For Digestion’s Sake – Thanksgiving Ads (1940s-1990s)

Holiday traditions in the United States grow and change over the years, but there’s one constant: everyone wants a piece of your holiday spending money.  These Thanksgiving ads ranging from 1942 to 1991 showcase the different angles these companies took to try and get at your wallet. In doing so they speak to the design ideals of their respective eras and sometimes, unfortunately, reflect the cruder ideologies of those eras too. The looks of these ads aged really well, but their content sometimes didn’t.

This 1942 Birds Eye ad features a street peddler who tries to sell a passer-by some fresh “milky” corn for the Thanksgiving table.  The frame where the housewife is sticking it to Uncle Sam because the corn is so nutritious is a head-scratcher, as well.

The minimal, the amazing colors, and the two hearts over “goodness” aren’t enough to make up for the awful copy.  This one didn’t age well.

I LOVE that Budweiser angled themselves as the ‘high-end’ beer by leveraging how expensive it was for them to make it! The tiny plug for a radio show in the corner is an odd tactic that you don’t really see any more.

Cool-Whip touches on the anxiety of working in the kitchen while everyone else feasts.

If we’re being honest, the Thanksgiving thread in this Lucky Strikes ad is thin and confusing.  It’s basically saying, “Thanksgiving sucks for Turkeys for unrelated reasons, also please smoke.”  And the fortune teller at the bottom straight-up assumes you’re ugly.

Camel has the right idea – well, “right” if you want to integrate your product into a seasonal event where it has no significance.  They lean into the notion of digestive relief that smoking provides, and when I say ‘lean’, I mean they dive into it with a scientific/medical justification that’s as funny to read as it is sad and upsetting to think of all fo the people who bought these justifications hook, line, and sinker.

This one’s great. Macy’s cancelled the Thanksgiving Parade from 1942 to 1944 due to the security concern and resource drain that the parade would cause as well as the fact that the balloon materials were being donated to the war effort.  A grim reason to break the tradition, for sure, but this ad explaining their position is all class.  And beautiful.

Mid-Century Living’s got a great feature on this Pyrex spread in the 1955 Better Homes and Gardens.  Enjoy the look and feel of these pages and head over there for more details.

As we head into the 1980s and 90s, the food takes a back seat to the stuff. The food’s still there, but it’s as much about what to watch on TV after the food and where to shop once you’re done eating.  It’s interesting to see the consumerism slowly begin to eclipse the other aspects of the holiday, as Black Friday is introduced as a pleasant experience…

Zayre really hammers home that the only valuable part of Thanksgiving is the food and that once that food is gone it is in your best interest to get as far away from your family as possible and also spend some money at Zayre.

Sears paints the after Thanksgiving shopping experience as a pleasant, spacious stroll through the store to buy a bunch of obsolete technology.

What did I miss? Any ads from past Thanksgivings stand out in your memory? Let me know!

 

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Five Things – 3.13.17 – That’s Why I’m In This Box

Invasion of Nintendo – Super Nintendo Infomercial

It’s always weird when Nintendo tries to be cool. Cool just isn’t their thing. This 1995 infomercial for the Super Nintendo is a perfect example of my point; it sets out to showcase the system’s lineup in an edgy, gritty way and it comes off looking like when the chaperones try to dance with the students..

Bush video, or Korn video?

A man in a video screen sends his dark agents to gather intel on the latest Nintendo games.  There’s an air of malice to the effort, but each outing quickly turns comical; there’s little edginess to be found in Yoshi’s Island, and even less in Donkey Kong Country.  The agents seem committed to torture in order to get the info they need, but the ‘torture’ ends up to be mild aggression and, in one case, just plain money.

There would have been good value in watching this as a kid in the mid-90s. There weren’t many chances to get a look at footage of games that weren’t out yet, and Killer Instinct is a pretty extreme title for Nintendo. Even though Super Mario RPG wouldn’t come out until the N64, it’s pretty exciting to see it here.

And speaking of N64, the video ends with the ultimate intel: a first glimpse at the new console from a Japanese convention. There’s not a lot to it, but what’s there is cool.

So yeah, a mixed bag.  The tone isn’t really congruent with the Nintendo we knew then or know now, but it was the ’90s and everyone was trying this sort of thing on.  Here’s the video:

 

1940s Catholic Truth Society Covers

Vintage Irish Book Cover enthusiast Hitone’s got some book covers from the Catholic Truth Society that are nothing short of breathtaking. Here are a few of my favorites – hit their site for the rest.

 

Big Loo

This “Giant Moon Robut” is flat-out terrifying. Just $9.99 in 1960s money!

Those teeth!

 

Cycles Rad

I’d like to live in this 1910 poster for a French Race sponsor.

Mend-Aid

Finally, this 1970 commercial for an adhesive glue that almost certainly gave anyone who touched it some sort of disease.

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Five Things – 11.14.16 – Ticky Tacky

Homes Of The Future

Walter Cronkite takes us on a 1967 journey through the home of 2001.

at-home-2001 living-room

Like most “blank-of-the-future” media from the ’50s and ’60s, lots of predictions hit the mark and others are way off.  A house with a recirculated water supply, drawing power from its own fuel cells, and a central point of command for all environmental aspects can be found today, or will be soon. Inflatable living room furniture for guests, a 30-hour work week, and  an electrostatic glass chamber in the entryway to remove dirt and other outside particles, however, seem to have been fallen by the wayside.  That’s a good thing for inflatable furniture, but I would love to have that electrostatic glass chamber.

glass-chamber

There’s also the standard oversight that we would still need big machines in the future to accomplish complicated tasks, like this room-width home control console or this multi-device office.

console office

Videophones would be two different devices – one for video and the other for phone.

video-phone

The kitchen of the future contains a large oven-slash-microwave-slash-conveyer-belt, which cooks the food and moves it into a serving area on its own. The kitchen dispenses the exact number of plastic plates needed, plates which are melted down and re-molded into new plates after using.  That seems more efficient than, you know, washing them.

oven

As for food service, things are just as automated in the outside world as they are in the house. This vision of future food is pretty bleak, indeed.

food-service-of-tomorrow

 

Of course we have robot slaves in the future, or as Cronkite puts them, “Robuts”. All housekeeping will be done by basic, clunky, ugly “robuts”, given special instructions like “don’t run over the baby”. Real example given.

robuts

There’s a lot to be inspired by here, for sure, but draped over it all is this “machines were made to serve man” vibe that, while true, still comes off in a way that makes every homeowner a little dictator of his or her own country. Also missing is the idea of a central “brain” – wouldn’t the home of the future control the housekeeping robots for you, without your instructions? Wouldn’t the home of the future cook order and cook your food for you, without your involvement? Maybe inserting my 2016 brain into this 1967 idea of 2001 life is a waste of time.

 

Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory Kit

General Mills ran a promotion in 1971 in which you could obtain your own Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory kit by sending away box tops.  This looks pretty serious for a cereal toy, but of course in the ’70s and ’80s cereal toys were serious business.

 

Lincoln Assassination Eyewitness

This 1956 episode of “I’ve Got A Secret” features an eyewitness to the Lincoln assassination. This is a bridge between two eras that I never would have considered existed!

You probably want to smoke Winston cigarettes after watching that. Don’t do it!

 

Keebler’s Magic Middles

Love Keebler or hate them, you have to admit that they had a really stacked lineup in the 1980s.  We were big on E.L. Fudge in my household growing up, but these Magic Middles were a hit too. Those elves were some busy, busy guys.

 

1940s Frigidaire Ad

I’ve got more envy for how well this fridge is stocked than for the fridge itself.

fridgidaire-ad

 

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Five Things – 07.25.16 – World’s Tiniest Engineers

Ghostbusters

No, not that one.

In 1975 Filmation had a live-action series about a couple of guys and a gorilla who hunted ghosts.  It was about as different from the 1984 movie that would come as you could imagine; it was aimed directly at children and focused on slapstick rather than actual paranormal enthusiasm for its comedic value.  It was pretty hokey, and it died on the vine after only fifteen episodes.

Obviously, after the mega-success of the 1984 film, there was interest in making a television series.  After an unsuccessful attempt to work with Columbia Pictures to produce a cartoon that tied in with the movie, Filmation chose instead to resurrect the original series in animated form.  Because Filmation owned the rights to the title, they were able to come to the table with a cartoon simply titled Ghostbusters – tricking second graders all over the country into watching their show.  Myself included.  Columbia Pictures, whose cartoon actually did relate to the film, had the ante-upped title The Real Ghostbusters.  Columbia Pictures had the superior series, but Filmation’s effort wasn’t without its charm.

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters featured the sons of the 1975 series’ protagonists, Jake Kong Jr. and Eddie Spencer Jr.  Tracy the gorilla was the bridge between the two generations, working with both teams.  Rounding out the team are Belfrey, a pink talking bat, and Skellevision, a skeleton television.  While there were gadgets involved in detecting and catching ghosts, the show on the whole was consciously low-tech but also high concept; the characters rode around in an old haunted jalopy named Ghost Buggy that could also fly.  This was a pretty big point of distinction between this series and The Real Ghostbusters.

Skull Phone Ghost Buggy

Sixty-five episodes were produced for daytime syndication, and a toy line followed.  It fared better than you’d think it would but it was really no match for our Ghostbusters – either on screen or in the marketplace.  Still, there’s something fun about it – it celebrates the supernatural in a sweet, goofy way that you saw less and less of in the ’80s, and still less today.  Plus, it’s gorgeous. Check it out.

 

How You Can Help Win The War

Here’s an interesting wartime pamphlet about things civilians and laborers can do to help win the war.  It’s interesting to see things like “drive carefully” and “don’t get hurt” included with the more obvious “don’t blab what you know”.

How You Can Help Win The War

 

1991 Canadian Anti-Drug PSA

This 1991 Canadian anti-drug PSA plays like a Tim and Eric sketch.  To say it didn’t age well is an understatement – would this have resonated with kids even back in 1991 when it was made?

That “COOL” gets me every time.

 

Frustration 1973 Box Art

I love the painting of the family on this 1973 Frustration (known as “Trouble” here in the U.S.) box art.  Particularly because it looks like that kid is in some serious pain.

Frustration

 

Exciting Ant Farm

From the “Always Wanted, Never Had” files…

Exciting Ant Farm

 

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Five Things – 7.11.16 – Real Sick, Real Quick

Man From The 25th Century

This 1968 Irwin Allen production never got off the ground, and it’s kind of a shame.

25th Century

Tomo was abducted from his 1951 Earth life and given combat and telekinesis training on a distant planet 500 years in the future by alien beings, his ultimate mission being to return to 1951 and destroy an Earth defense project named Project Delphi.  Weird, right? He’s given a final review by the alien board and his skills are found wanting, but they’re out of time.  They need to send him 500 years back in time right now. I can only assume that’s due to some limitation of time travel that my 21st century brain can’t comprehend.

Council

Saucer

Tomo returns to 20th century Earth as Robert Prentice, a man on his way to start working at Project Delphi.  That was easy! On the way there, the Project takes control of his car and drives him the rest of the way.

25th Century

He’s given a tour of the facilities and quickly tries to blow it all up. He’s captured and exposed as a traveler from the future.  The aliens who sent him decide that he’s too knowledgeable to let live, so they send a spacecraft to destroy him… and a bunch of innocent people. Tomo/Prentice is shocked that he was working for the wrong team and works with the 20th century Earthlings to repel the attack.

Delphi Defense 2

They successfully beat the aliens back, for now.  We never find out what happened after that, because the pilot never made it to series.  Like I said, kind of a shame – there was something there.  It’s rough and there are some gaps of logic but it’s still a lot of fun. Check it out.

 

Don’t Put It In Your Mouth

This 1993 Canadian PSA answers the ‘why’ of that age old command not to put just anything in your mouth – in nightmarish fashion.  And then tacks on a message about not taking anything from strangers. Or putting an item taken from strangers into your mouth.

 

Wartime Kraft Cheese Ad

I don’t know what bugs me specifically about this wartime ad for Kraft cheeses. Maybe because I’m not sure I associate Philadelphia Cream Cheese part of a wartime-thrift diet? I still love the design and the audacity of the effort, though.

Kraft Wartime

 

World’s Finest Victory Garden

Now THIS is a wartime effort I can get behind!

Victory Garden Worlds Finest

 

Merlin Commercial

This 1980s commercial for Parker Brothers’ Merlin electronic game doesn’t do much to sell me on it.  I remember this thing being confounding and confusing even back then when we were harder up for entertainment. I wonder if anyone would have the patience for it now.

 

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