I was making an earnest attempt to get to the bottom of my email bin Saturday night, because I’ve just been living such an extravagantly fascinating life lately something had to be done to endullify it. Did some basic search terms for things I do not want to read and will not read and frankly resent I got in the first place - all those needy nags from software developers and platforms for Social This and Sharing That and other things that just accumulate like balls of wet lint in your life. Lord, for the days when mail came once at noon and never on Sunday. On the other hand, there’s lots of interesting stuff from readers in there, and while I try to read everything there are days I can’t respond because I’m not in the mood at the moment to do them justice.

One of the search terms I used was rather broad. I hit SEARCH and a bunch of letters came up and I scanned the headers, and sure enough, clutter. Hit DELETE and hello: my email box went from 476 to 25. Did UNDO to see what I had done and nothing happened. Lost many mails. Not permanently; a lot go to an account which cannot be remotely deleted by the program I was using, and I will be plowing through its depths this week. But: alas.

On the other hand, starting from zero is good. Or was good; zero is now 18, and 16 of them require a brisk and uncompromising unsubscribing.

At the moment I’m in a Caribou coffee shop, having an Americano. It’s the only thing I can drink in coffee shops. The flavored drinks are not my cup of coffee (ha! ha!) and the straight brews never taste right, and never have. Burned or just peculiar. When they say a particular roast is winey, you should take them at their word. Anyway, the coffee shop is attached to a grocery store, and it’s a nice store on a weary commercial strip. From what a local business manager told me, the city is waiting for the developers to put up nice dense buildings that hug the street, replacing the post-war commercial stock. They have a plan! No one wants to participate.

So there’s an apartment complex for insufficiently salaried; never see anyone go in or out, but there are children’s toys and a few plastic chairs outside the doors in case anyone wants to sit and watch the parking lot. Then there’s the parade of bygone franchises. Shall we?


A Red Barn, perhaps.

Big Boy, belive it or not:

Remodeled beyond recognition. The previous incarnation as a Thai restaurant still had the exterior trappings of a Big Boy, but gone for good. I thought the ones in Fargo were a Bob’s, but Wikipedia in its infinite wisdom tells me it was a McDonnell’s, a “rogue” operator that was brought into the franchise arrangement.

Unless I hallucinated the existence of a Fargo Big Boy. No; I remember the statue. I got a comic book that had the unnerving little man-boy engaged in various adventures. But the memory is blurry, and it doesn't seem we went there very often. It must have failed, because I don't remember it existing in the years when the world started to cohere into memory.

How could a Big Boy with a Big Boy statue outside fail?

Mr. Steak:

I found some dispute on a yelp page - oh, I am wasting my life, I am - over whether this was Mr. Steak, or Davanni’s. Sorry. This was. The sign used to have the distinctive shape of Mr. Steak.

(From this page, which has a TV ad.)

I note this because it’s necessary to note what something was before it was something else, that’s all. Bygone restaurant chains fascinate me, and so many faded away before the internet was there to cement their days into the electronic firmament.

Any idea what type of fast food this place served?

Taco Bell! Yes and no. That was a Zantigo’s, a local chain that was folded into Taco Bell . . . but rose again a few years back. Locals know them by the arches.

You're looking at the classic 1960s Arby's, right here:

It's been a car dealership as long as I can remember. Sometimes the awing protruded much more than you see here. The stone was different colored in the style of 50s / 50s facades, as we had with our Fargo rambler.

The picture below is a few blocks away; it was never anything else other than an office bulding, but belongs to a very specific time in human history. To make it sound much grander than it is. In Olden Times one could live one's entire life without the architectural style changing; now they can shift in a year or two. This was the late sixties: sparkly black rock, cone lamps, black brick, narrow windows.

That was all you needed to do to be Modern.



Now it's time for our weekly look at old logos, packages, ads, and other bygone examples of commercial culture. We begin with the usual domestic humiliation.


She's going to Canada, and he doesn't know? Has he just not been paying attention? He can't stop tearing her down, too, scoffing at her assertion of international recognition, as if he cannot bear to admit she's successful and beloved.

Your milk this! Your milk that!




That’s one tough looking dame what’s serious about her wieners:

A Duluth native, she even had the Death Stare in her glamour shots. She quit acting in 1957, years after she’d divorced Joltin’ Joe, and her last appearance was in a Dragnet TV show.

I had no idea:

Tendered in pineapple juice, a patented process! Smoked over fragrant wood! Yes, on a small fires by poorly-paid workers who had to hold them by hand. That’s what the bands were for. So they didn't burn their fingers as fast.



Sing along to the Pepsi Jingle! You know it. Don’t you?


I love the assumption that the audience could possibly read music. Might take a while, but you’ll get it:

The cartoon was by Al Posen, known for his rhyming ads and a strip called “Sweeney and Son,” now long forgotten. This cartoon concerns Father's habitual neglect of his teeth.

It was about as generic as comics looked back then, but if anyone drew in that style today it would pop right off the page.



Looks like a 1950s greeting card. Modern, brash, crude, and startlingly ugly. With a cat's anus on his upper lip.

Throw-away! The magic words for a life of leisure. KEYES, the company, still exists, and was founded by Martin Keyes. A company history:

There are two corporate fables regarding the origins of the sturdy, yet disposable paper dishes that were the precursors to Chinet. One recounts that inventor Martin Keyes saw workers at a veneer plant in New York eating their lunches on pieces of maple veneer, and that their impromptu plates got him thinking about disposables. The other story recounts that Keyes' mother urged her enterprising son to improve upon the pressed wood pie plates that were available at the turn of the century.

I suspect the truth is neither, and is based on rambling recollections of Keyes himself in his dotage.

Also: I enjoy living in a world that has “Corporate Fables,” although I do not think they will last the test of time.


It's a cigarello ad, and Bert heartily endorses cigarellos and suggests you try them. His son wrote a book, too.

Beginning in 1962, Lahr started researching and writing a book on his famous father, partially, he said, as a way to get to know his manic-depressive, absentee Dad. “Despite his ability to tease the last scintilla of laughter from a role, he had no idea how to brighten his own day,” he revealed. “But there was a gentleness in his bewilderment, which made both the audience and the family want to embrace him.” Ironically, Bert Lahr died the day his son completed the book on December 4th, 1967, never having read any part of it.

There was a gentleness in his bewilderment. Sounds right, doesn't it.

Things I learned today: Bert Lahr's son is married to Connie Booth, aka Polly the Housekeeper from Fawlty Towers, although she ought to be known as the show's co-writer. But when you say "Fawlty Tower's co-writer" most people have no idea who that might be.




As I noted a long time ago in some other context, the phrase “That’s for me” as a means of expressing a preference was previously inverted, and to modern eyes it clangs. Like this.

You can see why it was turned around by the popular tongue. Ads like this, where a fellow has about two inches between retina and eyebrow, didn't help.



Gloria Swanson goes on a train ride:

She seems very alone but brave about it all. Being alone and unnoticed and reduced to this. "It's a part!" her agent said. "Not a movie part, but a role!" And the silent butler glared at him, an unmistakable warning: do not break her heart again.


Work blog around 12:30, Tumblr around noonish or so - see you then! And of course, Richie Rich.


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