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The Way it Was #1449: How's your knowledge of old-time brands and products? (Part I)

by John Straka Published: September 14, 2016 12:00 AM

If I say to you, "Toyota," or "Honda," you will know that those are brand names for certain kinds of automobiles. But what if I say, "Gold Cross?" If you are younger than 30, you probably will not have even a good guess as to what the Gold Cross product is, or was. If you happen to be over 60, it might be just the opposite. You may know.

Here is my list of brand names, and I'll leave it to you to determine what products they represented. If you do this with a friend or two, you might have a lot of fun.

Nehi -- Mavis -- Fat Emma -- Dole -- Dr. Pepper -- Tang -- Chock Full O' Nuts --Eight O' Clock -- Minnehaha -- Clabber Girl -- Ralston -- Cascara -- Gold Medal -- Smith Brothers -- Father John's -- Prince Albert -- Havana Blossom -- El Producto -- Dutch Masters -- Mail Pouch -- Kool -- Chesterfield -- Tangee -- Willis -- Studebaker -- Thom McAn -- Enna Jettick -- Buster Brown -- Lady Esther -- Pocahontas.

How are you doing so far? Did you know that Nehi was a soft drink, made popular by the character named Radar in the TV series "M*A*S*H*?" Mavis was a chocolate flavored soft drink. Fat Emma was a candy bar. And Dole still is the brand name for pineapple products. Dr. Pepper and Tang were two more beverages, the first one being a cola flavored soft drink, and the latter, an orange flavored powder to make orange juice, developed for use in space.

Chock Full O' Nuts and Eight O' Clock were popular brands of coffee. The roasted coffee beans came in a one pound bag, which the customer could take home, and use a hand powered grinder to produce the best, freshest ground coffee. Later on, every store had a great big coffee grinder on the counter. The beans would be dumped into the top part, and ground by turning a big wheel by hand. When electric power replaced muscle power, some stores had, or may still have, self-serve grinders.

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You go into an office or a waiting room at the doctor's, and they have a drinking water dispenser. It used to be that the water dispenser was serviced by a man who came on a regular schedule to replace the big, 5 gallon jug of what was said to be spring water. Minnehaha was the company providing that service.

Clabber Girl was a baking powder product used in the days when a lot more women did their own baking at home. Ralston was a cereal that I remember because one of the men working for me had hot Ralston for breakfast every morning for 30 years. Gold Medal was, and still is, a popular brand of flour. In the long ago days, it was sold in 25-pound cloth bags, which women used to make underwear for their kids. It was not uncommon for a girl to bend over to pick up a hopscotch marker or something, and everybody nearby would see the Gold Medal logo on her underpants.

Cascara, Smith Brothers and Father John's were all over the counter health products. Cascara was a laxative, Smith Brothers a very tasty cough drop and Father John's a cough and cold medicine -- the only cough syrup that really tasted good.

Prince Albert, Havana Blossom, El Producto, Dutch Masters and Mail Pouch were all tobacco products. Prince Albert was a pipe tobacco that came in a metal can. Pranksters would call the store to ask if they had Prince Albert in a can. When the storekeeper said, "Yes," the caller would ask, "Would you please let him out?" Havana Blossom was a chewing tobacco that came in a bright red package, while Mail Pouch came in a tan colored package. When my parents ran a store, customers preferred our chewing tobacco over that of our competitors, because it was my job to keep the display case humidified. El Producto and Dutch Master were just two of the many brands of cigars that we sold. Some were priced as low as 5 cents each, and some as high as 50 cents each.

Kool and Chesterfield were cigarette brands. The first one was mentholated. Tangee was a lipstick. Many years ago, some of the earliest automobiles had a big button in the middle of the steering wheel. You pressed that to blow the horn. The Willis-Knight was different because it had a knob instead of a button. It controlled several functions. If my memory is correct, it blew the horn, operated the windshield wipers and turned the headlights on and off.

The Studebaker had nothing to do with baking-it was the brand name of another make of car. Thom McAn, Enna Jettick and Buster Brown were popular brand names for shoes.

When a lady went into her boudoir to powder her nose, she probably used Lady Esther loose face powder. Pocahontas brand coal came in large lumps. Gold Cross was a brand of evaporated milk.

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