As time goes by

By Jay Jamison

Members of a certain age demographic should be able to finish these lines: “A little dab will …,” “Winston tastes good …,” “The best to you each …,” and “The heartbreak of …” Although many so-called experts have poo-pooed the practice of rote learning, the TV advertising industry can look back on 60 years of relentless repetition as a spectacular success.

It may surprise many younger readers that cigarette ads were on every channel back then, and they were highlighted sponsors of some programs, like the news. During the earliest days of broadcast television, NBC aired the Camel News Caravan, sponsored by Camel cigarettes. One of the controversies about advertising cigarettes on television arose from the Winston slogan hinted at above. “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should,” aroused the ire of some English teachers, because the slogan used “like” when the grammatically correct version would use “as.” Presumably, the irate English grammarians discussed this departure from correct grammar over a Winston or two in the teacher’s lounge — the last of the legendary smoke-filled rooms. Until the Surgeon General’s report about smoking, there was little outcry about the health effects of cigarette smoking, but a recognizable slogan was seen as bad for grammar. TV cigarette ads and smoke-filled teacher’s lounges are all gone.

Many people have a fondness for the bygone days of their youth and may be uncomfortable with the fast-moving world we live in now. Still, does anyone really want to return to those days? “The good old days,” is an oft used line, but were they really all that good, compared to today? I remember TV ad slogans from my youth because I was an impressionable kid back then, and because the remote mute button had yet to be invented. If you wanted to turn the sound down, you had to get up and manually turn the knob on the television set. Does anyone really want to go back to those days? Those who grouse that they never had to wear a bike helmet, or fasten seatbelts while driving a car, boasting that they survived anyway, rarely take into consideration the number of people who didn’t survive.

In those pristine halcyon days, I remember watching the Tournament of Roses Parade on a slightly out-of-focus black and white television. I watched this year’s Rose Parade on a modestly sized flat screen TV, which would have seemed enormous by the standards of my youth, in high-definition color.

Today’s cars are more efficient, comfortable and safer than the most highly prized muscle cars of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. I like to go to car shows and look at the beautifully maintained cars of past decades, but I do not want to go back to those good old days — no air conditioning, and low miles per gallon.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is one of the slogans I remember expressing when the Bell Telephone System was broken up. I knew about landline phones back then. What I didn’t know at the time was about the near magical possibility of cordless phones with the whole world of information at one’s fingertips.

What would I like to retrieve from my callow youth from many decades ago? That youthful spirit of adventure that had me looking forward, rather than back.

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