In an otherwise jumpy world it is pleasant to reflect that one facet of life that seemed good and true to those of us nurtured in the Great Depression remains unaltered by the space age. That is the magazines that cater to the young fellow with an athletic, an adventurous or a moneymaking bent.
As fascinating as are the articles in these magazines, the advertisements have even more allure. Determined huskies, clad in leopard skins, smile out at the reader as of yore, urging him to trade in that scrawny body for one with rippling muscles calculated to scare the daylights out of the town bully.
But physical prowess is only one of the attractions of the ads which, a study of recent issues shows, are running virtually unchanged since the days when L.B.J, was a freshman in Congress. Economic success is the theme of many.
I dreamed of the fortune promised if I grew mushrooms in my cellar or chose to own my own printing business. How often I pleaded with my parents to let me raise hamsters, learn watch repairing or meat carving or be a railway mail clerk. Who knows to what dizzy heights I might have soared in the world of commerce had I not been saddled with shortsighted parents! But they would always shoot down each new enthusiasm by reminding me of the time I set out to Be The First In Your Neighborhood To Own A Daisy Air Rifle. All that was required was that I sell 36 packages of bluing, a product designed to do for washes what today's detergents are also designed to do. How was I to know that virtually every other kid for miles around was also determined to be the first in the neighborhood to get his mitts on an air rifle?
I started off with a bang. Mother took two packages of the bluing. Our next-door neighbor bought one. I began to feel like "Mr. J. G. of Baltimore," who was quoted in the ad as saying, "I sold six the first hour." Well, I sold three the first day. And that's all I sold. I began to wonder how well J.G. would do in my town. Apparently people in Baltimore were more fussy about their washings, and certainly they were more considerate of young men trying to earn an air rifle.
What obviously had happened was that the law of supply and demand was working overtime. Our town had too large a supply of bluing salesmen in the face of no demand whatsoever. That's when the bluing company stepped in and advised me, in a formidable printed document with a gigantic red seal, that I had better send along the money for the 36 packages of bluing or Face Trial. It struck me that this communication lacked the warmth that had been implicit in the advertisement, and I wondered if maybe new owners had taken over the company since that friendly ad had been published.
My parents were indignant—not at the company, surprisingly, but at me. So back went my inventory of 33 packages, together with the money for the three I had sold. Shipping charges ate up my profit on the three I had sold and even nibbled into my 50¢ weekly allowance, but at least I didn't have to Face Trial.
With that shipment went my dream of being the first in my neighborhood to own that Daisy Air Rifle. However, this wasn't too keen a disappointment, because nobody in town sold enough bluing to earn one. We all went back to our homemade slingshots.
Yet one dream that persisted was to learn the Art of Self-Defense. The quick way was to study jujitsu (the In thing in today's ads is karate). I remember one ad with the unforgettable headline: I Broke His Hand like a Match. It showed a skinny guy being set upon by a big bruiser. What the bruiser didn't know was that the skinny guy had mastered the Art of Self-Defense. Every time I read that ad I could hear the crunching of bones and picture the horrified look on that villain's face as he went sprawling in the dirt.
I never did get to sign up for the course, but I think I know how J. G. of Baltimore got to sell all that bluing so easily. Before he set out on his rounds he signed up for that course in the Art of Self-Defense. Who could say no to an expert in jujitsu?