Suspend any concept of normal for a few moments and imagine a box of Cheer laundry detergent that is four feet long and three feet wide. Now imagine a head coming out from the top of the box, two arms out of the sides and two legs out of the bottom. Atop the head is a 1920’s style straw Boaters hat. That was my work uniform one long summer between college terms. To complete the picture, imagine wearing all that while walking to your white Ford LTD which had a Cheer logo decal on both the driver’s and passenger’s doors. On the roof, there was a revolving box of Cheer. That’s right! I was a walking, riding advertisement for Cheer laundry detergent. AND, just like any ice cream truck, I had music playing out of a loudspeaker with a pre-recorded woman singing ” new Blue Cheer, cleans your whites whiter than white.” There were more lyrics, but mercifully I can’t remember them any longer.
Proctor and Gamble owned the Cheer product, and they had a national campaign that summer of having assorted “Mr. Cheers” drive around approved neighborhoods with a printout of specific houses to stop at, usually only one a street. If the lady of the house was home, and she had any Proctor & Gamble product in her house, she would win cash (actually a coupon to be sent to the home office with a code I told them, and a check was mailed to their residence). If not, I would give her an official Cheer plastic detergent measuring cup and be on my way. Because people had seen the promotions on TV many times, when I played my music on the street, many doors would open and the women would invite, plead, yell, and sometimes scream for me to come to them, but I had to stop at just the pre-ordained house. Sometimes the bystanders would blow me kisses; others gave me the finger; if they came up to the car window, I wasn’t taking any chances and offered them a free official Cheer plastic detergent measuring cup.
One scorcher of a day I was in south Philadelphia, and became lost deep in the center city. I decided it best to turn off the jingle “new Blue Cheer cleans your whites whiter than white…” until I could find the correct address. I took a right turn on a new street and halfway through it, I saw cars blocking the far end. I stopped, put the car in reverse and anxiously witnessed that street entrance being blocked. I stepped out of the car, put on my box and hat and almost instantaneously I had numerous admirerers surround the car. They requested I hand over all my money. “I don’t carry any money, just coupons and boxes full of official Cheer plastic detergent measuring cups.” “Don’t lie to us, we’ve seen the commercials!!” Trying not to squeal like a little girl, I told them “no, I don’t carry any cash, just paper coupons that need to be filled-out and mailed in before receiving any money. Here…see…coupons and plastic cups.” After what seemed like a half hour, but probably was only seconds, without saying a word, they removed everything from the car. Everything. All the cups, all the coupons, my lunch and candy. Before walking away, the man closest to me reached over and took my hat and told me “now get the hell out of here.” I automaticly responded “thank you” and quickly complied with his command and managed to recognize a major thru street that took me close to the route home. The company took the news in stride and sent me new printouts, coupons and official Cheer plastic detergent measuring cups. But they never sent me another hat, and I really liked that hat. And just for the record, my current favorite laundry detergent to pour in a plastic detergent measuring cup…WISK!