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The 1950's
On the Road with Burma Shave - Advertising in the Fifties



On the Road with Burma Shave - Advertising in the Fifties
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.83

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    altho, Coca-Cola, debonair, ducktail, growly, hands-down, pepsi, pithy, sensual, sign-series, slicked, timex, vale, vamoosed, ditty, long-lasting
     content words:    Davy Crockett, Light Refreshment, Coca-Cola Makes Good Things Taste Better, Your Mouth, Your Hand, Timex Takes, Licking But Keeps, You Can Prevent Forest Fires, Burma Shave, Put Jonah Down


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On the Road with Burma Shave - Advertising in the Fifties
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     If you walked into a place with turquoise and pink walls and black and white tiled floors, you might have wandered into the 1950s. Color was a big part of the 50s attitude. A few years down the road, the 60s would bend the mind with psychedelic colors and the sensual overload of hard rock music. The 50s weren't so chaotic. Their cheery colors were bright and harmonious, like the early rock n' roll songs of that time.
 
2     Besides pink and turquoise, the 50s produced plenty of fads. Hula hoops and Davy Crockett gear captivated the youngsters. Teen boys went crazy for hot rods (souped up cars), flat top hair cuts, and being "cool." Girls were "hep" to (liked) pedal pusher pants (down to just below the knee), poodle skirts, ponytails, and anything pink.
 
3     Actually, the 50s era was the first to have a distinct teen culture. Before then, most teens got zapped right from childhood into adult responsibilities. Kids made the early leap to maturity for one compelling reason. Their incomes were important to family survival. In the Depression days of the 1930s, even very young children worked to keep food on the table. But the 50s years weren't nearly as lean as earlier decades. Also, fewer families made their living on farms where the sheer volume of work turned teens into full-time laborers.
 
4     Many teenagers in the 50s had jobs, but few had to hand their earnings over to make family ends meet. Instead, 50s dads usually brought home the bacon. In many families, Dad even had enough "jingle" left over to hand out allowances.
 
5     Whether they worked or just held out their hands when Dad passed out the dough, young people in the 50s had money in their pockets. That made them a tempting target for advertisers. At the time, television was taking the U.S. by storm. TV ads tugged like a powerful magnet on the coins in the pockets of teens.
 
6     Grooming products, snacks, fashions, and cars were pitched to young people. Many catchy slogans stuck like pocket lint in the minds of American kids. Soft drink sellers competed to find the magic jingle that would open young peoples' pocketbooks. Pepsi blurbs boasted that it was the soda with "More Bounce to the Ounce." Later came the more sophisticated "Pepsi The Light Refreshment." Pepsi's chief competitor responded by asserting that "Coca-Cola Makes Good Things Taste Better."
 
7     One candy company might win the "test of time" award for its slogan. Fifty years after the jingle was first aired, most any American kid could tell you which candy "Melts in Your Mouth, not in Your Hand."
 
8     Hopefully, all that candy and soda would have made kids think of reaching for the toothpaste. If not, they would be prompted by advertisers. One toothpaste would fit right in with today's push for blinding white teeth. This 50s ad offered not just healthy teeth, but attractive smiles: "You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent."
 
9     There are a few other jingles from the 50s that would sound familiar to most people today. To convince buyers that their timepieces were tough, ad writers said: "Timex Takes a Licking But Keeps on Ticking."

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