The Unbearable Lightness of Coffee

A perfect morning: sitting in front of an ever-decreasing pot of coffee while jabbering on the phone (getting that. Although it will give her something to talk about.
more and more wired as she goes, no doubt). The pot ought to be on a trivet or something, she’s going to wreck the kitchen table’s finish. No one’s going to enjoy

Airway Coffee – guaranteed not to go down your airway even if you swallow it funny – was an A&P brand. I’ve never heard of it, though. My mother went to the Grand Union, never the A &P, and she was strictly an instant coffee type. Plus we didn’t have an eat-in kitchen with a table. Or a coffee maker. I have both of those things now, but I tend to just slosh instant in a cup and get on with it. I write about coffee a lot, and I love good coffee. But I’m kind of lazy, too. Maybe if I could get some Airway Coffee I’d be inspired to drag out the coffee machine and make a pot. Then I’ll get my iPod and start texting madly as I drink cup after cup. Sounds like a great morning plan. Maybe tomorrow.

Does anyone else think the ad lady’s head is changing size with every cup she drinks? Maybe I don’t want any Airway Coffee, after all.

photo credit: alsis35 (now at ipernity) via photopin cc

The Father of Our Coffee

Even the doughboys in the First World War really loved G-for-George Washington’s Coffee, as you can see in this advertisement from 1918.

You’d be excused for thinking that the coffee was named in honor of America’s first president. Not only is he the one George Washington people generally know about, there’s the whole cherry tree legend and cherry pie thing associated with him, too. Well, that kind of goes with coffee, right?

But there was another George Washington (1871-1946) who was born in Belgium and came to the US in the late 1890s. His name really was George Washington – his father was English, and his mother was Belgian. Some sources say he was related to or descended from the George Washington but that doesn’t seem to have been proven.

He invented a kind of instant coffee when he lived in Central America in the period just before World War I. It wasn’t the very first instant coffee, though. That would be Strang’s Coffee, invented by New Zealander David Strang in 1890. And American chemist Satori Kato popularized his instant coffee at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901. But George Washington’s was one of the first really widely sold kinds of powdered coffee, building on Strang’s and Kato’s earlier versions.

His company also sold G. Washington Seasoning and Broth in the 1930s (it is still made today, by the way); according to this site, this was sold at first under the charmingly minimalist name, “Broth.” Later this was changed to the much more evocative (though confusing) name “Soup of Tomorrow.” But mostly people remember George Washington as the Father of Instant Coffee.

Afraid of Stale Coffee

LiveJournal Vintage Ads

People should be afraid of stale coffee.

Or maybe they’re just afraid of Helen. One or the other.

When the theme of a 1930s cartoon ads is caffeine – and nerves – and whether a delicious cup of coffee is really to blame for some dame’s sourheaded snappery – well, you know it’s going to be fun. To read, that is. Not to be there or anything. Because Helen is in a very, very bad mood.

Mind you, I kind of understand. It does look like hapless Jim is deliberately dropping cigarette ash on the carpet. Look at his bemused expression – he could care less! It’s even kind of amusing to him, in a passive, Ashley-Wilkes (there’s the pun in the post, right there) sort of way. That would make me mad, too.

And then Helen is mad because she knows those other gals are gossiping about her behind her back – looks like they’re right there in the same room. In fact, I think they are all at Helen and Jim’s house. How rude of them! Can’t they wait until they get down the driveway to pity Helen’s future sister-in-law?

Still, I love how one of the catty gals says to Helen “I was only thinking how nervous you are. Why not try dated coffee? Stale coffee can give people nerves.” Yeah, that’s it! Quick thinking, Lucille. Barely polite, you see, but with a little zing at the end about “people” and their “nerves.”

But the ending…the so-called happy ending where Helen is now grooving on nice fresh Chase and Sanborn. I don’t know. Now she has “too much pep.” Uh oh. And just look at poor Jim. He looks kind of exhausted – and on the verge of hysterical giggles. That’s no good, is it?

Worry-Go-Round Stomach

I’ll grab something when I’m through!
…and something grabbed him that night!

Mr. Grabby was a busy sales executive. So very, very busy. Yes, all day he waved a piece of paper as he sat at a table with a phone on it. All day he said sneaky things on the phone. Sure, I can get you an incredible deal on the Brooklyn Bridge. Yeah, sure. If you buy it right this second, I can also have the entire bridge coated in 14 carat gold. Oh…and I’ll even throw in some – um – Danish pastries that were baked by the King of Denmark’s Royal Baker. No, really! They are regally delicious, I promise you. I just ate seven of them myself.

Mr. Grabby’s stomach starts to grumble and complain. Another ride on the worry-go-round, sloshing with bad coffee and semi-digested yeast.

Then that night, after another bout of “worry-go-round stomach” – after lashings of antacids and a few more cups of Brown Grit Coffee to wash the antacids down – the Thing appeared…

Yes, it was — the Giant Hand. You know the one I mean. It’s best friends with this guy’s Worry-Go-Round Stomach and it is very, very angry with Mr. Grabby.

–Hey, said the Giant Hand. You’re in Big Trouble. You’ve been messing with my friend. Grabbing crummy Danishes. Grabbing lousy coffee. Grabbing and gabbing. Well, that makes Giant Hand MAD.

–But I had to! I was busy talking on a small black phone all day while gesticulating with a blank piece of paper. It’s really stressful!

–Sorry, Charlie. Let’s go. I put you in big vat of Pepto Bismol. Try talking on little rotary phone while you do backstroke! [cue manaical laughter]

The moral: Never Upset an Upset Stomach. You never know what else you might upset.

Beware of Stale Coffee!

1933 ad, courtesy of TJS-Labs

Chase and Sanborn (both of whom have been drinking double espressos since 1933 and are ready to mess with your head) have a very very important message for all of you caffeinated folks Out There. This is especially important to know about on International Coffee Day.*

And the message is: stale coffee is very bad for you and will turn you into a peevish old woman.

Just like Ruth, the heroine of this advertisement. Why does she dislike bridge and staying up late and visiting the Smiths? Is it because she finds bridge boring (I’ll cosign that one, Ruth)? Is it because she was up folding laundry until midnight the night before (been there, done that too, sister)?

And don’t get me started on the Smiths and how they make everyone play charades until 2am and say bossy things about how you put the coffee spoon on the wrong side of your saucer.

But apparently Ruth just needs to drink some nice fresh coffee that Mr. Chase and Mr. Sanborn ground and put in a little jar just this morning, and then everything will be fine. She’ll be playing bridge at midnight, and dancing at 3am. And at the break of dawn she’ll be acting out the phrase “wet blanket” at the Smiths, who actually went to bed, too tired even to whine about spoon placement, at 4.

* I saw this on Twitter, can you believe it, I actually drop into Twitter fairly regularly now (maybe it was stale coffee that was making me avoid it before, either that or sheer laziness). Twitter had a hashtag thingie for “National Coffee Day” and I did wonder whether everyone outside the US got to celebrate too, but Wikipedia says it can be called either International or National Coffee Day. So wherever you are, have a latte or something and celebrate. But make sure it’s fresh!

The Legendary Breakfast of ZO

Graphic Design Labs (Better Homes and Gardens, 1930)

Is it past ten before you throw off your listlessness? Does your husband need a second cup of coffee to wake him up? Do the children bicker about what they will eat for breakfast?

My goodness, Battle Creek Health Foods, you must have been peeking in on us this morning. What with all the coffee-pouring and bickering, it’s no wonder I was draped over the laptop until, yes, past ten.

So am I glad that I came across this ad while looking through the fabulous Graphic Design Labs collection today. Until now, I had never heard of the mighty powers of ZO. Who knew that FIG BRAN (so exciting, it must be capitalized!) and something called ZO, put together, formed a breakfast with super powers even more amazing than Superman’s, back in 1930?

ZO itself had figs in it. Zo, zo many figs. It was made of “bran and figs combined with Savita yeast extract.” Plus also there is the to-be-expected yadda yadda about freedom from constipation, in the ad. I will spare you that. We’ve seen enough fruit salt and bran muffin and yeast ads here to know what combining figarific ZO with extra FIG BRAN will do to an unsuspecting, listless, coffee-addled person.

ZO “will send your husband off without a grouch.” It will give you and me both “vim and stamina…till noon.” Wait…huh? Only until noon? At 12:01, am I going to be like Cinderella running (or slumping, in this case) from the ball? Yes, ZO will wear off at high noon and leave me as vimless as a pumpkin the day after Halloween.

But so what. That name is enough to wake me up in the morning: ZO! There should have been a comic book series called ZO. Something that took place in ancient Egypt maybe, with evil yet listless mummies, and lightning bolts – and a superhero called ZO who wears a shiny black cape and a special jewel in the shape of a giant fig. The Legend of ZO needs to be told!

The Midnight Before Christmas

TJS Graphic Design Labs

‘Twas the night before Christmas
We were resting, and how;
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a cow.

Then Elsie came in
She was dancing and caperin’
And she put on a grin
And a strange frilly apron:

She was mooing quite loud,
As she danced a gavotte,
And made Borden’s Instant Coffee
In a huge coffee pot.

“Wake up,” Elsie bellowed,
“To Roaster-Fresh Flavor
It’s only twelve-thirty,
So do me a favor,

“Wake up and get happy!
Why not do all these dishes,
And then we’ll make cookies
They’ll be just delicious

If we use Borden’s Milk-”
How loudly she mooed!
Oh Elsie, do hush,
Neighbors think it is rude

To moo after midnight!
But this cow had had coffee
Enough for a herd
And was getting quite bossy:

So we cleaned and we baked
Until three in the morning
Full of caffeine and sugar;
And when Christmas was dawning,

We looked over at Elsie
Our eyes heavy and big;
She’d got into the sherry,
And was dancing a jig.

So we tiptoed upstairs
In the dawn’s early light;
Don’t tell Elsie we’ve had it -
Merry Christmas and good night!

I want to wish all of you a very happy holiday!

Jackie’s Jingle

Oh goody, a jingle contest! I don’t think that Mr. Gleason really wrote this, though. I think that his friends down at the ad agency did.

No one is going to win here, though – not really. Your taste buds will not win because that coffee is just a picture. And your eyes will not win because they are being harassed by Jackie’s eye-searing suit and beret. Mmm-boy! Those checks are really silly.

But let’s press on, since there are some cash prizes, apparently:

There’s no other coffee today
As good as the new Nescafé
Its flavor beats ground
Saves money per pound -

1. But doesn’t explain that beret.
2. Orange checks, though, are never OK.
3. And tastes better than Chesapeake Bay.
4. Not enough, though, to buy a Monet.

Please feel free to submit a last line in the comments! If only I had $35,000 in Nescafé prize money to award. But alas no.

Finally, here’s Jackie in The Honeymooners, playing golf with a pin cushion, wearing the pants he’s got on in the ad -  but a different silly beret. Address the ball, Ralph. Hellloooo, ball!

Thank you to Retro Ads and Graphics for this one! And to MTV for the picture of the album cover. Mr. Gleason really, really liked checks, didn’t he? The album cover suit is made out of Alice’s old tablecloth, I think.

The Neverending Coffee

Old Shirt: Hey! Hey, lady!…Excuse me, do you think you could turn around for a minute?

Dirty Pot (stage whisper, from sink): Ahh, what’s the use, she ain’t listening to you. You’re a Banlon shirt flapping around on a hanger.

Old Shirt: Oh, like you’re a big expert, you with the Kraft Dinner mustache sitting on top of a frying pan.

Dirty Pot: Well, I’ve been around this kitchen a little bit longer than you, buddy boy. And I can tell you, when she’s slurping Folger’s, there’s no talking to her.

Old Shirt: Too bad we don’t get Folger’s down at the office. Then maybe Biff would shut up once in awhile. He complains all day about his stupid In drawer. You oughta hear him whine! And he’s wearing me. No getting away for a little nap in a dark cupboard, like some folks.

Dirty Pot: Aw, forget it. Just shut up. She’ll be done in a minute. I know that cup and lemme tell you, it’s a lot smaller than it looks.

Old Shirt: No such luck, she’s got twelve jars of Folger’s on the counter over there. Looks like we’ll be here awhile.

[Many thanks to David Middlecamp at Photos From the Vault (fabulous photos from the archives of the San Luis Obispo Tribune) for this 1958 gem.]

Coffee Talk

Chase and Sanborn coffee appears to contain a little too much caffeine. Or maybe they put some rocket fuel into their special blend.

What exactly is happening here?

(a) A lady’s head was in the can, like a genie in a bottle. And when you open it – whoosh! Out she comes to grant you three wishes (first wish: make that head go away, it’s freaking me out!)

(b) Some perky housewife opened the can and in so doing, her head popped off. That must have been a bit of a shock. And yet – she’s still really perky, in a bemused, almost ironic way. She really wants that coffee, I guess – disembodied or not.

Or could it be

(c) The head and hands come with the can – and they open it for you. After all, the tagline says that the coffee “tells you it’s fresher.” Maybe the head is the spokesperson. “Yep,” she is saying, “this stuff is really, really fresh. I know, I’ve been babysitting this thing since we left the factory. Whew, I’m glad it’s open now and I can get out of here.”

That would wake a person up in a hurry, definitely. No caffeine needed after all.

Many thanks to Retro Ads and Graphics for this 1956 ad.