Thursday 3 March 2016

Esso Blue - Illuminated Shop Sign

Here's a lovely blast from the past - an Esso Blue illuminated sign, seen above unilluminated, featuring Joe the Esso Blue dealer, befamed of the "Boom Boom Boom - Esso Blue!" TV ads from the 1950s to the 1970s.

On dark winters' evenings, signs like this would glow at us from shop windows as we made our way home.

The sign illuminated, with Joe informing passers-by: "ESSO BLUE PARAFFIN ON SALE HERE".

They're still around, of course, but the retro charm of the old days is somehow lacking (to younger generations, the present illuminated signs will probably assume greater charm in years to come, envoking fond memories of childhood).

When I was a kid, I imagined that the inner-workings of these signs must be somewhat sophisticated. Not till I was about eight did it occur to me that the striking effect was achieved with a single light bulb.

Sunday 22 March 2015

1956: Harpic Rescues The Reception...

Picture the scene: it's 1956 and your darling daughter is about to be married. You, her loving mother, know all about pre-wedding nerves and how fraught the run-up to a wedding can be (the dreadful time Mrs Dale of Diary fame had when her daughter Gwen caught measles and couldn't marry Dick Mutty is still quite fresh in your mind), but all seems set fair.

And then your aforementioned daughter begins behaving strangely. Is she sickening for something? The girl starts insisting that she wants her wedding reception to be held at a hotel, not at your home. Is it just pre-wedding jitters? After all, your home is just as respectable as the groom-to-be's parents' abode. You feel quite hurt.

But then a quick word with your dear, dependable sister reveals all: darling daughter is ashamed of your... er... loo... er... sorry... I mean W.C.

You start sprinkling Harpic round the bowl nightly, and all is well. The reception is a great success.

Problem solved. A happy ending.

Harpic was invented by an Englishman - Harry Pickup of Scarborough - in the 1920s.

Friday 20 March 2015

Aladdin Pink Paraffin - A Sensible Dog And A Pongo...

A 1961 newspaper ad - sensible people (and dogs) it seemed had pink paraffin delivered. Cute, wasn't he?

Well, we've already taken a nostalgic look at the famous (and very long-running) Esso Blue dealer, but what about Aladdin Pink Paraffin?

A friend of mine who claims to have knowledge about such things, tells me that the main difference between the Esso Blue, Regent Super Green and Aladdin Pink paraffins was simply dye and their respective manufacturing companies. But each claimed superiority over the other - less smelly, less smoky, more popular, etc.

And Esso Blue and Aladdin Pink tried to gain our loyalty by employing nice little cartoon characters to charm us.

Esso Blue, of course, struck gold with the Esso Blue dealer (who at first wasn't called Joe, then was), but Pink Paraffin shuffled about a bit. Two characters it brought us were a dog (see the 1961 newspaper ad above) and a "Pongo" - an elephant-like creature. The name, of course, alluded to the lack of pong with Pink.

Once Pink put the dog out, they brought the Pongo in. It was sort of a pink elephant. I think. I remember a catchphrase for Aladdin Pink "back in the day" - "Pink don't stink!".

Sunday 15 March 2015

Saturday Cat and Real Dairy Cream

Saturday - the cat that got the (real dairy) cream.

It was appropriate, of course, to have a cat advertising Real Dairy Cream. And why not a cartoon one?

Saturday Cat was the advertising feline for Real Dairy Cream in the UK around the early-to-mid 1970s. He may have first appeared earlier than the 1970s, and his tenure may have been longer than I remember, possibly extending into the early 1980s, but I think his reign was brief, and I know he is little remembered today.

But for a time he was the star of TV, magazine and newspaper ads, badges and booklets.

Ah, how fleeting fame can be!

December 1973 magazine ad - "Make Christmas really creamy!" That pud and pastry looks a tad indigestable to my finely-tuned 21st Century tummy.

Why was our hero of mag, book and screen called Saturday Cat? Well, the "Cat" part of the name is self explanatory, but perhaps "Saturday" indicated that Real Dairy Cream was a weekend treat? I confess myself puzzled. Does anybody out there know the answer?

"How to make the best use of cream - as recommended by Saturday Cat" - Dairy Produce Advisory Service, Milk Marketing Board, circa 1980.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Diggin' Mr Mix From Nesquik!

This is Mr Mix, my old hand puppet, issued as a special offer from Nesquik back in the late 1960s.

Mr Mix's reign as star of Nesquik telly ads and Nesquik packaging icon was brief - spanning the mid-1960s to the early 1970s - but I liked him, and my Mum sent for the puppet for me. Wasn't I lucky? I also wanted an Esso Blue dealer puppet, but they were never produced. Shame!

Mr Mix was a happy little chappie, but he didn't do a lot. He simply enthused over Nesquik in the telly ads and twirled about a bit, stirring milky drinks. He lacked character on-screen, but he was a great companion in puppet-form. I went through a phase of digging up the back garden with an old dessert spoon, and my Mr Mix puppet was happy to help, and seemed to share my fascination.

We both retired from that occupation many years ago, but my Mr Mix still bears some traces of good old 1960s garden soil.

Bless him.

Mr Mix on an advertising sign from the 1960s. Roll Up! Roll Up! - a 4d Animal Bar with every tin of Nesquik. Animal Bars were lovely little chocolate bars for us tiny tots. You can still get them. All this reminds me that, back then, we common English folk used to pronounce Nestlé's without the accent on the last e. We simply called it "Nestle's". I didn't know how to sound that accent until the 1980s!

Monday 9 March 2015

1915: White Feathers Or The King's Uniform?

A white feather and the contempt of many of your family, friends and neighbours, or the "King's uniform" and "do your share"?

Back in the dark days of the First World War, many men were proud to enlist and go off to fight for King and Country. Some young men enlisted because they thought it might be an adventure, a "bit of a lark". They soon discovered otherwise. Some men enlisted simply because they were frightened not to. Some were in reserved occupations or unfit to go. Those that did not enlist because they did not believe in wars or were simply afraid of losing their mortal spark, were put under immense pressure. Conscientious Objectors, or "Conchies" as they were often called, sometimes went into the danger zones in non-combative roles, but for those who remained at home, life was very difficult indeed.

War is a complex issue. I have nothing but the greatest respect for those who did go to war, many losing their lives. But I also have feeling for those who did not, because of their religious or ethical convictions, or simply through fear. Safe in the 21st Century, it is hard to grasp what they must have gone through. To suddenly become a figure of contempt must have been a terrible experience.

And being handed a white feather by a woman was one of the most prevalent expressions of that contempt.

Bizarrely, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel, suffragettes, campaigners for votes for women of wealth (not universal suffrage), were major supporters of the "White Feather" campaign, and campaigned for military conscription for men (which happened in 1916). One would have thought that somebody who was fighting for new rights for (albeit only wealthy) women, would have some respect and appreciation for men who also stood against the accepted norm. But not a bit of it.

Sylvia Pankhurst, another daughter of Emmeline, wrote in her chronicle, "The Suffragette Movement":

  “Mrs. Pankhurst toured the country, making recruiting speeches. Her supporters handed the white feather to every young man they encountered wearing civilian dress, and bobbed up at Hyde Park meetings with placards: “Intern Them All.”

Some of those receiving the white feathers had been declared medically unfit to serve. In at least one known case, a soldier home on leave whose uniform was being cleaned was presented with one.

Fascinating article on Mrs Pankhurst here.

Mrs Pankhurst is, of course, revered by many feminists today. But  I believe that sometimes idols can have feet of clay.

In fact, quite often in my experience.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Celebrities In Ads - Part 2: Fanny and Johnnie Cradock

Ah, the Cradocks! Forthright Fanny and jolly Johnnie! He all bumble and monocle, she all fire and fervour. A great pairing, who rose to fame through their exploits as Bon Viveur, reviewing various hotels and eateries for a national newspaper many moons ago. Fanny and Johnnie soon rose high into the culinary stratosphere and transformed English cookery (Fanny, like many food people of the day, worshipped French cuisine) with blue eggs and runny mincemeat pancakes and a host of other delights on the goggle box.

Although we mock slightly, we loved Fanny and Johnnie dearly, and there's no doubt the pair did an enormous amount for English/British cookery in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. And some of Fanny's tips are wonderful. If you've never tried stabbing a goose all over before cooking it, we recommend it. Not only is it a highly satisfying act in itself after a stressful day, but it really does make a fatty meat very delicious and digestable when cooked.

Although Fanny always maintained that the way she dominated Johnnie on-screen was all part of an act for the cameras, some on-lookers have since disagreed. But there is no doubt that, although not the first celebrity cooks, they brought a huge amount of character to the role, and have been very influential indeed.

Fanny and Johnnie were not blind to the power of advertising, and were involved in many advertising campaigns. Here they are in 1967, extolling the virtues of the Philips Electric Knife Sharpener and the Philips 3-Speed Electric Food Mixer. At 79/11 and £5:17:4 (this is old money) they weren't exactly a snip, but with Fanny and Johnnie endorsing them, I'm sure they were quality!

Sunday 1 March 2015

1913: The Michelin Man Cuts Up Rough...

The Michelin Man! We like him. Back when I was a kid, Doreen, who lived next door-but-one to us, had the ashtray - and I coveted it. But here he is in an English newspaper advertisement from 1913, appearing to be quite a threatening figure, laying down the law to a terrified little man whilst puffing away on a cigar.

Well I never!

Of French origin, of course, his original name was Bibendum - apparently a Latin word for the act of drinking. Drinking and driving? Dunno, that foxes me. Over the years, he's evolved into a cuddly, much-loved icon of his company, well known just about everywhere. He first appeared over in France in 1898.

1927: Mary, Her Lamb And HP Sauce...

We'll dart back to the 1920s now, where we find that Mary had a little lamb with lots of HP Sauce. Note Mary's little lamb on wheels! A very clever ad, and one of my favourites.

Did you know that the HP Sauce recipe was invented by Nottingham grocer  Frederick Gibson Garton in the 1890s? The name "HP" comes from the rumour that it was served in the Houses of Parliament.

Saturday 28 February 2015

1981: The Rumbelows Present CB Radio

17 December, 1981. Citizens' Band Radio was here! The equipment seems absurdly pricey by today's standards. But technology has moved on a great deal!

What a decade of fads the 1980s was!

One minute it was Space Invaders, the next it was Rubik's Cube, the next it was Pac-Man, the next it was dancing flowers, the next it was...

You get the picture?

One of the biggest fads of the decade, of course, was CB radio.

CB radio was invented by an American called Al Gross, way back in the 1940s. Some CB usage had been known in England since the 1960s, but successive governments refused to legalise it, and there was no great interest anyway.

By 1980, interest was growing. A couple of films had increased enthusiasm for American CB jargon, and a small but growing band of CB'ers were breaking the law by using imported rigs. In May 1980, the UK Government announced it was considering legalisation, and from then on the illegal craze started to escalate.

By the summer of 1981, many stories were appearing in the popular press about how the rapidly spiralling illegal craze was causing interference with emergency services communications, heart monitors and all sorts of things. By then, legalisation, with Government approved frequencies and equipment, lay just ahead.

From 2 November 1981, you could buy a licence and have a rig.

The craze peaked in 1983, with 300,000 licences issued.

Rumbelows electrical suppliers ("We save you money and serve you right!") reaped the benefit, as UK shops immediately sold out. For a few years, CB radio was a nice little earner. Then, on 1 January 1985, comedian Ernie Wise made the first handheld mobile phone call in the UK. They were too expensive for most. "Yuppie toys!" we cried. "They'll never take off! Haven't they ever heard of phone boxes?" However the mobie would soon rise to mightiness. And with BT's new "Chat Lines" booming in the mid-to-late 1980s, CB sank slowly into die-hard "enthusiasts only" territory.

Fond memories of the craze linger...

As for Rumbelows, the cartoon family group (one of them was called Gloria, I recall) disappeared from newspaper and TV advertising sometime around 1984/85. If anybody has a more specific date, I'd love to know!

Of course, the 1980s ensured that more changes in communications were on the way, changes that would make CB radio even more obsolete.

In March 1989, an Englishman called Tim Berners-Lee invented something called the World Wide Web.

And the 21st Century was well and truly on its way.

Friday 27 February 2015

Celebrities In Ads: Part 1: Melvyn Hayes

Here's English actor Melvyn Hayes featuring in a magazine ad for Long John - "SOTCH with that ten foot feeling" - in 1968. Mr Hayes was still a few years away from the role that most people remember him for today - as "Gloria" Beaumont in the BBC sitcom It Ain't Half Hot Mum.

Thursday 26 February 2015

"Boom Boom Boom Boom!" - Joe The Esso Blue Dealer

This lovable little animated chap is known to many of us as he appeared in a long series of TV, newspaper and magazine ads from 1958 until the 1970s - I'm not sure exactly when he bowed out during that decade. He was Joe, the Esso Blue Dealer.

What was Esso Blue? T'was paraffin for domestic heaters and stoves. The heaters were OK, but caused quite a lot of condensation. However, in the 1950s, '60s and '70s nobody round my neighbourhood had central heating. Heating was supplied by coal, gas or paraffin. Most people opted for gas or coal. We also had a one-bar electric fire, but it ate electricity at a tremendous rate so we never dared use it. We had a paraffin heater, but could rarely afford the paraffin. In consequence, the ground floor of our house was warm enough in the winter (coal fire in the back room, gas fire in the front), but upstairs was FREEZING. It was common in the winter months to awake to ice on the INSIDE of the bedroom windows.

The little Esso Blue fella, with his natty bow tie and dinky bowler hat, had his first telly airing in 1958.

In one late '50s ad, the Esso Blue dealer is seen at his desk, answering the phone to a variety of people, all asking if he's Joe. To each, he replies, in a Northern English accent, that he isn't - he's the Esso Blue dealer. A sexy sounding female, also asking for Joe, flusters the poor little beggar and he tells her he is the "Esso Blee dooler". Poor lad. In the end, the mysterious Joe phones, asking if there have been any calls for him. In between calls, the dealer sings to himself "Boom boom boom - Esso Blue!" and, at the end of the ad, we get the famous jingle.

Later, we learned that the Esso Blue dealer was also called Joe.

The Esso Blue dealer as he appeared in a late 1950s ad.

YOUR DEALER RECOMMENDS ESSO BLUE. A shame, because it's no longer available.

The "Esso Blee dooler" ad line came about by accident. The actor Dorland Advertising had employed to do the voice-over was late arriving at the recording session for one of the ads. Time was pressing, and Dorland executive Tony Solomon stepped forward, champing at the bit to get the sound balance right, and said: "Let me have a go at it." He then said "I'm your Esso Blee Dooler" instead of "Esso Blue Dealer", which "brought the house down", causing great hilarity amongst the staff looking on. So, Mr Solomon's bit of genuine tongue-tiedness was incorporated into the script for the ad, and was also a tremendous hit with telly viewers. 

 A boggle-eyed Joe on an Esso Blue Delivery Service order postcard.

 A lovely filled-in Esso Blue receipt from Leighton Buzzard - March, 1971.

 Cor, self-service Esso Blue!

In those days of few TV channels (two when it first aired, three when it ended, and four from November 1982 until 1989 when Sky launched), we eagerly grasped hold of various jingles and catchphrases and, even today, many of us remember them. From the likes of "Murray Mints, Murray Mints, too good to hurry mints!" to Beattie of BT's late 1980s ads ("You got an ology?") and beyond, we took 'em all to our hearts. "Boom Boom Boom Boom - Esso Blue!" is still etched on my mind today.

Joe assured us that, with Esso Blue, smoke wouldn't get in your eyes. Esso Blue didn't smoke. But all paraffin heaters gave off a slight smell. In 1971, Joe starred on his own flexi-disc recording - "The Great Blue Singer" ("They asked me how I knew it was Esso Blue. I of course replies, with lower grades one buys, smoke gets in your eyes."). The flexi-disc ended with the "Boom Boom Boom Boom - Esso Blue!" jingle, which featured at the end of each ad and became a national catchphrase.

 Here's Joe appearing on an Esso Blue can. He looks so happy - obviously a man who believed in his product.

After the Esso Blue dealer left our screens, there was a reminder of him for many years in my neighbourhood: Mr Dean, the local greengrocer, florist and Esso Blue supplier, had a tin sign showing Joe, stating "ESSO BLUE SOLD HERE" - or some-such. The sign, which Mr Dean put out on the pavement by his shop every day, ensured that the dear old dealer was a presence in my neck of the woods long after he'd finished on the telly.

Newspaper ad from 1960.

Three Esso Blue badges from the early 1970s - Joe The Non-Smoker, Boom Boom Boom, and Conserve Your Energy.

An Esso Blue receipt from the 1970s. "YOUR HEATER NEEDS BLUE". The inclusion of V.A.T indicates that the UK was a member of the Common Market by the time the receipt was printed.

Monday 1 December 2008

Zam-Buk Herbal Balm - How A Green Ointment Spread From England To Four Continents...

English newspaper advertisements tracing the spread of the Zam-Buk herbal balm from England - where it was first manufactured and sold by CE Fulford in 1903 - to four continents. Mr Fulford's inspiration for his green balm, stated in an early advertisement, was the "rich balms used by the gladiators in ancient Greece." Above: "The Great English Remedy" - 1907. And what's more there was no "flummery" and the testimonials to the cure were not bought or manufactured!

1907 again - and Mrs Scotchford of Walthamstow has nothing but praise for Zam-Buk...

A final ad from 1907 - "Do the damp, boisterous, biting March winds make your face and lips sore or your hands and arms red, rough and scaly? Help is at hand!

1908 - Zam-Buk was essential in cases of "seaside rash"!

1916: Zam-Buk - now available on four continents!
1917: "Of all Chemists and Drug Stores or the Zam-Buk Laboratories, Leeds" - "Keep a box always handy"!

1917: THE BRITISH REMEDY FOR SKIN TROUBLES - just look at that bulldog!

1918: The ever-ready ambulance!
Zam-Buk vanished from our stores in 1994, but is now available again. Google it!

Friday 12 September 2008

Yeast Vite

A very early Yeast Vite bottle - "The New And Wonderful Treatment of Pure Yeast Vitamins".

A box of Yeast Vite was always to be found in my grandmother's handbag. She swore by the little brown tablets to give an energy boost and settle the nerves. This blotter, printed in 1929 ready for 1930, proclaims: "YEAST-VITE TABLETS - The greatest Medical Discovery of the Century."

A whole series of ads, depicting men and women discovering the benefits of Yeast-Vite, appeared in newspapers in 1947 and 1948.

A Yeast-Vite box from the 1960s.

1982 - a far cry from the 1947 woman "done up, aching all over" and not half finished the washing yet! This lady has big hair, no doubt an automatic washing machine, and is evidently going places!

Yeast Vite are still available today.

I was introduced to them by my gran years ago and still rate them as a handy boost when my eyelids start to droop at inappropriate times!

Thursday 4 October 2007

1980: The Launch of the Shake 'n' Vac TV Ad!

A fondly remembered TV ad, featuring Jenny Logan doing a wonderful 1950s style song and dance routine around her living room as she sprinkled Shake 'n' Vac carpet freshener. "Do the Shake 'n' Vac and put the freshness back, do the Shake 'n' Vac and put the freshness back, when your carpet smells fresh, your room does too, every time you vacuum, remember what to do..."

The ad is often quoted by ITV, Channel Four, the BBC, old Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, as being first broadcast in 1979, but this is incorrect. The product was first on sale in 1979, but the advertising was delayed until 1980 due to the 1979 ITV strike.

The World Advertising Research Center site provides fascinating information from 1980:
Shake n' Vac: A New Product Launch
Hilary Rose, Mike Stefan and Carol Reay, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, IPA Effectiveness Awards, 1980
Launch of a new powder carpet and room freshener. Sold in 1979, but advertising delayed to 1980 by ITV strike. TV only used. Results: consistent sales growth (Nielsen Food Index); sales growth linked to advertising; awareness, brand recall, levels of trial, all satisfactory. Regional variations on ad weight relate positively to sales and share (Nielsen). Contribution to profit and overheads in first year claimed, though not substantiated.
Go to the WARC site Shake 'n' Vac info by clicking here.

Saturday 10 February 2007

1944: Shut That Door!

A fuel saving reminder from the Ministry of Fuel and Power - and inspiration for popular 1970s and '80s television presenter and comedian Larry Grayson.

Wednesday 31 January 2007

1944: Rennies Indigestion Remedy

Rennies indigestion tablets - tried and trusted!

1944: Colgate Dental Cream

Colgate - Don't be guilty of oral offence!

Wednesday 24 January 2007

July 1979: Smurf of the Month

This is "Smurf of the Month", July 1979 - one of a series of collectable figurines, available at National petrol stations.

The Smurfs' origins actually date back to the late 1950s, but over here in England most of us had never heard of them until they released a pop record called The Smurf Song, which entered our pop charts on 10/6/1978.

"Where are you all coming from?"

"From Smurfland where we belong."

Of course there was the invitable spoof version: "Where are you all coming from?"

"We're from Brixton on the run!"

The Smurf craze continued into the 1980s.

Tuesday 23 January 2007

"You Got An Ology?" - 1987 - The Launch of the BT Beattie Ads...

Having just been told by her grandson Anthony that he's flunked his exams, passing only pottery and sociology, Beattie says: "He gets an ology and he says he's failed... you get an ology you're a scientist..."

Mrs Beattie Bellman was created by Richard Phillips of the J Walter Thompson advertising agency in 1987.

And she was originally to have been called Dora.

The BT Beattie ads were launched around December 1987. It is often stated on the web, and indeed on a "Greatest Ads" TV show, that 1988 was the launch year, but the BT site lists the first appearance as 1987, and Maureen Lipman states in the 1989 script book You Got An Ology? that the recording of the first ten ads, accomplished in just over two weeks, took place before and after the
great gale of October 1987!

Those first ten ads included the legendary "Ology".

Here's what the BT site says:

A star is born and Beattie takes the nation by storm. Maureen Lipman's Jewish granny goes on to star in 32 TV commercials and contributes the word "ology" to the English language.

See the full article
here and scroll down to the 1987 section for the Beattie info.

The phone used by Beattie in the "ology" ad was a red BT Tribune - released in 1987.

"You Got An Ology?" by Maureen Lipman and Richard Phillips, 1989. Beattie had become a major celebrity in two years, justifying the publication of this funny book - which included twenty ad scripts, the thoughts of Beattie, and various household hints and recipes from the great lady!