By Bill Ward
---- — In my younger years, we had a battle of cereals. Right after the war everyone wanted everything. There had been four years of nothing new, little other than necessities and not a lot of those. Every man wanted a new car, the ladies new clothes and shoes, children different things to eat. Many of the older cereals were well entrenched and during the war about all readily available for the sweet tooth of the youngsters and oldsters. Television was just starting and everyone wanted a television set. Cereals started the television war by sponsoring television programs and then by adding premiums to their product. Many popular TV programs were sponsored by cereal companies. And those programs usually predicated just what the company would offer as prizes in their product. And the cereal companies brought out numerous sugary products too, and we as children loved them.
Decoder rings were the seemingly most popular item to gain the young person’s attention. First off sponsor a program that uses such things then offer then in your product. Evening programs usually were family oriented but right after school it was all children and how to get their business. I remember badgering mom for days until she got a particular cereal with something as a prize that I felt I could not live without. Mom finally gave in and purchased a box of what ever it was I wanted. The one thing I remember is that it was the worse cereal I had ever attempted to eat. One spoonful was all it took and even the dog would not eat the remainder, not a good idea on my part. The prize didn’t work well either so all in all it was a bust, for me and the company because they went belly up rapidly.
Comic books were a dime each and there was a huge variety available at the local drug store or grocery. The stores would have racks of comics and those racks would be changed on a weekly basis with new and even better product. Later on in my youth a new comic came about, Classic Comics. These publications took what was considered classic books and put them to the cartoon genre. Many at the time, at the start of the Classic books any way, decided they would be great for making book reports. The teachers caught on rapidly and that great idea was rapidly discarded by the young scholars. Even though they did do one thing, get the interest of the younger set to actually read the book itself.
Comics always had some sort of advertisement on the back. One of the most popular, particularly in the spring, was garden seeds. At the time many still had their own gardens and a lot purchased seeds yearly. The comic spiel was you could buy seeds and then sell them and make lots of money. You had to order what you wanted, pay for them, get them and then peddle them. Not always did you get what you wanted, you got what the seed company wanted you to get. Then the seeds you got were few per package and compared to the local hardware store expensive. So usually you ended up with a lot of unused and unsold seeds to figure out what to do with.
BB guns were also popular for comic book advertising. Every young boy wanted a Daisy Red Rider BB gun. I know I sure did and it took a great deal of wangling with dad before I finally did get one. Another popular advertisement for the back of comic books was for a body building program of some sort. Those comics that were of interest to young boys whose hormones were about to kick in were great ways to get your product out and sold. One of the more popular ads showed a very curvy, lovely young lady on the beach along with a skinny young man her friend. Another young man with muscles galore was running by and kicked sand into the face of the young lady and skinny young man. Then they would tell you if you purchased their product you too could have muscles and win the attention and friendship of a young lady. Blatant but usually effective advertising many young preteens spent a couple of bucks on a program that was generally ineffective, yes I was one of them.
Another thing with comics you wanted to be sure that you and your friends got together prior to purchasing any new comics. You and your friends would figure out who was to buy what comic and then after they had read the comics you would trade them around so everyone got to see all the comics available at the time. Add to that the popular act of collecting match books and you had fun in spades. Everyone smoked so everyone also put their product and company name on matchbooks. Although during the war the good old Zippo lighter was popular they cost a couple of bucks up to more than $5 for the deluxe model. So why buy a lighter when every where you went there was boxes of matchbooks for you to buy and use. Buy a smoke they gave you a matchbook to light up your purchase. I bet I at one time had 300 matchbooks all in a special page like book made just for that purpose. Just one more thing from way back when.