rolling, the “Pome” by “Temple Owl” is actually cute.

In an age where men and women wore suits and hats to football games, wear a more fashionable suit and hat and prepare to fight off the ladies with a flask of whiskey! Because god knows, no woman ever went to a football game without a secret plan to hook a man!

The center of the triangle is little ol’ me!”


A bodkin is an old fashioned word for hairpin, the iconic symbol of old spinsters everywhere, you see. So after an embarrassingly intense amount of thought to figure out what the joke was, I think what’s going on is that gross old Miss Hairpins here is making herself the artist’s model so that her students can perv on her. F.

I tried to read along with this and it just lost me by the second paragraph. Something about one girl having Garbo hair but the wrong kind of Garbo hair and being attacked by Joe College and something about bosoms too robust for great charm in sweaters and glamorizing flesh and a really female-minded brassiere and WHAT IS HAPPENING.

Brain teasers and puzzles, because trying to figure out what anything in this magazine means isn’t taxing enough on your energy already.

You might be disappointed by the relative lack of advertisements in this issue. I was too. But here’s one of those ads that makes you realize how good you have it today. An electric razor that can be used in any mirror? Wow! This is something we take for granted! Ok, ok, so it’s an electric razor with a flashlight built in. I’m sure this only managed to electrocute a few hundred thousand men to death before it was discontinued.

In a break from tradition, reader letters are near the end of the magazine. I love that a whole frat house put their names to a published declaration that their beauty queen was the hottest of them all. And wow, E. Wallace’s passionate defense of Jefferson Machamer! From what I can tell, “to hang crepe” in this context means “end his career”, as the expression “hanging crepe” usually means that something is dead.

Keep in mind that .60 in 1938 was about 10 dollars in today’s money. Right now, you can buy a bottle of Lectric Shave on Walgreens.com for about 3 bucks. I wonder what made it so expensive back then?

Well, this is a much better fancy pen ad than that novel from a few weeks ago where the moral was “Betty stole everyone’s pens so we bought her a nice one and no one liked her anyway”. I like the line about asking your pen salesman to explain why you should buy the gift set. DO YOUR JOB, AD! And don’t miss the special “Lady Sheaffer” edition pen set, which is identical to the other pens of course but somehow is only for a woman to use. The companion pen is even called “Milady”. You’ve got to be kidding me. Don’t let Reddit see this.

And that’s it for this week’s old magazine! I’m feeling the need to explore a decade we haven’t explored yet. Should we go into the 70s, the 80s, or even, god forbid…this?


1992 was 25 years ago, after all, as much as no one wants to admit it.

Happy Thanksgiving, Americans!

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