I must note this, because it is pertinent. Readers of yesterday’s deathless essay on the economics and psychological intricacies of battery marketing note that I scorned Menards for their foray into groceries. Do not bother me with condiments when I want a light bulb or a railroad spike. Well, Sunday I went back to Menards with the Giant Swede, since we had minor errands to run, and they spiraled madly out of control. He wanted a particular type of garden hose, As Seen on TV. I said it was not likely that something Seen on TV would be here. Because you had to order now, because operators were standing by. But wait! If you order now they’ll throw in another thing, because it has little intrinsic value but provides a small incentive that pushes you from the Camp of Vacillation into the Crew of Action.

Since Home Depot didn’t have it, we went to Menards. They didn’t have it. Of course they didn’t have it. As SEEN ON TV and thus distributed through rarified, isolated channels. But they did have hose caddies, and our old one is, well, old - stained, balky, leaky. My wife would like a new one. She would appreciate a 75-foot length of unkinkable hose. For that matter she would appreciate a new hand-held misting / spraying gun, because I know her old one is dead. For that matter I would like a new sprinkler, because the old one had seized up and just watered in one small pattern like an obsessive lunatic hunched in a corner of Bedlam, polishing a tiny rock.

These things were loaded on the cart, and then we went back to Patio in search of something. The details escape me. The Giant Swede was temporarily consumed by an array of Twists. Previously known as Licorice, but the profusion of flavors makes that term inexact. They are Twists. He’s on the lookout for Dr. Pepper Twists, which his kids like. We found them a month ago on a trip to Bed Bath & BEYOND, and I bought some: meh. But his progeny approve and hence need more. While he examined the astonishing array of Twists, I spied a display in the middle of the aisle: Ketchup, Heinz, 32 oz, $2.39. While cleaning up the cupboards the day before I had noted we were perilously low on ketchup, and while I know in the bottom of my heart there is a backup container in the stores downstairs, it is a backup. Plus, we were having hamburgers for supper.

I picked up one and tossed it in the cart. The Swede looks at it and says “where’d you get that?”

Over there. Good price.

“Damn.” He gets one. “I’ve made hamburgers twice for the kids this week without ketchup.” And he grins, because en route to Home Depot I had gone on and on about how I prefer Home Depot because they don’t try to sell you edibles when you really want a brass faucet part. And here we are: duly, and doubly, re-ketchuped.

But no one bought batteries.

Went back home, hooked up the hose reel. Mind you, that’s May work. The idea that we’re thinking of watering things before Tax Day is a sign that this spring will be magnificent, or the cruelest blow will fall like a mailed fist on a Faberge egg in a week or two. It’s happened. But the gazebo roof is up, and the little lights that go around the perimeter of the roof, adding a festive tour, have been COMPLETELY VETOED by my wife who doesn’t like them. But - they’re the same lights we use at Christmas time. We bring them in the house. Why don’t they work here?

Or so I said in my head, of course. She wanted nicer bulbs, and in the absence of driving 90 MPH to the Nicer Bulbs Emporium I was at a loss. The only other bulbs I’ve seen are short strings of 8 or 10 large ornamental . . . things. Japanese lanterns. Arts & Crafts-style lights. To prove it, I went back to Home Depot after taking daughter to Church Hi-League. Had to return some stuff anyway. Nothing at Home Depot. Nothing at Menards. Vindication! Except that brings no joy. I just haven’t looked hard enough.

Well, I needed some things at Target, so I went there to chew up time until I picked her up. And there, in the seasonal department:


They’d never had these before, and believe me, I know. Shazam and hurrah. Bought them. Of course, you know the wifely reaction.

See? All you had to do was look.

Actually, all I had to do was wait for Target to come out with these shaped bulbs after 14 years of crap, but never mind.

To get you in the mood, such as it might be, for the Products below: Before I went home I stopped at Cub for some items, and discovered some of the most generic and soul-deadening labels you’ll see today. Isn’t that how it works on the Internet? Here’s the Worst Bean Can Label You Will See Today and then underneath that millenial tic, “The struggle is real.” This is always used by people who have no struggles to speak of, being well-fed and adequately housed and employed writing “16 Times Corgis Failed So Hard to Solve Fermat’s Theorem They Almost Won” and other idiocies of their frothy-headed claque.

Anyway. Sad beans.


That should be an expression of mild and not entirely genuine dismay, or sympathy. Sad beans, man. Sad beans.

Also saw this not-entirely-unsuccessful attempt at giving a product a "retro" twist. It's hampered by the need to include the modern logo, and an attempt to mis the old 60s design with something from the early twenties. Otherwise, a complete success:

I was heartened to see the old fellow with the cork blowing through the brim of his filthy, matted hat. And there's the original slogan, too.

It's gal-gittin'. This stuff was a real novelty when it came out.



Where's Elsie? you ask. Patience, my friend. In the absence of Hemo or Cheese or Evaporated Milk, let's take a look at the only beer that sounds like the can when it's opened. Surely they played that up in some ads.

I can't help but think I HOPE THERE'S A TRIVET THERE because that's going to ruin the wood.


There's a slight problem here. Can you tell what it is?


That's right: the disconnect between TAVERN and "modern." To say nothing of lack of immediate connection between taverns and gleaming floors. doesn't bring to mind house-proud linoleum with pre-war abstract designs, and the horse-and-dirt-road picture didn't help either.

Is the jug supposed to remind you of Revolutionary War-era ale containers?


Soup or tea, they had you covered:

We've been over this before, but it's been a while. So: There was a Lipton, as you may have guessed. Thomas Lipton, a Scotsman and a yachtsman. (Hence the sailing motif on some of the old packages.) Before he went into the American tea trade he ran a chain of food stores in the British Isles. Smallish operation. About 300 locations. After he'd built that up he branched into tea, pitching the brand at the lower classes what couldn't afford the foin tea yer swells drank, begging your pardon. Died eigthy-four years ago, and I pass his name at least once a week.

Sometimes the tiny details at the bottom of an ad, magnified 100X, yield an object with a story to tell:

It had an editor. It had a photographer. It had writers, proofreaders, layout experts, deadlines, distributors, lowly-paid young ladies who opened up the letters asking for the book and sent it off. Lost to history now, their work for naught in the great long smear of time, a mere minnow in the innumerable school of 20th century publications, waiting for someone to pluck it from an attic and sell it to an antique store and let it rejoin the culture, if only for a week or two before it's returned to a drawer or a box.

Or, you could download it now.

I would like to ask about this, yes. I would.

The Glories of Television be damned; I want to know about the RCA IMS. Something about the logo tells me it was early Muzak pumped into factories to make the workday pass with greater ease.


A wine well-calculated to leave you in . . . toxicated:

You can fill up the comments with speculation about what I meant by that. I include this to note that Roma was the country's largest selling wine - and it's nowhere in sight today. Also the admonition to buy war bonds before you buy booze.

But mostly I put it up for that ROMA typeface. You see echoes of that in all the popular post-Obama-campaign signage and package design today.


As you know - or don't, I can't tell - we're always on the lookout for print reproductions of in-store signage, because they were never saved. Out they went when the promo was over.



Did RPM mean . . . well, RPM?

And we end with a staple, a fine piece of mid-50s package design with the Quisling Chicken and the classic Swansons logo.

Are there any happier words than Giblets Included?


That concludes our Tuesday. Oh, wait - no it doesn't. More adventures from Frank Reade Jr await!


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