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California Picnic: 1959

California Picnic: 1959

On the grounds of Mission San Fernando in Los Angeles, 1959. This picnic has a kind of "Mad Men" feel to it. Again, the colors are true Kodachrome amazing. As the jingle goes: When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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Schlitz back then....

....was, if I remember right, brewed with all barley, where most mass market American beers today use rice (Bugweiser) or corn syrup (most others) as an adjunct--read "cheap sugar to give you alcohol but not taste." Peter is correct as well that they started to seriously cut hops at the same time.

So it may have been swill, but it was better than average swill in its day.

RE: Being from Cal-i-for-ni-a

I originally thought the potato chips were Lays. Then I remembered their motto, "No one can eat just one", and I realized the girl on the right was doing just that. What willpower!

[That girl is a guy. - tterrace]

Beer in Thailand

I served with the Air Force in Thailand. I remember Olympia, Carling Black Label, and San Miguel at the officers' club. None of them was very good. Off base, you could get Singha, one of the world's great lagers. They absolutely refused to serve it on base--God knows why.

Local Brewski

The Schlitz was probably brewed seven miles away in Van Nuys, at Woodman Ave and Woodman Place. The facility was later bought by Stroh's, then razed.

Too young for Schlitz

Hi all, I had hoped the Schlitz cans would elicit some comment, but this discussion has been really enlightening. Ruby Lee (even better than Peggy Olson don't you think?) is on the far left. Her daughter is next to her, on the table. Young? Yes. Too young to drink? You betcha. Yet, she holds the can gamely for the photo prompted by her uncle Woodrow behind the camera. As for relationships, the other couple would be in-law cousins which is the best I can come up with. So right, no relation. Nor is Clay related to Cave..sounds close though. And to the commenter who asks suggests a 6 of Schlitz is not enough for a picnic. Absolutely right, as you see here at the next picnic table over. Oh, 8stringfan, thank you for your comment & I very much agree!

Beer in Viet Nam

My reputation over there as a REAL fighter pilot suffered when I would beg off after drinking only one beer. Crashing headaches, nausea. The flight surgeon told me I had a very high intolerance to the trace amounts of a preservative added to domestic beer for shipment to southeast Asia. Formaldehyde!

Thereafter I drank only the local stuff, figuring whatever might be in the water couldn't be as bad as that.

The Church Key

is holding down the paper between the milk and the six-pack. I looked for it right away. I had to buy a few at a flea market to show my co-workers what I was talking about.

RE: Schlitz in Vietnam

Back in 1970, Schlitz was my beer for the simple reason that it tasted the same everywhere in the world, or at least in all the places I was visiting. Other brands, not so much: Olympia was great in California and horse piss in Thailand; and no one who experienced Guam-brewed San Miguel ever forgot.

As others have already noted, by the late '70s every can of Schlitz was an adventure, and usually not a happy one.

What'll They Think of Next?

Are those pull tabs on those beer cans? Pretty high-speed for those days, yes? I thought canned beer back then had to be opened with a church key.

[It did, until three years after this photo was taken. - tterrace]

Being from Cal-i-for-ni-a

I'm sure that bag of potato chips are Laura Scudders, and a bargain at 39 cents. Those beer cans are great, and could only accessed with a church key. All the packaging graphically look circa 1959. The milk in particular. That six pack actually has some style to it design-wise. More 60s. Lastly, no one looks related in this photo.


I find scenes like this to be among the most touching on Shorpy's blog. 1959 would make these young happy-go-lucky picnickers enjoying a beer and some sandwiches on a sunny day approximately 73 today. Could they have even imagined being 73 on that afternoon? Scenes like these always make me think of Keats, his urn, the many similar photos of me and my friends when we were younger, and the passing of time.

Knudsen Milk

They were still using that style of carton in the late 60's, I remember getting a smaller version in the school cafeteria.

I remember we had a Knudsen Milkman back then too, we were a large family and he brought us giant sized milk in boxes, they had big plastic bag bladders you could inflate and use as a pillow so we kids fought a lot over who got the plastic bag. Kids playing with plastic bags, how did we ever survive.

Not Sure, But ...

I arrived in CA in mid-January of 1960, and all the bars, however pretentious their decor, had large signs at the entrance: "No One Under 21 Allowed," right next to the equally garish but perhaps more fundamental "Occupancy By More Than N People Is Dangerous and Unlawful," so if the drinking age had been 18, it must have been raised very shortly after this photo was snapped. Had it not been for cooperative street folk, willing to make purchases on commission, my friends and I would have had to resort either to temperance or to moonshining.

The waxed cardboard, one-quart milk carton brings back a few memories; that's about three gulps for the average teen-age boy.

I remember those wax milk cartons

Beer with a milk chaser. Delicious!

Corporate incompetence 101

Schlitz is a marginal brand today, owned by hipster favorite Pabst, but as recently as the 1970's it was America's second most popular beer after Budweiser. Rather than accept second-place status, company management made the ultimately disastrous decision to cut brewing costs and undercut Bud on price. Consumers hated the cheaply brewed Schlitz and sales fell off a cliff. Eventually, the company could no longer survive on its own.

The Loaf of Bread

Langendorf Bread, one of the best sellers of the day.

When you've got Schlitz -

You're still out of beer ;)

In VN the government would supply beer rations when you were away from civilization for a while. They seem to always buy Shlitz, PBR and Carling Black Label. YUCK!

No littering!

I'm reminded of the "Mad Men" episode where Don, Betty and the kids go for a picnic in some park...and they left behind all of their trash as they drove away (I think Don may have even flung a beer can out the window as they left). As one whose numero uno pet peeve is littering, that scene really got me wound up.

Also - please tell me these folks did not bring only one "sixer" of Schlitz for five people (counting the shooter). Seems rather pointless, no?


Is is just me, or does the handsome young man in this photo bear a striking resemblance to the man in this Shorpy photo? Based on dates alone, they could be father and son. (Highly unlikely, of course, but still...)

Mad Men

Seriously, is the lady in the red check dress the real-life Peggy Olson?

The guy sort of looks like...

Thomas Cave a.k.a Mr. 535-07-5248 who made his debut on Shorpy almost 6 years ago. The girl in the pink looks way too young to drink, even if the drinking age was 18 in California back then!

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