By Dr. Curtis Varnell
Visiting my Oklahoma grandmother for a weekend was a treat. She could actually pick up, believe it or not, six televisions stations with her antennae. Heck, we didn’t even have a T.V. until I was around ten and we got one channel, CBS. Saturday mornings at grandmas was a smorgasbord of cartoons. All my favorite stories and characters that I still remember like they were dear and best friends; which they were in my young, easily imprinted mind. The Hanna-Barbara cartoons were some of my favorites. Let’s see, there was Deputy Dawg, Yogi Bear, the Jetson’s and, of course, The Flintstones. My favorite was the Roadrunner; the little underdog always got the best of that Wiley coyote. In the afternoons, I could always locate my favorite Tarzan or Jungle Jim movies and set entranced in front of the T.V. Babysitting we five kids must have been easy back then; of course Roger could never sit still more than ten minutes so grandma had to keep an eye out for him or he would be taking spark plugs out of her car or seeing which facet worked best on her milk cow.
The shows were entertaining but what I remember most were the commercials. Saturday morning’s it was all breakfast cereal. I can still remember the characters and lines. Everyone knew Corn Flakes were made in Battleship, Michigan, that Fruit Loops were for kids, and that Tony the Tiger absolutely loved Frosted Flakes. Later in the 60’s, NASA made the first space drink just for astronauts and kids- TANG. The price of it was so astronomical you had to be an astronaut to afford more than a taste of it. 7-Up introduced the Uncola, Pepsi developed the taste test, and R.C. and peanuts were sold as a pair. Beech-nut was a popular chewing gum but Double Mint gave you double the fun and pleasure. Never mind that both were made by the same company; the goal was to get you to remember the jingle and buy the product.
We could all sing along, Plop, Plop, Oh What a relief it is!! My Bologna has a first name, it’s O S C A R !! Later, Burger King came out with the even more popular granny repeating, “Where’s the Beef?” Commercials were sometimes more fun than the show.
In the afternoons, Burma Shave and Gillette competed to sale you razor blades and shaving equipment. Every cigarette known to man hyped their wares; I even saw Barney and Fred describing smoking an entire pack of Winston. Winston competed with the Marlboro cowboy, the Lucky Strike gentleman, and the cool taste of Salem. Desi Arnaz smoked one cigarette after another on I Love Lucy. I guess that wasn’t too unusual for that age since they handed out Skoal to us at agri and FFA school events.
In the 60’s, instant coffee became a fad. We could hear the perking of Maxwell house and watch Juan Valdez gather Folgers but that wasn’t enough. We needed everything quickly-thus instant coffee you simply dumped into hot water. No matter it tasted like warmed over mud; it was fast, hot, and black. When in Costa Rica, the farmers explained to me that they drank their best coffee, sold the second best to Europe, and sent the rest to America because we would drink anything. In fact, instant coffee was often made from the ground up hull of the coffee bean, the stuff they discard in other countries. Ah, What advertising and T.V. can do for us Americans!