“The Shell Who?” she said.
The woman was in her thirties and did not know who the Shell Answer Man was. I felt old.
So I asked her, “Are you familiar with the Marlboro Man?” She shook her head. I changed the subject.
I find it interesting that I am more than twice the age of a human being who does not remember some of the most iconic advertising characters I grew up with. Because today, most gasoline ads are about energy saving, not dollar saving, who needs a Shell Answer Man anyway. And it’s understandable that someone old enough to be the parent of my grandchild might only know who the Marlboro Man was because of anti-smoking campaigns. After all, cigarette advertising on TV and radio was banned in 1971 due to the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act.
But what about the phrases that became so ingrained in our everyday lives back then like, “good to the last drop,” and “takes a licking and keeps on ticking,” To this day my coffee still comes in a blue can and my watch, bought at the biggest of the big box stores with falling prices, cost a mere $8.88. Which means I’m stuck in my ways and cheap.
Most of the adults I work with didn’t have clue who Poppin’ Fresh was until a huge little lizardy online insurance company parodied it in one of their own wacky and popular TV commercials. But what about Speedy Alka-Seltzer and Morris the Cat? Barely memorable, unless you are old enough to remember LBJ and Tricky Dick.
When I started quizzing others about what I remembered, I switched to famous people. I was sure that the You Tube, Pay-per-View, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu generation would be familiar with the actors and actresses that were so much a part of my life when TVs had rabbit ears and you could park and watch movies through the windshield of your car. Some didn’t actually watch the movies at the drive-in but that’s a subject for another day.
The younger-than-me-bunch knew that Kate Hudson was Goldie Hawn’s daughter but they never heard of Laugh-In. Jayne Mansfield no, her daughter Mariska Harqitay of Law and Order, yes. Danny Thomas, no, Marlo Thomas sort-of, because of St Jude. Marlo’s husband Phil Donahue, no way. They didn’t have a clue about Loretta Young, of big and small screen, and monkey mom Maureen O’Sullivan. Once famous in the pool, on ice and on screen, Johnny Weissmuller and Sonja Henie? They had never heard of them.
Ed Sullivan was a somewhat familiar name because of the Beatles. Steve Allen and Jack Parr no, Johnny Carson, maybe. Merv Griffin, nope. The marriage of Tiny Tim to Miss Vicki and the unforgettable singing voice of Mrs. Miller, (not to be confused with Miss Miller of talk show audience fame), they never heard of any of them.
I wanted to continue but soon realized that even though the divide between generations could have led to a depressing wallow in old age, it did not. I am as clueless about their memorables as they are about mine. So I’ll brew a good-to-the-last-drop cup of coffee, have a Poppin’ Fresh Danish and watch Tarzan and Jane on my Zenith with Flash-Matic tuning.