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The Way it Was: Can you match the company with the product?

by John Straka Published: September 21, 2016 12:00 AM

Which is easier to remember -- a brand name, or the name of the product it represents? In a case such as Bayer aspirin, the two are very closely linked. In other cases, they're not. I wonder how successful my readers will be in attaching products to this list of brand names. Now here's this week's list:

Crosley -- Philco -- DuMont -- Emerson -- Campus -- Ticonderoga -- Lydia Pinkham -- Carter's -- Castoria -- "44" -- Luden's -- Reo -- Tucker -- Checker -- Cord -- Dutch Boy -- Climax -- 20 Mule Team -- Electrolux -- Otis -- Bicycle -- Four Roses -- Calumet -- Goulden's -- Black Jack -- Teaberry -- Parker -- Argus -- Agfa -- Stetson -- Dr. Denton -- Hires.

If my memory is correct, the Crosley brand was used to sell both a tiny ultra compact car in addition to television and radio sets.

Philco sold radios and refrigerators. I owned one of the very first 12-inch televisions. Early TVs were limited to 10-inch diameter picture tubes, because nobody knew how to make a bigger one. Dr. DuMont found a way to make a 12-inch tube. Because he patented it, his was the only 12-inch TV available. He licensed Emerson to use his patent rights, and dominated the market until Mad Man Muntz blew it with a 14-inch screen.

When I bought my first television, it was a DuMont, and mine was the first or second one on our street and in the factory where I worked. I paid $330 for it -- a huge sum by today's standards. It had no remote or push buttons. You had to tune it in, and, while doing so, cross over the FM band. That allowed you to shut off the picture tube and listen to FM radio. The "magic eye" helped tuning and if the set did not work, you took the back off, and had its tubes tested in the local drug store. A new tube might cost $1 or $2.

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Campus was a grade school writing tablet with a picture of a cadet in military uniform on the cover. Ticonderoga was the brand name for a #2 pencil used in grade schools. Lydia Pinkham was a medicine for female troubles. Carter's Little Liver Pills is self-explanatory and Castoria was a laxative. Vick's Formula 44 syrup, and Luden's and Smith Brothers drops were leading brands of cough remedies. Luden's seemed more effective, but Smith Brothers tasted a lot better.

Reo was a big, clunky car, Tucker and Cord didn't do well on the auto market and Checker was a brand of car built specifically for use as a taxi. It was roomy, easy to get in and out of, and very comfortable for passengers. Checkers were painted in a checkerboard pattern. Anyone could buy a Checker, paint it any color and use it just like any other brand.

I remember large pictures on billboards of a boy in Dutch style blue overalls holding a brush and a can of Dutch Boy paint. Climax Wall Paper Cleaner was like a large handful of dough, smelling of oil with a hint of perfume. It was used to remove the soot and grime of a coal fired furnace from walls. Out of the can, it was a pretty pink color, and by the time it was filled with accumulated dirt, it would be black.

20 Mule Team Borax was a housecleaning product and Electrolux was a tank type vacuum cleaner. Otis made elevators. I'm going to leave Bicycle for the end because it's so different. Four Roses didn't come in a bouquet, but in a whiskey bottle. I remember my Dad would have a "fifth" in the house, mostly served to guests.

Calumet and Gouldens could be found in kitchens as baking powder and mustard. Black Jack and Teaberry were popular chewing gum brands and the first was actually black, which made it kind of cool to chew on. The Teaberry Shuffle was a brief dance step included in a chewing gum commercial.

Parker was a brand of fountain pens in the days when it was a new idea to have a pen that did not need to be dipped into an inkwell every time a few words were writen. Argus was a 35 mm camera, in competition with Kodak and Leica. The queen of England was said to have a solid gold Leica. The Argus was shaped like a brick with squared off corners. Agfa was a competitor to Kodak when it came to 35mm film.

Stetson made and sold hats, mostly the 20 gallon cowboy type. Readers will have to go back to their childhoods to remember when Dr. Denton's were pajamas with sewn in feet. That's a bit like today's slipper socks. Hires is known by me to be the company making the best root beer ever. The downtown Cleveland dime stores would have a huge barrel on a counter at the store's front door. For maybe five or ten cents you got a large mug of fresh, ice cold root beer. Today's root beer has no sassafras in it, and that's why it doesn't have the kick the original beverage had.

What was the product that used a bicycle as it's brand's logo? Obviously not a bicycle. If you play bridge, poker, pinochle or any kind of card game, you most likely, at one time or another, held a handful of Bicycle playing cards.

Editor's note: Straka can be reached via email at wenceslas88plus@gmail.com.


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