How Times Have Changed

From the Slope of Hope: One of my favorite little books is called Hey Skinny! Great Advertisements from the Golden Age of Comic Books, which pretty much describes the contents exactly. It is a hodgepodge of cheesy ads from the mid 1940s to late 1950s for all manner of junk, and it's eye-opening to see via these come-ons just how much has changed in merchandising. I thought I'd provide a sampling for your amusement, not edification.

First up is the "Lucky Grab Bag", in which children would send in their precious cash in exchange for a bag of..........stuff. God only knows what stuff would come back, but I suspect it was whatever overstock items happened to be laying around the office........ballpoint pens, sanitary napkins, swizzle sticks. I suspect an entire generation of kids learned the meaning of disappointment from the receipt of these parcels o' crap.


Next up is the most amazing sun watch in the world. The fact it was the only sun watch in the world probably helped. Evidently it was a watch with a triangle sticking out of it (helpful for accidentally cutting yourself) which, if you aimed it precisely right on a sunny day, could give you the time within two hours of accuracy. This allowed you to tell time "the truly scientific way". It wasn't just a watch, though - - this product claimed to have nine functions, including "weather forecaster", which I suppose meant if you couldn't tell what time it was, it was either cloudy or already raining on your dumb ass.


Now we step into the yesterday of political incorrectness with rubber masks. There's Satan, an "Idiot", and......umm........a Minstrel. This advertisement, only partly shown, suggests that wearing one of these masks was a great way to bag the ladies, since they found it terribly amusing. In the parlance of the day, you could "panic a party" (whereas today you could "earn a lawsuit.")


This next one is, for me, the most appalling of all. It seems there was a company back in the 50s whose sole purpose in life was to create photo enlargements. In exchange for giving their sales information to twenty of your friends, they would send you.........brace yourself........a monkey. How they shipped it to you or managed to keep it alive during the shipment (or, indeed, kept it from committing monkey suicide out of terror en route) is beyond me. It's hard for me to believe that the good people of the U.S. had much success with miniature monkeys shrieking and throwing poo around the house across the suburbs of our once-great republic.


For nascent crimestoppers, there is the "new toy gun" which, it seems, fires off pieces of potatoes. No big deal. What I find intriguing is the story they lay out in in the ad, in which a couple of young chaps stop a bank robbery cold (and are immediately paid for doing so by Mr. Bank Manager). It takes some serious suspension of disbelief to think hardened bank robbers would be stopped in their tracks by some ten year old holding what appears to be the letter "L" from Sesame Street in his hand, but that's how the story is told. One can only hope the kids of the 50s didn't seek out to emulate this behavior by hanging out in rougher parts of town with their weapon, waiting for their payday.


The ads weren't all just for kids, though. There were ads aimed at adults as well, and judging from the ad, there must have been plenty of desperate, disillusioned dads in America. Allow me to lay out what was being advertised here, as the story is told: (1) a guy pulls up in his driveway in a new car under the gaze of his envious neighbor, who puzzles over how he could afford such a luxury (2) the car owner states he is pulling down the big money by selling shoes door-to-door (3) Instead of laughing hysterically, the neighbor implausibly inquires as to how he can muscle in on this kind of action (4) the neighbor evidently signs up to be a new salesman for Mason Shoes, and he is provided a catalog and, yes, a sample air cushion which is the distinctive edge of Mason that makes them better than other shoes (5) the poor bastard pesters his neighbors, co-workers, and anyone else with feet to buy these shoes, and he does well enough that Mason sends him some sample shoes, sparing him the continue embarrassment of having nothing more than a soft insole as his only selling aid.


We finish our journey with an ad specifically targeted to adult women (why they would be reading Archie comic books is beyond me, but there we are). The ad portrays a town whose women are having their engagement and wedding rings stolen from their homes. Mary has been robbed too, but she's chill. How could this be? After all, the diamonds were worth at least a thousand dollars! That's easy - - because Mary has her actual jewelry locked up in a safe where no one can see or enjoy it. What she's been wearing on her fingers day after day are a set of rings that cost $2.98, and apparently no one could tell the difference. Nice going, Mary. I bet they look fabulous.


Well, that's it for our trip down memory lane. Perhaps you were expecting an article on trading. But ask yourself - - how much value have you received from all the articles you've been reading about trading for the past eight years? Yeah, that's what I thought.


bonin006 Stuck on Zero Sat, 10/21/2017 - 17:21 Permalink

The most interesting email I got was from an African chief. The tribe had been mining gold for some time and accumulated quite a bit. Now they wanted to sell it, and it seems the best way they could figure out was to email some guy in USA and offer to sell it to him for something like $100/Lb. I guess all I had to do was show up in the middle of some jungle with a suitcase of money.

In reply to by Stuck on Zero

old naughty Zer0head Sun, 10/22/2017 - 00:25 Permalink

Times will never change..." Well, that's it for our trip down memory lane. Perhaps you were expecting an article on trading. But ask yourself - - how much value have you received from all the articles you've been reading about trading for the past eight years? Yeah, that's what I thought."but soon we might even lose memories.AI.oh, not just trading...we're so US-eful idiots.

In reply to by Zer0head

cbxer55 Fri, 10/20/2017 - 21:03 Permalink

I was born in 61, so I missed all these "fabulous" attempts to bilk people of their hard earned money. We never learn, do we? If we had learned, there would be no such thing as commercial interruptions these days. Fortunately, some bright sole invented the remote control TeeVee. My parents bought their first one in like 73 or 74. My dad told us kids "we'll never have to watch commercials again". In my case, at least, he was correct. Don't get ragazines or a snewspaper, because they are all nothing but ads you pay for. STUPID! These things you posted, looked at in hindsight, are rather funny. I wonder how successful they were at bilking anyone out of their money? Masks for picking up chicks? Really, just look in the mirror! ;-)

vato poco Arnold Sat, 10/21/2017 - 16:44 Permalink

amen. that and street football: that was what life was obviously for.further proof America going to hell: when was the last time you saw a pack of boys playing street football/baseball? I drive by several public parks in my day-to-day, and they're empty all summer long. kids indoors. past high-school parking lots full of newish cars - a kid today would evidently rather walk than drive an old rustbucket.I'm also pretty sure they think drinking from a garden hose is fatal ... 

In reply to by Arnold

Got The Wrong No U4 eee aaa Sun, 10/22/2017 - 12:43 Permalink

I remember having to walk 10 miles to school in the snow and when I walked back home I had to stop and shovel the snow at 4 old lady's houses and they each gave me a Nickel. A cheese burger at McDonald's was .15. I was the only kid in the  neighborhood that had a toy elephant gun with a scope to shoot the Indians who had bows and arrows with rubber suction cup tips. Baseball, football, screwing around in the woods and swimming in a pond with sceeders, frogs, turtles and the occasional snake was just a normal day of fun. Bikes without gears and baseball cards, cloth-pined to the fender for sound effect and no helmets was all the rage. If you had a light and a speedometer you were really neat.  Times were simpler then.  I might have exaggerated a little about the 10 miles.      

In reply to by U4 eee aaa

aloha_snakbar Sat, 10/21/2017 - 09:48 Permalink

LOL...Billy waving around his "Amazing new toy gun" in front of law enforcement; do that today and he would find out what it feels like to get butt raped with a billy club by a SWAT team...

logicalman Sat, 10/21/2017 - 11:26 Permalink

I was born in '55 and remember buying Spider Man, X-Men, Avengers comics at the local market in UK - a bit hit and miss but I did manage to put together a collection that would be worth a small fortune now, if my dad hadn't thrown them all out.I had Spider Man #3 and #7 plus #20 - #60 with no gaps! Lots of the other names plus Doctor Strange, Daredevil and Fantastic Four.I always liked the insane ads. Didn't believe a word of them even as a kid! 

Conax Sat, 10/21/2017 - 11:34 Permalink

I had the little submarine from Kellogg's that ran on baking soda pills, Xray specs (see right through her clothes!), A "Sonic Blaster", a large pumped up air blaster cannon that could knock bird nests out of trees, splash mud from a puddle on passersby and truly louse up your older sisters hairdo.  My brother would blow cig smoke in it and make it shoot round smoke balls about 30 feet.There were SPY briefcases that came with all sorts of tricky gimmicks, $8 BB guns, Jarts, Hula hoops, it was fun if disappointing sometimes..My auntie gave me a string puppet one time (marionette?) of Pinoccio that I never did learn to drive.Oh, and the "Sixth Finger"-"Six finger six finger man alive,How'd I ever get along with 5?"It was a sneaky toy gun that looked like a finger. Amurica, hell ya! 

Hugh Mann Sat, 10/21/2017 - 13:34 Permalink

I remember when toy trucks (Tonka) was made of metal. When automobiles were made of steel. When a carton of cigarettes cost $5, when there where phone booths, a gallon of gas was 45 cents, a postage stamp was 5 cents, a bottle of Coca-Cola was a dime, a nickel-bag of weed was $5, the Sun was yellow. I remember a time when you could find starfish and beautiful shells on the beaches of the Atlantic ocean. I remember when our skies where blue, not hazy white. I remember when slot machines paid out silver dollars. I remember a time when children could play safely outside. I remember when kids could sell lemonade without being arrested. I remember when you could crack your child's ass in public for being a brat and not being arrested. A lot has indeed changed.

BarnacleBill Sat, 10/21/2017 - 14:23 Permalink

Hey! Surely I'm the oldest reader here, and surely it's my privilege to lead the crowd in its reminiscences. I grew up in Australia, which was - and probably still is - years behind the US in its acceptance of change. As Hugh Mann says (above), a lot has indeed changed. I posted some thoughts about this on my personal blog two or three years ago, which are relevant to the topic under discussion. I still find pleasure in remembering how things were, way back when. Have a look.

Playnice Sat, 10/21/2017 - 16:00 Permalink

I acknowledge that the author of this article considered it the "most appalling of all", but as a kid I wanted one of those miniature monkeys more than anything.  Still do--never got one though.

kareninca Sat, 10/21/2017 - 21:19 Permalink

These were before my time but we had my dad's old comics so I could see the ads; they were mesmerizing.  I really wanted to order a lot of the things but it was no longer possible.  Same with the old Sears Roebuck catalogue.  I bet those ads would still work.

pparalegal Sun, 10/22/2017 - 03:34 Permalink

After 60-80 years, thousands of government agents and useless consumer protection laws, kindly remember this when you watch Ralphie and his dad in A Christmas Story this year.