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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Will there be a Ford in your future as this 1944 ad suggests?

There was a time when you would be a candidate for the rubber room if you said that General Motors would someday be struggling to stay in business. Remember when "If it’s good enough for General Motors, it’s good enough for me" was a common saying? They had it their way for a long time. I think when the dust settles, they will probably have only Cadillac and Chevrolet and will be glad they still exist. Pontiac and Buick will probably go the way of the Oldsmobile.

I don’t see how Chrysler has held on. They have always been third in the U. S. behind GM and Ford. Iacocca saved them for a while with the vans and Joe Garagiola helped them a bit in the 70s with his pleas to "Buy a car, get a check!" You received $200 if you bought a Chrysler which is about what the car was worth after a couple of years. Plymouth is now gone along with DeSoto and who knows how much longer Dodge will be around. Is it really different enough from a Chrysler to justify its existence?

Does anyone remember "There’s a Ford in your future"? That was the Ford slogan beginning in 1944, a year when new Fords weren’t even available because of WWII. Pretty soon it may be "Does Ford HAVE a future?" I keep hearing of the millions they are losing and now their ads are imploring us to buy American and buy a Ford to save jobs.

I hate to see the American auto industry fade. I loved cars when I was a kid and would hop the trolley and go downtown specifically to see the new models. That was in the days when they would come out in January instead of the previous June. I loved the slogans like the ‘57 Chevy being "Sweet, smooth, and sassy." Buick would claim that "When better cars are built, Buick will build them." If you remember the Packard, they said in the early ‘50s that "Packard is the one for ‘51, ask the man who owns one." In the ‘60s, Eydie Gorme told us that "Plymouth is out to win you over this year." That worked in ‘67, but no more as Plymouth has joined Packard, Hudson, Muntz, Kaiser, Tucker, Oldsmobile, and many others in the auto graveyard.

I never thought I would buy a foreign car but when looking for a new car in 2001, I gave the Hyundai XG300 a try. It was a much better value than any American car so I traded in my Chrysler and became a Hyundai owner. I have since bought another Hyundai. I hated to do it but the GM cars I looked at couldn’t compare in price or warranty. The dealers seemed complacent about the foreign competition but with dealerships closing daily, especially on Scottsdale’s motor mile, maybe they are changing their attitudes. I have a feeling that we will soon see discounted cars and 0% financing.

P.S. If you want to see some great restored American cars, stop by McDonald's on Indian Bend east of Pima in the Pavilions Shopping Center. They have some beauties there on Saturdays.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Big changes in the grocery business

A typical Safeway store of the 1960s and 70s

From 1969 to 1989 I was in sales and called on grocery and drug accounts at the retail and headquarters level. Although retired 20 years from that business, I still like to grocery shop and cruise the aisles to see how many changes have taken place since I hung up my selling shoes in 1989. Like most businesses, the changes have been vast, both in the product choices and the technology by which the modern grocery store operates.

The cost of a trip to the grocery store has increased tremendously. In 1967, when Barb and I did our first grocery shopping trip as a married couple, we paid $54.35 for three full carts of groceries. I still have the receipt. Today, we pay that much to pick up a few items on the way home.

In the ‘60s and ‘70s, cigarettes were a big deal in supermarkets. End displays of cartons were typical as were a rack for single packs at each check stand. Today, at $50-$60 per carton, cigs are locked up tight behind the service desk. Water sections have been expanded to where there is about as much water as soda pop. There used to be only one water stocked and it was used for steam irons. The beer section used to be 6 packs only, now you can get a 30 pack. Detergents were all powders and sold in boxes, today they are liquids. Margarine used to come in sticks, now it is all in tubs. Frozen juice is a thing of the past and it’s hard to find white bread today with all the grain varieties. Shredded cheese was non-existent, now it has an entire section.

One of the biggest changes is in produce which has about everything you would ever want all year round. No more strawberries for only a few weeks in the spring, soft fruit in the summer, and apples in the fall. You can get those items all the time now.

Remember when you took "empties" back to the store to collect the deposit? Remember when you paid cash or had a check approval card? How about when all the products were stamped with the price? No UPC codes in those days. Today, I charge everything.

I shop at a modern Safeway, and since Safeway was a primary account of mine for many years, I marvel at the difference between their stores today and in the past. In the 60s and 70s the stores were about half the size as now and the perimeter departments like delis, flowers, and bakeries were either tiny or non-existent. Their stores have come a long way in Phoenix since 1960, both in product mix, store size, and technology but I still kind of miss the "clang" of those old mechanical cash registers and the dresses the cashiers used to wear.

These are a couple of examples of early Safeway stores I used to call on in the 60s and 70s. They are a lot different from the large, modern stores of today in design and product mix.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Black roles on TV


Leslie David Baker of "The Office"

Benjamin Todd Jealous is the President of the NAACP. His name is not without irony as he made a statement recently that he can’t understand why, since the country is excited about an African-American president, minorities are so grossly under-represented on TV. Pete Bronson of the Enquirer wonders if Mr. Jealous is watching the same TV that he and I are watching.

Black performers have been well represented on TV for many years in commercials, sports broadcasting, and regular programming and they still are. Currently, as Bronson reports, there are shows like The Unit which stars Dennis Haysbert of Allstate Insurance commercial fame. He also played a role on 24. The comedy hit The Office features black actor Leslie David Baker.

Among other shows featuring Black actors are The Shield, CSI, Law and Order, House, Grey’s Anatomy, 30 Rock, and Friday Night Lights. There are many more and most of the Black roles are portrayed positively.

This is nothing new, Black actors have been portrayed in a positive light on TV for years. Remember the highly acclaimed The Cosby Show which ran on NBC from 1984-1992? I don’t think anyone has been portrayed more positively than Dr. Cliff Huxtable. George Jefferson was a successful businessman on The Jeffersons from 1975-1985. How about Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The Bernie Mac Show, Sanford and Son, Diff’rent Strokes, The Jamie Foxx Show. The list goes on but you know what I mean.

There are 221 million white people in the United States as opposed to 42 million Blacks and 44 million Hispanics.. With those numbers, I think Black actors are doing quite well with their exposure on TV. As far as underexposure, maybe Mr. Jealous can explain why there is the Miss Black America pageant, Black Entertainment Television, and Soul Train. I see zero white representation in those ventures. Why is that?

Sorry, Mr. Jealous. You’re wrong on this. One of your predecessors, Dr. Roy Wilkins, was a fan of the number one radio show of the 1930s. That show was Amos and Andy and it starred two white guys playing Black men in stereotypical fashion. Black citizens of the time loved the show because it portrayed Black people struggling through the Depression with the same problems as white people. It didn’t bother Wilkins in the 1930s that the actors were white. It shouldn’t bother you now.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Is it Soda? Pop? Coke?


Whether it is soda, pop, or coke depends on where you are from. On this map POP is green, SODA is blue, and COKE is red. I haven't seen any definition dominate Phoenix/Scottsdale.

What do you call carbonated soft drinks? Soda? Pop? Coke? Those are the three most popular generic names for carbonated flavored drinks although for me, "soda" and "pop" are the most common and "coke" is still a name brand.

Growing up in southwest Ohio, we referred to carbonated drinks as "pop" like in, "Would you like a bottle of pop?" When I worked in Kansas City, it was still "pop" but I noticed on visits to St. Louis, it was called "soda." I noticed a lot of guys from the East also referred to it as "soda." In a large part of the South, it is referred to as "coke" possibly because Coca-Cola originated in Atlanta, Georgia in the 1880's and the name has become generic for all soft drinks in he area.

There are also many regional brands of soft drinks. When I used to visit my relatives in Montreal, a popular drink was "spruce beer." It wasn’t beer, it was made from and tasted like pine needles. It doesn’t sound good but it was very tasty. The Canadian cream soda had no coloring like I was used to with my bottles of Barq’s which was pink.

Barq’s was a great brand in the old days. They made several other flavors like root beer and lime. I had a friend who like to drink half of his pink cream soda and fill the bottle back up with a 5 cent bag of Planter’s Peanuts. Yuck, not for me. Barq’s was also unique because, although it was spelled "Barq’s" most people pronounced it "Barges" because they thought the "q" looked like a "g" and every school kid knew that a "u" always followed a "q" (except maybe in a proper name, oops!)

Other popular regional brands include a cherry pop from North Carolina that is supposed to be wonderful called Cheerwine. We used to have Wagner’s Ginger Ale and Dad’s Root Beer in Ohio which were both excellent. We also had Vichy which was terrible, tasted like Alka-Seltzer. Detroit has Vernor’s Ginger Ale which is good but don’t breathe the carbonation, powerful stuff.

There are lots of other brands like Nesbits which made a grape and orange pop, Mission Orange, and they may still make Nehi although I haven’t seen it lately. Back east there is a coffee soda called Manhattan Special and there is Red Ribbon Cherry Supreme out of Pennsylvania. Portland, Oregon has Hotlips Blueberry Soda.

One thing to watch for if you are a Coke lover: Coke is made with fructose which does not have the wonderful flavor of cane sugar sweetening. During Passover in the springtime, Coke uses cane sugar and the bottles are identified by a yellow cap with the circle "U". I’ve had an expert tell me the taste is unbelievably better than the Coke we know. Mexican Coke is supposedly much better too.

Monday, February 02, 2009

THE "SUPERB BOWL"

To borrow from Mr. Dickens, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." The best came when Larry Fitzgerald caught Kurt Warner’s pass for a 64 yard TD to give the Cardinals the lead 23-20. The worst came when Santonio Holmes made the great catch and stayed in bounds for the winning TD with 35 seconds left in the game.

When Fitzgerald scored, I was ecstatic but had mixed feelings as I saw 2:37 left in the game. After I finished cheering, I told my wife that "They left too much time on the clock." While it is true that Holmes scored the game winner two minutes later, I think the game turned on the 100 yard interception by James Harrison at the end of the first half. The Cardinals were a couple yards from the lead and suddenly it went the other way. But, that’s football, and it’s not the first time spectacular plays have won games.

The Cardinals won in the total stats 407 to 314 thanks to the passing of Kurt Warner. Once again the running game was faulty gaining only 33 yards. Rather than fault James and Hightower, I think the fans need to understand the importance of Warner to the success of the team. Without him, they would not have been in Tampa. They would be wise to re-sign him to a two year contract even though it would take him to age 40. Is that too old for a QB? Those of you who remember George Blanda won't think so. At the same time, I think trading Leinart would be a good idea. He is anxious to play but it shouldn’t be here. I’m sure a trade could be made for a clipboard holder as good as he is.

Other decisions also have to be made. What about the unhappy Anquan Boldin? What about Dansby? Edgerrrin James probably won’t be back and, although he has been ineffective, who would replace him. Hightower? Maybe.

So, the hype is over, the Cards played valiantly and lost. It’s only a football game and we will recover but we have to thank the team for their efforts and praise Coach Whisenhunt and his staff. As far as a parade, I don’t think it would be appropriate. Parades are for the winners, no one ever proudly exclaimed "We’re Number 2!"

By the way, pitchers and catchers report for spring training in two weeks. Go Diamondbacks!