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Gerry George's Memories - 5
The nostalgic memories of a television kid of the '50s

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Dear Whirligig,

Comic speculation on what form commercial advertising would take, when it did - eventually - come to our TV screens, was once part of the comedy act, performed by that most versatile and talented of comedians, the lovable, Bob Monkhouse.

I saw him do this particular, hilarious speciality-piece, during his own 2O-minute spot, at Manchester's Palace Theatre, in 1956, when Bob, as Buttons, was starring alongside Yana, (Cinders), in Delfont's record-breaking Christmas pantomime, 'Cinderella'.

In the rain-storm scene, a youthful Bob snuggles up to Cinders (the lovely Yana), and, with one arm encircling her waspy waist, leads her in the duet: 'Isn't It A Lovely Day, To Be Caught In The Rain ?' : a number that couldn't have been more appropriate to herald his immediately following, 'front-curtain' solo, when - with the raindrops, still glistening on his shoulders - Bob re-appears, trundling-on a trolley, stacked high with a wide range of consumer durables.

Sending-up, a supposed TV commercial for 'Super-Soup', poor Bob eventually gets into such a 'tis-was' with the product, that he ends up getting it all over him.

But he was used to getting soaked that way, wasn't he ? : in fact, I'd seen him do the very same act, on BBC TV, the year before.

I suppose that's what you could call 'Saturation Coverage'; but, anyway, it was good for laughs, and, in a way, it did prepare viewers, for what they could expect to have in store for them, one day, in the near future, when they arrived home, and switched on the telly...and were confronted by a gigantic block of frozen water.

And so, it came to pass, that on one day, in the same year, Gibbs SR, with their famous tube of toothpaste incarcerated in a solid block of ice - emblazoned with the slogan: 'Tingling Fresh' - made its frosty appearance on our TV screens, accompanied by the the first of those tinny-sounding dirges, that were supposed to make you latch-on to, and hopefully, buy, the product, when you went to the shops.

There was initial excitement, but the novelty soon wore off, because, frankly, viewers had been spoiled by BBC TV's 'uncorrupted' form of broadcasting, and they didn't take kindly to having the continuity of their viewing interrupted, four times every hour, by intrusive jingles, and people trying to sell them everything from soft soap, to toilet rolls.

Still, we got used to it - didn't we ? - and very soon, not a few of us, were humming, or whistling, the most popular, or most frequently-plugged, commercial themes of the day.

Let's see if the following snippets of advertising copywriters' doggerel, can jog a few memories ?

Make the Day
Make the Day
With Cad-bu-ry's Milk Tray, Hey-Hey
With Cad-bu-ry's Milk Tray

or how about....

Wait ! Watch-it !
Here - comes - the steam
It's the Hotpoint Hi-Speed Kettle
It's the fastest boiling kettle you can buy

# Now boils a pint of water, in under one minute

Hey: they DID say a PINT of water, didn't they ?: that's just two cupfuls; not a kettleful, by the way: see how misleading ads can be.

Then, do you remember that commercial for Armour Corned Beef ?:

"Armour Brand, with the Armour Star"

And of course, dear old Bing Crosby, brought us:

I'm going well
I'm going Shell
You can be sure of Shell

Then there was the first set of 'Katy' commercials, proclaiming the benefits to be had from using OXO Cubes to make gravy for her husband, and their growing family.

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And girls, can you remember that hunky-voiced New Yorker who induced you to:

Hold that style - girls: with
Alberto V-O-5 Holding Hair Spray

Spray it on a mirror:
You can't even see it.

Other sprays dull the mirror:
Dulls your hair

But, Alberto V-O-5
Keeps-on Shining Through
No wonder wise girls, always use Alberto V-O-5 Holding Hair Spray !

Competition came in the form of similar TV-borne inducements,
Proclaiming the wonders of
Toni Home Perm

Who remembers that loving couple, sharing their smokes, down by the rippling waters, and the jingle ? :

"Menthol Fresh: As cool as a Mountain Stream"

Thora Hird told us:

"I'm the mother, in Mother's Pride, yuh know !"

And do you remember the merry little animated Chinaman, who sang:

Esso Sign means Happ-y Motor-ing
Esso Sign means Happ-y Motor-ing
Esso Sign means Happ-y Motor-ing
Call at the Esso Sign

How I felt for those poor arthritis sufferers, who were interviewed by Wilfred Pickles, for sponsors Fynon Salts:

"Not much fun is it, eh ?" he would ask, before reaching for a tin emblazoned with the manufacturers' name.

Then there were those marching animations, singing:

Murraymints, Murraymints
Too good to Hurry Mints

And, of course:

Sir Creamy Nut, insisting:
"Sharps' the Word for Toffee !"

And who could forget that pathetic, cowering and servile, Yorkshire process worker, speaking from the shop floor, in his white surgical cap, and wellies, At MacIntoshes toffee factory ?

"Well, first of all, we 'ave TOFFO LUXE, and then
We 'ave the more 'hexpensive' TOFFO DE-LUXE"

I always pondered what he - or his management - would have done, had they taken the trouble to find out, first, what the French word 'de' (simply meaning: 'of') stood for ?

But, never fear, light relief was always at hand, especially in the amorous shape of that seductive harem girl, who lulled you into a trance with:

Fry's Turkish Delight
From the fabulous East
It's Fry's Turkish Delight

Fresh from 'pop-picking', to the sound of the Swinging Cymbal, Disc-jockey superior, Alan Freeman, would knock at your front door, Having donned a white coat, and driven his shining new Cortina into your Friendly Council Estate, and waved a bunch of crispy new fivers under your nose.

And, if you had two tops from a packet of new White Tide, well....
You were quids-in, Mrs. Housewife !

Of course, there was always plenty of opposition, to sway you, one way, or the other:

Omo adds Bright-ness
Bright-ness, Bright-ness
Bright-ness, Women Want
O-mo !

Westcountry housewife holds up to camera, fanned-out cluster of crispy new fivers, and says:

"Oi ard two packets of Omo
When the Omo man called
Now Oim richer by far
An' moi whites, are whiter than evur befur"

Meanwhile, Oxydol enlists a professional actor - in the billowing shape of 'housewife', former sylph-like, Thirties film musical comedy star, Jessie Matthews - to advertise THEIR product.

Jessie, is seen hanging her 'smalls' out on the line, while she boosts the product, in true 'cut-glass' West End Theatre parlance.

But this language is quite acceptable: After all, these are days when most advertising, directed at the female of the species,began with the salutation: 'Ladies...'

Indeed this was the chosen form of address, for introducing such garments as 'Cross Your Heart' and Berlei Underlift bras, and 'Little X' corselettes, in which the sales-pitch drew lady-viewers' attention to the: "Ten tiny panels - like ten little fingers - at either side of the garment, continually massaging your stomach, and ensuring that it is held in, and kept flat, all at the same time".

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It reminds me of another, similar commercial, where a ballooning Yvonne Arnaude exhorted 'ladies' to look slender and perfectly contoured, with yet another elasticated, and imprisoning, tea-rose satin intricately-laced, and multi-eyeleted 'ram-rod' wrap-around.

I just wonder if some of our younger ladies - today - would really want that sort of constriction now: somehow - no - I don't think so.

I wonder, also, if they would like to be told - albeit, in song - on the telly:

You'll look a little lovelier, each day
With fabulous Pink Camay

Anyone remember this one ?:

Hadrian, Hadrian,
The Deep-Gloss Paint
For a Really Professional Finish
Use Ha-dri-an !

And, can YOU tell Stork from Butter ?

Seven out of 1O people, who were blindfolded for our test couldn't !

We spread an equal number of bread-samples, with both Stork, and also a well-known brand of butter
But, of those tested, seven out of 1O people, who tasted the Stork Margarine sample, thought it was the butter

Actor James Hayter, utilised his role of Mr. Samuel Pickwick, a Dickens' character, which he stamped his own likeness upon, in the 1952 movie 'The Pickwick Papers', and subsequently used, to induce us to buy Mr. Kipling's: "exceedingly-good cakes".

If Hayter's characterisation was totally professional, which it most certainly was, then the very antithesis came in the form of an embarrassingly amateurish advert - for 'Davenports Beer At Home' - which gave an otherwise totally untelevisable Mr. Davenport several seconds of air time, that he most certainly would NOT have had, at any price, but for the fact that he owned the company.

It wasn't that this, painfully patronising, Northcountry gentleman 'dropped' his H's: because he didn't; rather, the fact was, he aspirated too forcefully, if anything, and in all the wrong places.

So, the commercial seemed - to me, anyway - to take on the dimensions of a ludicrous, Jimmy James comedy routine, rather than an effective sales and marketing device.

Mind you, with the 'Red Revolution' ,stirred-up by the Marketing Men, pushing Watney's Red Barrel - and Flowers Keg Bitter, also in the throes of a major sales-push - poor old Davenport didn't present any real problems.

And I wonder how many people remember the 'thud', as the archer's shaft sank into the bulls-eye, as a precursor to Bulmers' commercial for their famous Strongbow Cider ?

Showerings' Babycham pony - advertising their very popular celebratory fizzy drink - has never seemed to be off the television, since the commercial stations first opened their doors.

For those of us, with a sweet tooth, Norman ('Swinging !' 'Dodgey !') Vaughan, was a familiar character, in the famous 'Roses Grow On You' commercial.

Norman, some viewers will recall, took over from the tragic, Don Arrol, as compere/MC, in the long-running ITV success: 'Sunday Night At The London Palladium', and he was succeeded by the immensely successful Bruce Forsyth.

Norman is still around, by the way: I saw him, last year, at a party, in the BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, and he was on top form, in every respect.

Other sweet commercials included: 'Have a Break - Have a Kit-kat !', and, of course, that sweet little lad, albeit mandatorily, reminding his mother: "Don't Forget The Fruit Gums, Mum !"

If ever there was a sign, of: 'The Times, They Are A-Changing' well the above advert certainly would seem to indicate who was starting to call the tune.

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Before anti-cancer legislation, cigarette and cigar commercials were 'big business' on television, and no doubt, cricket star, Dennis Compton did well on the back of his Condor Tobacco advert, in which all the trigger words: deep, satisfying, mellow, rich - no matter how unlikely, or inappropriate - were used to good advantage.

The same could be said of Hamlet cigars, and the similarly miniaturised Wills Whiffs.

Of course, when it comes to any kind of over-indulgence - and fags, and cigars certainly do fall into that category, along with sweets - well you need something decent, to clean your teeth afterwards, and prevent them getting covered with that unsightly smokers' film.

And I suppose that's where Pepsodent, and Colgate came in; the latter promising all users a 'ring of confidence'.

Mind you, it's all very well cleaning your teeth, but - when you've had a real Christmassy night out - you need something more drastic, and that where the Andrews' Liver Salts commercial came in.

It's just that, well, the Andrews' adverts didn't seem to me, to be all that considerate, or tactful, when their messages - promising "a new refreshing feeling", and "inner cleanliness" - were transmitted, advertising how to get feeling fine, and without having to invest in 'the hair of the dog'.

The dialogue ran something like this:

Housewife: "Did you enjoy your Christmas dinner, dear ?"
Husband: (ungrateful and grumpy): "There was too much !"

I, personally think the husband's reply (above), represents the height of bad manners, and, in the circumstances, I am surprised they sold anything to reach their target figures.

Mind you, they surely know their own business best. So who am I to talk ?

John Slater, however, used more finesse, when he offered us a chance of purging our over-fed stomachs, with a regular fibre-borne diet of Special K.

I'll say this: he did look well on his regular bowlful, but, in the outcome, even that cereal did nothing to extend his life: in fact, John, one of this country's best, and much-revered character actors, went to his death, relatively young.

While we are on the subject of cereals, can anyone out there, remember the Readybrek jingle: I've quite forgotten how it went now ? I do remember Rice Krispies': "Snap, Crackle & Pop", by the way !

Of course, I have not attempted to include all the TV commercials that have appeared, since commercial television was first introduced, but I cannot sign-off, without mentioning the lovely Molly Weir, who older viewers will remember, as the loyal and long-suffering maid, in 'Life With The Lyons'.

For me, Molly's commercial exploits will always be encompassed by those superb Flash adverts, in which Molly, is seen hard at work, mopping up, in the kitchen, while she looks to camera and says: "No hard rubbing, or streaks...and finished in half the time !"

Well, candidly, that description could well be used to sum up my contribution, collating this little montage: because, it's certainly cleared up a few memories, for me....and it hasn't been any effort at all: in fact, no hard rubbing, and no streaks !

Hope you enjoy it, and - before I go - I'll leave you with a few product-names, that you may remember having seen advertised on TV, over the past few decades:

Heinz 57 Varieties
Turtle Wax (Car Polish)
Welgar Shredded Wheat
Aladdin Paraffin Heaters

If you can put a jingle to them, please don't hesitate to E-mail me: I can promise you, I will definitely respond!

Gerry George (Actor)

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