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Tossing a Retro New Year’s Eve Bash

by Joe Verrengia (12/26/08).

Babylonians started cheering the New Year’s arrival more than 4,000 years—and no, Dick Clark wasn’t the host. The party tradition spread to Ancient Rome and nearly every civilization since.

Those early celebrations followed different calendars and were oriented toward spring-planting rituals.

In the United States, public traditions of parties celebrating midnight on January 1 and parades and football games during the day began at the turn of the 20th century.

Cocktail parties’ countdown to midnight really hit their stride in postwar suburbia with the rise of the American middle class. Kitschy, mass-produced collectibles of the 1950s are widely available and affordable. For a few hundreds dollars, you can start an Atomic Age collection that will make your 2009 New Year’s Eve bash a fun retro classic.

Noisemakers

When the Waterford crystal ball drops begins to drop in Times Square at 11:59 p.m., it’s time to make noise.

Jennifer Edmonson of the online retailer FineLine Antiques is offering a really nice postwar large spinner noisemaker made of tin with a wooden handle. It was made by the Kirchhof Co. of Newark, N.J. It features a 4-inch-wide yellow and red clown face wearing a jaunty bowler hat on a blue background. The disc-shaped body is orange. It is listed in very good condition.

Beau Bergman of Down Under Antiques in Hastings, Neb., has an array of clappers and bell rattlers from the 1950s. Styles include a campy “Mexican” party theme with a suave hombre wearing a blue straw sombrero and shaking maracas. Brands include Kirchhof, U.S. Metal Toy Co., Johnson & Johnson and Dermicel Marque.

David Weller of Holly Hill Farms Antiques in Gloucester, Va., has two collections of vintage noisemakers for sale. The first includes three can shakers, three disc-shaped twisters, two rectangular grinders, a circus horn and three others.

The second collection contains eight noisemakers. The most intriguing might be the 1930s-era toy frying pan decorated with a clown.

Music

It’s not a retro New Year’s Eve without “Auld Lang Syne”—and Guy Lombardo.

It’s an international tradition. The lyrics were written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in the 1700s. It literally means “old long ago” or simply, “the good old days.”

The song was popularized by the Canadian-born band leader of Italian descent who broadcasted on radio and television. Lombardo hosted 48 consecutive New Year’s Eve programs from New York’s Roosevelt Hotel and later the Waldorf-Astoria with swells dancing cheek to jowl in tuxedos and funny hats.

James Roth of Quakertown Heirlooms in Quakertown, Pa., is offering a copy of Lombardo’s 1973 album, “New Year’s Eve with Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.” He lists the vinyl in clean condition with the album cover in good condition. Guy is famously posed with balloons and a noisemaker.

Cocktails

The 1950s was the Golden Age of the Cocktail—especially the martini. Vintage barware will set the right party mood down in the rec room.

For a classier soiree, upgrade your barware collection with crystal. Douglas C. Gaddis of the Maryland-based online retailer, Kensington House Antiques, is selling a midcentury cut-crystal and silver-plate cocktail shaker by the Wurttembergishe Metalwarrenfabrik (“WMF”), Germany’s leading luxury-goods producer.

Dealer Betty Silon of Nostalgia Antiques & Collectibles in the AAA Antiques Mall in Laurel, Md., lists a pair of heavy glass cocktail shakers with metal tops. One is yellow. The other has a musical-themed design. Silon says the shakers were . . . frequently used.

The biggest New Year’s Eve tradition is having fun. If you want to be the life of your own retro party, slip a floating eyeball into your date’s highball! Dealer Laura Trueman of the online retailer, Rene Vintage Treasures, has this plastic gag gift in its illustrated box. Here’s looking at you, kid!

Clothing

Sandra King of Sandy’s Fancy Pants Antiques and Collectibles is showing a vintage chiffon dress in a color that is something between salmon and hot pink. The label says size 7, but vintage sizes run smaller than today’s, and Sandy thinks it will fit a petite 4-6.

Dealer Jennifer Edmonson of FineLine Antiques has a dress she says “screams of I Love Lucy!” This vintage circa 1950s shirtwaist dress by Neusteters Sports Shop has monograms on each pocket and a swishy flared skirt. Edmonson doesn’t list a specific size but provides several measurements.

Décor . . .

A few classic pieces will give your party that authentic 1950s flair.

If you’re watching the Times Square revelry in high-def on a LCD flat screen, online dealer Sheila Tuffarelli suggests displaying a vintage rabbit-ears antenna. The rabbit-ears antenna boosted weak network signals into middle-class living rooms. This classic antenna is made of metal and Bakelite. Tuffarelli says the connector wire is frayed, the base of the antenna is off, but six numbers on the front dial are readable.

Better reception the old-fashioned way

Happy New Year from everyone at WorthPoint, where you get the most from your antiques and collectibles.

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