Once again, and with regularity that is not comforting at all, I was again made aware of how much the culture has changed without my permission and how far my experience of the world is from that of my kids. Time’s Winged Chariot seems to have added rocket boosters.
What set off this dark reverie?
My wife spooned through a bowl of Wheaties this morning, not an alarming event or particularly noteworthy, except that the thought that came unbidden was, of course, “Breakfast of Champions”. It struck me that I have no idea whether that phrase is still used in advertising campaigns; do my kids have the same automatic familiarity with the tag line that I do? Can they sing the Wheaties song?
They’re whole wheat with all the bran.
Won’t you try Wheaties?
For wheat is the best food of man.”
General Mills has been picturing outstanding athletes on its Wheaties boxes since 1934 when Lou Gherig appeared bat in hand. Champions of every stripe have found a place on a Wheaties box from aviator Elinor Smith, the first woman to find a place in the Wheaties pantheon, to Van Lingle Mungo, strikeout leader of the National League while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1936. Groundbreaking choices include wheelchair road racer George Murray and nine-year old football phenomenon Sam Gordon, who rocked the sports world as she scored 25 touchdowns and recorded 65 tackles in her first year of competition in Salt Lake City youth football.
Do they break into song when they feel energized?
Cheerios is another in the family of General Mills cereals, on the shelves since 1945 and featuring the Cheerios Kid in television throughout the 1950’s. The kid faced formidable challenges, seemingly insurmountable, until he wolfed down a bowl of Cheerios, at which point, it was averred, he got “Go Power”, and there he went!
For most of my Cheerios childhood, the box portrayed a bowl of Cheerios, pretty much looking the way it would on any breakfast table. But, because General Mills was a long-time sponsor of the Lone Ranger on radio and television, a Cheerios box might feature sporadic Lone Ranger tie-ins, including prizes in the box and contests to fire the imagination. Television’s Lone Ranger, the iconic Lone Ranger, was played by Clayton Moore, whose silky voice and impressive frame matched the ideal of honesty, fair dealing, law and order, and manly compassion. When his career as the ranger ended, Moore moved to Golden Valley, Minnesota, home of General Mills and sold real estate.
Oh the Pops are sweeter and the taste is new; they’re shot with hot with sugar through and through!”
“Shot with sugar through and through” may not be the health watchwords of this decade, but it sure hit the spot in the 50’s and 60’s. The jingle is of particular interest, quite aside from its nutritional provocation, in that the cereal kept changing its name. Corn Pops, Sugar Corn Pops, Sugar Pops. What the heck? In the same fashion, the box featured cowboy actor Guy Madison as Wild Bill Hickcock most months but occasionally tossed out a box picturing Hickock’s wing man, cowboy buffoon, Jingles, played by Andy Devine, one in a long series of curiously ineffective but apparently necessary cowboy sidekicks appearing in film and tv westerns. Then, when Wild Bill left the air, Sugar Whatevers presented Sugar Pops Pete, a groundhog dressed in cowboy gear. It got worse with time as a female porcupine, “Poppy” was followed by an actor playing an actual sugar pop, corn pop, or puff, or pod.
Sugar Pops could not compare with Sugar Smacks, which not only persisted in using clowns in their advertising but happily boasted that the product was more than 50% sugar. As jingles go, “The Sugar Smacks Swing” was thoroughly frightening, performed by not one, but TWO clowns and disturbing in ways I cannot yet name.
Do I know my password? Can I remember my user name? Not reliably.
But … ask me to belt out the words to jingles long forgotten and I am ready to rumble. It doesn’t seem to matter what product the jingles touts, they are all stuffed in there somewhere, taking the place of anniversary dates, names of world leaders, and the location of the car I parked twenty minutes ago.
I have to assume that some were fairly regional as faces go blank when I sing the Castro Convertible song, although the response may have something to do with my breaking into song about convertible couches.
It’s pretty clever and catchy as all get out.
Who was the first to conquer space ?* Castro Convertible.
The first to conquer living space? Castro Convertible
Who conquered space with fine design? Who saves you money all the time?
Who’s tops in the convertible line?
*See, it sounds as if the song is about the space race and planetary exploration, but it’s actually about a sofa that can also be a bed. See? Clever, huh?
My performance of the jingle describing clothing sold by Robert Hall clothier cannot match the magic spun by Les Paul and Mary Ford. Here’s the link, but in case the words fly by too quickly, here it is for your singing pleasure.
School bells ring and children sing
It’s back to Robert Hall again
Mother knows for better clothes
It’s back to Robert Hall again
You’ll save more on clothes for school
Shop at Robert Hall.
I admit the last line is weak, but the pull of the earlier verses certainly carries the listener into foaming pre-shopping frenzy.
The holidays are tough on my long-suffering children (my wife doesn’t seem to hear or notice) when the festivity of the season brings the irresistible urge to belt out seasonal jingles from the dusty closet that is my mind. The Robert Hall Christmas jingle is one of my particular faves as it combines the peppy bounce of the best of the Hall jingles with a lively evocation of the nativity, in clothing terms.
Finally, and with no apology, the jingle that needs no introduction, with words that do not tax memory, and with performers so darned cute you’ll be feeling fuzzy warm all day long.