Let’s Read The Saturday Evening Post, September 1983!

The 1980s! It was a gross decade full of gross people. You may have been born at some point in this decade, as I was, and the event of your birth was a tiny pinpoint of light in an otherwise sleazy and tacky era of American history. You only have to look at this oil panting of Oral Roberts and his bouffant of hair – and that uneasy growl in the pit of your stomach? Oh, that’s all the fiber talking. We’ve got a lot to cover. Just a warning: if you have bad, even traumatic, emotional and personal associations with this era of popular Christianity, this week may not be for you.

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Oral Roberts started out as a Pentecostal faith healer before seizing the burgeoning medium of television to become one of the first televangelists. The story goes that he was called by God in 1963 to open a liberal arts college, Oral Roberts University, which at some point gained legitimacy via really good athletics. In 1977, he claimed that the vision of a 900 foot tall Jesus told him to open a hospital and medical research center. With all the money that he and his ministry milked out of gullible poor people, he built a separate medical school. You can choose to interpret the cover line as either “Wow, the school is doing well enough to give people real medical degrees!” or “Oh shit, these people are being legally cleared to practice medicine”.

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By the 80s, the Post was not the periodical powerhouse that it had once been. A massive defamation lawsuit from Coach Wally Butts lost the publisher at least three million dollars, and combined with the decline of print media in the 60s and some bad financial decisions, the Post went from a weekly to a quarterly in the 70s. In 1982 the magazine was taken over by Dr. Beurt R. SerVaas, briefly made into a monthly again, and succeeded in editorship by several of his family members, rebranding itself as a health and medical interest magazine. Which is why we have the esteemed Oral Roberts on the cover, a man who made millions of dollars by squeezing people’s hands and telling them their cancer was cured.

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This is truly why the color of the early 80s was brown.

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Dr. Cory SerVaas, wife of Beurt R., was the editor-in-chief of the Post at this time, and lordy was this woman obsessed with fiber. Welcome to the 80s, where carbs and starches are your gateway to weight loss. This phenomenally awful article contains phrases like “Who ever saw a photo of a fat pygmy?”, “non-fat flapjacks”, and “flat tums”.

I dare someone to make this “croquette” recipe and try to eat it.

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The greatest National Lampoon movie that was never made.

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A veritable treasure hoard of grandpa jokes. No, not even dad jokes, grandpa jokes. Have I talked about Dave Morrah here before? He was a longtime humor writer for the Post whose signature was writing rambling unfunny jokes in a fake German dialect. Like the Swedish Chef from a dark mirror universe where he is the worst Muppet instead of the greatest. Do you understand a single thing happening in that opening novella of a joke, let alone a punchline?

At least the cartoons are slowly getting funnier in this decade.

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Whoa there Sears! I can only handle so much beige and cornflower blue!

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Ma get the Dimetane, that creepy giant head is floating out in the meadow again!

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Good thing they remember Ronnie, because Ronnie doesn’t remember them! Haha! Alzheimer’s. Anyway, chances of all of these women being coerced into sex with the Gipper, consenting or not? Depressingly high.

sep_rockwell.png SWEET ROCKWELLIAN NIGHTMARE FUEL!

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Was there a time when change machines charged you interest?

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Ted Key wrote Hazel cartoons for fifty years, most of them appearing in the Post before the first time it shut down in 1969. It follows the adventures of a live-in maid who just loves to sass her employers – so, you know, super relatable. But I have definitely been this kid.

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The times they are a-changing! Computer jokes are starting to take over “sexually assaulting your secretary” jokes. Unfortunately for us, these exact jokes were already stale by 1983 but it didn’t stop them from being endlessly recycled into Dilbert strips until the end of time.

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And look! While most of these follow the housewife and office-drone husband convention, as it speaks to the reading demographic, the bottom cartoon’s punchline leads on that a married woman has her own job and co-workers! It’s…even kind of funny on its own merits!

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*gutteral groaning noises*

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*more groaning noises*

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Not even the tackiest thing for sale in this magazine.

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Which would, as a matter of fact, be…these.

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So many grandmas and moms of the 80s had these in their kitchens, near the ubiquitous hanging three-tiered fruit basket.

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HOW IS THIS EVEN A QUESTION??

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Things you can buy via the Saturday Evening Post‘s classifieds: a personalized pet plaque, some Beatle boots, and CHEMICAL WEAPONS.

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While I do admire just how unabashedly 1983 this graphic design is, with the rainbow block letters and the curly cursive font, not to mention the hot air balloon (Such a big thing in the 80s, right? Or is it just because I spent my early childhood in Portland?), I’m wishing desperately for that balloon to float closer to that antenna.

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Decades of ad campaigns from the sugar industry, many of which we have seen in this very magazine, have finally caught up to America.

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This was an era where nostalgia for BLACKFACE still moved merchandise.

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I would not take Jerry frickin’ Falwell’s judgment of character on a rotting pumpkin.

And that’s it for this week! Whoo, you made it this far! I’m so proud of you! Shake it out, shake it out. We’re staying in the 80s for next week as I bring you California, a defunct lifestyle magazine featuring the story of two billionaire computer dorks named Steve.

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