A look through old magazines 20,679 doctors thought Luckies were good for you

Joseph F. Breighner

September 23, 1993|By Joseph F. Breighner

DID you know that 20,679 physicians in the U.S. thought one brand of cigarettes was good for you? Did you know Listerine was good for fighting dandruff? And Ronald Reagan once said: "Jeris [hair tonic] rates cheers for greaseless good grooming and healthier, handsome hair."

I know about this because I've been searching through back issues of magazines to discover what life was like in the "old days."

Here are some of my findings:

* A 1930 advertisement read: "20,679 Physicians Say Luckies Are Less Irritating." In smaller print it continued: "Toasting removes dangerous irritants that cause throat irritation and coughing." (Cancer without coughing?)

* An undated ad read: "Dandruff? Try Listerine. You simply douse it on your scalp, full strength, and massage thoroughly." (Doesn't that sound refreshing?)

* An ad from the '40s showed Mr. Reagan endorsing Jeris. A picture of a girl hugging a guy had the following verse: "When George's dome was greasy, the dames shooed him away. He switched to greaseless JERIS. He's a glamour boy today!" (Robert Frost would have wept.)

* A 1952 article in the American Weekly, written by Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, was titled "When the Crowd Boos." It was about how Feller was booed for not participating in an All-Star Game! Also, he said the all-star selection process was unfair. (Sound familiar?)

* There was a '50s column by Ty Cobb complaining, "They don't play baseball any more." He said teams used to hide binocular-equipped spies in scoreboards to steal signs from catchers! Occasionally, they read the wrong sign: "Wee Willie Keeler leaned in for the fast ball and took the curve right in the middle of the stomach."

* Numerous tobacco ads featured athletes smoking. Some samples:

Joe DiMaggio: "I've smoked Camels for eight years. They have the mildness that counts with me." Mickey Mantle: "Yankee slugging sensation makes his own 30-Day Camel Mildness Test!" Early Wynn: "Smoking Camels on a pack-after-pack basis proved to me how mild and good-tasting Camels are."

* But Stan Musial pushed cereal. "I'd advise any young athlete to start on Wheaties. You'll find me polishing off a couple of bowlfuls most every morning."

* An ad in a 1942 issue of Popular Mechanics predated the women's movement. It read: "What? A girl training men to fly for Uncle Sam? The name is Peggy Lenox. She is one of the few women qualified to give instructions for the Army and Navy. And the record shows she does a man-sized job of it."

Alas, this wasn't an ad for the military. The "girl" smoked Camels. "It's always Camels with me -- they're milder in every way."

* A Dec. 28, 1969, story in the Saturday Evening Post had this headline:"Johnny Unitas -- Is He Finished?"

* A Dec. 10, 1968, issue of Look magazine featured coverage of the controversy surrounding the birth control encyclical of Pope Paul VI. The magazine cover read: "Should the Pope Resign?" (It should be noted on this 25th anniversary of the encyclical that the pope lasted longer than the magazine.)

* A 1950s ad pictured a very young Chuck Thompson advertising the financial security of Baltimore Federal Savings Bank. This summer Mr. Thompson was installed in the Hall of Fame -- for his broadcasting abilities, not his choice of banks.

* Finally, a 1959 ad for a car: "Makes history by making sense. Exciting new kind of car! Room for six. Plenty of power without hogging gas. Soundly engineered. Solidly built."

* It was an ad for an Edsel.

Joseph F. Breighner is a priest in the Baltimore Archdiocese.

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