A tune from the 1950s or early ‘60s keeps going through my head. It’s an advertising jingle, really. For toys, of course. If not a toy, the advertisement didn’t make a big impression on me. And in those days, there were no truth-in-advertising police.
I remember one ad I saw for a balloon shaped like the Hindenburg. The ad said you could guide it by remote control as it floated around the room. I was skeptical as an 8-year-old. Today, looking back I know there had to be wires attached because that was decades before the wireless “’mote control” my son wanted when he was little.
But the advertising tune I’m thinking about drives me crazy because while I have found TV ads on YouTube for nearly every toy that caught my fancy, Eminee has escaped me.
“It’s by Eminee!”
As near as I recall, Eminee (not even sure that was how it was spelled) was a company that made toy musical instruments.
I suppose the commercial got my attention because of the variation of “Jumpin’ Jiminy!” a slang phrase that was popular at the time.
It certainly wasn’t because of the toy musical instruments. I have always found music to be largely an annoyance.
When little, I sat in the car between mom and dad (seat belts had not yet been invented, neither had car seats.) When I had the chance, I would sneak a chubby hand to the radio dial and switch from music to talk. (Yes, Dave Crooks, even in those days I preferred talk radio to music. Sorry.)
My dad’s aunt gave me a toy instrument that included a keyboard and an instrument you blew into. Even though it came with a songbook, I never learned any of the tunes. The sound it made grated on my ears.
I saw Steve Allen play an adult version of the instrument on TV but even though Allen was one of my favorite personalities, he did not inspire me to play my toy version.
In 6th grade, dad decided I would march in the band and find the joy he had found while playing his saxophone. Our teacher recommended I play the clarinet.
At the time, a friend of mine regaled our class playing “Alley Cat” on the piano, and I thought that was cool, but I knew better than to ask my parents for a piano.
Mom and dad spent $300 they could ill-afford on a top of the line clarinet.
I took the lessons, suffered through practice and nearly ruined what was left of my pubescent self-confidence. Our band director lost his patience and quit teaching to sell car insurance. Mom yielded and let me quit the band.
She kept what was left of her reputation intact by telling her friends I couldn’t march because my adenoids and tonsils were swollen to the point air couldn’t get past them. That was a lie as made evident by my ever expanding waistline. Maybe the air didn’t get past my throat, but the food did! I did have to have the tonsils and adenoids removed a year or two after I quit the band.
I still have that clarinet somewhere in a closet. But later, as a teenager, I saved my money and bought a tape recorder and then later a typewriter. I found great joy in both of those possessions.
Mattel (“You can tell it’s Mattel, it’s swell!)” had the best toys in my estimation.
Mattel was the main sponsor of “Funday Funnies” on ABC-TV featuring Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent, a series of cartoons whose characters were nearly all voiced by an Elkhart, Indiana, TV puppeteer. He would fly to Los Angeles periodically to record voices for the cartoons and then return to his small-market TV station to use the same voices for dog puppets. The show was just slightly adult in character, and that made it wildly popular with kids.
Anyway, Mattel sold guns for boys and Barbies for girls. My love was a rifle that fired “Greenie Stick ‘Em Caps.” The caps glued to the flat end of bullets (no projectiles) and when the hammer hit the end of the bullet — BANG! — and the pungent odor of “gunfire” would fill the area. If you were careful, you could swing the rifle in an arc like Chuck Conners did on “The Rifleman.”
A few years later toy guns became politically incorrect. Unfortunately, by that time, another friend had had his eye shot out while playing with BB guns.
The next time you watch “A Christmas Story” remember my friend, Brian Whalen.
“You’ll shoot your eye out!”
It really can happen. Some other kid shot Brian. I wasn’t there at the time.