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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Belle Up to the Bar: 1956

Belle Up to the Bar: 1956

Georgia circa 1956, and some Junior League types at a country-clubby looking bar with an unusual picture-in-picture mural. The tumblers say "Auburn." 4x5 acetate negative from the News Photo Archive. View full size.

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Some Auburn background

In 1956 the college in Auburn, Alabama, was Alabama Polytechnic Institute. It wasn't until 1960 that the name was changed to Auburn University. Before 1960, however, the school was being unofficially referred to as "Auburn."

The young lady on the phone is wearing a sorority pin, so it's plausible that at least she was a student at the school. This photo would not have been taken in a sorority house, however, because Auburn never had sorority houses. Sororities are currently hosted in special campus dormitories.

There's also no reason to think the photo would have been taken in Auburn. Columbus, Georgia is a close neighbor and a large number of Auburn students are from Georgia. The photo could have very well been taken in a Columbus country club.

Which Auburn

I suspect that the Auburn in question is the university in southeastern Alabama. Auburn is quite near Columbus, Georgia (the identified locale of other photos in this series); in fact, if one desires to fly to Auburn, one flies into the Columbus airport.

[Yes, I think you're right. I should have looked at a map first! - Dave]

That coffee through the telephone

Is there a mobile version?

Re: "It's a telephone receiver pouring coffee into a cup."

In other words, a wake-up call?

Artist style.

The Mural work is very reminiscent of John Augustus Walker who might have lived in the area at that time. He is a known folk art style artist. UA grad I think.

The Mural's the Thing

It wouldn't surprise me if the illustrator who did the mural is well known: it really is very well done, with nothing amateur about it.


I like the way the mural can be seen in the mirror continuing around the corner. But what is being painted by the artist in the scene? My best guess is it’s Marlene Dietrich waking up in the woods with the forest wizard preparing a cup of coffee for her.

[It's a telephone receiver pouring coffee into a cup. A sendup of Dali-type surrealist art is my interpretation. - Dave]

The Bar can Discreetly Disappear

Note that the bar is built in a sort of alcove and that the alcove can be closed by a sliding door or doors.

The evidence is on the left jamb of the alcove, right behind the young woman on the left. That is either the exposed edge of a "pocket door" or possibly the track for a counterbalanced vertical sliding door. (The latter is less likely unless this room has a very high ceiling.)

So, it's coming off as bar in a multi-purpose room. The bar can discreetly disappear when the room is used for "no alcohol" events.

It's perfectly plausible that this is an Auburn U. sorority. I'm not sure what the drinking age would have been in Georgia in 1956, but perhaps the sorority had some members below the legal drinking age, so the bar had to disappear for events where they were present.

[Auburn does not now have, and never has had, sorority houses. - Ken]

The Big Picture

Interesting that you can see the missing edge of the painting on the left, reflected in the mirror on the right.

Sorority Pin

The young lady on the phone is wearing a sorority pin. And that mural and the image of the fellow holding the rifle is vaguely familiar.

The brush-off

"Sorry, Eddie, I'm washing my hair tonight."

That mural

Its like a cross between Norman Rockwell and Thomas Hart Benton.

Sorority house?

Or maybe a rumpus room?

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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