The actual news stand in Hollywood (circa 1950's)
As a young girl growing up in Los Angeles, I would often spend time with my wonderful Uncle Buddy who was an architect and an extremely creative human.
Saturday mornings were special because we would drive to Hollywood Boulevard, turn left to the most fascinating place I can remember: a block-long news stand that carried magazines and newspapers from all over the world. The publications were as varied and unusual as were the people who were looking at them. The highlight for me was when Uncle Buddy would buy the British magazine Country Life, a large, glossy, perfect-bound weekly publication that began in 1897.
The magazine always represented all that was elegant and proper about genteel living in the British countryside. I was fully enchanted by everything it offered. The first fifteen to twenty pages were dedicated to centuries old country estates and manor houses for sale. This is probably the most well-known feature of the publication. Hours would be spent as I closely examined each property and imagined what it would be like to live there. Every part of my childhood-being wanted to live in this world known as Great Britain. A photo of each property had charming written descriptions to whet the appetite of a prospective buyer. One example:
"This is an exceptionally attractive sporting estate with a Grade II listed
Georgian farmhouse of great distinction and charm with five reception rooms
(what would one do with five reception rooms?), twelve bedrooms and
one bathroom (ponder that one!), two service flats for staff (my first realization
that I probably needed 'staff'), one thousand ten acres with a thirty stag
deer forest, river fishing, stables and tack room (I knew I needed horses),
all set amongst magnificent wooded countryside."
Seriously. How could you not long to live there? Absolutely idyllic. To be fair not all homes were quite this elaborate, some were castles but others were modest cottages with thatched roofs and rose gardens within a quaint village.
Following the real estate listings were color photo advertisements for priceless antiques offered for sale (pun intended), including period furniture, antique jewelry and original oil paintings by some of the most famous artists imaginable. And some not so famous. Often there were notifications of gallery showings or auctions, all of which sounded very sophisticated and refined.
Next was always what they called the Frontpiece, a lovely photograph of a wealthy young woman engaged to some very prestigious gentleman. The write up also included details of how important the couples parents were. As I was to learn, most of the girls were London debutantes, who most likely had been presented to the Queen at a very fancy ball. My uncle used to tease me about asking my mother if I could be a British debutante. A tiny part of my brain thought it was a delightful idea. But, no.
Beyond the Frontpiece were articles relating to all aspects of traditional, luxury country living. This covered horses, gardens, architecture and interior design and the rigors of British farming. Quite often there was an article involving fly fishing and the conditions of the local trout streams. Toward the back of the magazine features included the arts, books, theater and cinema, then there were pages of intriguing black and white classified ads for all sorts of things. It tended to take days to fully digest all of the fascinating information the magazine had to offer.
Quite a bit has changed since the first publication of Country Life over 126 years ago, but I'm happy to report the fundamental purpose and design is still just as elegant and stylish as ever. A few things I've noted since my early exposure to the magazine–the Frontpiece ladies are now often accomplished young women in all areas of business and science (and often with no mention of marriage) and of particular note is the ratio of bathrooms to bedrooms in the grand manor houses for sale has greatly improved. From time to time there is mention of politics, mostly to do with rural issues and things like global warming and endangered species.
Now as a fully adult person, I have my own subscription to Country Life and am still just as enamored with its contents as I was as a child. The large, glossy weekly magazine with gorgeous photographs printed on thick paper is sent to me from England and arrives about a month after the publication date. No matter–my heart beats wildly when I see it in the mailbox. Each issue is a work of art and too beautiful to throw away, hence I have become a Country Life magazine hoarder with stacks of them around the house. There was a recent article indicating this is a common affliction with CL subscribers...
With every issue, I think back to happy times with my Uncle Buddy, our visits to the iconic Hollywood news stand and how I fell in love with Great Britain through the glossy pages of Country Life magazine all those years ago. Life does indeed hold a stylish bag full of dear memories.
P.S. If you would like a random copy of Country Life of your own, it would be my pleasure to send you one from my 'collection!'
Email me at email@example.com
with your address.