Growing up in the tulies beyond the sticks, having a black and white TV with a picture the size of a child’s lunchbox, getting only one channel and that filled with ghosts, I built character.
My city friends were of weaker stock. They had three sharp networks to watch. Some friends even had public TV with Julia Child skipping down “Sesame Street.” A few had color TV, although when I visited Chet Huntley’s face on nightly news was a garish green.
Fifty years ago, advertising was less pervasive than today. You could visit a men’s bathroom with no advertising above the urinals.
Still, the advertising was memorable. Slogans stuck. Even today, 50 years later, I can recall a Trix cereal ad faster than where I left my glasses.
Back in the day, thanks to TV, jingles took over our brain.
Getting up in the morning, our parents insisted we drink vast quantities, whole dairies full, of milk. But TV convinced us the best part of waking up, when old enough, would be Folgers in our cup. We also learned coffee would be “good to the last drop.”
Eating breakfast we craved “snap, crackle, pop, Rice Krispies.” Or, “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids.”
To float that cereal, there was “Carnation, the milk from contented cows.”
Growing older, we landed our first jobs. TV ads had us looking our best at work with hair — “A little dab will do ya” — and teeth, “You’ll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.”
We’d run out the door and glance at our — remember those? — wristwatches: “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking — Timex.”
We commuted and were brand loyal. For some the car of choice was “as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.”
To keep buzzed during the work day, there was “Coke, it’s the real thing.” Or, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke ... and keep it company.” That was a head scratcher. Making $1.95 an hour, most of us lacked the resources to buy 4 billion people (the world population then) a Coke.
For lunch, we served “Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat.”
Or we’d heat up veggies “from the valley of the ho-ho-ho, Green Giant.”
Sandwiches were much in vogue in the 1970s. There was the wacky “my bologna has a first name, it’s O.S.C.A.R.” Or, “I wish I was an Oscar Meyer weiner.” Or, “fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks, Armour hot dogs, the dogs kids love to bite.” My dog Skipper, a ditsy border collie, liked them too — when fed under the dinner table.
Going out to lunch, to McDonalds for fast food, it was give me “two all-beef patties on a sesame seed bun.” For the skeptical, Wendy’s offered “Where’s the beef?”
Afterward, we often said, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” followed by “plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.”
Even smoking was advertised then, in medical journals no less. “Winston taste good like a cigarette should” ignited in college English departments a fiery debate on the use of like versus as.
Another popular slogan, “I’d walk a mile for a Camel,” raised questions over lung capacity. For the combative smoker, there was the slogan “I’d rather fight than switch.”
After work, when 21 or older, it was time to relax. We had beer “from the land of sky blue waters.” Or pop: “I’m a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?”
Amazing how such slogans, years later, hoover up space in the brain. It’s no wonder we can’t remember where we left our car keys.