I already had Howdy, Mr. Bluster and three Flub-a-Dubs, but desperately needed a Princess Summer-Fall-Winter-Spring. I would even trade a Flub-a-Dub for a Buffalo Bob.
If you don’t understand the characters mentioned above, either you grew up well after the 50s and 60s, or your parents didn’t buy gas from Esso or Amoco. In the early 1950s, the Welch’s Company, known for its juices, jams and jellies, sponsored “The Howdy Doody Show”, a wildly popular daily children’s show featuring a red-haired puppet manipulated by the show host. show, Buffalo Bob. Every day, Monday through Friday, lucky kids who had written, moaned, or whose dads ostensibly “knew a guy,” as they say in Rhode Island, were gathered in what was called the Peanut Gallery. The Peanut Gallery was loud and rowdy and performed the theme song “It’s Howdy Doody Time” to introduce the show and maintain the energy and liveliness throughout the live broadcast.
One day, the guy who was head of marketing for Welch’s Company had the bright idea to print familiar characters from the show on their glass jelly jars. It took off like a rocket! Kids would beg their parents to buy the brand so they could collect all the different characters from their favorite show. It was simple, classic marketing at the time, and it worked like a charm. Even better, the jars could be saved and reused; and with the characters’ faces printed on the bottom of the glass, it encouraged children to finish their milk or juice.
Other TV shows and comic book characters were later added, such as the Flintsones, Archie Comics personalities, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, and more. This all lasted until the late 70s when glass technology changed, using a process that made glass thinner and more prone to chipping, so the fashion faded until until it resurfaced 10 years later with the Dinosaurs, Dr. Seuss, Muppets, Lion King, Pokemon, and Peanuts emblazoned on the glasses, but sadly, it’s gone once again for good. Now, these glasses can only be found in garage sales and thrift stores.
Freebies always seemed to drive consumerism. Even in the Depression era, when money was tight and movie theaters had cut prices to a dime, it seemed like nothing would work until…someone came up with Dish Night at the Movies ! Theaters gave away a free piece of china every week, so women began going to the movies in droves in hopes of amassing a full collection. This in turn helped many tableware and china businesses that were closing due to the depression. In the end, most theaters survived, dinnerware companies survived, and American homes acquired a free collection of dinnerware.
Supermarkets picked up the idea after the end of the Vietnam War of giving away a different piece of china each week with purchase. Grocery chains like Finast saw their results soar to the top as customers rushed to top up their cutlery each week.
Now here comes a shocker for young readers. In the 60s and 70s, when everyone was feeling good, you could get a plate, bowl, or drink at some gas stations. Some even had the treasured Currier and Ives turkey platters that still feature on many party tables today. If you remember DUZ soap powder, this company, owned by the Homer and Loughlin company, inserted a popular wheat-patterned dish with a gold rim or amber glass into each box of powdered soap, which resulted in the sale of millions of boxes and gave Tide a solid run for their money.
In addition to plates, bowls, and glasses, gas stations also pumped your gas back then (and attendants dressed in freshly starched uniforms with the company logo on the pocket), they washed your par -breeze and were always asking if they could check your oil, all at no cost and always performed with a big smile and good attitude. The only people washing your windshield now without being asked are nefarious looking characters at Manhattan’s red lights, then God help you if you don’t give them anything but a “thank you”. You will call Safelite Auto Glass.
Things have certainly changed, haven’t they? And in every possible way. No more Howdy Doody, no more free glasses or plates. Gas stations certainly do not give anything.
Now, prices being what they are, all they give you is gas.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 20 years, including her “In Their Shoes” articles. She can be reached at [email protected] or 401-539-7762.